Some of you may recall my unusual Australia Day weekend this year. It started off at our local pub The Broken Hill Hotel where we munched on casual pub food with drinks a plenty and could even see the fireworks show from where we sat on their balcony. A far cry from our usual annual party extravaganza we hold at our house but a great night out all the same. The reason for such a tame national holiday you see was that the weekend preceeding this relaxing weekend happened to be my Hen’s day. In true Chompchomp style I burnt all my candles at both ends and managed to come out with a fair share of bruises coupled a strained joint in my spine. It was worth it; we had a total hoot of a time but entertaining and cooking for the masses was out of my capabilities that following weekend.
After such a fun night at The Broken Hill, we decided to continue in our “let’s go local” mode and walked down to the other end of Albany Highway to The Publican Bar. Our wedding was just over a month away at this point in time and both of us were filled with excitement and anxiety. The biggest thing that recently was absorbing our thoughts was the choreographed dance for our first dance. We were both feeling like we may have bitten off more than we could chew but knew how jaw dropping it would be if we could pull it off. To make matters worse, our dance practice had been stalled to a halt by my stupid drunk and disorderly neck injury from the Hen’s. This left me feeling guilty as I was the one responsible for disrupting our progress.
We initially took a seat indoors but after such a relaxed evening outdoors the night before I could immediately see the Boy was uncomfortable and not happy with our choice. We looked out into the tiny courtyard and although there were no customers sitting out there to give any atmosphere it was still better than sitting under the dim lights indoors.
The Publican Bar has a number of gluten free options and these are clearly marked on their menu. We started with some lemon pepper squid and garlic prawns. Their prawns had a lot more flavour than those we had the previous night at the Broken Hill Hotel lacking that metallic watery after taste that can only come from frozen produce. The calamari were an eclectic mix of chewy and soft so it was a secret surprise whether you got the perfectly cooked piece or the rubbery one.
Predicting what the Boy will order to eat can sometime be a challenge. Often he will go for a long spell of choosing the same dishes over and over and then randomly pull out a left field and often successful punt at something more unusual. This Australia Day weekend however he has sticking to true blue Aussie man food and ordered another steak, this time the surf and turf.
I could hear an audible crunch as he chowed down his beer battered chips and noticed that his steak was cooked rare just as requested. We have had previous experiences where this wasn’t the case so it was a relief to see the kitchen was on track to serve this simple hearty meal well. The prawns however were more tasteless than our entrée and his salad appeared like it was dressed much earlier in the day leaving it looking sad and wilted.
I never used to be one to obsess over calories but preparing for a wedding will surely do it to the best of us and after drinking more than a bottle of wine with my three course meal the night before I was feeling racked with guilt for my indulgences this close to our wedding. To amplify my worries my injured neck meant my usual fall back to combat caloric excesses of running long distances was an absolute no go zone.
Taking this into mind I chose the grilled vegetable salad served with baby spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin, almonds, feta and roasted beetroot. Now I cannot say I’m a vegetarian by any means but I do actually prefer to eat a lot of vegetarian meals. I would expect maybe 3 out of 5 of my meals are meatless and when I do eat meat it tends to be from the sea. However, vegetarian doesn’t have to equate to boring and I cannot imagine what the chef was thinking when he prepared this salad. What ever happened to tossing all ingredients together? Odd. Needless to say I do love roast veggies so I still managed to walk away very satisfied. Just a little confused.
The Publican Bar is one of our locals but with the increasing number of new bars and restaurants opening up in the area I think they should really consider lifting their game in order to keep up with the competition. There were items still on their menu that I recall from visits several years back. I’m sure we will head back there again but it won’t be in a hurry.The Publican Bar 774 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park 6101 WA | (08) 9470 5818 | http://thepublicanbar.com.au Price: $$$ (Tapas $7-16, Mains $23-36) Food: 3/5 (a little hit and miss but does the staples well) Service: 2.5/5 (slow and reluctant) Ambience: 2.5/5 (it has a sports bar feel) Drinks: 3/5 (big range of beers, wine list fairly standard) Total: 11/20
I am always a little torn having my homes in a number of places around our vast country. Having lived in Perth for most of my adult life it is obvious that this is the main place I love to call my home. However to add to this, my Mum lives in Adelaide and returning back there to the house I grew up in I get that familiar sensation like I am returning home. To complicate things further, my Dad has lived in Melbourne with my Step mum for nearly twenty years and in many ways staying with them also feels very homely! I often wonder when we eventually return back to London where the Boy and I lived for several years, would this feel like another home to me? How many places can one call home before it starts to get a bit over the top?
