Travel Story Great Southern eats: A foodie's guide to Albany

From artsy bars to local oysters and authentic Thai food, there's plenty of delicious fare to be found in and around Albany. 

It’s been 20 years since I’ve been to Albany — all I remember is Dog Rock and The Gap — but a lot has changed since then. There’s now an increasing number of up-market cafes, bars and a few pretty good restaurants. I had forgotten Albany’s old-world charm, the well-kept historical buildings and the sweeping ocean views.

On arrival, we take a wander around town in search of a coffee. We come across the Black Duck Gourmet Pantry on Peels Place. Country style, with produce from the Great Southern region, it’s well decked out with chutneys, jams, chocolates and perfect pastries from Denmark Bakery. You can browse or indulge in a few gourmet treats to take home. Dining alfresco was chilly but the sunshine gave comfort with a good coffee.

We check in to our holiday house near Middleton Beach overlooking the stunning bay. It’s drinks time, so we’re off to Middleton Beach, to a bar that has been recommended. Rats Bar has a modern, wooden look from the outside and a warm, comfy feel inside. There’s an eco-friendly fire with a cosy bar area. It’s casually decked out with a couch and artsy wooden tables.

The wine list is good, with interesting boutique wines from the Great Southern. 

After enjoying a glass or two of Shepherd’s Hut Porongurup riesling, the bar food looks inviting. Duck rillettes with chargrilled local bread and cornichons hit the spot, and the warm winter salad is a winner, with spiced caramelised roasted carrots, sweet potato and Brussels sprouts tossed with quinoa. For something more substantial, try the spinach gnocchi.

It’s a clear, cold night as we walk back towards the town. A few metres on, Hybla — a well-lit, impressive-looking building — looms in the night. It turns out to be a pub-style bar and eatery. Worth a try to meet with Albany folk.

Albany is an easy town to navigate, and not too spaced out. Even with the cold weather, the skies are clear and blue. Historic buildings pop up everywhere — no modern high-rise here. Alfresco eating is popular, often beneath a grand balcony.

Friday morning, what’s for breakfast? We stroll back to Middleton Beach and decide on Bay Merchants, at the foot of Mt Adelaide. A store for more than 100 years, it’s buzzing with locals and serves up great breakfast and coffee.

A foodie experience in Albany wouldn’t seem right without tucking into local oysters.

At Emu Point, a 10-minute drive from the centre of Albany, we go to the boat harbour overlooking the oyster farms. The oysters are plump, beautifully salty and fresh tasting. The variety is similar to the Sydney rock oyster.

Wandering along the shore, we pop into Emu Point Cafe. Set in a relaxing, scenic grassed area gently sloping down to the water’s edge, it’s an ideal picnic spot and we are won over with the pulled brisket and spicy tacos.

Locals stocking up for the week head to the Albany Farmers Market on Saturdays between 8am and noon on Collie Street in the town centre. It’s a small market, with a good community atmosphere. With our jar of local honey tucked underarm, we sit eating almond croissants and soaking up the joyous winter sun.

If you’re interested in Albany’s history, dine at Liberte, housed in the London Hotel, which was built in 1909 on the site of The Chusan, one of the first hotels in WA.

It has a quirky, flamboyant, Victorian sort of decor, with velvet drapes, palms and, most of all, fun. Liberte serves up a tasty combo of Vietnamese and French cuisine — one minute a chilli, next a French fry. The front bar is a haunt for locals.

The next day, we drive towards the Porongurups. Twenty minutes on, an average-looking farm building appears on the left with a sign: Maleeya’s Thai Cafe. 

Driving in on the dirt road, there are quite a few cars parked outside. Well, it must be popular. With a greenhouse on the right and chickens out back, it looks inviting.

Maleeya is named after the owner and chef, who has lived on the farm with her Swedish husband for 25 years. Perfectly spiced with the freshest flavours, her cooking is Thai food at its best, served in surroundings that feel like we are dining in a friend’s home. Make sure you try the Penang chilli prawns and massaman beef curry.

On our final day in Albany, we decide we can’t leave without a visit to the National Anzac Centre. The building is architecturally beautiful, overlooking the harbour on Mt Clarence. Our time there is well spent, learning more about the Anzacs.

At Garrison cafe and restaurant next door, we enjoy more sweeping views and a snack before our drive home. It’s surprisingly good, for a tourist spot. Try the beef brisket burger or King George whiting fish and chips.

(Picture at top: Food in Albany. Picture: Amazing Albany)

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