For those that know me, you will agree that I’m not a calm or quiet person. Nor do I tend to run out of things to say. With some people I can sense this personality trait of mine can be a little over bearing yet with others it creates a spark for even more animated conversation. One of my dear blogging friends Amanda from Chew Town shares a similar passion for words and during one of her return trips to Perth we caught up for some brunch and a “talk-off”. We cannot agree between us who can talk more and happily settled for a tie after this round. She is always keen to try new places around Perth having left our sunny city some years ago so after throwing a few options around we agreed on Miss Kitty’s Saloon in Inglewood. I mean, anything that refers to felines in its business name has to be good!
Miss Kitty’s is a quirky new-ish venue on Beaufort Street in Inglewood. Their menu is inspired by Canadian and American cuisines and they shamelessly have a pig’s head suspended in one of their fridges behind the bar. Our delightful waitress proudly informed us they buy the “whole pig” and pretty much use all of it in their dishes. The pig’s head specifically features on their evening menu in the form of Pig’s head nuggets!
There are a number of gluten free options and the chef seemed happy to fiddle around with some options to accommodate me. Our stand-out dish for the day was undoubtedly the char-grilled tamarind pork ribs. I’m not normally a big pork fan, nor do I often order ribs, I often find that they are too fatty and grisly for my liking. Additionally getting all the meat fibres stuck between my teeth drives me mad.
After eating Miss Kitty’s Saloon ribs, I am proud to say I am a converted rib fan. The meat pulled off the bones in one clean bite and the mapley after taste was enough to make me weak at the knees. Our more heart conscious choice of the fennel salad balanced the syrupy sweet ribs with some acidity and freshness. Surely all that summer on a plate negated the sugar and fat in the ribs?
Although I had already had breakfast, I couldn’t resist ordering a serve of their devilled eggs. The cute presentation of these little beauties was enough to make me giggle. The seasoned whole boiled egg gave me my much needed egg porn of the day and if I had showed better self-control and not already eaten earlier that morning I would have been happy to do another round of eggs and ribs.
At this point in time our entertaining waitress had caught eye of my conspicuous SLR camera and shimmied back to our table for a laugh and a chat. She was such a crack up, even to herself, and she confessed that she was obsessed with reading Miss Kitty’s Saloon reviews on Urbanspoon to see what things people said about her and her fellow colleagues. It turns out that she is also gluten intolerant and we shared stories of our experiences eating out. After finding out there were no gluten free desserts on offer she offered to us a de-constructed gluten free version of their Banoffee pie. Finding her wide eyed energy and joy hard to resist we found room in our bellies and ordered dessert to share.
What came out was the most hilarious Banoffee pie I have ever seen; thick syrupy banoffee pie contents sans casing filled the plate and was decorated with chocolate nibs, fresh banana and kitsch bright yellow dyed cream. Amanda and I could not stop cracking up at this comical dessert. Although it was super sweet, the lack of pie casing didn’t stop us and we sat giggling like school girls as we spooned it into our gobs.
My late morning brunch has definitely incited my interest in this venue and I am determined to come back and try their evening menu. All the staff were vibrant, passionate and looked like they loved their jobs and enthusiasm is very infectious. I can’t wait to see what the Boy thinks of Miss Kitty’s!Miss Kitty’s Saloon 882 Beaufort Street, Inglewood WA 6052 | (08) 9272 6669 | Facebook Price: $$ Food: 3.5/5 (keen to go back and try some more dishes as they use some interesting combinations of flavours) Service: 4.5/5 (bubbly, interesting and funny without being obtrusive) Ambience: 4/5 (an eclectic muddle of Country and Western style with quirky antique oddities) Drinks: 4/5 (Five Senses coffee……) Total: 16 /20
Our main wholesaler we use at work wanted to do something interesting as a thank you to their valued clients and so they organised a night out to see Cirque de Soleil’s latest touring production Ovo. Our practice was lucky enough, or should I say valued enough, to receive four tickets. Having never been to see this internationally famous Show I was the first one to put up my hand to go. It seems that everyone who wanted to go already had their own tickets and those who didn’t have a ticket weren’t that keen. Although we are now creeping into June, on the afternoon of the show the sun was shining defiantly outside like a Spring Day and so the Boy suggested we walk into the city and stop somewhere earlier for dinner. I jumped at the opportunity to work on reducing my restaurant wish list which is currently longer than my arm. Near the top of my list was The Stables Bar in the CBD a convenient ten minute walk from the circus’s marquee.