Over the past six months, I have been fortunate enough to have the need to return my “home” in Melbourne several times for my wedding dress fittings at Luci Di Bella. A bride needs sustenance for such endeavours and here are my recent top four Brunch Hot Spots in Melbourne.
Cooper & Milla’s
After a bit of an emotional experience at the first wedding dress fitting, Mum and I wandered down High Street in Armadale in search of some gluten free friendly fare. We stumbled upon Cooper and Milla’s and were drawn in by their spectacular window display of treats and salads.
Like children in a candy store we wandered in all wide-eyed and totally distracted by all the adorable cakes and tarts on the counter. I had to consciously remind myself that I had a wedding waistline to watch and physically forced my eyes away from the many delicious desserts. I shall make sure to return here again to sample some of their dulcet delights.
Thankfully not all their fare is sugar laden and piled high in the window was a stunning looking seared tuna Nicoise salad and once noticing it my attention was easily dragged away from the cakes and onto this seemingly healthy yet vibrantly coloured snack.
My Mum didn’t take much convincing and before long we were both enjoying the sunshine sitting outside at their alfresco dining area feeling proud of ourselves for our dietary choices.
The following day on Christmas Eve there was a lot of market shopping to do in preparation for our big day of feasting. Getting up bright and early the Boy and I walked down to the river with my Dad & Stepmum for some hearty breakfast. Right on the banks of the Yarra River near Federation Square is a gorgeous little spot Riverland.
My parents are regular locals there and the staff all know their three Cocker Spaniels by name. As we arrive one of the waitresses brings over a bowl of water for the pooches as Dad places our order to include toast for the dogs. (I might add that this is not something his diligent veterinarian daughter advocates as good nutrition for his dogs!)
Unfortunately they do not stock any gluten free bread so I always come prepared and bring a couple of slices of my own. They have always been happy to toast this for me. I love their poached eggs with roasted mushrooms topped with a big glob of feta. The mushrooms can be a little oily sometimes however and I occasionally need to blot the oil off with a serviette!
Lindt Chocolate Café
After a full day of last-minute Christmas shopping the Boy and I headed back home which took us up Collins Street and past the Lindt Café. Now before any of you say anything, I understand that this café cannot really be classified as a brunch spot but being a ridiculously obsessed Lindt chocolate addict I felt it would be negligent for me to pass this café by. The interior of the café is initially quite impressive with high ceilings and everything seemingly glittering in gold. We made our way through to the back of the store into the café and were shown to our seats. After this we appeared to become invisible for quite some time despite the appearance of adequate staff and minimal customers. I hate that feeling when you try to catch a waiter’s eye and they look right through you like you are not even there.
As this place is well known for its hot chocolate the Boy simply couldn’t resist. Piping hot milk served with molten Lindt chocolate on the side; this decadent treat filled the hungry hole in his belly satisfactorily. Not wanting to eat too much dairy as I tend to get eczema outbreaks, I avoided the milk and satisfied myself by licking the remaining chocolate from his little jug with my finger! Such bad manners!
After the hot chocolate the Boy protested that he really did not need the St Moritz cake I had strongly encouraged him to order. Hey, if I can’t enjoy any of the cakes (as they are not gluten free) at least I can live vicariously through his gastronomic experiences! Despite his complaints he still managed to eat his way through the silky layers of alternate dark, milk and white chocolate mousse each separated by a thin layer of almond cake. The cake was topped with ultra-thin squares of Lindt dark chocolate with a generous dusting with cocoa powder.
Now don’t be fooled into thinking I sat there empty handed watching the Boy indulge. Other than buying some chocolate for the road, my main reason for entering the café was to stop for a “Mac attack”. The Christmas Delice macaron is seasonally exclusive and is filled with Christmas spices and a white chocolate filling. Although it had a good layering of flavours it was a little lost on texture and lacked the thin outer crisp sensation. It also was an unusually shaped with one side half the size of the other!
After a memorable time on Christmas Day with my family eating and drinking all the excesses imaginable, Boxing Day quickly followed and I realised it was soon time for the Boy and I to jump on a jet plane and head home. I was torn between the emotions of being sad it was all over whilst excited that the next family celebration would be our wedding day! Despite feeling very hung over and sluggish, we managed to squeeze in a last minute brunch catch up with Mum at The European on Spring Street.
