Earlier this year I was in Barcelona for eight days to attend a conference. Despite this being a short trip, I managed to squeeze in a tremendous amount of eating and I can proudly look back and commend myself with my efforts. The downside of my gluttony was incrementally revealed day by day as I stood in front of my hotel room mirror each morning I could see my waist line slowly enlarging! After the first few days I realised I needed an action plan and so first thing in the morning I forcibly dragged myself out of bed hung-over and blearily eyed in order to jog up the 200 stairs leading to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
On reaching the summit I nearly tripped over my own feet in exhaustion with my sides heavily heaving and my face flushed tomato red. Feeling hideously nauseous but oh-so-satisfied I vowed to return to repeat it all again the next day. This was my warped mental justification for spending the remainder of my day eating.
After thoroughly enjoying a vibrant degustation solo at Restaurant Nectari, I accepted that eating alone in a restaurant isn’t nearly as daunting or as boring as I originally had once thought and so off I set on foot to do it again. Prior to my departure from Perth I had read about Chef Carles Abellan and was keen to try one of his tapas bars. After getting a little lost wandering the streets of Barcelona I conveniently stumbled upon one of his restaurants Tapas 24.
One of the waiters could speak very good English and was happy to help me choose a couple of dishes that would be gluten free. I looked around and noticed there was a mix of locals and tourists and was relieved that I hadn’t landed myself in a tourist trap. As I waited for my dishes to be prepared I was brought some flavourful, soft marinated olives on the house.
My orders came out one by one allowing me enough time to sit and enjoy each one without feeling like a greedy piglet surrounded by her solitary feast. My first dish was ceviche de corvina; thinly sliced raw sea bass. The fish was nearly translucent and delicate, tasting as fresh as the sea and melting in my mouth upon contact. It was served chilled on a bed of ice with fresh chilli and avocado on a crisp baby cos leaf.
The next dish was the Presa iberica with chimichurri. This was an Iberican pork dish that was quite unlike any pork I have ever had. The meat was a rich ruby red colour and it was served rare like a fine beef fillet topped with spoonfuls of spicy chimichurri. It was incredibly juicy and tender as was by far my favourite dish of the afternoon.
As I waited for my next dish to arrive, the family sitting at the bar next to me turned towards me and asked me where I was from in a familiar Australian accent. It turned out that they too were from Perth and we soon got busy chatting. Theo, the father of the family humbly talked about his day job owning a family run seafood distribution business and that this was his first family holiday in many years. As he spoke it suddenly dawned upon me who he was and I blurted out:“Are you the real Mr Kailis from the Kailis Brothers? OMG! You are basically like Perth foodie royalty!”
Oh dear. Perhaps this is why I shouldn’t dine out on my own. My mouth speaks before I think, especially once I’ve been drinking wine!
Realising that I may have just totally embarrassed myself and possibly also Theo, he graciously brushed my compliment aside with a very down to Earth and warm manner. With perfect timing my last dish arrived; tacos de cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is a traditional Mexican slow cooked pork dish where citrus is used to marinate the meat to give an acidic tangy flavour. It was served with fresh limes and red onions but of course I omitted the onions due to my fructose malabsorption. This was the perfect dish to end on; it was satisfying, filling and very tasty albeit somewhat messy.
Over the next few days I tried my hardest to get back to Tapas 24 for a second meal but unfortunately didn’t manage it. To be sure it will remain on my hit list for when I return back to Barcelona with the Boy. It was so inspiring to meet the Kailis family, their business is a household name for most of us Perth foodies and when I go shopping at their fish café I’m like a child in a lolly shop wanting to buy more than I could possibly eat.
