Dinner with Heston: A Michelin Greats Experience at Voyager Estate
The number one satellite event at Gourmet Escape and the most coveted ticket had to be the Michelin Greats Dinner at Voyager Estate with Heston Blumenthal and friends. And in all honesty, this was the major draw card that saw my cousin and I eager to attend this year.
I remember vividly the day that the tickets went on sale (only 100 coveted spots) and my cousin proclaiming that if we didn’t get tickets she ‘might just die!’ As midday ticked over we managed by sheer determination to snare two tickets to what would be a once in a lifetime dinner. The countdown to that eventful evening had begun…
Finally the night had arrived and as we both got dressed in our nicest outfits and enjoyed a celebratory glass of champagne, we wondered what we might say to Heston if we were one of the lucky few to snare five minutes with him.
Voyager Estate is one of the more breathtaking wineries in Margaret River and has a long history. First established as Freycinet Estate by Peter Gherardi in 1978, it was purchased by the late mining magnate Michael Wright in 1991. Gradually over the years and under the stewardship of the Wright family the vineyard has expanded to 110 hectares (source: James Halliday Wine Companion). The Cape Dutch architecture reminds me of some of the wineries in Cape Town, South Africa and the gardens are extraordinary.
Its location in the Stevens Valley has some of the most ideal characteristics to create award-winning wines. “The gravel soils, microclimate, aspect and maritime influence make up the foundations of the distinctive Voyager Estate style.” (source: Voyager Estate website)
Many of the gardens were designed by Deon Bronkhorst, a landscape architect from Cape Town, South Africa. The gardens centre around a central walled garden or ‘werf’ in Afrikaans filled with herbs and vegetables. Many of the plants have a strong European influence, so expect to find Agapanthus, Hydrangeas and Azaleas.
There are also two stunning rose gardens, which are often a key design in Cape Dutch architecture and also commonly used in vineyards for their ability to show signs of pests and disease much quicker than in the vines themselves.
Entering the Cape Dutch wine room, we are greeted with a glass of sparkling and canapés. The weather is mild and the sun is just setting, so we head out to the terrace to enjoy some live music and chat to some of the other attendees. In attendance this evening are George Calombaris, Darren Robertson (Three Blue Ducks) and his partner Magdalena Roze and Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran singer and good friend of Heston Blumenthal).
Cooking for us this evening with Voyager Estate’s executive chef, Nigel Harvey are Clare Smyth (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London and the first female British chef to hold and retain 3 Michelin Stars), Sat Bains (from the 2 Michelin Starred Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms, Nottingham) and Executive Chef Jonny Lake of the 3 Star Michelin restaurant The Fat Duck and the man of the hour, Heston Blumenthal. Some serious culinary stripes right there.
Each chef has taken the local WA produce and created a dish that celebrates the region and shows their unique style.
Clare Smyth presents the entrée, which is a dish of exquisite beauty. A poached West Australia marron sits atop a disc of cauliflower cous cous, with finger lime and rose petals from the garden. As each plate is presented the waiters pour over a rose and ras el hanout broth, which creates the most amazing smell. This dish is matched with the 2010 Suckfizzle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon. My dish was faultless and the marron was perfectly cooked.
Just before mains, my cousin spots our idol Heston Blumenthal and we waste no time in heading over to have a quick chat. He is personable, friendly and happy to humour two girls who are smitten with this creative genius. He poses for a photo and admits to my cousin that his ‘dirty little kitchen secret’ is a good old prawn cocktail. Night made! We can go home now… We head back to the table and the envious whispers of congratulations from the other guests.
The main was presented by Sat Bains and comprises a perfectly pink, medium rare cheek of local beef, on a bed of sea vegetables, with tartare and an oyster emulsion. Honestly this was one of the most tender pieces of meat I have had the pleasure of enjoying. It literally fell apart on the plate and melted in your mouth. The 2010 Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot was the perfect wine to enjoy with this dish.
Dessert was the piece de resistance and with over sixty-six ingredients, three months of planning and three hours of plating, I took my time to savour the famous Botrytis Cinerea from The Fat Duck, presented by Jonny Lake and Heston Blumenthal. This was matched with a sweet, sticky Flametree Botrytis Riesling.
Botrytis Cinerea is actually the name of a type of fungus that causes rot in grapes and in the case of ‘noble rot’ can result in producing sweet dessert wines such as Sauternes. In wet and humid conditions, the fungus produces grey rot and often results in the loss of the affected bunches.
A bunch of rotten grapes…sounds appetizing right?
In true Heston fashion this dish is mind-blowing. Honestly, whether you love molecular gastronomy or not, one must admit this man is one of the most creative chefs of our time. Life inside his brain must be one weird, fantastical party!
Presented as a bunch of balls fashioned to look like grapes there are so many flavours that just work so well together. I taste notes of cinnamon in the grape stalk, a passionfruit lemon curd, apple jelly, notes of blue cheese and the gold sphere seems to be filled with lime as it explodes in my mouth. All the elements are there- the sweet, savoury and salty. I am enraptured.
For me this event was one of my most unforgettable gourmet experiences to date! Each dish showed why these chefs are at the top of their game and next time I am in the UK I will be heading to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Restaurant Sat Bains and The Fat Duck to experience more of these creative geniuses at work.
As a side note:
Thanks must go to Ganaways Bus Service for chauffeuring all the attendees between each of these events, as the wineries in Margaret River are pretty well spread out. With such amazing wine on offer, we appreciated the opportunity to take a bus so we could enjoy our drinks without the worry of who was to be the designated driver. Having this service available meant the festival was much more enjoyable.