Wild Duck, Albany, Western Australia

February 24, 2008

Albany has an interesting history, but is now a forgotten town on the southwestern edge of Australia. It was the first settlement in the region, an important port and whaling center. There are stunning views of King George Sound, which was the assembly point for the Anzac troopship convoys en route to Egypt (and eventually Gallipoli) in 1914. But, despite its timeworn face, it has an interesting restaurant, Wild Duck, whose talented chef, Welsh-born Andrew Holmes, came here from Star Anise in Perth as Albany is his wife’s home town. Tony, Linda and I dined there on February 17, 2008.

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Wild Duck
is a BYO restaurant, so we had stopped at the Plantagenet Winery on the 400 km drive down from Perth that day and bought a bottle of its Omrah Sauvignon Blanc and one of its Omrah Merlot, which we enjoyed with our meal.

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The amuse-gueule was a yabby and marron cappuccino with fennel foam. Yabbies and marrons are much-discussed ingredients of cuisine in the region. Both are freshwater crayfish, found only in this area. Yabbies are smaller, but still much larger than a European crayfish. Marrons are usually found more to the west, but the regions overlap. Their flavor is somewhat delicate as is typical of freshwater fish and seafood. In this case the chef has made a reduction of their crushed shells for a very nice starter.

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Linda started with the Rabbit raviolo, roasted pear and root vegetables, rabbit consommé.
Straightforward and good.

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Tony’s first course was the Roast apple filled with sweet chilli braised duck, seared scallops, soft herb salad.  Tony said that the apple was crisp and not too sweet, contrasting nicely with the duck.

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Mine was the Marron, spring vegetables and violet sorbet salad. The sorbet really did taste of violets; its delicacy went well with that of the marron.

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There was an intermezzo of cassis sorbet.

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Linda and Tony went on to Three things from a duck: duck liver parfait on pepper tuille, smoked breast salad, confit leg with pearl barley and puy lentil.

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My main course was Lamb two ways: Samosa on curry dal, pickled cucumber, yoghurt; and braised lamb shank, polenta, yabbies, asparagus. The version with mild Indian spices was more interesting than the other, which had no identity.

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Tony’s dessert was the Lemon soufflé, coconut ice cream, lemon dust. Nice.

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My dessert was Licorice all-sort ice cream, sambucca jelly, star anise syrup. I really liked this; the variations on a single flavor were straightforward and refreshing. Fortunately, we had finished our wine as this would have really killed it. The plate went from Mondrian to Kadinsky.

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The whole meal had been enjoyable. It was only sometimes too complex, my usual complaint with good Australian restaurants, but at a high level, particularly surprising in such a depressed small town. It is as if the best restaurant in Minnesota were in Duluth or the best in Oregon in Coos Bay.

Wild Duck Restaurant, 112 Lower York St, Albany; 08-9842 2554.

We stayed at the Frederickstown Motel, a five minute walk from Wild Duck, and found it satisfactory.

www.frederickstownmotel.com.au

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Driving west the next day we enjoyed the Treetops Walk near Walpole.

 

4 Responses to “Wild Duck, Albany, Western Australia”

  1. Kristin Says:

    I loved the comment about your dessert going from Mondrian to Kandinsky, and the pictures proved it.

    But yabbies are also common on the east coast of Australia, or were so in my long distant past there.

  2. Blair Says:

    It is nice to see a high quality restaurant that is BYO. I often leave a restaurant with a sour taste about the entire experience because the wine selection was inadequate and overpriced, even when the food was perfectly good. I wish more restaurants in the US would adopt this approach.

  3. Michael Says:

    Kristin,
    A bit of further research shows that yabbies are native to Eastern Australia and have been introduced to the west. Marrons, on the other hand, are strictly south-western. I had misinterpreted what someone told me to mean that Yabbies were in the east of the southwest. Thanks for the clarification.
    Michael

  4. Sarrah McCaw Says:

    I have dined at the Wild Duck on numerous occassions and find it to be nothing short of unbelievable. Whilst many of the dishes you have mentioned are no longer available, I have enjoyed there risotto and I have tried the new style of confit and sooveed style duck and find it almost irresistable.. the only problem I have is I usually want everything on the menu.. with that in mind there is always the degustation!! mind you my favorite little albany restaurant has been fully licenced for ten months, so this must be an old review..


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