Shortly upon my return to Perth I returned to their Fish Café in Leederville for a very enjoyable meal where I found their marinated octopus was as good as that I ate in Barcelona. And that is saying something!Tapas 24 Calle diputación, 269, Barcelona 08007 | +34 (0) 934 880 977 | www.carlesabellan.es/restaurantes-tapas-24 Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (hard to fully assess with only 3 dishes but fresh ingredients and great flavours) Service: 4.5/5 (my waiter wouldn’t let me leave & gave me a extra glass of wine on the house! Too sweet) Ambience: 3/5 (I went and sat straight at the bar where the action was at) Drinks: 3.5/5 (mainly Spanish wines on the list – ask the waiter for a suggestion) Total: 15/20
It was bucketing down with rain and the wind cut through me like ice. This is not exactly the best weather to be walking through the city in search of a bite to eat. The Boy and I had just been dropped off at the Wellington Bus Station by Loris from Taste Bud Tours after an afternoon Speed Grazing in the Swan Valley. I had adamantly put my foot down refusing to return home and cook dinner. It was too enjoyable a day to return to the humdrum just yet. But we were a little peckish so I suggested we pop across the road to Jamie’s Italian for some pucker tucker before catching a cab. We were loaded up with bags of loot that we had bought along the way and desperate for a quick solution we both agreed this sounded like an easy option.
Our wise plans were to prove nothing short of stupid as it turned out that our impromptu dinner happened to coincide with the New Directions concert held at the Perth Arena only a minutes’ walk from the restaurant. Unbeknownst to us nearly every single parent of the 14,000+ teenage concert goers ALSO chose to eat at Jamie’s Italian while they waited for the three hour concert to finish. To add insult to injury these possibly clueless parents were either not educated in the Jamie way of high table turnover, or more likely they didn’t really care, and thus once completing their meals they were happy to just sit and occupy their table for a bit longer.
And they sat.
Meanwhile at the bar overlooking the restaurant floor, it was bursting at the seams with hungry customers waiting for a table. I noticed a number people casting intense glares at the well-fed diners seated below in hope this would prompt them to feel guilty, get up and move back to the bar to give up their table. I’m surprised there wasn’t a mutiny!
I have to say for the first hour I was still a bit full from our Speed Grazing and was happy to snack slowly whilst taking in the whole atmosphere. My absolute favourite of the bar snacks was the crispy fried polenta chips with fresh rosemary and finely grated parmesan. These are most definitely worth the hype. Obnoxiously crispy on the outside with a soft fluffy centre I could have easily downed several rounds of these if I could have made my way back to the bar more easily to place another order.
It’s a big call to call your olives the World’s Best olives but Jamie in his over confident manner is obviously happy to do so. Large, firm green olives and black olive tapenade were served on ice with paper-thin, crispy “music bread” which was not gluten free. Olives are a very individual taste and personally I wouldn’t go so far as to call these the World’s best as the flesh was a little hard. I like my olives to fall off the pip like slow cooked meat falls off a bone.
The sweet mini chilli peppers were stuffed with whipped ricotta, mint & lemon and were soft and delicate providing a good textural contrast to our super crunchy polenta chips. Our bar experience would have been greatly improved if our waiter brought us some serviettes and cutlery to the table with our food order. There may have been some available at the bar but as we were packed in like sardines I didn’t bother to check.
After what turned out to be a two and a half hour wait I was escorted to our table along with a very disgruntled husband. He had to start work early the next day, it was nearly nine o’clock and we were only just getting seated. We were originally told it would be about an hour and a half wait and had no idea that it actually would mean nearly double that! I felt terrible because I was the one that had pushed him into dining here, after our long day he would have been happy with some local take out and a night snuggled up on the couch.
Trying to make light of the situation I persuaded him to forget temporarily the busy day ahead of him as we had undergone such a long haul to get this table and we needed to make the most of it! I ordered the pan-fried whole pink snapper with olives, garlic, wine, capers, parsley & the “sweetest baby plum tomatoes”. The wonder about fresh seafood is that you really need very little effort to make it a delicious meal. Cooked on the bone the snapper had so much flavour but I did need to eat it slowly so as not to choke on a fish-bone.