I am known by my close friends as a planning freak and I love to be prepared. Although it was a warm day, I anticipated a chilly night knowing that Cirque de Soleil’s marquee is on the Esplanade; a potentially windy spot. In addition to needed some warmth, we were looking at a 14 km round trip on foot and strutting that distance in my high heels would not be realistic. Proud of my organisational skills in addition to my handbag I packed an extra bag filled with a scarf, high heels, my extra camera lens and a wool jacket. Sliding into my sneakers the Boy looked at me with an astonished look on his face and said: “You’re seriously not going to carry all that around all night?” I retorted “Of course!” and we headed out the front door and into the sunshine.
By the time we arrived at the Stables Bar one hour later, I had definitely lost some of the bounce in my stride. I felt a bit lopsided from carrying the heavy bags but strangely satisfied that I had a good workout! Now I could eat a decent meal without the guilt of overindulgence. Bring it!
In order to make it to our 8 o’clock show we had an early dinner booking and when we arrived there was only one other couple dining. Parched and hungry, we quickly ordered our drinks and scanned the menu. The wait staff were all super friendly and enthusiastic such that we were approached by each of the five of them asking for our drinks and food orders. It’s certainly better to be too attentive then to leave a customer waiting but some communication between the team wouldn’t hurt either.
The crispy school prawns were far too moreish and I could have easily crunched my way through a second bowl. The Boy explained to me that they tasted very similar to the fried insects he ate in Thailand. If that is the case, maybe I could be enticed on our next visit to try them? Hmmm, maybe. The chipotle mayonnaise balanced the saltiness of the prawns but I would have preferred a touch more spiciness.
The zucchini croquettes were gluten free and having a one track mind on anything remotely Spanish with my impending trip next month I simply had to order them. A thin shell of crispiness enveloped their soft interior to expose very subtle and gentle flavours. I almost felt they could do which a dash more seasoning. The cardamom flavouring in the yoghurt was also very subtle. Nevertheless they were still a tasty treat as they were.
The Boy has recently been contemplating giving up eating meat based on ethical, environmental and health reasons. As easy as this may be for some, it is a big step for someone whose previous diet, like many men in our country, was very meat focused. His half way step has been to become a pescatarian. When the waitress came to the table with our meals a steak and a Niçoise salad, she presumed the salad was for me and gave us a bit of a high brow look as we advised her that the orders were in fact the opposite way round. His Niçoise salad was made with flaked Rankin cod, steamed green beans, hard-boiled eggs and white anchovies. All the ingredients were brightly colours and fresh and although being a small serve for a main it was decently priced at $26.
Being someone that commonly suffered from iron deficiency anaemia, in part due to my gluten issues and worsened by my infrequent ingestion of red meat I decided to have the first steak I have had in a long while. The steak was sourced from Blackwood Valley who are well known in WA for their high quality organic beef. Although the minute steak isn’t the softest cut of beef it is certainly very flavoursome and was cooked rare exactly as requested. The super sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh horseradish added some bite and after a long walk this sat very well in my stomach.
The char-grilled baby cos lettuce was a little bland by comparison to my steak and although the dollops of tangy goat cheese and white anchovies helped improve it significantly I still felt like it also needed a little more seasoning. And that is coming from someone who rarely adds salt to her meals.
We still had another hour before we had to depart and start walking down to the Esplanade for the show. As is often the case when we are out for dinner, it was an arm twisting event getting the Boy to agree on dessert and my requests for dessert and cheese were met with a decisive “No!” He knows from years of experience that I always have eyes bigger than my stomach and once I have a few drinks in me I tend to just keep ordering food until we nearly explode.
The poached peach Melba and vanilla pannacotta came highly recommended by one of our wait staff. She was right on the money with this one and once again for someone who didn’t want dessert the Boy helped me finish it matching me spoon for spoon. It was served in a cute jam jar reminiscent of our recent Watermelon Foam dessert at the Greenhouse. A definite winner. Our dessert was obviously too good because we scoffed it down in record time leaving us with another 45 minutes to spare. As we ordered a final round of drinks I was surprised that I successfully persuaded the Boy to share a cheese platter. Up until this point everything we had order was requested gluten free but I forgot to mention it to our server again when I ordered the cheese platter.
It came out with a scrumptious looking assortment of crackers and breads which were obviously not gluten free. I called the waiter over who confirmed this to me and within minutes the platter returned without any crackers at all. Such a shame as each cheese was just the right temperature for serving making them fragrant and soft. The well thought out selection included Fourme d’Ambert; a mild blue cheese made from cow’s milk from France, Deuce De Bourgogne; a rich and creamy soft French cheese also made from cow’s milk and Capricorn; a hard goat cheese from the UK. We were advised that the kitchen changes their cheese selections frequently which I quite like the idea of.
