Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published February 18th 2014
Wine and dine in the sunshine
On a recent trip to Margaret River, we'd been recommended Aravina Winery as a great place for a spot of lunch with children. Happy to try out a recommendation, I'd agree this is a beautiful spot, perhaps the prettiest winery I've ever seen, but our overall experience was only a lukewarm one.
The beauty of this winery starts the moment you set foot onto the wooden walkway that is literally shadowed by an abundance of hydrangeas, and it doesn't end there. Once off the walkway you step directly into a picture perfect scene of sumptuous gardens, sprawling lake and perfectly positioned restaurant terrace; it is no wonder that this is one of the most popular wedding venues in Margaret River.
I have to agree that this is a great place to bring children. The playground is mostly shaded and features some really imaginative play apparatus. It's a mixed age playground, with some great climbing structures and slides. It's a sanded area, so great for little feet too. Away from the playground, there's plenty of grassed areas for kids to run around in, away from the restaurant tables.
There was an expansive selection of wines to sample here, including a few that I'd not heard of before. I was served by an extremely knowledgeable staff member who not only talked me through the wines, and the grapes used, but also talked about his own preferences and what the different wines might go well with. I saw many other patrons getting similar service from equally knowledgeable staff, and this was really enjoyable and informative. The wines available to taste included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Shiraz Tempranillo, Rose, Nebbiolo, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc Semillion, Vermentino and a crisp sparkling white. The cellar door is open from 10am to 5pm. Alongside the wine tasting area is a shop area selling great gift items, jewellery, candles and soaps. Prices are a tad high, but there are some great choices.
The menu is not a huge one, but there is plenty of choice to cover the possibly different tastes within your party. We opted to go straight to the main menu items, so I cannot comment on the tastiness of the starters but I saw a number of people enjoying their choices. At around $20 for a starter (up to $25), it would definitely be a very expensive lunch out if you were going for a three course meal.
Every single morsel of this burger was delectable.
For the main event, we opted for the waygu burger ($28) and the beef fillet ($39.50). Both excellent, and the burger in particular, was noteworthy, being served in a buttery brioche and topped with roasted shallots. This was a perfect meal. The hand cut chips that came with it were a delight. The beef fillet was also exceptionally cooked; it was ordered rare, and this was achieved to perfection. Portions (with the exception of the burger) didn't look too huge, but were delightfully presented. We didn't order a children's meal, although there is a kids menu available at a cost of $14 per meal and there's not a chicken nugget in sight. If you're opting for wine with your meal, head into the winery first to try a few options before you make your choices. Desserts are also available, if you've left room (we didn't), and are priced at $15 and looked very impressive.
The food was definitely tasty, but our overall experience was lacking, for a few reasons. Firstly, we found staff to be a little surly and not overly helpful; we asked for a high chair for our baby, and this took 15 minutes to arrive, even with several reminders. When we asked staff if it was OK to heat up baby food in their microwave, they were happy to do so, but then forgot to actually heat it up until we reminded them. Finally, staff just didn't seem overly pleased that you were there for lunch. No smiles or greetings, and when you're paying so much for a meal, I do expect good service too. It's a shame when a restaurant has so much potential to be exceptional, that service puts it to shame.
I would still recommend this winery to others who are looking for a special lunch in an absolutely gorgeous setting, but come prepared to spend good money on your food, and perhaps don't expect too many smiles with your servings.
Bookings are absolutely recommended. This is a popular spot, and if you've planned to have lunch here, but have not booked, you are likely to be disappointed.