After our decadent meal at Ku De Ta there was some discussion amongst our friends on Facebook which lead to a number of alternate dining recommendations being given. We decided to follow their advice and booked a table at La Lucciola which was conveniently in Seminyak where we were staying. To the Boy’s satisfaction we also managed to book the hotel car in advance and dodge being over charged by local taxis. He is not the biggest fan of the whole rorting system of taxis in Bali and this was cause of many complaints from him.
The restaurant is located right up on the beach but unfortunately we arrived just after sunset so we missed the view as the golden sun had already plunged into the sea. Despite this, I was still amazed at what a stunning setting; the restaurant is surrounded by lush gardens and Koi ponds facing out directly onto the beach. It faces towards an area of beach on the northern end of Seminyak beach which is much quieter and more peaceful than the main area.
We were greeted with beaming smiles from all the staff and found a distinct lack of pretention that we saw when at Ku De Ta. Upon arrival I handed the waiter my allergy eating card and off it went to make its obligatory journey around the kitchen to be returned back some time later with the waiter who offered some recommendations off the menu. I was also informed that although normal bread is complementary, they do have gluten-free bread available for a small extra charge. Being the only place in Bali that offered me gluten-free bread, I was already feeling quite positive about our evening.
The bread had great texture and was not crumbly or stodgy and I was quite impressed as I haven’t had a lot of good gluten-free bread experiences when travelling in Asian countries. It was served with freshly whipped butter and olive oil.
I had recently been reading a review on My Kitchen Stories on Café Sopra in Sydney where she tried their vitello tonnato. So when I saw it on the menu I was keen to try this classic and elegant Italian summer dish for the first time. It truly was a taste sensation. The veal was tender and subtly sweet and was topped with big dollops of creamy almost pungent tuna flavoured sauce which contained an astringent hint of capers. The sauce was definitely the key to this dish’s success.
The boy ordered the duck for his entrée which consisted of a moist, juicy duck breast on top of a crisp pear pastry. It was accompanied with some crunchy peppery watercress, fresh pear and some sweet beetroot. He was suitably very impressed with his choice.
My main was not nearly as tasty as the veal. The barramundi was slightly over cooked and lacked that flaky softness I passionately love about this fish. I also felt that wrapping such a delicate fish in prosciutto overpowered the flavours somewhat. The celeriac purée helped to lift some of this heaviness making the dish still overall quite enjoyable.
According to the Boy this was a very filling dish. It was heartily seasoned and all the seafood was cooked to his liking. We also ordered some sides: the wild rocket salad with Pecorino Toscano and some roasted golden pumpkin with sliced almonds and balsamic. The rocket was crisp and fresh with generous shavings of the salty almost nutty flavoured cheese. The pumpkin had the skin removed prior to roasting which is a shame as I think that caramelised chewy part is the best bit!
The berry pannacotta held good shape despite the heat and didn’t collapse on my plate. It was delightfully light and silky and it filled the last little spot left in my stomach perfectly. The Boy ordered the gelato which he felt was fairly standard and nothing to get too excited about.
La Lucciola was our second favourite meal during this Bali trip (compared to Ku De Ta) but if you take into consideration the venue, the price and the service I would say this meal was actually the best.
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!
Have you liked my Facebook page?La Lucciola Jl. Kayu Aya, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia | (+62) 361 730 838 Price: $$$ (Entrée 107-145K Rp, $11-15 AUD, Mains 215-325K Rp, $22-33 incl tax) Food: 4.5/5 (they have gluten-free bread!) Service: 5/5 (faultless, attentive, not obtrusive) Ambience: 4.5/5 (beautiful beachside setting) Drinks: 3/5 (cocktails could be improved) Total: 17/20
As a thoughtful engagement present to us from one of our friends we were given a dinner voucher from Our Deal at Celyta’s Cuisine in Midland. Our friend had done her research and chosen this restaurant based on a great Urbanspoon rating and a wide range of gluten free options on their menu. Having just returned from Bali and a little on the broke side it was so good to be able to go out for a meal where everything was already paid for!
In keeping with our usual tradition of eating out, we like to visit another venue before dinner for some pre-dinner drinks so off we headed to The Principal Brewing Company. Our voucher at Celyta’s included a two course meal for two; either entrée and main, or main and dessert. So upon arriving to the pub we decided it would be a great idea to have some pre-dinner snacks to accompany our drinks.
We ordered some salt and pepper calamari which the kitchen was happy to grill without the flour dusting to make them gluten-free for us. The Boy also ordered some beer battered chips. The calamari was disappointingly tough and chewy but was a decent sized serve for an entrée. The chilli aioli reminded me of Nando’s Perinaise– which isn’t actually such a bad thing as I LOVE that stuff!
