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Published January 28th 2018
Sit down relax Everything is supplied even the food
It sounds idyllic driving around the Margaret River region, an area renowned for its gourmet food and wine. You have a picnic in mind, so you spend all day sourcing provisions. You taste your way through a wide range of cheeses, to find the perfect bite. Wine is a must but the options seem endless (the region now has over 200 grape growers and producers) and then there are the numerous tempting goods by chocolate makers and every town seems to have an award-winning bakery where you might source your picnic loaf.
You could spend most of the day gathering up your goodies only to find you have left it too late for a lunchtime picnic, or you are so full of free samples that you couldn't bear the thought of a meal.
Or worse still, when you finally unfurl the picnic rug the interrogation begins. 'Who forgot to pack a knife so we can cut up the cheese? Or worse still, 'I thought you said you were going to pack the glasses? Don't say we will have to drink out of the bottle again.'
But some producers in the region are starting to realise that there is a better way. They want visitors to have a relaxing time, so they supply everything you need for a picnic from cutlery, napery and perfect portion sizes, to gorgeous surroundings.
Eagle Bay Olives (just outside Dunsburough at the northern end of the Margaret River Wine Region)
What a find and a gentle introduction to the Margaret River area with all its fine foods. Eagle Bay Olives has a small farm shop (with tastings) and is in the midst of large gardens. The majority of goods are produced on site, such as numerous varieties of table olives, tapenades, pestos, dukkah, jams, and other amazingly tasty products, as well as their high quality and incredibly-good-for you olive oil. Their products are all free of preservatives and colourings and no toxic chemicals are used in their olive groves.
Picnic hampers cost $32.95 and serve two. They come with everything you need, including a knife, plates and napkins. There are cute little containers containing artichoke tapenade, pesto rustico, Mediterranean mix olives, extra virgin olive oil and dukka. There is a wedge of cheddar, double brie cheese and hefty slices of organic Yallingup wood-fired bread, crackers and a package of pre-sliced venison chorizo.
There is outside rustic seating or you could use one of the picnic rugs that are kept for your convenience just outside the door alongside then quoit sets, which you are also welcome to borrow.
The gardens are lovely with lots of roses, and bright purple Agapanthus, green grass and pleasant views along the olive groves. Great setting for your kids to free roam and well-behaved dogs are allowed in the gardens as well. You will need to bring your own wine, but they have some excellent locally brewed soft drinks and local ice-cream to complement, your savoury picnic.
Owner Julie Lloyd says that lots of people also drop in and buy the provision boxes to take away - "Often people have had heavy winery lunches so they want some lighter, but still quintessentially Margaret River fare to take back to their accommodation which they can share over the bottle of wine, they have bought that day."
I spent some time in the lovely grounds photographing my goodies, so I know how relaxing this place can be. But I decided to take my bounty to share with a friend that night at the outdoor movies at Cape Mentelle Winery.
The friend was most impressed with the box of delightful produce and I think you will be as well.
Eagle Bay Olives
Address: 521 Cape Naturaliste Rd, Eagle Bay, WA 6281, Australia
Opening Hours: 10:30 am to 5 pm (Friday to Sunday); Mondays on public holidays, except New Years Day, Boxing Day, and Christmas
Contact: 9755 3188
Website: Eagle Bay Olives
Another place offering novel picnic baskets is Happs Winery and Pottery Gallery. The place is so charming I am surprised that more people don't know about it. For me, it was love at first sight. A low slung white building blending in with the garden setting.
You can try their lovely wines and then choose a glass or share a bottle to have with your feast. Then there is a provedore where you choose your own picnic goodies. There are local cheeses, charcuterie, olives, dips, relishes, chutneys, crackers, bread, fresh fruit, chocolate covered delicacies.
Suppliers include all the top regional names such as Cambray Cheese, Cape Farm, Fre Jac Bakery, Glutton Co., Holy Smoke!, Margaret River Cracker Co., Margaret River Dairy, Margaret River Venison, Petra Olive Oil, Southwest Provisions, Farmhouse Meats, Vasse Virgin, Yallingup Cheese Company, Yallingup Gourmet and Yallingup Woodfired Bread. They even sell fresh fruit. As you can see, this can save you a lot of driving around when sourcing your local produce.
Basically, you grab one of their quaint baskets and then build-your-own. They have thought of everything, including elegant long, thin cheese boards and cutlery. Tea and coffee are available in the gallery.
The bubbly Bree, who I spoke to, said that sometimes people think they won't spend much time, so they might just grab some cheese and crackers - "But invariably as the afternoon wears on they settle in enjoying the gardens and come back for more tidbits." You can have as little or as much as you want here.
If it is raining, there are magnificent long wooden tables where you can arrange your picnic inside.