In 2016 Mandurah made the list of Australia's top 50 best small towns, and the range and quality of its eating reflects this. Little more than a fishing village until after WWII, it has grown rapidly in recent decades, and the culinary scene has likewise boomed. Located on the Indian Ocean near the bottom corner of Australia's western coast, it's based around the Harvey Estuary, an impressive body of water which dwarfs the much better known Sydney Harbour. That and its miles of sparkling new waterways make this up and coming town seem like the Venice of Down Under. Similarly, there's an Italianate feeling to many of the restaurants in Mandurah, which include several prestigious Gold Plate and Catering Award winners.
With its estuary regularly visited by playful bottle-nosed dolphins, you could hardly find a more atmospheric setting to enjoy some tasty seafood. Some restaurants in Mandurah let customers dock their boats right outside and many make a big show of preparing the fresh catch of the day on site. Options range from family-friendly fish and chips and toothsome crabsticks to grilled saltwater barramundi and flounder plated whole and fried in herbs and breadcrumbs. Crabbing and fishing are part of the local culture, so expect no shortage of crayfish, prawns and other succulent crustaceans on the menus in Mandurah restaurants.
The sheltered waters of the Harvey Estuary are a perfect habitat for blue manna crabs, which are an unmissable treat at many Mandurah restaurants. “Blueys” as they're locally known grow up to 25cm wide and can weigh in at as much as a kilogram. Prized for their sweet-tasting flesh, you'll find them plated in any number of different ways by the town's chefs, meaning there's no excuse not to go back for more. Just to mention two particularly delicious recipes, try them steamed and served with a bowl of linguine, or pan-fried with olive oil, tomatoes and garlic.
Many of the top restaurants in Mandurah are grouped round the Mandjar Bay foreshore where the estuary and ocean meet. The dining experience is all about sunny terraces overlooking the water and floor to ceiling windows that bring the views inside. There's a distinctly Mediterranean feel to the fare on offer. Gourmet restaurants put a contemporary spin on traditional game with dishes such as rabbit risotto and barbecued duck hearts. Meanwhile, lunch menus run to the likes of roast chicken smeared in herbs, squid salad and beef brisket in a rich tomato sauce. As if that weren't enough, the sense that you might be in one of your favourite spots on the Italian Riviera is reinforced by the abundance of vegetables like mushrooms, truffles and asparagus, depending on the season. To chime with the Mediterranean vibe, Mandurah restaurants usually like to round out their menus with a range of mouthwatering handmade ice cream flavours.
The town centre of Mandurah also boasts restaurants with a more international theme. Irish gastropubs serve up filling comfort food like beef and Guinness pie, ideal for recharging after a bracing day out on the water. This being Australia, the Asian influence is never far away, and there are plenty of Chinese and Thai restaurants putting a far eastern gloss on locally sourced ingredients. Think roast duck in honey sauce, stir-fried half shell mussels and pad Thai noodles with prawns.