The beer battered chips were really crispy and the serve was huge considering we both had another two courses to get through. As they were beer battered I have to presume they were not gluten-free so I tried to resist eating any while I watched the Boy eagerly devouring his way through them. I was absolutely starving and hearing each crunch felt like torture so I ended up caving and helped him finish off the bowl. This was a stupid mistake because on the way home later that night I was in agony!! If you are not gluten intolerant however I highly recommend these chips – they were really good!
After we polished off our “snacks” we headed off in the direction of Celyta’s on foot. Just as we set off the rain started to speckle onto us but lucky for us it didn’t start a summer downpour until just after we arrived at the restaurant. The restaurant is BYO so I had stopped at the Bottle shop on the way and bought a bottle of Chapman Grove Chardonnay. This wine is from the Margaret River region and was quite light and fruity with a hint of oak.
I had pre-warned the staff about my dietary requirements a few weeks prior when I called up to make our reservation. I reminded the waiter as we were ordering to which he replied that nearly all the dishes are gluten free but there are only a couple that are onion free. He recommended that I order the Portuguese style steak. I was keen to try this as I vaguely recalled a Portuguese steak traditionally having an egg cracked on top of it while it’s on the grill? Being a big egg fan, this idea quite excited me although I didn’t see any mention of egg on the menu.
My steak came out not quite like I expected. The fatty cut of sirloin was drowned in a thick pepper sauce and there were paperweight sized chunks of prosciutto balancing on top. I had never seen such thick slices of prosciutto and they were extremely tough to eat. The steak was cooked rare as I had requested. The steak was surrounded like a clock face with medallions of potato that tasted like they had been frozen and reheated. Some of the slices had a leathery brown discolouration I can only presume was due to freezer burn.
The Boy ordered surf and turf – not exactly a traditional Portuguese dish either. His steak was also cooked rare to his liking but it was fattier than mine. It was served with some plain boiled rice, a small handful of chips and a pile of coleslaw. I always thought coleslaw was more of a Dutch dish? His chips also had some freezer burn on them.
Our dessert was a curious combination of a crème brûlée and a crème caramel all kind of rolled into one dessert. Seeing as these two desserts are particular favourites of mine I wasn’t really one to complain. Instead of caramelising the surface of the dish with a flame, it appeared that the chef had made some toffee and poured it on top of the custard. This resulted in a near tooth chipping layer of rock hard sugar to crack through. Underneath the custard was a little on the lumpy side and at the bottom of the glass was the runny layer of caramel pooling at the bottom. Totally edible but certainly not mind-blowing.
We still had a great night out regardless and are grateful for this gift, however it is very unlikely we will return to Celyta’s again. As I am frequently in the Midland area for business meetings, I will continue to return to the Principal as they are by far and by large the best pub in the area.Follow Me on Facebook! The Principal Brewing Company 23 Cale Street, Midland 6056 | (08) 9250 2995 | www.theprincipal.com.au Price: $$$$ (Light menu $9-27, Mains $24-34) Food: 2.5/5 (generally average food but better than other pubs in the area) Service: 3/5 (relaxed and friendly) Ambience: 2.5/5 (not very inviting, cold and stark) Drinks: 2.5/5 (small wine list) Total: 10.5/20 Celyta’s Cuisine 30 The Crescent, Midland 6056 | (08) 9274 8318 | celytascuisine.drupalgardens.com Price: $$$$ (Entrees $14, Mains $17-40) Food: 2/5 (very average considering menu prices) Service: 3/5 (a little slow but friendly enough) Ambience: 2/5 (brightly lit) Drinks: 2.5/5 (BYO, serves hot coffee) Total: 9.5/20
On the last night of my 3 day birthday eat-drink bender we booked a table at Nobu for a romantic night out just the two of us. My only request to the Boy for my birthday present this year was for him to get me a gift that would be a total surprise! Upon suggesting this to him some weeks before I was met with a number of retorts and complaints as he was certain that there would be no way he could think of something without any guidance. I knew he was wrong – when he puts his mind to it he comes up with the most awesome present ideas.
As the taxi pulled up outside our house, the Boy handed me a birthday card in a red envelope saying “Here’s your present!” I decided to wait until we got to (A)LURE for our pre-dinner drinks before opening it. It was such a fine evening so after ordering our drinks we sat out on the balcony basking in the setting sun. I opened the envelope and in it was a card containing a printed piece of paper……curious….
