The sun shone in the most brilliant blue sky and the wind was just enough to make the vines whisper around the exquisitely set table for 100 guests on the Cullen Winery lawn. Crisp white tablecloths, sparkling glassware and bunches of green hued hydrangeas under stark white umbrellas beckoned to guests.
Staff wove their way amongst the mixed crowd of smart young things and slightly older wiser folk, wine lovers one and all, with trays of liquid gold 2014 Amber and plates of tempting appetisers containing delights such as tea smoked kangaroo, green tea tofu, Busselton octopus or biodynamic broad beans. Each as delicious and irresistible as each other.
The stars of the show guests had come to pay homage to were equally as delightful. Famous Spanish Chef from El Celler De Can Roca (2016 No. 2 Best Restaurant in the World) leant casually against the wooden timber door frame overseeing the busy kitchen preparations and graciously taking photos alongside guests who gushed at being in his presence. Chef Peter Gilmore of Sydney’s Quay and Bennelong, stood, cheerfully Zen like plucking tiny coriander flowers from a giant bucket overflowing in the dining room, smiling and chatting with folk whilst he did so, admitting that small detailed tasks like this were often his favourite in preparing his awe inspiring meals.
First up was simply titled Seafood with Cullen Sauvignon Blanc, which was a splash of meticulously placed delights, each bursting with an unexpected flavour. Golden drops with unexpected sweetness; seafood that was creamy and melted on the tongue… and of course set off with the fruit explosion of the 2014 Cullen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.
Next was the much anticipated WA Marron, the freshest available. What arrived in front of diners was small mountain on a plate; uni rice covered with crispy sprinkled fish maw (the dried swim bladder of the fish – especially good for absorbing flavour) which was then covered in a warm umami broth delivered by precise pours from teapots by careful staff. Digging in to this delicious pile, large succulent chunks of marron were discovered, moist and flavoursome, a fresh delight with each piece unearthed amongst the rice. There truly was no better wine that the 2012 Kevin John to sing with this dish.
The third plate arrived looking more like a work of art. A perfect sized cut of Arkady lamb, crowned with a virtual garden of delights. We discovered the destination of the coriander flowers Peter has patiently picked, and guests wondered at the pop of the ice plant, picked just hours before along the coast. The lamb melted to the touch and the featured exceptional vintage of 2012 Diana Madeline melted in the mouth along with it. It was Peter Gilmore at his finest.
The finale came by way of a simply named ‘Milk Dessert’ but there was nothing simple about its appearance. Floating on a bed of spun white cloud, nestled underneath was the sweet delicious cream on a bed of caramel. Alongside it was a cardboard cone of perfume – Joan Roca’s fingerprints were all over this dish, and we were instructed to inhale deeply of the scent of lanolin to evoke the sense of the sheep’s milk dessert to truly indulge in all its delights. We did. Dessert sat beautifully with the golden sweetness of the 2013 Late Harvest Semillon. A fitting finish to a true celebration of what arguably the best Chef in the world and the best Chef in Australia can create in harmony with the beautiful produce of the south west and Cullen’s own biodynamic gardens.
Cullen’s own Executive Chef Iain Robertson and the Cullen kitchen team worked tirelessly alongside these chefs, and together, they presented the lucky guests with a food and wine experience that will be remembered and talked about for a long time to come.
Vanya, Peter Gilmore, Anna and Joan Roca and Solly, the vineyard dog.