The Stables Bar is a stunning location in the heart of the city with a range a decently priced pub meals. It is another great addition to the increasing number of prime venues dotted around the city and definitely worth a visit for a few rounds of drinks or a meal.The Stables Bar 888 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6314 1300 | www.thestablesbar.com.au Price: $$ Food: 3.5/5 (small menu with some interesting dishes) Service: 2.5/5 (some teething problems with communication which should be easy to iron out) Ambience: 3.5/5 (awesome fit out of some old stables originally built in the late 1800s) Drinks: 3.5/5 (lots of creative cocktails, will have to come back and try a few more) Total: 13/20
On our way home from Phuket still loved up and emotionally high on wedding bliss, we stopped over in Singapore for a few days to unwind before heading home. We flew in Singapore accompanied by my Dad and Step mum who were also stopping over albeit only for a few hours. The thought of returning back to a heavy work load loomed dark over their minds so for one last hurrah we took to the incredible SkyPark up on the 57th level of the MBS building. There are two restaurants up in the clouds on SkyPark; Ku Da Ta and Sky on 57. As Ku De Ta served a buffet style lunch we chose to dine at Sky on 57 for a more classy experience with a view.
Our time in Phuket was the most amazing holiday of our lives and we were strongly determined to hold onto the last shreds of celebrations over a bottle of champagne. Still not accustomed to all the bling on my finger, I couldn’t help but take a little cheesy shot as it glimmered in the light. Excuse the shrivelled eczema hands thanks to years of eating gluten.
Head Chef Justin Quek’s style pulls from local Asian cuisines with some hints of European influences. Singaporean classics like Hainanese Chicken Rice and Hokkien Mee featured on the menu alongside more French inspired dishes like pan seared foie gras and mussel veloute. The view from the dining room expands across the whole end of the SkyPark’s end deck giving impressive views across the Marina Bay and the city skyline.
My salmon and oyster tartare tasted like a breath of the sea, fresh, salty and not overly fishy. It was beautifully presented with carefully blobbed pearls of mango and basil coulis polka dotted around my slate plate. The mango gave an added creamy sweetness that wasn’t too overpowering.
Dad and the Boy often share similar tastes in food. It was no surprise to me when they both ordered the soft-shelled crab, a dish that has reached near obsession level with the both of them. These critters were very meaty and the serving size for an entrée was substantial considering this was fine dining.
My Step mum ordered the Buri oh ceviche. Wafer thin slices of sustainably farmed Japanese Amberjack, or Hamachi fish sat on a bed of fresh micro-greens and colourful flowers. It was served with truffle vinaigrette however I couldn’t taste any truffle in the mouthful I tried. Her fish was similarly fresh and delicately soft.
My Dad and Step mum are generous people and love to spoil those they love. When Dad spotted the two of us pretending not to see the Maine lobster dish on the menu he asked us if we had eaten it before. I confessed I hadn’t the only crayfish I have eaten has been Australian in origin. Upon hearing this he insisted we all have the Lobster despite it being nearly three times to price of the rest of the mains choices. It was lightly sautéed in an Asian Pepper sauce and was nothing like any Cray fish I have had before. In a mouthful I understood what all the fanfare and fuss is about, it is surprisingly sweet and incredibly tender. Totally out of this world. I want more. It’s hard to believe this delicacy was once a food reserved only for slaves and prisoners!
We still had a bit of time to kill and looked around for our waitress to order some desserts. Unfortunately it would appear that in the afternoon the restaurant staff seemed to develop a little bit of amnesia and forgot about our existence as they vacuumed around us and moved tables. After a good 15 minutes we managed to catch their eye and finally order our desserts. We ordered two serves of the Milo ice-cream to share amongst the four of us. This dish was ultra-chocolaty with a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Any excuse to squeeze in a bit of Valrhona chocolate is fine by me!
Once again there was a virtual cloak of invisibility surrounding our table while we were waiting to order our coffees and then again for said coffees to be brought to table. It was a little disconcerting that while we waited for over twenty minutes for our hot drinks most of the staff chatted and laughed standing by the bar. A sad drop in customer service compared to the beginning of the afternoon. The wait was long enough for my Dad to write nearly four pages full in my wedding guestbook. I was so touched to read later that night that he had remembered his speech from the wedding night off by heart and written it down word for word for me to keep forever.