“Happy Birthday Beautiful! Hope you’ve had a marvellous birthday and looking forward to an extra special one next year!” Before even reading the enclosed piece of paper it suddenly dawned on me what he meant and I felt an overwhelming feeling of excitement and happiness! Next year for my birthday we will be in Thailand celebrating our marriage!!! Wooot!!!
To my even greater surprise the paper read as follows:
“Aerial Combat Flight for Two: If Top Gun looked like fun then you’ll be thrilled by these combat formation flights with your family member alongside you! Strap into a war bird and get set for an adrenalin fuelled flight!
When you and your companion arrive at the airport we’ll have you looking the part in no time when you put on your flight suit! You are then strapped into the seat behind the pilot and briefed on the mission ahead. Then it’s out to the flight line – the fun is about to begin!
The combat formation flight is performed with two CJ-6A Nanchangs. At the beginning of your flight you will experience the art of close formation as practiced by the air forces of the world. Then it’s time to split the formation. The fight is on! Diving and turning to gain position behind the opposing aircraft, your pilot will take you on an amazing aerial combat adventure, using real military rules and procedures. This is not a simulator or computer game – this is the real thing!
The CJ-6A Nanchang is the current primary trainer of the Chinese air force, with a 9-cylinder Radial-engine and sliding canopies. This aircraft is still in use, being employed by several air forces in training military pilots around the world.
After your aerial combat flight you and your friend will climb out of the cockpits, grinning from ear to ear and buzzing all over with excitement after having experienced an absolutely mind-blowing flight!
Far out!!! This has to be one of the most original and brilliant presents yet! The Boy has totally excelled himself! After guzzling a couple of glasses of champagne we moved over to Nobu to continue our evening.
We were warmly greeted and shown to our table where our waitress offered to bring us the cocktail special of the evening. It was something sparkling and peachy but unfortunately I cannot recall much other detail. The drink was very sweet almost overpoweringly so but totally enjoyable nevertheless. Without even needing to ask, she came back to our table as we were sipping our drinks to remove our normal soy from the table and replace it with gluten-free soy.
Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu and was thrilled to enthusiastically describe some of the preparation in the kitchen to us. We started with the yellow tail sashimi with jalapeño – a true example of how Nobu does Japanese differently with Peruvian flair. For this signature dish, we were advised to eat each delicate velvety slice of tuna with a coriander leaf to experience all the flavours. The cool freshness of the coriander along with the bite of the jalapeño was out of this world! Being a big fan of wasabi – the heat of the jalapeño is quite a different kind of heat and made a unique and interesting change.
Miso is traditionally used as a paste to flavour a vast number of Japanese dishes. To dramatically increase the flavour Nobu has pioneered the technique of processing the paste to create “dry miso” and he uses it throughout the menu as a powerful seasoning. To make the dry miso, the miso paste is spread out onto baking paper and cooked for a few hours in the oven at low temperature. It is then crushed in a food processor to produce small granular chips of intense flavour. Our white fish was served with dried red miso, fried garlic chips, a sprinkling of chives and a tangy lemony dressing. After the combination of heat and sweet coriander with the yellow tail tuna, the more salty and acrid flavours of this dish was a great progression in flavours. An excellent second choice.
If you are going to order anything off the menu – the Miso Black Cod is a signature dish that cannot be missed. This is where you really better believe the hype. After being wowed by a copy of the same dish at Ku De Ta in Bali, I can truly appreciate how the original version here at Nobu has been perfected and mastered. The fish is marinated in miso for no less than three days allowing it to fully permeate through the thick slab of Alaskan Black Cod. The texture of the fish is so buttery and slithers into your mouth like silk.
The pork belly with miso caramel is another signature dish but this in no way compared to the show stopping black cod. The miso had caramelised to a sticky sweetness but the crackling lacked oomph in its crunch which was a little disappointing.
The marron spinach salad was a bit of a spontaneous order as we originally wanted to have a mushroom dish but were informed that all the mushrooms were marinated in wheat based soy and therefore not suitable. Surprisingly the spinach was the highlight of this dish with the dry miso giving such an incredible flavour. The marron was quite humble in comparison to its salad.
The soft-shelled crab was one of the specials of the evening and I was so pleased to hear it could be adapted to be gluten-free! It was served with fresh watermelon and sesame which I haven’t seen before. Although I know I shouldn’t eat watermelon I did eat some this time and its bursting watery sweetness was an interesting match with the salty crispy crab. I really shouldn’t have though because I did suffer a bit the next day! Watermelon and other melons are a no-no for fructose malabsorbers.
