When Airbnb first launched in 2007, I recall that the concept of an accommodation service that owned no property seemed rather odd. Then came Uber – a transport company with no vehicles of its own. Now, and I shouldn’t really be surprised, we have a restaurant without bricks and mortar. A table with no roof – where the location and the view change as often as the menu!
The Luxury Picnic Experience was created when a foodie and a stylist met and merged their talents in the seaside town of Jurien Bay. “We wanted an experience where the food can be as beautiful as the scenery!” says Jemma Sargent, whose creative approach to local produce sees an ever-evolving menu of simple yet sophisticated flavours. While Jemma takes care of the food, it’s her business partner Tracey Illich, who completes the experience with her unique styling – creating a sensory delight to compliment the meal.
With a suite of secret locations to surprise their picnickers, these two have the inside knowledge when it comes to breathtaking sunsets and secluded spots along our turquoise coast. They have entertained guests on remote beaches, in bushland settings and at private venues and homes. More often than not, they dish up under the stars, and I was lucky enough to enjoy their moveable feast at one of our most famous yet often underrated attractions.
The location is the Pinnacles, a Western Australian enigma visited by thousands of international travellers each year, yet typically ignored by locals. I haven’t been there for more than twenty years (although I regularly charge up and down Indian Ocean drive).
As we drive in, the cloudy afternoon light renders the sandy orange desert eerie and strangely spellbinding. I can see why the striking limestone monoliths draw such an appreciative audience. The long, winding tracks seem uncharted and mesmerisingly maze-like (and I have to say, the lack of maps seems a little foolish on the part of the Department of Parks and Wildlife). Fortunately, our directionless journey ultimately leads us to a picture-perfect location. Where, adding to the enchantment, is the delightful picnic Tracey has set up on the sand, the comfy cushions specifically situated to watch the sun slowly drift to its hazy sea bed.
The evening is superbly embellished with Jemma’s thoughtful food. To begin, a platter with a gently torched camembert, chorizo and cheese, local pickles and a bespoke lamb terrine begs to be enjoyed with handmade crackers and a cheeky mango cocktail.
“There are so many people making really beautiful things out here — they are so creative,” gushes Jemma. “The local produce we source is really special and the seasonality is so important – if it’s not in season we just can’t head out to get it!”
A half cray on a bed of salad with a tangy twist and a crumble of macadamia nuts is a palate pleaser before the decadent desserts. “The crays are straight out of the water today,” explains Jemma, who genuinely enjoys sharing the backstory of each dish. Dessert is a medley of bite sized morsels artfully arranged on a timber board, and I can’t help but notice how the earthy timbre of the honeycomb, chocolate salami and pistachio cake with berry coulis tone with the shades of the sunset.
At the end of the evening, Jemma and Tracey swiftly deconstruct the picnic, leaving nothing but the obligatory footprints in the sand – and we take nothing but some very pretty pictures (and maybe a few leftovers for Ron).
While a luxury picnic including the food will set you back from $75 per person, you can sample the decadent delights created by this creative pair at their brand-new venture, Bayside – a pop up tapas bar held every Friday night at the Jurien Bay Foreshore, from 5 pm.
“We introduced LPE Bayside recently, a more casual picnic experience that we will be doing on the Jurien Bay foreshore over the summer months, again with a focus on fresh seasonal local produce,” says Tracey. Featuring an eclectic street food menu, Bayside offers meals like Huli Huli chicken, prawn and chorizo paella, Pulled beef cheeks with chunky potato salad, Philly Cheesesteak Hoagies, Salmon Niçoise salad and Street corn, with dishes well priced at $12 and under. Bayside kicked off last month after a long wait for approvals, and the girls were thrilled with the response – especially from locals.
“It was fabulous for us to see locals, tourists, couples and families enjoying our picnic blanket set ups and picnic tables under the festoon lights as well as the atmosphere and fresh food straight off the grill — not forgetting a Jurien Bay sunset over the ocean as a backdrop,” said Tracey.
You can follow Luxury Picnic Experiences and LPE Bayside on Instagram and Facebook to find out more about upcoming events and to place bookings.