Heading on a road trip? Albany and its surrounds hold plenty of promise for travellers on the food and drink front.
For lovers of the good things in life – aka eating, drinking and being merry – it’s hard not to have a good time in Albany. A sunny day with a blue sky that seems to go on forever? Get outside and crack a tinny with some of the country’s best fish and chips. The weather wet and wild? There are plenty of cosy nooks to hole up in with a glass of wine. Simply in need of a warm slice of sourdough and a caffeine hit? A hole-in-the-wall bakery complete with a decades-old sourdough starter should fix you up. Then there’s everything in between, ranging from chatting to growers and bagging local produce at Albany Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, to checking out what’s on pour at Great Southern Distilling Co and Wilson Brewing Co. But where to break bread? We’ve rounded up the best of the best to cover your cravings in this southern corner of the state, with a few extras around the fringes.
It’s impossible to visit Albany and not pop into Liberté at least once. You’d be forgiven if you visit for lunch and return for pre-dinner drinks, dinner, and post-dinner drinks too. The faded Parisian-style interiors have a charm that extends to the overall dining experience, while a thoughtful drinks list sees an interesting selection of local wines (both the big guys and the smaller quirky producers) alongside expertly crafted cocktails served in stylish glassware. Chef Amy Hamilton’s menu packs a contemporary French-Vietnamese flavour punch, with dishes – fried quail with nuoc cham, say, or Albany rock oysters with lemongrass vinaigrette – designed for sharing and bold flavours that draw you back to the drinks list for more refreshment. Staff will help you feel right at home, and delight in offering recommendations if you get stuck with what to choose.
Albany’s Indian Tandoori Restaurant
Locals swear by this no-frills Indian restaurant, but visitors craving a taste of South Asia will find rewards all across the menu, from fragrant curries to crisp-fried chicken 65, to naan fresh from the tandoor. The décor is simple enough, but it more than makes up for it in flavour, plus BYO means an opportunity to sample that local riesling you picked up.
The choice restaurant in Albany for a special occasion or date night, Majuba’s interiors are total bistro: marble tabletops, a red velvet booth, bentwood chairs and dark floorboards. Then there’s the well-executed French- and Spanish-inspired favourites from chef Johann Prins-Gurtel, who clearly knows his product and has the technique to pull off the classics – crab and chilli spaghetti, say, or perfectly pink prime steak – effortlessly. A solid international wine list completes the package, and you’ll rub shoulders with the locals. Be sure to book.
Gourmandise & Co
There’s a reason that return visitors to Albany make a beeline for Gourmandise & Co. A little slice of provincial France in regional Australia, the rustic and warm atmosphere is complemented by woodfired bread, French breakfast specialties and lunchtime treats. Take a seat at the long communal table in the heart of the café, order the teurgoule Normande – a buttery breakfast bowl similar to a rice pudding – and drift off on a mini European sojourn.
Did you join the throngs of lockdown sourdough bakers when the pandemic kicked off? Well the crew at Bred Co have been raising the sourdough bar since 2016 with a decades-old sourdough mother, which they’ve taken to feeding with local flour milled onsite. Says it all really. You can’t miss this little-hole-in-the-wall on the main street, and it’s a great spot for a coffee and pastry, too.
Pepper and Salt
It’s worth the drive to Denmark (about an hour from Albany; or a good place to stop on the way round) for the best winery restaurant in the region. Chef Silas Masih is generous both in and out of the kitchen, offering a menu packed with local produce and big flavours. Masih isn’t shy to play with spices and heat, be it bamboo shoot sambal with seared scallops or sichuan noodle broth with Nabawarra marron. A perfect match with Forrest Hill’s wine portfolio. Expect warm Great Southern hospitality from staff, and a relaxed dining atmosphere, with the chef regularly popping out to personally check in with customers.
Mount Barker Country Bakery
You’ll not regret the 45-minute drive to Mount Baker Country Bakery if you’ve got a hankering for a meat pie or if you’re in need of some fuel before conquering one on the trails in the Stirling or Porongurup ranges. The wall of awards is ample proof of the pies’ deliciousness, though it’s not much help when it comes to deciding which one to pick. Why not try the kangaroo and chorizo for a start, and grab a second choice for the road?
Ocean and Paddock
You simply cannot leave Albany without a serve of fish and chips, so head straight to the best at Ocean and Paddock. With an emphasis on local and sustainable produce, the menu is sizeable and the catch of the day really does change daily. Any non-local fish is clearly marked, and the staff are a full bottle on the provenance of their dishes, which as you may guess from the name, include vegetables and meats for landlubbers.