Now that we had sampled some hot dishes and some cold dishes, we moved onto some of the sashimi and sushi. We order some squid, salmon and smelt egg sashimi. The sashimi was fairly good quality but not the best we have ever tried. The squid was particularly well prepared with no chewiness. It was the sushi rolls that we both found most special. The tuna and asparagus rolls looked so simple but they were like little bombs of flavour and the larger house made rolls were even more so. I highly recommend all of the sushi rolls we tried.
For dessert I ordered the Bento box purely based on it having green tea ice-cream which I adore. I couldn’t believe my eyes when she opened the box lid and sitting innocently in there was a gluten-free chocolate fondant with one lonely little scoop of green tea ice-cream. My eyes lit up like a child at Christmas as I cut my spoon into the centre and out gushed delicious chocolaty goo. My birthday celebrations were satisfyingly complete!
Nobu definitely broke the birthday budget, and it may indeed be sometime before we return there but it was totally worth it!
Follow Me on Facebook!Nobu Burswood Entertainment Complex, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.noburestaurants.com Price: $$$$ (Cold dish $18-65, Hot dish $22-52, Sashimi $3-10/piece, Sushi rolls $8-28) Food: 4.5/5 (one word – cod! OMG!) Service: 3.5/5 (although initially brilliant, service slowed significantly as evening progressed) Ambience: 4.5/5 (great lighting and relaxing but sophisticated) Drinks: 4/5 (tried the Hokuetsu Junmai Daiginjo sake – floraly sweet and refreshing) Total: 16.5/20
It was my birthday weekend and I decided to treat myself with a three-day eating and drinking fiesta with the Boy and a few of our close friends. Our first night was a very casual affair at our local Victoria Park favourite Little Ying Thai. My bestie and her man came along with us but as it was a weeknight we all managed to contain ourselves from getting too carried away.
On our second night we seized the rare opportunity for an outing with the Boy’s Best Man along with my two Perth-based bridesmaids. His Best Man works FIFO on a number of mining sites so we don’t get to hang out with him nearly as much as we would like to. Last year during one of Mum’s visits to Perth we took her to Cantina 663 and were all really impressed with our memorable meal. Since then I have been really keen to go back and so I suggested going there to one of my bridesmaids Amber. It turns out Cantina has been on her wish list for some time. Perfect!
Decked out in my brand new outfit from Abercrombie and Fitch (courtesy of my Dad and Stepmum) and feeling like a million bucks, we headed out on the town for a night of fun. We were supposed to start off with meeting everyone at the Flying Scotsman for some pre-dinner drinks but we both took way too long getting ready and subsequently had to head straight to Cantina.
Cantina 663 serves European style food with predominately Spanish, Portuguese and Italian influences. They pride themselves on having a fortnightly changing menu that reflects what’s seasonally available locally and they strive to source organic and ecologically sustainable produce when they can.
The wait staff exude edgy style and are energetic and friendly. Our table’s waitress for the evening was very proficient and her passion for food was obvious as she discussed the suitability of each dish with me even prior to chatting with the chef. She was even familiar with the condition fructose malabsorption which I was impressed with. She happily communicated back and forth with the kitchen to assist in creating an adapted family style menu that was ample food for all of us to enjoy despite my allergies.
The pork rillettes were decadently rich and oh so moreish and this dish was the first thing to disappear. I had brought along some Schar brand Italian gluten-free bread with me in preparation as I recall from our last experience that a lot of Cantina’s dishes would be much more delicious smeared on bread and they currently do not carry gluten-free bread. I delighted in lashing thick layers of the pork on my charred grilled bread. The pickled beans were surprisingly sweet and were the ideal match with the pork.
Because a lot of the dishes on the menu contained onion, the chef offered to especially make for me a fig and goats curd salad. Apparently this dish used to be on their menu and was very popular. Fructose malabsorbers do have to be a little careful with eating figs, but to be honest this salad would have been scrumptious even without them…I have to confess I did eat just a few as I figured can tolerate a very small amount without too much problems. Gluten is my real enemy.
The salumi platter was entirely gluten-free however she informed me that two of the meats may contain onion as they are not made on the premises. I cannot remember all that was on there but I do remember some luscious dark bresaola, spicy chorizo and soft delicate jamon amongst others. It was served with house pickles which were quite tasty and not too acetic or briny.
Unfortunately for me the zucchini flowers were off the menu as they were battered in flour before frying so I missed out on this wondrous looking dish. I was quite jealous as they looked incredible and were demolished very quickly. I was told the batter was fluffy and light and there was so much flavouring in the stuffing. Instead I ordered the tin of pollastrini sardines piccanti served with fresh lemon and my charred gluten-free bread. I used to love sardines on toast as a child and these little fishies brought back great memories. I was nearly the only one who ate these – I guess you really have to be a hard-core fish fan to eat sardines. They also had a bit of a kick to them with the added chilli.
