Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published January 17th 2016
Wild Goose, brother goose, which is best
I hear about restaurants that I should 'try you'll love it' and 'go there. Tell me it's as bad as I think it is', from my readers. A lot.
It's as I always say: 'If someone loves a restaurant, they'll tell ten people, if they hate it, they'll tell a hundred.'
The Noble Falls Estate (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Sometimes the restaurants are as good, or better than stated, seldom as bad, because in this competitive market bad restaurants simply don't survive. It's hard enough thriving if you're good, let alone if you're not.
But when someone takes the trouble to ring me I always try their recommendations, it's the very least I can do out of politeness, after all.
The courtyard at Noble Falls Estate (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
My lunchtime companion of the day, Roxy, is coeliac so I had a good look at the menu beforehand, which you can download from the website and almost every dish had the symbols (gf) against them, so everything looked good.
I booked on-line, although I had to confirm by phone on the day as I got no reply, which rather defeats the purpose, but heigh-ho.
It was a beautiful warm day of glorious sunshine when we arrived, sweeping up the long wooded carriageway past a fabulous 1930's long black limousine to the huge, timber-built building.
Wild Goose Cafe dining hall (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
It is wonderfully impressive, cool inside with masses of gleaming wood, highly polished floors and towering windows streaming natural light into the vast space filled with widely spaced tables.
It looks and has the feel of a very posh restaurant. But it is not, it is a café with counter orders. I was once at a graduation where one of the recipients was pretty scantily dressed and I heard someone remark 'she's not that kind of girl, but she's sure advertising that kind of girl.'
Ignoring the blatant sexism, this is true of the Wild Goose Café. It's not that kind of restaurant, but at first, even second glance it seems to be.
One orders at the counter, pays for it and sits down. The food is brought to you by swift, pleasant, if a trifle untrained, staff. At my age I don't care to be called 'mate' by people I don't know.
It's drinks o'clock at The Wild Goose Cafe (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
If you'd like a drink from the extensive drinks list you go up to the counter and order it, pay for it, and they bring it to your table.
If, later, you decide you'd like another drink, you go up to the counter, order it, pay for it and have it brought to your table.
If you decide that you have room for a sweet course, you go up to the counter .... well, you've got the idea, I'm sure.
And the thing of it is, I'm damned if I can see why. It's not as though they can possibly be doing it to save staff costs, the place is crawling with staff and the clientele that day were all of an age where I think they would appreciate table service.
Salt & Pepper Squid (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Table service also makes sense in terms of profits, since people are more likely to order another drink if asked, than trudge up to the counter from the middle of a conversation.
Anyway, I'm sure they know their own business best.
Onto the food, which I can say, without a shadow of the possibility of contradiction was simply superb ... for me.
Fresh French bread with pink sea salt (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce
Now Roxy is coeliac, not gluten-intolerant so wheat is a serious issue for her. And this is where things got a bit tricky because a lot of the dishes stated to be gluten-free turned out not to be.
Chips with Parmesan (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The rosemary and Murray River pink sea salt chips dusted with Parmesan cheese ($9), for example, that she lusted after (and they were monstrously good) had been cooked in a fryer in which other, breaded, foods had been cooked.
Roxy's other favourite, the San Choy Bow, had wheat-based soy sauce, so that was unsuitable and so on.
Chef, who came to the table to and nut out possible dishes was incredibly helpful and willing, but with what he had on hand Roxy was reduced to Duck paté without the crackers, but with the Muscat jelly and onion jam.
Lunch at The Wild Goose (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
It was delicious, rich and smooth, with just enough edge to be pleasant. She could also have the Olives and Chorizo ($14) and the Cheese Plate ($25) also without the crackers. This was supremely good. The mix of cheeses varies with what's on hand, but the ones we had were a rather nice double Brie, a terrific soft blue vein and others, with the stand out being a locally-made goat's milk cottage cheese.
The Cheese Plate (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
We had decided that we'd order a mess of entreés and share, rather than separate main meals. Although I have to say the Hot Smoked Salmon Salad ($20) looked enticing, as did the 350g Scotch Fillet with roast potatoes and a red wine jus ($42).
I had what was called a 'mini bread loaf' ($9), but was really a ficelle (think a thin, short bagette) beautifully fresh and hot.
Chef also suggested a very superior gluten-free Roasted Butternut Pumpkin Salad ($20) of the aforementioned pumpkin, caramellised shallots, feta, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and mescalin with a balsamic vinaigrette. This was out of this world, entirely delicious.
Butternut Pumpkin Salad (Photograph by D Sutherland-bruce)
Chef also produced a complimentary plate of perfectly cooked Broccollini and asparagus for Roxy to eke out her food, although frankly, we were stuffed with excellent food.
We decided to forgo dessert, for obvious reasons, although I did like the look of the Honey and Rosemary Panna Cotta ($12) and settled on tea and coffee to round off the meal (Go to the counter, order the food, pay for it etc).
All in all, a truly memorable meal. For me. I personally did not care for the way the service runs, but everything else was magnificent.
The fabric of the dining hall, the wait-staff, the chef, the design of the food, everything was superb except for the dichotomy of perception and reality of the kind of eatery it it. But that is my problem, not theirs.
Vegan greens (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
I also got a glimpse into the truly horrible world of a coeliac, who'd give anything for a bacon and cheese sandwich of hot crusty bread and who are never, ever going to get it.
The prices are on the high side for a country café in my opinion, while being excellent value for the kind and quality of food it is. And it's not really a country café, is it?
I would just like to say that we have been to the Wild Goose Cafe in Gidgeganup a couple of times and we did not have to go to the bar to place our orders. The only negative I have is that with all that beautiful wood, the live music is far too loud. They would be better off without any amps.
We went on Saturday for lunch for the first time. I loved the space, the outdoor nooks and crannies and the oval with balls supplied for kids and families to enjoy the sun. I was extremely impressed with the atmosphere. If there were negatives, it was the lack of personality of the staff; the fact each time you ordered a drink, you had to wait for it to be delivered. Other than that I like the ordering at the bar for meals as its quick and easy. Well done and I will be back for breakfast, lunch and dinner very soon.