Kimberley food experiences: Six of the best

Mud crabs are cooked over coals on the beach on True North Adventure Cruises.
Mud crabs are cooked over coals on the beach on True North Adventure Cruises. Photo: Supplied

The Kimberley in Western Australia is flush with unique dining experiences that are as adventurous as they are delicious. How about freshly caught threadfin salmon while watching a waterfall that flows sideways? Or a three-course meal featuring local produce while perched atop a crocodile-infested river? Here are six spots that should be on any Kimberley culinary bucket list.

Ramada Eco Beach Resort

Hidden away at the end of a red dirt road 130 kilometres south of Broome, Ramada Eco Beach's open-deck kitchen has sweeping views over white sand and aqua water.

Chef Luke Sutherland has designed an eclectic menu that jumps into the ocean with pearl meat and smoked barramundi and ventures into the wild west with crocodile tail with bush pepper. Native ingredients, such as bush basil, lemon myrtle, gubinge, karkalla, lemon aspen and bush pepper, pop up all over the menu.

Dine overlooking Chamberlain Gorge at El Questro Homestead.
Dine overlooking Chamberlain Gorge at El Questro Homestead. Photo: Supplied

A standout is  the citrus-infused pearl meat ceviche with pickled karkalla and pea tendrils, which reflects the Kimberley's colour palate of rusty reds, mangrove greens and sunset pink.

Once you've polished off the deconstructed wagon wheel with homemade marshmallow, there are 25 comfy villas, 30 eco tents or a two-bedroom beach house to retreat to.

323 Great Northern Highway, Broome, 08 9193 8015, ecobeach.com.au.

Chamberlain Gorge, El Questro Homestead.
Chamberlain Gorge, El Questro Homestead. Photo: Timothy Burgess

El Questro Homestead

If you want to check in to the creme de la creme of Kimberley's accommodation options, you can take the helicopter straight to El Questro Homestead. But don't expect French cuisine. Executive chef Alan Groom embraces all things local.

And he certainly has a lot to play with. Quinoa, chia, chickpeas, mangos, bananas, papayas, red grapefruit, melons and pumpkins all grow in the rich red Ord Valley soils just 110 kilometres down the road surrounding the town of Kununurra.

A stone's throw from his front door Allan collects canary-yellow kapoc flowers, rosellas (wild hibiscus) for jams and sauces, meyer lemons, sorrel and banana leaves to wrap up the local barramundi and mangrove jack.

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Only one food item is sourced from outside Western Australia. "I don't use local scallops because they're too small," he says. "We get them from Alaska."

Dinner, served under the stars overlooking Chamberlain Gorge, is three courses, with dishes changing daily. "We don't do degustation, I find that a bit pretentious," says the British-born chef. "Just give them a decent meal and get on with it."

To finish, dessert might be passionfruit and lime tart or chai and pistachio panna cotta.

And so to bed. With just nine luxurious suites on site, you shouldn't get lost returning to your oasis of plump pillows, cantilevered bathtub and feather-topped bed.

Gibb River Road, via Great Northern Highway, 1800 837 168, elquestro.com.au.

Cable Beach Resort and Spa

The apple of Broome's eye, Cable Beach Resort and Spa has the beach at its toes. For visitors wanting that tropical/zen/sunbathing/camel riding holiday, there is no better place to stay.

The large resort boasts four restaurants but the picks of the bunch are Zensai and Italian restaurant the Cichetti Club, where it's difficult not to fall for the pearl meat and prawn tortellini and veal ragu tagliatelle.

At romantic, dimly lit Zensai, executive chef Taro Isayama takes diners on a culinary journey around Japan with dishes such as kingfish fillet in teriyaki sauce and spanner crab with ponzu dressing.

Paired  with a smart list of sakes, Japanese cocktails, distilled spirits and liqueurs, and you have a one-of-a-kind Kimberley-meets-Japan experience.

To kick on, grab a bar stool for a cocktail made with local fruit at the resort's ocean-facing watering hole, the Sunset Bar & Grill. By day, there's also the Asian poolside eatery, Kichi Kichi.

Cable Beach Road, Broome, 08 9192 0400, cablebeachclub.com.

True North, Kimberley Wilderness Cruises

It's not often you get to accompany the chef as he searches for mud crab or fishes for barramundi, fingermark bream or mackerel for the evening's fare. But that's the kind of experience you can expect when cruising with True North.

While the ship tacks between Kimberley must-sees such as the Horizontal Falls and the King George Falls, north of Broome towards Darwin, staff offer liquid refreshments from their extensive wine and cocktail menu.

With just 36 guests on board in bright, modern cabins and 20 crew members, there's ample time to chat to head chef Luke Firth about what he's planning for dinner. You soon learn he lets the seafood "do the talking", adding only a few ingredients to accentuate the natural flavour. Mud crabs, for instance, are cooked over coals on the beach. Fresh queenfish is served sashimi-style.

At any stage during the cruise, drop into the galley, where you might encounter the chefs baking oil-infused rolls, rolling pasta dough or making jams and marmalade.

True North Adventure Cruises, 08 9192 1829, truenorth.com.au.

Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge

The Gibb River Road runs like a messy pencil mark over 660 kilometres of mostly dirt road between Derby and Wyndham in WA's far north. But for some that's not remote enough. How about taking a detour off this bumpy road to push 70 kilometres north on an even bumpier road?

APT's Mitchell Falls Wilderness Lodge sits near one of the Kimberley's greatest attractions, the Mitchell Falls, a series of beautiful gorges.

Although you are in one of the most remote places in Australia, come nightfall there's fresh barramundi, duck a l'orange and creme brulee served in the newly built Ungolan Pavilion, surrounded by bushland on the banks of Camp Creek.

APT has other wilderness lodges in the Kimberley – one at Bell Gorge and the other in the Bungle Bungles. Its 15-day Kimberley Complete includes two nights at each of the three lodges. But if you self-drive you can still stay at the lodges (with the rate inclusive of a three-course dinner and breakfast).

APT, 1300 334 872, kimberleywilderness.co.nz.

Kooljaman at Cape Leveque

Celebrating traditional flavours from the bush land is the ethos of Raugi's Restaurant at Kooljaman, a much-loved Aboriginal-owned tourism venture. Head chef Joseph McGrattan wows visitors to the Dampier Peninsula, 200 kilometres north of Broome, with his sublime French-Australian food using local ingredients such as illarr (bush apple) and riberry.

Kooljaman is open from April to October, and most of the campsites and safari tents are snapped up a year in advance, although outside of the winter school holidays it's easier to nab some accommodation. And while you're there, you can hone your own hunting and cooking skills, with Indigenous elder and respected tour guide Brian Lee. 

Lee offers tours where you can learn traditional fishing and crabbing methods. His tour concludes under a shady tree, where you cook your catch on an open fire.

Kooljaman, Cape Leveque, 08 9192 4970, kooljaman.com.au.