Sky on 57Sands SkyPark, Tower 1, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8857 | Price: $$$ Food: 4.5/5 (exceptionally fresh ingredients, faultless preparation) Service: 2/5 (unfortunately didn’t match up to the incredible food) Ambience: 3.5/5 (wondrous views, dining room a little clinical) Drinks: 4.5/5 (champagne, what can I say?) Total: 14.5/20
I originally starting blogging as a natural progression from my love of food photography and eating out. Finding a restaurant that caters for peeps like me with food intolerances without compromising the wow factor rocks my world. Naturally over time my blog has morphed to begin to include the occasional recipe. Whilst I have never claimed to have talent in the kitchen I do enjoy cooking things from scratch and my need to alter and change recipes due to my intolerances has developed into a passionate love of cooking. When I received an invite to the launch of the Accento Italian Cooking Master Classes I was intrigued and excited to see what these classes were all about.
Cooking classes are a fabulous way to improve your skills and what better way to learn than from the masters themselves. The Accento Italian Cooking Master Classes are an initiative organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
The Chamber has recently just finalised their list of certified Italian restaurants in Perth that have qualified for the internationally recognised Ospitalita’ Italianana quality assurance seal. This is a certification recognised by the Italian Government to protect the traditions of Italian agricultural and food products and value Italian gastronomic culture. The guidelines to achieve accreditation are very strict and amongst more than 1000 certified restaurants around the world, 11 of those are here in lil’ Western Australia!
The certified restaurants in WA are:
- * Galileo Buona Cucina, Shenton Park
- * Gargano Restaurant, Nedlands
- * Italians, Dianella
- * Maretti Caffe Cucina, Mosman Park
- * Maurizio’s Restaurant, Perth
- * Millioncino, Perth
- * Modo Mio, Crown Casino
- * Osteria Dei Sapori, Nedlands
- * Paradiso Restaurant, Attadale
- * Perugino Restaurant, West Perth
- * Villa D’Este Restaurant, West Perth
In true Italian style, there was far too much food for the evening launch and we were thoroughly stuffed with all the finger food before it even got to the main dishes. Not that it stopped any of us of course. Although a lot of the food was not gluten free, the smooth talking waiters made sure the suitable options kept heading my way. I feel rude turning food down and when it all tastes this good, well what can you do?
The prawn and pancetta prawns were the absolute bomb. Sticky balsamic drizzled over crunchy prawns wrapped in crisp salty pancetta. I’m sure I downed at least half a dozen of these babies.
The first two mains of ravioli and gnocchi were off the menu for me and I got a lot of sympathetic looks from the others as they slurped and scoffed down what I can only presume was really good!
I made up for it with the following main dishes which resultantly meant I ended up with very little photographic proof as I was too busy stuffing my face. The rack of lamb was the biggest winner for me; marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and oregano they were the juiciest chops I have ever eaten (and that is a big call). I ended up eating way too many.
The night ended with some perfectly set pannacotta and without waiting for all those chops to hit the bottom of my stomach I downed one of each flavour. My favourite was definitely the pistachio pannacotta with berry sauce. What a total pig. I was glad the Boy drove us home as I slipped into a little nap on the drive back.
The Accento Italian Cooking Master Classes are held at the Accento Showroom, 256 Stirling Highway in Claremont. There will be 6 evening classes each hosted by one of the local chefs from the Ospitalita’ Italianana certified restaurants.
The cooking classes run from the 20th May until the 9th September 2013. All classes start at 6.30pm and you will all get to enjoy you meal at the end of the class. The cost per class is $90 and includes matched wines, or it’s $500 for the full course of six. Click here for more information.Chompchomp was an invited guest of the ICCI and was able to enjoy this feast free of charge. Getting a free feed does not however buy my praise and I strive to ensure accurately documenting my experiences without bias.
I received a curious gift in the mail recently consisting of a bottle of fig infused balsamic vinegar. Attached to the bottle like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland was a little card inviting me to the launch of the Fig’s new winter menu at the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Having never been to any of the Fig’s before the Boy and I set out on a cold blustery night with no expectations or presumptions. We were openly greeted by Jamie, the Operations Manager on arrival and before long we had glasses of bubbles in hand to help set the jovial mood for the evening.
The Fig restaurants comprise of three beach-side venues; the Wild Fig in North Beach, the Pickled Fig in South Fremantle, and the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Whilst sharing similarities in their West Coast scenery, Jamie explained to us that each of their restaurants have been allowed to develop their own “personality” which is a reflection of both their head chef’s ideas and their local clientele’s needs. For the evening the three head chefs wanted to give us a feel for what their own Fig was all about. They in turn each selected an entrée, main and dessert for us to share giving a total of nine dishes to try.