After stuffing our faces with all our entrees, we ordered a couple of mains to share between us. I originally wanted to order the risotto but the rice is parboiled with stock during prep and the stock contained onion. Instead I opted for the pan fried barramundi. The fish was so heavenly and was cooked to a perfect buttery smooth consistency and had crispy crunchy skin. I can honestly say pan fired barramundi is right up there in my top five favourite fish so perhaps I’m a little biased with my praise for this dish. Putting my approval of the fish aside though, even its accompaniments were so appetising in their own right and pushed me and the girls well into the realms of being seriously full!
The boys ordered the gnocchi which although it was a small serve it left them quite satisfied. We also ordered a couple of sides to go with our mains, the spinach and avocado with walnut dressing and the roasted zucchini with tahini yoghurt. Considering these dishes were just meant to be sides – they were so good I could have easily had a whole serve of either to myself! Especially the zucchinis; they were slightly caramelised during roasting and literally burst in your mouth with every bite.
Once again, I can see its obvious why Cantina 663 consistently receives great ratings on Urbanspoon and other restaurant review sites as they have everything going for them: great food, dynamic staff, flexibility with catering for allergies and they are situated in an awesome location. This remains a definite fav for Chompchomp!FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK! Cantina 663 Astor Arcade, 663 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, 6050 | (08) 9370 4883 | http://www.cantina663.com/ Price: $$$$ ($7-16 share plates/entrees, $25-35 mains) Food: 4.5/5 (as many dishes are served with bread it would be great if they stocked GF) Service: 4.5/5 (efficient, quick and knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (bustling energy but air con struggled in the heat) Drinks: 4/5 (extensive wine list with a lot of interesting options) Total: 17/20
Back when I first became a partner in my business over six years ago, I was lucky enough to come on board with two other amazing and inspiring people; Chris and Muzz. Chris still remains in the business today, she is the talented surgeon who recently operated on our darling “son” Rollie the Burmese cat and saved his life. Muzz on the other hand sadly had to leave the partnership a few years ago in order to move overseas with the love of his life. As fresh, new and super keen incoming partners, we both shared the same vision for the practice and our enthusiasm would infectiously feed off each other’s. We would spend many of our spare moments and late shifts brain storming and business planning and achieved a lot of growth and development within the business during this time. We both learnt so much from working together and his departure from the country was a hard knock for all who knew him. But thankfully best friends are ones that you can go without seeing for many years and then when you eventually cross paths again, you can pick up right where you left off.
As you can imagine, I was so excited to hear that Muzz was making a brief trip back to Australia and couldn’t wait to catch up and share stories. From the moment we left my house for lunch, until he dropped me back at my front door hours later we did not stop chattering; hearing of each other’s successes, trials and tribulations from over the past three years since we had last seen each other.
The sun was shining gloriously in a clear bright blue sky so in order take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Perth coastline we headed over to Cottesloe to the Blue Duck. The view from the restaurant is one I could easily enjoy day after day but having not been to the Blue Duck for a number of years I was surprised that such an iconic restaurant had allowed its interiors to outdate themselves so badly. I almost got the feeling I was in a upmarket kiosk rather than a restaurant.
Our service was prompt yet friendly and casual. Our waitress for lunch was very bubby and tried to crack little jokes as we placed our orders. I advised her of my allergies to which she said there was no problems. We wanted to order a couple of nibbles before eating our mains but there were fairly limited gluten free options. Despite the limited menu, the kitchen was happy to alter the salt and pepper calamari to exclude the flour dusting and coupled with some marinated olives there was ample food for us to start with.
The mixed marinated olives were fairly standard fare; in fact they were certainly not bad at all however they in no way could compare to the delicious olives I ate recently with Tara at Pata Negra. Needless to say we are comparing two very different dining establishments here! The salt and pepper squid was extremely tender and the Asian salad was sweet, light and quite moreish.
I was quite surprised to be told the duck curry was gluten and onion free. I don’t get to enjoy a lot of curries as they are usually neither of these so I eagerly ordered this one. Massaman curries are really one of the kings of all Thai curries and manage to cover all those delicious quadrants of flavour you find in Thai food: spicy and sweet, coconuty and sour; all in one curry. It is a relatively easy curry to make taste amazing however although this was a very good it wasn’t quite spicy enough for my liking. Given it was a stinking hot day outside that was probably a good thing. Unfortunately I also noted that there was some onion contained in the rice, an oversight that gave me a bit of discomfort later that afternoon.