The Boy had a fillet of baked King Salmon served with whipped lemony artisanal ricotta, balsamic roasted winter vegetables and a zesty crunchy salad. He was understandably far too hungry to go into details of listing adjectives to describe his dish but he did comment that all the ingredients seemed extremely fresh.
We ordered a couple of nicely priced side dishes to boot. The “Humble Green Salad” contained thick, bright chunks of cos lettuce with a lemon, mustard, crushed pink peppercorns & mint yoghurt dressing and topped with a variety of mixed seeds. It tasted like it had come straight from the garden.
The Boy and I are mad for roasted pumpkin and my tired eyes nearly missed seeing it on the sides menu. Thankfully the Boy was on the ball and ensured we ordered a serve. It was layered with chunks of roasted beetroot and garlic cloves and tossed with chilli, roasted nuts & seeds. Whilst this dish in its simplicity will never fail to excite me; my bench mark for hitting the wow factor is Rockpool’s Pumpkin with burnt butter and garlic yoghurt. Jamie’s pumpkin was good, but it was not THAT good.
The tension across the table from our overly excessive wait for a table had dissipated. I love how good food can fix nearly everything. For dessert I really didn’t think I could squeeze much more in so I opted for the poached Winter fruits with vanilla frozen yoghurt and smashed honeycomb. While being thankful my choice was light and easy to eat I couldn’t help eyeing off all the more elaborate desserts brought to our surrounding tables. I guessing I will have to come back with a more empty stomach next time. If the Boy lets me!Jamie’s Italian The Mitchell Building, 140 William Street, Perth, WA 6000 | (08) 9363 8600 | www.jamieoliver.com/italian/australia/perth Price: $$ (Entrees/Small bites $9-16, Mains $17-34) Food: 4/5 (simple, wholesome goodness, certainly nothing fancy but hits the sweet spot) Service: 2.5/5 (although the table service was brilliant, please don’t tell customers it’s a 90 minute wait when it is actually 2 & 1/2 hours) Ambience: 4/5 (noisy, energetic and vibrant) Drinks: 3/5 (very Italian focused) Total: 13.5/20
Last year I entered a Facebook competition for a food magazine that will remain unnamed and in a nail-biting, head-to head battle with my blogging friend Carly from Perth Munchkin we both tied in first place. We each won a voucher for two for “Speed Grazing” in the Swan Valley with Taste Bud Tours. As often is the case, time got the better of me and before I knew it a whole year had flown by and our voucher was nigh on its expiration date. I contacted Loris the sole operator from Taste Bud Tours to book our day out before it was too late. But what developed was very odd indeed, it turns out that my voucher was in fact a counterfeit that was never officially issued! It turns out there were a number of dubious vouchers that were handed around the magazine’s office for competition prizes and staff rewards. What a scandal!
Loris offered me a two-for-one deal as replacement for my dodgy voucher in a gesture of goodwill. I will never say no to a day in the Valley and despite the stormy forecast the Boy agreed to come along as my plus one. Loris’s concept of Speed Grazing is quite an original one and as a result she has consistently been awarded the number 1 ranking on TripAdvisor for Perth Activities for several years running. She keeps her tour group numbers small to ensure a personalised approach and visits nine different locations during each half day tour. She provides a coach pick up from either Wellington Street, Perth City or from Guildford.
We chose an afternoon tour and headed into the city a smidge earlier for a mac-attack. Not in any way related to the famous yellow double arches; a “mac-attack” is a termed coined by my now sadly estranged sister for those times when you just have to have to get your hands on a macaron. Paired with my usual short macchiato you could consider my version a double mac attack. We stopped in at Jean Pierre Sancho where I may have accidentally bought two macarons; my old time fav the salted macaron and my newest obsession passionfruit.