The team had put a lot of thought into how they ran the night keeping the vibe very light hearted and casual while encouraging us to not be shy to give them our honest thoughts both good and bad. A thoughtful touch was the food photography table; a table with great overhead lighting to allow us to take quality pics of the meals without reaching across the table and getting in each other’s way. A big win for us bloggers, but realistically a win for them too as it maximises the appearance of their food on our blogs.
There was no problem adapting the meals on the menu to suit my gluten free and no onion requirement. For each dish Jamie carefully explained to me what adjustments if any were made. Whilst the olive bread looked tasty our gluten free alternative was reasonable and wasn’t too stodgy or crumbly as many gluten free breads can be.
The gluten free version of the tortellini consisted of soft scallops served in shellfish cappuccino sauce without the pasta. The scallops were of a small size but tender on the inside with a slight firmness to the outside. I winced as the boy popped the last one in his mouth as I had been eyeing it off for a few minutes for myself. I quietly consoled myself as there was still a lot of food to come!
The vegetarian entrée from the Wild Fig was by far my favourite starter; a hearty slab of crisp fried polenta served with an aubergine and tomato roulade along with dollops of sweet agro dolce puree. This dish was a little more difficult to share amongst us and I think I made have inadvertently taken more than my fair share. Oops.
Although crispy skinned barramundi may be considered a dish that lacks creativity it is a common fall-back choice for me that when done properly totally satisfies me. This fillet was buttery smooth with paper thin crunchy skin and the serving size was generous. The bed of chorizo, capsicum and orange reduction brought an element of excitement to this staple of mine and spritzed it up to make it a bit more interesting.
The Naked Fig’s main dish consisted of beef prepared two ways. A rich ruby-red wedge of sirloin crusted with pepper and rosemary served alongside a scrumptiously tearable uber-soft portion of blade steak. Having these two very alternate textures, flavours and presentations of meat made this meal a bit more on the lines of fine dining when compared to the fish.
The most outstanding dish of the evening was by far the Wild Fig’s duck main once again prepared two ways. A pan roasted duck breast paired with a confit duck and mushroom tart, creamy parsnip puree, some sautéed kale and a scattering of textured pistachio brittle. For my gluten free alternative they simply omitted the tart casing leaving the confit for us to still enjoy. I’m fairly sure this was the winner from all of us at our end of the table with the beef pulling in a narrow second.
Those of you who know me will be aware of my recent popcorn obsession. Following in the vein of my “all or nothing” personality I have been known to down a whole bag in one sitting before dinnertime. There have also been a number of emergency dashes to the shops in my lunch break. Maybe I’m suffering from a corn deficiency if that is possible. Thank goodness popcorn is gluten free, right? So obviously my favourite dessert for the evening had to be the popcorn pannacotta. I even subjected the pannacotta to the booby jiggle test to which it passed with flying colours. My only criticism, being the popcorn connoisseur, was that the popcorn pieces tasted a bit stale and chewy however the remainder of the dish was absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious.
As the white chocolate and raspberry mille-feuille was not gluten free, I didn’t get to taste it and therefore I am unable to personally comment on it but Perth Munchkin did say this was her pick of the bunch.
We all tap-tap-cracked the top of the mandarin and thyme crème brûlée to expose the custardy deliciousness underneath and although the hint of thyme was a fabulous combination with the sweet citrus the texture was very runny as the custard had failed to set properly. Thankfully this was at no sacrifice to flavour but this dish would have been near perfect if the texture was correct.
As we wrapped up the evening out of the kitchen came the three head chefs; Andy Walton from Pickled, Chris May from Naked and Rodrigo da Rocha from Wild. They were all smiles and took the time to tell us what inspired each of them to create their own menus. I love hearing passionate people talk about what they love and I could see each of these men still maintained their love for what they do.
Having read a mixed bag of reviews on all of the Fig’s, I have to say after our pleasant evening I’m inspired to go back and check them out on a night when they don’t know I’m food blogger. If our wonderful meal is anything to go by I’m fairly certain it will be an awesome experience….watch this space!Chompchomp was a guest of the Naked Fig. As a result I will not give a score on this dining experience as it is too hard to be 100% subjective when the meal is openly complementary. When I return incognito, I may give a score then.
Our post wedding stopover in Singapore consisted of four days of non-stop eating, drinking and sleeping. After having our whole week in Thailand planned down to the minute, it felt like a luxury to be somewhere on holiday without any schedules and we made the most of it. One of the few tourist attractions I wanted to see was the new marine park S.E.A. Aquarium opened on Sentosa Island. Just a tip, there are two marine parks on Sentosa. The original one is called Underwater World is hideously out-dated and not worth wasting your time. S.E.A. Aquarium in Resorts World is the second addition and is contrastingly modern, huge and very impressive.