The European is one of my favourite regulars in the Melbourne CBD and this French-Spanish-Italian hybrid is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week making it easy to slip in a visit each Melbourne trip. Although they do not have gluten free bread, there are a number of gluten free breakfast options and their menu goes well beyond the standard choices. Their coffee is particularly moreish and after drinking the A to Z of booze the day before I quickly ordered a second macchiato while we waited for our meals.
As the three of us sat in the sun in silence I started to the caffeine course through my veins and push my sleepy brain kick into gear and wake up. We hadn’t seen Mum on Christmas Day as she had spent the day with my sister so we had much to catch up on; what we ate, what presents did we received and what memorable good times we all had. I was feeling a little on the queasy side so I ordered the goat’s cheese omelette which had all the light fluffiness my delicate stomach lining needed and helped make me feel human again.
The Boy wanted something a little more substantial and enjoyed his “Huevos madrileños”; baked eggs with black pudding and chorizo served with toasted ciabatta. I wish I had room for his choice as it looked amazing. I am in love with Spanish style baked eggs and his oozy gooey eggs didn’t disappoint. True food envy plagued me for most of the day and my only consolation was thanks to my gorging efforts the day before, I doubt I had any room in my tummy for them anyway!Cooper & Milla’s 1094 High Street, Armadale VIC 3143 | (03) 9500 8127 Price: $$ ($10-16.50 breakfast) Food: 4/5 (I need to get back and try some sweets!) Service: 3.5/5 (casual, no table service) Ambience: 3/5 (hive of activity, funky) Drinks: 3/5 Total: 14/20 Riverland Vaults 1-9, Federation Wharf, Melbourne VIC 3000 | (03) 9662 1771 | www.riverlandbar.com Price: $$ ($7-20 breakfast) Food: 3/5 (not bad, a little heavy on the grease, BYO gluten free bread) Service: 3.5/5 (relaxed and friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (sitting by the river watching boats go by…) Drinks: 3.5/5 Total: 14/20 Lindt Chocolat Café 271 Collins Street, Melbourne CBD VIC 3000 | (03) 9667 0900 | www.lindt.com.au Price: $$ Food: 3/5 (it’s Lindt chocolate, it was always going to be amazing, pity about the macaron) Service: 2/5 (get better service at McDonald’s) Ambience: 2/5 (surprisingly poor) Drinks: 4/5 (get the hot chocolate) Total: 11/20 The European 161 Spring Street, Melbourne CBD VIC 3000 | (03) 9654 0811| www.theeuropean.com.au Price: $$ ($8-19 breakfast) Food: 4/5 (interesting breakfast options, no gluten free bread) Service: 4/5 (quick and efficient) Ambience: 3.5/5 (sit outside for breaky, a bit too dark inside) Drinks: 4.5/5 (coffee is the bomb!) Total: 15.5/20
Everyone has their favourite types of cuisine but just to be a bit complicated I have three. Staying close to my roots my first favourite is French cuisine. Secondly, thanks to my incurable addiction to raw fish, the logical next player is Japanese. But in more recent years, my love of Thailand and their food has grown exponentially fuelled by some incredible trips to Thailand with the Boy where we have celebrated a close friend’s wedding, got engaged and found the wedding venue of our dreams and ultimately returned there to marry. It holds a very special place in both our hearts.
Many Thai restaurants here in Perth are a little Westernised and cook up what my novice experience tells me is Bangkok style cuisine. Although the immense variety of dishes you can eat in Thailand is exciting, over here in Perth I find a lot of restaurant stick to the more common dishes such as green curries, ginger chicken, basil beef and the like. Worst still, a lot add way too much sugar into each dish meaning the flavours of the dishes become very simplified and sweet. True Thai should have more complexity in its flavour achieving a delicate balance of sweet, sour, salty and sometimes bitter.
Our favourite local Thai is Little Ying Thai on Albany Highway. Although I wouldn’t say it’s the best Thai in Perth, it is cheap; it’s local and hits the spot every time. Better still the owner recognises me over the phone once I ask for “no gluten, no onion” in our order. They have yet to get our orders wrong and I always feel very confident ordering from them.
