Chef Alain Fabreques dishes chopped truffle over his signature truffled eggs
Last weekend, my darling wife S and I skipped town to check out a festival that we’d only recently heard about, but which we knew we simply had to attend. The Mundaring Truffle Festival, held in a small suburb just 30 minutes drive from Perth, Western Australia, is a gustatory celebration of the Black Perigord Truffle. The Festival’s official literature describes it rather perfectly: “For one glorious, over-indulgent weekend during the height of the West Australian truffle season, the picturesque hills community of Mundaring transforms into a bustling Festival village filled with truffle-themed events, an open-air produce market, the annual Perth Hills Wine Show and much, much more.” The Festival, which took place 8-9 August, also happened to coincide perfectly with Singapore’s National Day (long weekend) holiday. Perfect timing for us.
The Mundaring Truffle Festival is in its third year and while marketed primarly domestically, it is begining to attract foreign visitors like S and me. This year, the Festival attracted over 25,000 people, which more than doubled last year’s attendance numbers. I can only imagine how massive and well-attended this Festival might become over the next 5-10 years. It has the potential, if it’s growth is planned and managed well, to become one of the most exciting and leading food festivals in the region.
The Festival is the brainchild of Chef Alain Fabregues of The Loose Box restaurant. Chef Fabregues is, without a doubt, WA’s most celebrated French chef. I was told a few years back that after Chef Fabregues had consistently won the award for Best Chef in WA year after year, a decision was made to simply disqualify him from the competition, or else there would never be another winner again. The Festival is also backed by the Shire of Mundaring and most importantly supported by The Wine & Truffle Company. The Wine & Truffle Company, headquartered 4 hours south of Perth in Manjimup, is Australia’s premium grower of Perigord Black Truffles. They supply to all the best chefs in the world, from Thomas Keller to Tetsuya Wakuda. With the Aussie-truffle season hitting its peak in what would be summer in the Northern Hemisphere, chefs across the USA and Europe are now able to offer real Perigord Black Truffles all year round.
The Black Perigord Truffle
S and I flew into town on 8 August, so sadly we missed the events held that day. On the 9th, however, we made sure to get up bright and early so we’d be able to spend the whole day at Festival. We attended two events and spent the rest of the gorgeous winter’s day wandering from stall to stall in the open-air Gourmet Product Market and drinking our way from table to table at the Perth Hills Wine Show.
The first event we attended was a wine and food pairing hosted by Kate Lamont. Lamont’s is one of WA’s most important wine and food companies, with wineries and restaurants in Perth, Margaret River and Swan Valley (S and I also had one of our very first lunches together — just before we started dating — at Lamont’s in Swan Valley). Ms Lamont is also chairperson of Tourism WA’s Board of Commissioners. We had some really lovely food, with recipes for each dish provided to us, paired with some very exciting Lamont’s wines, including a Riesling that was not yet available to the public.
After that, we sat down for one of the most decadent meals of my life. One of the most popular and fastest sell-out events of the Festival is Chef Alain Fabregues’ Loose Box Long Lunch in the Park. Inside a chic marquee set up in Sculpture Park, Chef Fabreques’ team sets up several long linen-clad tables. Lunch is five very decadent dishes, each one overflowing with truffles and paired with very well-chosen French wines. We started the meal with a truffled egg served with truffle toasts. Next was a warm leek and potato soup garnished with a truffle coulis and garlic croutons. This was followed by Tasmanian salmon, filled with a truffle mousse, poached in Champagne, served cold on a celeriac salad with julienne of truffles and truffle dressing. The main course was a locally farmed rabbit, Margaret River venison, mushroom and truffle pie, served with a venison sauce and garnished with chestnuts and shallots braised in red wine. Dessert was a beehive of chilled honey and truffle bavarois in an almond tuile with apricot coulis and meringue bees. What really thrilled S and me was the almost crazy amount of truffle that Chef Fabregues used during this meal. Usually, when you have truffles in a restaurant, you’re lucky if you can even taste the one or two paper-thin slivers shaved over your food. Here, the truffles were everywhere and abundant. It was truly a gastronomic experience I won’t soon forget and well worth travelling to Perth for.
Of course, S and I also had a blast roaming around the public areas of the festival. Lining both sides of a main road (closed to traffic for the Festival) were the greatest gourmet food stalls, selling everything from hotdogs made from locally-bred lamb to truffled pizzas and truffled brie sandwiches, fresh juices and gourmet coffees. We couldn’t stop ourselves from grazing our way up and down the street, excitedly spying something new just as we’d taken a bite of something else. We also went a little nuts in the Gourmet Product Market, buying things like wild limes and pickled yabbies. Sadly, a lot of the very best produce was fresh and there was no way we would have been able to get it home safely (we were heading down South for a few days after the Festival).
This is a Festival we plan on returning to year after year. We love that it’s very laid back. And we love that it very openly and very honestly celebrates the very best food, produce and wine. It doesn’t need any silly themes or gimmicks. It’s an honest Festival for real foodies. And we truly appreciate that.