S.E.A. Aquarium is home to over 800 species of marine animals which are divided up into regions around the world. Amongst its many breathtaking tanks, S.E.A. has the world’s largest aquarium which you can view from a massive viewing panel measuring about 36 metres long and 8 metres in height. Swimming in this vast man-made structure are many of the gentle giants of the sea including a “flock” of graceful manta rays, leopard sharks, saw fish, mahi mahi and goliath groupers.
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora is the Aquarium’s celebrity restaurant located inside the venue directly facing the main tank. Cat Cora is the only female chef from Iron Chef America and her signature dishes tend to reflect her Greek heritage and southern US upbringing. Her restaurant strives to help protect our world’s marine ecosystems and only serves sustainable seafood.
The marine park is quite a size and took us some time before we found ourselves at the restaurant by which we were informed we only had half an hour to order and eat our meals as they were to shut the restaurant for 1 hour before reopening for dinner service. To maximise our dining experience on such a strict time restriction we ordered three entrées to share between us and asked for them all to be brought out a once.
Cat Cora’s signature dish of sous-vide King Salmon may as well have been butter it was so soft. It needed no encouragement with a knife and was slipped onto our forks and down our hatches perhaps a little too quickly to truly allow us to appreciate its perfection. This slice of heaven was served with a generous scoop of sustainable black caviar, a dwarf little pear marinated in Prosecco and coated in crushed almonds, some tart vine tomato jelly and what was meant to be water cress but really looked more like chicory.
The tuna tataki salad was also made using sustainable tuna and came with cucumber mint yoghurt and curried oil. A couple of pixie sized pickled sumac onions created a bit more balance on the plate. Seared lightly on the outside the tuna was delicate and soft but nowhere near as impressively velvety as the salmon. Each condiment brought an interesting layer of flavours and left us feeling teased as we knew our half hour was soon to be up.
Our trio of soft tacos included a perfectly browned Hokkaido scallop with pineapple salsa, diced Japanese sweet prawn with asparagus verde and the third one came with more of that silky salmon topped with some avocado. Each taco tasted like its ingredients were plucked fresh from the sea making this was a hard dish to share as each taco was a stand-out in its own right.
As we tried to divide up each taco the aquarium suddenly burst into life. It was feeding time and the previously calm fish quickly grouped into schools and started to swim themselves into a frenzy. The manta rays began gracefully swimming large loop-the-loops scooping up all the debris from the mêlée. It was quite a sight to watch as we finished of our meals. We had barely raised the last mouthful to our lips when our waitress came over informing us we had to make our way to leave shortly. I found it odd that we weren’t allowed to sit in the empty restaurant for a bit longer to digest our food and gaze on the spectacle in the tank. Upon asking this request I was told there was some training held during the hour they are closed and so all customers have to leave.
Despite being a bit of a whirlwind experience for us we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Ocean. If fish are your thing, a visit to the S.E.A. Aquarium is an absolute must-see sight of Singapore. Be sure to book a reservation at the Ocean restaurant at a time that affords a more relaxed normal style of eating than we had.
Travelling to Singapore? Be sure to checkout the Lonely Planet Singapore City Travel Guide before you go!Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora S.E.A. Aquarium Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore | 65-6577 8888 | www.rwsentosa.com/language/en-US/Homepage/ThingsToDo/MarineLifePark/SEAAquarium Price: $$ Food: 3.5/5 (not exactly a fine dining experience but fresh produce and clean presentation) Service: 2.5/5 (maybe would have been less abrupt if we had dined at a more appropriate time) Ambience: 4.5/5 (be sure to get a table next to the aquarium) Drinks: 3/5 (hard to fully assess as ordered a glass of house white in a hurry) Total: 13.5/20
The Kalamunda Farmers Markets located in the centre of Kalamunda seemed like the most logical place for us to start our tour of the Hills for the Bickley Harvest Festival. These markets are on every Sunday from 8am until noon and include a number of local growers and producers selling their wares with many stall owners offering free tastings.
We nearly bought one of each of everything from the Ringwould Dairy stall as everything tasted so fresh. We settled for some Caillot (quark with added herbs and garlic), Moroccan marinated cheese and a strawberry lassi to share. The lassi was not overlying sweet and was very refreshing.