The Boy opted for a buttery, flaky toasted croissant but in his partially slumbered state he ordered a ham and cheese croissant instead of a vegetarian option. As we both sat on the couches soaking up what little sunshine there was that day he had to resort to prying open his crispy croissant to remove the offending slices of ham whilst trying not to accidentally tear it in half. After our mid-morning treat we strolled down to Wellington Street to join the rest of the tour group as the storm clouds gathered in a huddled grey mass in the sky; this weather is most unusual for Perth this time of year. On our way out to the Valley in the pouring rain, Loris shared with us some history of Perth and the Swan Valley region. The area has been producing wine for over 150 years and is the oldest wine region in Western Australia. Being so close to the Perth CBD and spanning over a relatively small area means it is much easier to visit a number of venues in a short space of time making Speed Grazing an easy task.
Our first stop on the tour was at Yahava Koffee Works. We were treated to a series of hot coffee tastings from their extensive range and then ended the experience on a sugar high with a cup of their “Ice Koffee”. This is a syrupy liquid made from a rich blend of Yahava’s Indian Tiger Mountain coffee, Indian chocory and some natural spices. I could easily imagine this sticky treat poured over a big bowl of vanilla and choc chip ice cream.
Our next stop was the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. Now I don’t want to sound like a naysayer as I am a dedicated lover of all things chocolate however in recent years I have come to appreciate the bean to bar concept of chocolate production. This is the signature ethos of companies like Bahen & Co, Gabriel and Melbourne based Matale. Without meaning to sound like a snob, I confess that by comparison to these quality small scale producers I find The Margaret River Chocolate Factory a touch over commercialised. That being said I also have great respect for this WA business in becoming such a massively successful company. Whilst their chocolate is not exactly cheap, it is very creamy and smooth and we couldn’t stop ourselves from purchasing a couple of truffles.
Our stop number three was at Cape Lavender, another business that also has a location down in Margaret River. I had informed Loris earlier in the week that I required gluten free food and she advised me that Cape Lavender would have some gluten free scones made especially for me.
Alas upon our arrival I was told that this wasn’t the case and so I had to settle for my glass of Lavender coloured Howling Wolves SixPointSix Cabernato 2013 instead. Quite an unusual little drop; they recommended serving this plonk as a cocktail in a tall glass over ice accompanied with a wedge fresh lime and a sprig of mint. I bought a bottle of it for drinking later so I could give this cocktail a whirl at home.
After our group demolished the plate of mini-scones we all shuffled next door to Mago Coffee. Mago is a family owned business and they have been roasting their own blends of coffee in the Swan Valley since the late 60s. Mago imports raw coffee beans from Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Kenya and Ethiopia in addition to a few other “secret locations”. I had already reached my maximum caffeine limit for the day so I didn’t get to try their brew but we did taste some of their freshly roasted nuts and bought a giant size bag of roasted hazelnuts still slightly warm.
Our next stop was the familiar Jarrah Ridge Winery. The Boy and I have been here a number of times with both my parents on separate occasions and I am a big fan of both their olives and their wines. As we arrived the manager served us little tasting dishes of their marinated olives and WA cheeses for us to nibble on as we worked our way through all the wines on offer. In a repeat of our previous visits, we walked away with two large vacuum packed bags of olives in hand along with a decent chinking of wine bottles.
Being a sufferer of fructose malabsorption our next stop at The House of Honey wasn’t really the place for me but for those that do not have to restrict their fructose this place is worth a visit. Proudly using only pure, unpasteurised and unadulterated varietal honeys there is a wide range of honey products on offer. There is also an active hive with a Perspex backing to allow viewing of the bees in action. I can now understand where the saying “busy bee” comes from because not a single bee in that hive stopped for a rest.
It was getting into the later part of the afternoon and all the food and wine tasting was beginning to make me feel sleepy. As we entered Mondos Nougat my eyes were drawn like a magnet to the macarons. Yes, I have a problem. We were given a sample of the nougat to taste but ended up buying another couple of squares to enjoy with our macarons.