Muzz’s linguine looked mouth-wateringly good and eyeing it across the table gave me a pang of food envy! I don’t often miss eating pasta on my gluten free diet but this dish sure made me jealous! The only negative feedback I got was that poor Muzz ended up wearing a lot of it on his shirt by the end of lunch!
Thanks to its fabulous ocean views and beach front location Blue Duck café is something of an institution in Perth and will always be somewhere I will return to from time to time. Compared to some previous experiences, I had a very enjoyable lunch although would have appreciated more attention to detail with my meal so I didn’t suffer consequences from onion ingestion that night.Blue Duck Café 151 Marine Parade, Cottesloe 6011 | (08) 9385 2499 | www.blueduck.com.au Price: $$$ ($16-26 Entrée, $26-39 Mains) Food: 2.5/5 (fresh ingredients but need to be more careful with diners with allergies) Service: 3/5 (friendly and casual) Ambience: 2.5/5 (awesome view but interior needs urgent work) Drinks: 4/5 (WA focused wine list with good range of choices and some well-loved classics) Total: 12/20
I am always feeling like I’m so time-starved; something I’m sure many of you readers can empathise with. I never have enough time in my days and weeks to catch up with the friends I hold dear to my heart. There is only so much of that void in my life that I can successfully offset via networks like Facebook and as soon as I have some time off from work, I get busy lining up catch up dates with neglected friends and family. A fellow foodie Tara and I have both been going on and on about wanting to go to Pata Negra together for ages. I’m sure the first time we discussed it must have been last year some time!
Pata negra is a Spanish tapas bar owned by chef David Coomer of Star Anise fame which was a fine dining icon in Perth for more than a decade. Regrettably Star Anise closed their doors last year but thankfully her edgier sister Pata Negra has remained opened.
After a number of false starts, Tara and I finally managed to coordinate our busy schedules and it was all locked in for a girlie night out. Her husband offered to stay at home with their two adorable little girls, and the Boy even offered to drop us in so we could both drink! We really are lucky women!
Contrary to my usual organisation, I had failed to notify the kitchen of my dietary requirements in advance. I’m not sure how I missed doing this and thus was a bit apprehensive as I sheepishly apologised to our waitress saying that I am a “difficult” customer with a couple of allergies. She didn’t seem too concerned with this and went off to the kitchen to have a chat with the chef.
We decided it was absolutely essential to start with a glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne while we deliberated over the menu. As we became more and more overwhelmed by all the mouth-watering options our waitress came over to say that pretty much anything off the menu could be adapted for me (except obviously the bread and crumbed items). Given my recent run of limited options dining out I was literally blown away. “Like you mean anything? Wow!”
While we agonised what to order we asked for some marinated olives to be brought to the table, hoping some food would facilitate some decision making. I was so thankful this time round that our waiter was more than happy for me to use my flash to take photos as the interior lighting is quite dim. After all my fuzzy images from Marque, I really wanted to be able to relish in some focused pictorial memories. The olives contained a satisfying range of types, sizes and colours allowing a variety of tastes. It was served in adorable little antiquey dishes.
The beef was such a simple dish yet each ingredient was carefully selected to create wonderful tiers of strong yet complementary flavours. The meat was a stunning dark cherry colour and had micro-thin veins of marbled fat running through it evenly. The walnuts introduced a slight bitter taste which was softened by the silky fetta and sweetened by the beets. Exquisite.
Ok, I realise this dish probably doesn’t look like much, but for those mushroom fans out there – this is the bomb. After falling in love with Andaluz’s mushrooms (and going back for subsequent visits for more) I am tempted to say these are even tastier! Some of this decision is possibly facilitated by my passion for the Spanish cheese Manchego. The distinctive and slightly salty flavour of this sheep’s cheese is wonderfully unique and is something not to be missed. Add in some meaty, juicy mushrooms and you have something quite amazing to devour! I again marvelled at how such simple dishes consisting of such few ingredients could be so fabulous.
I first discovered the deliciousness of slow cooked eggs some time ago at Greenhouse. These eggs are cooked for about 40 to 45 minutes but at much lower temperatures producing a very soft but evenly cooked egg. If you love soft poached eggs you will think these are nothing short of perfection. The octopus was slightly tougher than I prefer but was still very tasty and the chorizo provided a good contrast in textures.
These quails were huge in size! I am so used to being served such tiny little birds but these richly flavoured quails must have been weight lifting in their time! The meat was so moist, easily falling of the bone and it went well with the accompanying nutty wild rice and lentils. Two generous blobs of buffalo mozzarella completed the dish ideally.