Moving on from Kalamunda we commenced our self-drive tour of the picturesque Bickley Valley. Gentle slopping hills, fruit filled orchards and brilliant green vineyards decorated the countryside like a holiday post card. We both wistfully dreamed of ditching city life for a tree-change. Our first stop was Aldersyde Estate which is the oldest commercially operated winery in the Perth Hills. This is a lovely spot to grab a few beautiful reds; we enjoyed their Merlot the best. I love how their pet Border Collies have made it onto their wine labels too.
Our second stop was Ashley Estate where they had set up a sausage sizzle which sent wafts of barbecued onions and sizzling dogs downwind into the car park triggering your senses immediately upon arrival. This winery is still run by the original owner and their speciality is Pinot Noir. They offered a fabulous vertical tasting journey of their Pinots ranging from 2005 through to 2010. It was fascinating to taste the change in each year’s vintage and the effects of cellaring and different seasons. We bought some of their 2008 and the popular 2009 vintages.
Brookside Winery was absolutely packed with a fully booked restaurant and I regret not planning ahead and reserving a table here! Their restaurant The Vineyard Kitchen focuses on using the freshest local produce, free range meats and line-caught fish and the meals I saw heading out of the kitchen looked worth coming back for. Although we missed out on trying their food we did hang around to sample their wines. The wine of most notable merit is their Petit Verdot; a grape that thrives on dry climates and has floral notes with fruity berry like flavours.
Sad that we had missed out on lunch at Brookside, we stopped in at Hainault Vineyard for a bite to eat to soak up all the wine. Their café was also fully booked however they also sold some take away plates to eat on the grass in front of a live band. We selected a vegetarian platter to share which cost us a scorching $18! What made the high price hurt even more was that the bread roll was stale (according to the Boy) and I tasted a distinctly horrible mouldy flavour in the hummus. Ugh. Inedible.
Hungry and disappointed we pushed on to our last stop for the day; the Core Cider House. This joint was a hive of activity with a live band playing, a bustling gourmet BBQ selling hot dogs and burgers and face painting for the little ones. You could even buy an apple tree to take home! The pork sausage was gluten free and they kindly had gluten free bread available too. Feeling much happier with some edible food to devour, we both sat back in the sun on the grass and soaked up the atmosphere.
I was shocked to learn today that apparently the Bickley Harvest Festival has run for over ten years yet this is the first time I have even heard of it! After chatting to a few wine makers it appears I’m not the only one as there are some people living in the region that have only learnt of it in recent times. It was a wonderful well organised day out and the drive showcased the Bickley Valley region beautifully. I really look forward to returning again next year.Elmars in the Valley The Vineyard Kitchen, Brookside Winery Hainault Vineyard Cafe Core Cider House
One of the most frustrating things about being a business owner is losing a good staff member. What makes it even harder is when not only are you sad to see them leave the business but you know you will also miss them as a friend. As a final bid farewell to one of our valued team members we all made the trek to the Swan Valley on a sunny Sunday to The Cheese Barrel. There was a great turn out and we all made ourselves comfortable in the downstairs area on the abundance of couches and cushions.
Located next door to Olive Farm Wines just off Great Northern Highway, The Cheese Barrel has a tremendous menu of cheese from all around the world. They have themed cheese boards such as “Blue Lovers Paradise” or “Soft Cheese Sensation” or alternatively you can order a regional board from Australia, France, Spain or Italy. For those more specific with their cheesy needs individual cheeses can be purchased in 50 gram portions or larger.
My head nurse ordered the Tarago Shadows of Blue, a mild blue mould cheese made with cow’s milk from Gippsland, Victoria. This was one of my favourite cheeses of the day; rich and creamy with a slight tang. Despite the large 100gm serving, this cheese was one of the first to disappear. I even caught a few who proclaimed they don’t like blue cheese sneaking back sheepishly for seconds.
I will be travelling to Barcelona in eight weeks on conference so I thought I’d break away from my French roots and get myself into the flamenco mood. When it comes to cheese I am highly patriotic to my French ancestry however there are a number of Spanish cheeses I shamelessly hold very close to my heart. Or should I say mouth.
The first cheese on this platter was a semi-hard goat’s cheese Murcia Al Vino. This was quite unlike anything I have had before. It has a really creamy flavour yet its texture is elastic and almost buoyant. The rind is a rich plum colour due to being washed in wine giving an interesting fruity after-taste The second cheese on the platter is one I am all too familiar with and love very dearly; Manchego. This versatile semi-hard sheep cheese is one of my all-time favourites and has the distinctive sweet flavour typical of sheep’s cheese. I received gluten free crackers on the side however there was still bread on my platter. To avoid contamination I suggest they avoid mixing the two on the same platter.