A new Thai restaurant Red Basil opened up last year on the Albany Highway café strip and being even closer to our house than Little Ying we thought we would give them a try. Immediately upon glancing at the menu I started to get a bad feeling as there were a couple of more Chinese looking dishes on there. Thai and Chinese are two very different cultures and more importantly cuisines! We started with the soft-shelled crab which was deep-fried and served with a “Thai” dressing, carrot, tomato and chilli. I asked for the onion to be omitted but it still was placed on our plate. The crab had barely any meat and was mostly just crispy shell.
Larb is one of my favourite Thai appetisers. It is a mincemeat salad made typically with chicken, pork, duck or mushrooms and flavoured with fish sauce, lime juice, toasted ground rice and then mixed with fresh chilli, mint and other herbs. I love the mixture of sweet mint, the heat of the chilli and the crunchy texture of the toasted ground rice. This version was a small for an entrée, was very mild in heat and a little too sweet. My request for no onion was observed for this dish.
The Boy also ordered some vegetarian spring rolls for his entrée. I was unable to taste them as they contained gluten but he described them to me as being somewhat soggy and tasted like stale oil. They contained carrot, cabbage, corn and glass noodles and were served with sweet chilli sauce.
Unfortunately by this point my disappointment had led to me drinking the majority of my bottle of wine and my ability to capture our last dish on camera failed me. We ordered the ginger chicken with mixed vegetables. The dish came with plenty of veggies but had very little ginger flavour to it and tasted like a basic stir fry.
Overall, neither of us were that impressed with Red Basil. With a couple of other good Thai options nearby our home it would seem unlikely that we would get to return to get them a second chance either. Perhaps some other readers can tell me otherwise? On the bright side, our meal came to under $50 bucks which fitted very nicely into our weekend budgeting!Red Basil Thai Cuisine 2/335 Albany Highway, Victoria Park, WA 6100 | (08) 9361 2661 Price: $ (under $15 per meal) BYO, Cash only Food: 4/10 (too sweet without any other flavour) Service: 2/5 (forgot my allergies, uncertain they avoided gluten as I reacted the following day with my usual skin and gut upsets) Ambience: 2/5 (none really, but then it is cheap so you get what you pay for) Total: 8/20
I have been a loyal Qantas girl for most of my life and I try to book the majority of our flights in Australia and around the world flying with my favourite airline. However late last year when I was booking our flights to Phuket in Thailand for our wedding, the need for a direct flight with no stopovers became much more important than any airline loyalties. The logical preference was to fly with Virgin Australia. Virgin operate direct flights to Phuket from Perth arriving on the sunny island in less than 7 hours.
My experiences with Virgin airlines have always been very positive and for an allegedly budget airline they run circles around their competitors. Last month I was on a flight from Melbourne to Perth escorting THE dress from Luci Di Bella back home and the pure sight of a dress in a white suit bag brought an air of delight among all the cabin crew. Unbeknownst to me I had purchased a Flexifare ticket which includes a cooked meal in the fare. Being totally unaware of this beforehand I had failed to notify them of my gluten free meal requirement. Amazingly our flight attendant proceeded to go to great lengths to try find me something to eat culminating in her raiding fellow staff members meals for some fresh fruit. I was astonished at this level of customer service.
Fast forward to the present and as we board our flight to Phuket the air hostesses all grin excitedly upon seeing my white dress bag. They kindly made a point of ensuring to treat this very special cargo with the utmost of care. This flight didn’t include any meals and unfortunately there were very limited gluten free options available on the menu. After my previous experience of minimal in flight food, I planned ahead and had purchased a couple of very sad looking items from the cafeteria inside the departure lounge back in Perth.
As I sat munching my tired looking salad our flight attendant came round with the service cart. The Boy and I were obviously both very keen to kick off our celebrations and ordered ourselves some drinks. The Boy also ordered a gourmet beef pie with tomato relish. To our complete surprise, our lovely air hostess told us drinks and food are “on the house”. I love how some people get so excited about weddings even if they are for people they don’t even know! It shows such a beautiful side to a person’s character.
After all the stress and running around in the lead up to our departure I found myself agreeing with the Boy that one drink most certainly wasn’t enough. We were both in a slight state of disbelief that this was really happening! Years of dreaming, planning and organising ….. and now this is it! As we placed our order for more drinks, we reached for some money presuming that this second round would have to be paid for like the rest of the passengers on the flight. Once again, our hostess with the mostess beamed back to us with pure joy and refused to take any money. What an absolute sweetie! I guess this is a once in a lifetime celebration; you only get married once! Well, at least you hope so!