The pork was my least favourite dish of the evening however there wasn’t really anything majorly wrong with it except maybe the meaty part of the pork was a bit dry. I think I was so excited about the layering of tastes in our previously ordered dishes that I wanted it to happen again and again.
Our dessert was absolutely blissful. The meringue had all the right components – the crisp outer shell, the hollow crunchy under-surface and the spongy moist centre. After spooning some of the tangy blood plum sauce liberally over the top, it was supremely heavenly. I didn’t try the pistachio cream as it contained gluten but if Tara’s oohs and aaahs were any indication it must have been pretty good. This year I seem to really be having some great success at shortening my restaurant wish list however many of these places just haven’t lived up to my own hype. Pata Negra on the other hand exceeded my expectations by a long shot. Brilliant service, awesome company and fantastic food; I cannot wait to bring the Boy back here!Pata Negra 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (tapas style dishes $7-17, mains $35-65) Food: 4.5/5 (not a single dish disappointed) Service: 4.5/5 (helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (ambient lighting and a Spanish feel, some couches would be nice though) Drinks: 4.5/5 (very large wine list with a lot of Spanish and Portuguese options) Total: 17.5/20
A very close friend of ours moved away from Perth to the central NSW coast nearly ten years ago to be with the love of her life. Although Facebook has allowed us to both stay in nearly daily contact, we haven’t cast eyes on each other since she left many years ago. She is one of those kindred souls that when you are lucky enough to cross paths in life you never want to let them go. There is just one thing about her that we both hate; she has cystic fibrosis. Not that in the past that ever seemed to stop her living her life to the fullest. She is by far and by large the most positive, brave and strong willed person I know, occasionally to her detriment! But there is only so much a pair of lungs can take and since the birth of her gorgeous doe-eyed daughter, her lungs have been on a slow and steady decline. She has been on the transplant list for the better part of a year now and we are all crossing every finger and toe that some beautiful brand new shiny lungs will be on her doorstep soon.
My conference lectures were held at the Sydney University which is conveniently located right next door to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where my dear friend was currently staying. The luxury of being able to pop “next door” and see her after lectures was a privilege I didn’t want to waste so I tried to get over there as many times as possible. After our initial tears of joy in seeing each other for the first time in so long, we easily slipped into our old habits as we joked and laughed the afternoons away. This wasn’t without receiving a few frowns from the surrounding patients in the ward as we are invariably very loud together.
The Boy arrived on the Friday ready for a short weekend city getaway and was able to join me for my last afternoon hangout with her the following day at the Hospital. It was so sad to say farewell as I had been having such a fabulous time seeing her but I have vowed to myself to not leave it so long between visits. What better reason to return to Sydney!?!
In a delayed Valentine’s celebration, I had made a reservation several months ago at Marque knowing it to be in San Pellegrino’s World’s 100 Best Restaurants. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting a wide range of fine dining establishments all over the world. Much of this has been prior to the first seed of Chompchomp being planted. There are some attentions to detail during these experiences that I have come to expect as standard, especially when consider the cost of your meal. One of these details is the execution of unfaultable and impeccable service. The wait staff should literally gush over their guests and make them feel like royalty. Having this above and beyond approach to customers forms nearly as big a part of the wow factor as does the food and is a vital part of the whole experience.
Upon arrival to Marque we were greeted with just a stern nod by a staff member that the Boy and I later named “The Matron”. She left us standing in the doorway nearly on top of customer’s tables long enough to be a little uncomfortable. We were ushered to our seats after a brief delay and started to take in the atmosphere, or lack of it. The dining room felt fairly barren and clinical however I tried to look past this detail as I have found some incredible restaurants where the dining room is very simple and basic. For example Restaurant Amuse; where each of my three visits has left me completely awestruck with the fabulous experience.
I started the night off with the only type of Champagne available by the glass; some René Geoffroy Purete Brut which was quite vibrant and crisp with a dry finish. The perfect way to start a meal! Our amuse bouche looked a bit like a clam shell and consisted of two truffled potato crisps with bonito and foie gras inside. Unfortunately as I was trying to photograph it I was sternly told off by The Matron like a naughty little school child that there is to be no flash photography. Consequently my photos for the evening are nothing short of horrendous – I am so sorry dear readers! (For the full album see my Flickr account.) Now I understand that some customers may find a flash disrupting to their meal and accept this request is totally reasonable. However for the remaining duration of the evening on several occasions I caught “The Matron” giving me disapproving looks across the dining room. This made for a fairly unpleasant vibe. To add to this the remainder of the wait staff were cold and almost snooty giving an air of pretension that in no way added to the experience.