Our second last stop was a farmer’s market stall selling a variety of fresh local produce ranging from strawberries to miniature herb plants. Unfortunately it was timed simultaneously with a torrential downpour meaning that no sooner had we all exited the minibus to peruse their offerings, we all very quickly came running back to the bus for shelter.
Our final stop was at the Iron Bark Brewery where Loris had called ahead for us with the tour group’s orders for pizzas. The Boy and I ordered a vegetarian gluten free pizza to share between the two of us which is not included in the price of the tour. On arrival we were given a voucher to get either a free beer tasting or a discount on a full serve of beer or wine. The price for a small pizza was $17.50 and the large was $23.50 with a $2 supplement for gluten free.
When our pizzas arrived we were puzzled to see that our small pizza was in fact just a regular sized pizza cut in half. As we looked up and down the table we saw that another tour guest had received our other half. What we found even more perplexing was that they wanted to charge us $17 for the half pizza! Erm I think not! A $34 vegetarian pizza! When we were at the counter ready to pay I suggested to our waitress that we should really only pay for half the price of a full gluten free pizza. The other tour guest that had eaten the other half could pay for remainder. I was given a look of contempt but after consulting with her frowning manager they both begrudgingly agreed. Oh dear.
Taste Bud Tours was a fabulous way to sample the wide variety of wine and produce available in the Swan Valley. I love how Loris sticks to Western Australian companies and she is a passionate and knowledgable advocate of the region. I can highly recommend her tours to anyone who wants to join a tour that is just a bit different from the norm and more personal.Taste Bud Tours | www.tastebudtours.com.au Jean Pierre Sancho 878 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6181 1904 | www.jpsancho.com.au Yahava Koffee Works 4752 West Swan Road, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9250 8599 | www.yahava.com.au Margaret River Chocolate Factory 5123 West Swan Road, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9250 1588 | www.chocolatefactory.com.au Cape Lavender 6 Cranleigh Street, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9250 7711 | www.lavenderonline.com.au Mago Coffee Lot 6, Cranleigh St, West Swan WA 6055 | (08) 9274 5871 | www.mago.com.au Jarrah Ridge Winery 651 Great Northern Highway, Swan Valley, Herne Hill WA 6056 | (08) 9296 6337 | www.jarrahridge.com The House of Honey & The Sticky Spoon Café 867 Great Northern Hwy, Herne Hill WA 6056 | (08) 9296 3635 | www.thehouseofhoney.com.au Mondo Nougat & Moorish Nuts 640 Great Northern Hwy, Herne Hill, WA 6056 | (08) 9296 0111 | www.mondonougat.com.au Iron Bark Brewery 55 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9377 4400 | ironbarkbrewery.com.au
I may have inadvertently blown our wedding budget to the point that there was very little left in our kitty for a honeymoon. Our original plans were to go on a six week drive up the West coast of America followed by a week in New York. My fantasy of cruising up Route 101 in a bright red convertible with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world has been pushed far, far away into the very distant future. Our make shift post-wedding holiday was instead to be a four day stopover in Singapore; an easy holiday to do as Jetstar land in Singapore on their way back from Phuket anyway.
We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental which is a five-star hotel very conveniently located in the heart of the Marina Bay district right along the Grand Prix track. Our room offered stunning views over the Bay and the city skyline in addition to directly facing onto the Formula One racetrack itself. You could watch the race directly from your own room if you booked it enough in advance! I chose this area knowing it is very central to all the foodie, entertainment and shopping places I had on my wish list to check out. It is also only a couple of tube stations from the Orchard Road shopping district. Our Premium Ocean Room was clean and reasonably newly appointed with a pillow menu, twice daily housekeeping and free WIFI.
On our first night we had already been out for a beautiful lunch at Sky on 57 with my Dad and Stepmum as they were passing through Singapore on their flight home to Melbourne. Ordering room service seemed like the best way for us to kick back and relax. Earlier that morning when we were still in Phuket we had obtained all our unedited wedding video footage from our videographer and we were both itching to watch it.