Virgin Australia airlines fly four times a week from Perth to Phuket direct.
The exciting event of the wedding of a close friend brought us back to the lovely city of Singapore for the first time in over ten years. It was to be my first experience of a Chinese wedding banquet and was to be held at Szechuan Court, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore. I felt so privileged to receive an invite and prepared myself right from the outset that for that one night I was just going to have to eat gluten. Avoiding gluten in a Chinese banquet of any occasion is literally impossible due to the ubiquitous use of soy sauce. I knew that if I was to eat the banquet regardless of the gluten I was going to suffer for it the next day however I figured it would be worth it.
As we were shown to our seats I noticed that both our table and the bridal table next to us was much more lavishly decorated than the rest of the tablets. Our table was covered in a bright red table-cloth and decorated with bigger bouquets of flowers. As the night progressed I also observed that our plates were filled with more food and served to us in larger bowls.
In eager anticipation for the feast I forced myself to only graze on a few small snacks over the day. As we headed to Szechuan Court I was so hungry I could have nearly eaten my own arm. If only I had known before that it is common custom at these important Chinese events for there to be quite a wait before food is brought out! By the time our starter combination arrived I was so utterly famished that I demolished it all far too quickly. There were beautifully plated slices of roast duck sandwiched around a fresh sliver of mango, there was a richly coloured chunk of Soya chicken, a thick wedge of succulent honey glazed pork and a cute little lettuce cup of chilled spicy jelly fish. This was one of my favourite dishes for the night and I really regretted my gluttony wishing I had savoured its flavours for more than a millisecond.
I love the deception of clear soups. Gazing into my reflection in the bowl I always wonder how something so watery looking can manage to pack such a powerful punch of flavour. This crab soup was no exception and the table went silent for a few minutes while everyone slurped away hungrily.
Bamboo fungus is a type of mushroom that is claimed to have many medicinal properties including antibacterial and anti-cancer effects. Another more unusual fact about this fungus is that the smell of the fresh fungus has been reported to trigger spontaneous orgasms in women!
The next course was some lightly steamed live Marble Goby served in a broth of superior soy sauce. Marble goby is a type of freshwater fish that considered something of a delicacy by many Chinese as for its flesh is delicately tender yet has a lingering sweet flavour.
With a number of gluten containing courses now under my belt, I accepted my fate that in a few hours I would start to feel the aftermath of my indiscretions therefore I really had nothing to lose and must press on. I had psyched myself up for this banquet for months and certainly wasn’t going to turn any of these sumptuous dishes away! The next two dishes steered away from the more traditional Chinese style infusing some modern fusion flavours. The wasabi prawns crunched loudly as I bit into their crispy exterior and I couldn’t help but feel liberated to cast off the shackles of my allergies for one night even if it made me unwell and covered in eczema!
I was informed earlier that evening by the dear mother of the bride that sea cucumbers are very laborious to prepare for eating. There is an extensive amount of work involved over several days which include slitting them open, turning them inside out and then repeatedly washing and boiling them over a few days.
The Boy and I first tried eating sea cucumber many years back at Shung Fung in Perth and we both really loved its slippery, nearly rubbery texture and subtle flavour. Sea cucumbers are a highly nutritious food and contain large amounts of protein in addition to many essential compounds including iodine, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium, manganese, chondroitin sulphate, saponins and vitamins like vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
The beauty of eating slowly is that you get full much more easily as your brain has time to actually register the food you are shovelling into it! The polite sized scoop of seafood fried rice was just enough to fill the last gaps in my stomach before dessert.
Many of my dear readers may recall my obsession with food shaped in tiny balls; tobiko, caviar, sago, tapioca, you name it I’m sure to squeak with delight if you serve them to me. I think this obsession is one of the main reasons I love Asian desserts so much! The chilled cream of mango was not overpoweringly sweet and the tang of the pomelo gave it more depth and flavour.