The sommelier of the night was the only exception to the team and I was drawn to a heightened level of excitement for each wine he introduced as he described it and why it complements the food so eloquently.
This first course dish was quite amazing having quite distinct separate layers of flavours almost like you get with some macarons! The initial strong flavours of the soft crab were lifted by a layer of light almond foam, progressing on the palate to the salty fresh sea taste of the avruga and ending with the sweeter butter popcorn aftertaste. Magic! The wine was matched beautifully (as were all the wines of the evening) and its oily aftertaste lingering on the palate with the corn flavours was divine.
The marron course was the Boys favourite. The marron was so tender and was lightly dusted with tomato dust. Each dollop of accompaniments on the plate were absolute delights in their own right and individually married with a morsel of marron to create its own little world of taste sensation spanning from dulcet sweet to buttery and ending with an acidic tomato flavour.
The Wagyu was marbled perfectly and was accompanied with tiny little pencil thin dill cucumbers which were sliced into miniature little medallions packed with a zing. Following on from the beef was the Dutch Cream Potatoes with Bone Marrow, Sea Urchin, and Coffee. (It was matched with 2008 Heymann-Lӧwenstein ‘Schieferterrassen’ Riesling, Mosel, Germany.) This was one of our waiter’s favourite dishes. These potatoes were a hearty delight and made me wish the Boy’s mum (who is Dutch) would serve them at our next family dinner! They were so smooth and delectable!
In the aftermath of the delicious potatoes, the grouper didn’t excite either of us much at all. Although it looked quite attractive on the plate, but it was fairly bland and was made even less inspiring by the following duck egg dish which was outstanding.
Wow. This was my favourite dish of the night by far. The smokey duck egg combined with tart sour cherries was out of this world. My egg wasn’t dusted in the leek ash due to my onion intolerance but the boy said this addition made it even more sumptuous. This course was served with home-baked bread to lash smatterings of duck liver onto.
Unfortunately for me, despite making our dinner reservation no less than five months in advance there was no gluten-free bread option to offer me. I think this would probably have to be one of the first fine dining establishments that this has happened to me since my diagnosis 3 years ago. I couldn’t hide my disappointment watching the Boy eagerly smear his liver onto his own hot steaming bread.
I had not tried Brunet before and given I love goat’s cheese I was excited to try it. Similar to many goats cheese, it was quite tangy and lemony, with sour cream notes, but also with some earthy depth to it. It was topped with tiny slivers of raw velvety mushroom.
The first dessert course was right up my alley of dessert styles; there is something about combining sweet yet piquant berry flavours with contrasting tangy yoghurt tastes that really hits the spot for me.
The second dessert course was different for us both and unfortunately I was only given a menu for the courses served to the whole restaurant not with my variations (unlike at Amber in Hong Kong where we each got our own copy ready printed in an embossed folder…..). The Boy doesn’t recall much about his as by this point understandably, all the courses start to blur together a little for him.
The night ended on Mark Best’s Signature Sauternes custard. I had read a number of amazing recounts of this dessert and was keen to see if it lived up to the hype. Despite all the food in our bellies we both struggled to hold ourselves back from gobbling this down greedily. It was served in an egg-shell with the top precisely cut off at a neat and sharp angle. I almost thought it was a fake egg-shell until I saw the Boy accidentally crack his as he eagerly spooned out the delicious silky custard. Before I could even giggle and comment I broke mine too!
Unfortunately for Mark, visitors to his restaurant are going to continue walk away underwhelmed if he is unable to obtain staff with the right attitude to serve his customers in the front of house. Despite most of the dishes being quite outstanding certainly not all were so, and when coupled with the lack of personalised service and cold attitudes Marque would not be somewhere I would be keen to return to in a hurry. I have since spoken to two of my relatives who live in Sydney and after dining at Marque twice have formed similar impressions to me each time. Sadly, I walked away disappointed especially as I thought it would be the highlight of my time in Sydney. On a much brighter note, it turns out hanging out with my pal in the Respiratory ward of RPA took first place as the most wonderful experience in a long time. By several miles. (Totes smoop, love ya Garnet Girl xx….)
Check out my other Sydney postsMarque 355 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 2010 | (02) 9332 2225 | www.marquerestaurant.com.au Price: $$$$ (Degustation $150 excluding cheese course, extra $85 for matched wine) Food: 4/5 (definitely some winners here but some that were just ok) Service: 2/5 (for this calibre of restaurant I expect much more) Ambience: 2.5/5 (stark and uninviting) Drinks: 5/5 (my first 5 in some time – matched wines were exceptional – kudos to the sommellier) Total: 13.5/20