Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Good Life: The Studio Gallery and Bistro

Broke a jouney to Margaret River recently with lunch at the new Studio Gallery and Bistro off Caves Road just south of Yallingup. I'm not planning to do a lot of restaurant reviewing on Turnstiles, and I'll leave the visual arts to experts like my Lesley, but I couldn't let this very pleasant experience go unreported, especially as it's exactly this kind of intelligent combination of art and hospitality that will really lift the all-seasons appeal of our glorious South-West. 
Jane Flowers: Inland Red Aerial
First things first: the gallery is small, uncluttered and carefully curated. It was great to see a couple of works by a favourite of ours, Jane Flowers. One of them, the striking "Inland Red Aerial", has to be kept hidden from Lesley, at least until our boat comes in.
Another artist who made a big impression was Mal Leckie with his sumptuous panorama "Where Time Speaks Softly". Both Flowers and Leckie have a terrific eye for Australia and deliver stirring and immediately accessible work. It's a bit unfair to single them out though; there's much else at the gallery to like, and a visit to them on line here will, I'm sure, excite your interest.
Mal Leckie: Where Time Speaks Softly
And so to lunch. The bistro at the rear of the gallery is modern and spare, and opens out into a lovely, restful garden setting. 
My friend Joe (who is opening one of his great Clancy's Fish Pubs near Dunsborough next year) and I opened the batting on its short, stylish menu with goat cheese entrees, a curd and a soufflé, both of which were light, clean and tasty. We then got serious about a rare fillet steak and lamb backstrap with polenta and salad. Joe's steak was gone in an obscenely short time while my lamb was pink, tender and satisfying. 
The dessert list looked like it deserved a real going over next time, and the locally-based wine list, as you'd expect for a casual bistro, covered all the bases without making you do too much thinking; just how it should be!.
The whole affair was priced à la Down South; no rude shocks but, at $17 entree and $34 main, no bargains either. Mind you, they had packaged up a entree, main and wine lunch deal that suited us perfectly. 
Another winner was the service from the delightful Em and her manager, Lorraine, who had that natural combination of attentiveness and fun in the best Australian style. They were enthusiastic about their job and really knew what was going on around the area. We could use a lot more like them in our tourism-focussed restaurants!

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