By this late stage of the night things had started to become quite rowdy, but in a good way. The bride’s father proudly led the bridal party in a procession to each table individually bearing a very elaborate looking bottle of whiskey. At each table he would stop, pour healthy size nips of whiskey to everyone before drinking some himself and then commenced to singing very loudly at the top of his lungs. No one required much encouragement to join in and before long dining room was filled with the booming voices of all the guests joyous for this wonderful marriage of two very beautiful people.Szechuan Court, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore 80 Bras Basah Road, Marina Bay, 189560 Singapore | www.fairmont.com/singapore Tripadvisor Price: $$$ Food: 8/10 (I am no expert on Chinese fine dining but my taste buds don’t lie!) Service: 3/5 (a little slow serving drinks) Ambience: 3.5/5 (the function room was filled to the brim with cheerful, noisy guests) Total: 16.5/20
With only a few days to go before we fly out for our wedding in Thailand, I was feeling stressed and under the pump. I had taken the last week off work to finish of all the last-minute things however the more I got done the more I found I still had to do. Despite being so time-poor I needed some time out and openly welcomed a proposal for a quick catch up over breakfast from a close friend Tracy. She was soon to be joining us in Thailand and wanted to meet up before we left.
Last time we saw each other was during another breakfast date at Sayers Sister. Hustling for a car park in Northbridge was such a pain but our meals we enjoyed there were worth it. This time round to save time I chose somewhere more local that I had heard good things about on Foodie Craving’s blog; Gusto Food, South Perth.
Our coffees were literally being prepared as we were ordering our food and so no sooner had we sat down than they were brought over to our table. My macchiato was made just how I like it, with just a dash of milk and no more. Gusto uses an imported brand of premium Italian coffee Caffé Saccaria.
Our first ten minutes of conversation centred on my recent wedding planning endeavours and all the enjoyment and stress that come with it. Tracy and I don’t get to catch up very often so it was great fun to share what details I could without spoiling anything for her.
Being so short of time I was thankful our meals arrived quickly. I ordered some poached eggs on gluten free toast and Tracy ordered the French toast. To our surprise out came the most massive serve of thick cut French toast piled high with bacon, berries and caramelised bananas. There were even chunks of honeycomb perched on top. What incredible value. There was no way I could see Trace getting through it all. She informed me the only complaint she had with her dish was the bacon was too fatty, but otherwise worth the indulgence!
I had already been up for a several hours and had my first breakfast, so I figured being a bride I had best limit the size of my second breakfast of the day! In my hurry and fluster I forgot to get the all-important egg goo shot for those fans out there but suffice to say one of my eggs got the tick of approval, my other egg was soft but goo-less.
My side serve of roasted tomato and spinach really stole the show with this meal. The spinach was slippery soft and immersed in very naughty amounts of melted butter. The tomato had been roasted with balsamic sweetness and served with the cutest little skewer. If both my eggs were poached to heavenly I would be tempted to say this was one of the better breakfasts I have had in a long time. I will have to return again before making my final judgement.Gusto Food 86 Angelo Street, South Perth WA 6151 | (08) 9367 3512 | Facebook Price: $$ ($15-20 per meal) Food: 3.5/5 (lost marks for the fatty bacon and firm egg) Service: 4.5/5 (so quick and attentive despite being reasonably busy) Ambience: 3.5/5 (cute café vibe) Drinks: 4/5 (creamy, not too bitter and just the right temperature) Total: 15.5/20
As much as I love my hometown of Perth, its distance behind larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne can be reflected in a number of ways in the culinary world. We lack any widespread prevalence of gourmet food trucks, Latin American cuisine barely makes a mention, we often pay high prices for poor customer service and sometimes poor quality food and finally, up until very recently we have had very few small bars worth a visit that are open beyond bedtime.
But with the new licensing laws brought in things are a’changing for little Perth and more and more funky small bars are popping up around the city and its surrounds. I have followed Frisk Small Bar on social media for some months but with all the wedding preparations absorbing my every waking minute we have had very little time to go out and explore new bars such as these.
It’s funny how sometimes the more you think of someone or something, fate seems to bring you together. Like how you will think of a friend you haven’t spoken to for months and then you bump into them at the shops. Well, strangely enough along those lines I received an email from Frisk inviting me to come and join them for a drink or two on the house. After initially having to cancel due to injuring my neck at my hen’s day, we rescheduled for a Friday night that just happened to occur at the end of a very hectic week for both of us.
Many years ago, long before the building that houses Frisk was built existed a night club called DCs. It was something of an institution amongst my friends and I and we spent many of our weekends in our twenties partying under their roof until the sun came up. This is the place where many friendships were formed, relationships made and broken and brings a nostalgic smile to my face. When the building was originally bulldozed to make way for apartments it felt like an end of an era. As I took my seat at Frisk’s bar it dawned on me that I was sitting on what once was the dance floor and it made me so glad that at least it was put to good use.
