Now more than ever there is a real foodie focus on unlocking the true potential of prime produce.
Diners are more open-minded and indeed curious while for chefs, it’s a great chance to showcase their culinary skills and put their imaginations to the test.
Located amidst the grassy plains of the Margaret River, luxury boutique hotel Cape Lodge is a frontrunner in providing contemporary regional food.
The estate is no stranger to collecting awards, the most recent being listed on the 2012 Conde Nast Traveller’s Gold List in Best for Food.
Michael Elfwing took over as executive chef of the award-winning restaurant on New Year’s Eve and hasn’t looked back.
“At Cape Lodge, there’s a focus on sourcing locally and being as sustainable as possible,” he says.
“We use different parts of each animal, not just the usual loin cut. On the plate we might have the loin next to the shank, with some bone marrow. It’s about making a complete use of the farmer’s animal; it’s more interesting that way too.”
While being innovative with local ingredients is ideal, it’s not always feasible.
“When I was running a restaurant in Malaysia, we were flying in about 80% of the produce. After a while, you start thinking about your carbon footprint. We started supporting farmers and tried to do the right thing. The climate in Malaysia is great for tropical ingredients but it’s not suited to European cooking so we’d source organic produce from Australia, not the mainstream stuff. I like knowing where my produce has come from.”
Nowadays though, with the advantage of being surrounded by artisan producers, the food miles are kept to a minimum.
“Locally we use lamb, seafood, venison, pork and cheese. Within a kilometer of the restaurant we source avocados, macadamias, pink grapefruit and the neighbouring property’s olive oil. We use blueberries and truffles from the Margaret River, we were the biggest user of truffles in the region.”
“In our garden we have tomatoes, radishes, beetroot – we’re very spoilt. We just open the door and it’s like standing in a veggie patch. We even have a beehive to produce honey. We might sell little jars of it as a memory for our guests.”
Armed with quality ingredients, Elfwing has given the restaurant a fresh twist.
“I’ve taken a new direction from the old chef. My food is Australian with a Nordic touch. I was born in Sweden, so it’s a reflection of my heritage. Australians are open to trying new things so it’s never difficult using ingredients. They have a big awareness of what’s in season and trendy. It’s important to keep learning and become re-inspired by the ingredients we use,” Elfwing says.
Having worked at the Fat Duck, among other Michelin kitchens, Elfwing is used to creating dishes for world-renowned restaurants.
But the jewel on his culinary crown is his breast of pigeon, confit leg and fragrant lemon pit puree with baby spinach and dates.
A signature dish he wishes he “could cook all year round”, if it weren’t for the limitations of seasonal produce, it has amassed a loyal following.
Surprisingly for a top chef, Elfwing has spared a thought for the herbivores among us.
“We always have a 5 course vegan menu available every day as well as an a la carte menu. We can’t afford not to cater to everyone. We’re only limited by ourselves in terms of vegetarian and vegan cooking.”
For those interested in understanding more about the food practices at Cape Lodge, they are invited to meet the artisans involved.
“The farm-gate tours give our guests insider info on our suppliers so they get to know more about the background of the produce. Some producers are only open for a few months a year and you get to see things you wouldn’t normally have access to like the producers of our goats cheese and chocolate. This way, our guests can get more of an insight into the effort we go through for our cooking.”
3341 Caves Rd, Yallingup WA 6282
Phone: (08) 9755 6311