Knee Deep in Margaret River

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Pav 160 Johnson Rd, Wilyabrup
Ph: (08) 9755 6776

Casually Surprising    

Snuggled between the rows of chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc vines in Knee Deep’s Wilyabrup vineyard is a restaurant making a name for its surprisingly complex dishes.
The building is glass on most of its four sides and can be opened up to allow the elements in when the weather is right.
With wooden deck floors, stylish furnishings and a crisp linen and silver table look, capped off with stunning local proteas, it looks elegant yet understated.
Hospitality manager Daryl Fiori said: “We aim to provide fine dining in a casual atmosphere.”
This extends to providing lap rugs for people who opt to sit outside on the new deck when the weather is cool. On sunny days the shady lawn is well used by children playing bocce or cricket and families who prefer to use the picnic tables.
LambKnee Deep prides itself on being cosy and classy. Its owners Phil and Sue Childs, a surgeon and former nurse from Perth, have worked hard to establish the vineyard’s reputation for producing quality wines.
Daryl explained that it’s not an easy market to break into and to a large extent, despite the skills recruited, they had to wait for the vines to come of age.
Daryl was trained in boutique venues but hails from the South West. He has been with Knee Deep for three years and said the restaurant used to be a well-kept secret but now it’s on everyone’s lips and it’s fun to be part of the excitement. On the day we visited we tried a few different dishes and can vouch first hand for the creativity of the chef Ben Day and his kitchen crew.
A simple dish presenting chicken and corn was rendered into a foodie adventure. The chicken leg was deboned, compressed and cooked in a way that held and enhanced its flavour. The corn was presented on the stunningly designed plate in three different ways: as popcorn crisps, as small panels shaved off a gently charred cob and as dots of sweet corn curd. Adding to the visual and flavour array was a smattering of brown butter powder, leek ash and some fresh and tasty leek flowers.
We also tried the more adventurous entrée that combines ocean trout with Korean kimchi pickled cabbage and pea puree, topped with a slow poached egg that provides a yolk sauce for the dish. This dish is a delight if you are seeking a surprising mix of strong flavours but Ben admits it’s not for the timid diner.
He continues his challenge with the inclusion of lamb’s tongue in a dish that presents sumptuously roasted Suffolk lamb rump, mouth-watering BeetrootJerusalem artichoke, broad beans and homemade mustard. The tongue is in easy to spot pieces that the squeamish can leave aside but for those game to try, it is the tastiest and most tender piece of lamb you are ever likely to eat.
We matched our meals with tastings of Knee Deep’s limited release wines. These numbered bottles of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and shiraz are named after Phil and Sue’s three daughters Kelsea, Kim and Hayley and are made from the best of the grapes, hand-picked and handled with utmost care. Ben said diners should discuss wine matches with wait staff when they visit to ensure the best pairing of flavours.
The desserts on offer include some wonderfully twisted and deconstructed versions of old favourites. Ben explained that he likes to use vegetables in unexpected ways and to push boundaries. The combination of strawberry, beetroot and chocolate in the first menu option is a good example, as is the addition of tangy mint syrup to the elements of lemon, meringue and yogurt in the second.
The restaurant serves lunch seven days a week all year round. It doesn’t normally serve dinner, but it can be booked for private functions. It is open for wine tastings daily between 10am and 5pm.

By Dr Kayt Davies    
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