Frisk’s bar houses more gins than you could shake a stick at so it seemed logical that this should be the theme of our night. I started off with the WA Gimlet; a refreshing cocktail made with locally distilled Westwinds Cutlass gin, fresh lime and basil and rose marmalade. The hints of herbs left a clean after-taste and put me in a brighter and energising mood for the evening.
The Boy’s cocktail was not on the menu and was one of our bartenders Will’s own creations. He called it his twist on a South side. Traditionally made with gin, sugar, mint and lemon, this thirst quenching beverage had Will’s own special mix of syrup containing chilli, cinnamon and other sweet spices. This lifted the whole perspective of this popular drink to another superior level. He used a “Mediterranean gin” called Gin Mare which is additionally quite fragrant and added further botanical layers of rosemary, olives, thyme and basil.
Although the Boy’s cocktail was in no way a girlie drink, one was definitely enough for him and he began to peruse over the beer menu. Allowing a re-run of Chompchomp roulette, Will and I selected the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for him to try. Neither of us had even heard of this beer before and we were surprised to it is considered one of the top craft breweries in the USA with their Pale Ale being the second best-selling craft beer in the US.
After my energising first round I was ready for something a bit more intense. I chose the Aphrodite’s Martini which contained Isfjord gin, Antica vermouth, Aphrodite Ginger bitters and grapefruit. Moving from a West Australian gin to one distilled in the Arctic I could taste the flavour becoming pronouncedly smoother. Further interesting flavours from the bitters brought hints of chocolate, coffee and chill which rounded off perfectly with the citrus notes of the grapefruit. A masterpiece but not one for the light hearted. A few more of these and I wouldn’t be heading into to work that following morning. Well at least not in any good form! Aphrodite’s Martini will remain on Frisk’s cocktail menu for the duration of March as part of the Eat Drink Perth 2013 celebrations.
A little peckish by this point in time, we were recommended to head over to Casa Mexicana El Compa. Having experience both highlights and lowlights of Mexican food when dining locally in Vic Park we were keen to see how others fared compared to our experiences.
We started off with some appetisers or “botana”. We chose four types of dips; guacamole, arroz a la Mexicana; red rice, carrot and peas, Frijoles Charros; slow cooked black beans with chorizo and Esquites; stripped sweet corn, mayo and piquin chile. None of the dips had very strong flavours and had to be supplemented with the free sauces provided on the side to avoid being too bland.
Our next dishes came highly recommended by our vivacious waitress; some “sopes”. These are a form of Mexican street food consisting of a fried corn tortilla topped a variety of different options. We chose the vegetarian sope topped with refried beans, lettuce, sour cream and cheese. The crunchy base gave way to an interesting mix of textures but once again I felt that the flavours were a little lacking and found myself heaping more of the complimentary sauces on top to give more depth and heat.
Following on from our sope, we ordered a couple of tacos to share. Having loved our experience of taco nopales at That Little Mexican Place we were keen to order them again. These were served with refried beans, cheese and coriander. I was able to taste more of the cactus’s flavour this time; they resembled a pleasant form of bitter green beans.
Our dose of meat for the night was the pork tacos. The soft handmade taco was topped with orange marinated slow cooked pork served with cubes of apple. I had to negotiate between the apple pieces as I try to avoid it due to a high fructose content leaving just the pork and the taco. I found the pork to be quite dry and tough considering it was slow cooked something that usually results in melt in your mouth tenderness.
Although I know we will be back to Frisk soon to try a few more of their wondrous ginny cocktails, with a number of good Mexican options around town we will probably give Casa Mexican a miss.Frisk! Small Bar Northbridge 103 Francis Street, Northbridge WA 6003 | www.frisksmallbar.com.au Price: $$ ($17-20 cocktails, $8-11 beer, $2-9 small bites) Food: Unable to assess Service: 4/5 (these guys know their liquor!) Ambience: 4/5 (busy for the whole time we were there, happy non-pretentious customers) Drinks: 9/10 (using the finest ingredients and a personal flair gives amazing results) Total: 17/20
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest at Frisk Small Bar and received all drinks complimentary however she paid in full for her meal at Casa Mexicana El Compa.