Moving around to the second half of the cheese board were two cow’s milk cheeses. The Queso San Simon is a semi-hard smoked cheese from the north-west of Spain. The smoky flavours are quite subtle and delicate and it also has a surprisingly creamy texture for a semi-hard cheese. The blue cheese on the Spanish plate is the Queso Valdeon. I recall trying this for the first time at Clarke’s of North Beach last year with the in-laws. This time the Valdeon tasted like it needed to be left to come to room temperature for another half hour as the flavours were somewhat dulled. It was definitely overshadowed by the creamy deliciousness of the Tarago Shadows of Blue.
Not being familiar with any Olive Farm wines, I ordered an Olive Farm “Wine Flight” to accompany my cheese. Each wine was carefully matched to each cheese to enhance the experience. I’m not going to pretend I know how to describe wines and I’m sure the Olive Farm have done a better job on their tasting notes!
Some of the girls ordered the Soft Cheese Sensation board which was sadly also served a little too cold. It almost seemed like sacrilege to see heroes like La Buche D’Affinois and Brillat-Savarin served firm and erect with minimal shine in their centres. The pernickety side of me also noticed spelling errors on the menu, another minor oversight perhaps.
I am told the macarons were the bomb. They are imported from France, cost $2.20 each and are worth every cent. I totally regret not trying them. At this point our party started to disband with a few of us keen to carry on the festivities. Reluctant to continue drinking this far from home with my car I attempted to convince them all to head into the city but to no avail. Eventually they opted to remain in the valley and I headed home. Not wanting my day to end once I got home I persuaded the Boy to walk down to one of our locals The Balmoral pub to carry on drinking.
Walking down the Albany Highway rekindled my appetite and by the time we arrived at The Balmoral I was super hungry. There were only limited share dishes available gluten free so we shared two serves of the scallops served in the shell topped with chorizo and marinated red pepper. The scallops were fairly small but soft and tender however the chorizo was flavourless and fatty.
Trying to pace myself so I could fit in desert I ordered a light meal for dinner; the char-grilled quail salad. The plump bird was served juicy and pink. The bed of salad was scantly tossed with some occasional crisp prosciutto, warm potatoes and mixed greens. A little more of the flavoursome ingredients wouldn’t have gone astray in this dish.
The Boy has been trying to move away from eating red meat but the lure of a steak at a pub is hard work. This time round he came very close to ordering the Surf and Turf before once again stopping himself and choosing the warm lamb and quinoa salad. His salad arrived at the table piled high on his plate with a generous serving of shredded lamb, spinach, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds feta, dried figs and a subtle hint of mint. The word salad never conjures up thought that the meal would be filing but thanks to the higher protein content of quinoa he was so full that he nearly talked me out of ordering dessert.
I said nearly. After a couple of months of carefully watching what I ate, now there is no holding me back! The white chocolate and bailey crème brûlée sounded like it would be the perfect way to end a long day of eating and drinking. Unfortunately it was a bit of a disappointment. It tasted very bland with no evidence of any white chocolate or baileys flavours at all. The vanilla ice cream was icy and super sweet.
The Boy defaulted back to his one of his favourites for dessert; the ice cream sundae. Those of you who know him well understand that ice cream is to him what chocolate is to me. His sundae looked like something out of the eighties, and was served with three dishes of sauces; dark chocolate, berry coulis and “butterscotch sauce”. The butterscotch sauce had an odd khaki green colour to it and tasted like molten treacle. It was meant to be topped with nuts and chocolate shavings but there was barely half stingy a teaspoon sprinkled on top. Not a recommended dish even for kids.
Overall the Balmoral is a great casual pub to pop in for a local drink with your mates. There are two courtyards outside and they always have a great vibe and it is the perfect place to enjoy a sun downer in summer. Their food is trying to lift its game above basic pub fare with a few hits and misses along the way.The Cheese Barrel
920 Great Northern Highway, Millendon, WA 6056 | (08) 9296 4539 | http://www.thecheesebarrel.com.au/Price: $ Food: 2.5/5 (astounding list available, but needs to be served at the right temperature) Service: 3/5 (quick, helpful) Ambience: 3/5 (overlooks a small patch of forested reserve) Drinks: 3/5 (only tried a few wines) Total: 11.5/20 The Balmoral Hotel 901 Albany Hwy, Victoria Park 6100 | (08) 9355 4533 | http://www.thebalmoral.com.au/ Price: $$$ (Entrees $7-23, Mains $22-35, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 2.5/5 () Service: 2.5/5 (our waitress was lovely…but very forgetful) Ambience: 3/5 (casual pub vibe) Drinks: 3/5 (the essentials) Total: 11/20