The Boy ordered one of his favourite comfort foods; a traditional Italian lasagna made with fresh tomatoes, minced beef and mozzarella cheese layered between home-made pasta sheets. Retrospectively, it feels quite odd now writing about him eating meat. In the weeks following our return from Singapore, the Boy made the surprising decision to become a vegetarian. After years of being a big meat eater, I wonder what his favourite comfort food will be now?
I ordered the grilled Norwegian salmon with steamed potato and baby vegetables. Desperate for some greens I also ordered the garden salad which turned out to be quite an enormous serve. In addition to the usual greens it contained asparagus tips, avocado, olives, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese shavings.
During our stay we visited the Axis Bar a couple of times to put our feet up after a hard day eating and sightseeing. Overlooking the Marina Bay they have plenty of comfortable lounges to allow us to unwind from all the wedding excitement over a drink or two.
Whilst the bar menu did not have many gluten free options, the kitchen was more than happy to make up for us a special platter each visit with a variety of gluten free snacks including roasted duck with caperberries, smoked salmon and marinated olives.
In addition to two bars, the Mandarin Oriental has five restaurants. MELT ~ The World Café is their buffet style restaurant where our included buffet breakfast was served. They had an excellent range of gluten free options and every morning the waiter would come over to our table and ask if I wanted my gluten free waffles and pancakes. I’m sure this is the first hotel I’ve been offered both waffles and pancakes that I am able to eat. No wonder I put on so much weight! The waffles had a wondrously thin crisp outer layer and were light and fluffy on the inside.
There was a huge range of salads, sliced meats and pastries in addition to both Asian and Western style hot dishes. There was even a waffle counter making fresh waffles while you wait. On our last morning we slept in, nearly missed breakfast and ended up dashing down all dishevelled and sleepy. As we finished off our meals the manager came over to us with two glasses of champagne and a camera wanting to congratulate us on our marriage. Even without any make-up the natural glow of happiness from us both was easy to capture. Within minutes of returning to our room the photo arrived in a Silk quilted photo frame. What a thoughtful and personal touch.
In addition to the buffet restaurant there are four other restaurants which include Dolce Vita (Italian), Cherry Garden (Cantonese), Morton’s (Steakhouse) and Wasabi Bistro (Japanese). We dined at Cherry Garden one evening where I was gob-smacked that I could enjoy beautiful Cantonese dishes made especially gluten free. Read my review of our meal at Cherry Garden here.
Throughout our stay we found there to be a high level of attention to detail with excellent communication amongst their staff regarding my food allergies. It was refreshing to not have to reiterate at each venue what I could and couldn’t eat and I would have no hesitation staying here again upon our return to Singapore.
Note: We stayed in a Premier Ocean Room for $437AUD/night which included a buffet breakfast. Mandarin Oriental Singapore 5 Raffles Avenue, Marina Square, Singapore 039797 | +65 6338 0066 | www.mandarinoriental.com/singapore
This weather is seriously wild. A torrential river cascading down what was once a road isn’t exactly something I expected to see here in sunny Perth. I’ve seen it a bunch of times in Melbourne and most definitely around South-East Asia but in Perth? It’s madness I tell you. I had arranged to meet fellow blogger Whitney from dineWHITme.com for a coffee at Vans Café in Cottesloe but due to her being something of a study-work-blog-aholic she was running insanely late. I suppose I could have rescheduled but instead I decided to kill half an hour until she arrived.
It is an unusual thing for me to do; sit alone in a café sipping coffee, eating a macaron and reading the paper. I am the type of person that rarely stops still for more than a second and thus it didn’t take me long to start chatting to the person sitting next to me about food, cats and vegetarians. By the time Whit rocked up my neighbour had written herself a long list of new restaurant tips that I had suggested down onto her newspaper and she glowed like someone possessing juicy insider information.
Despite waiting for thirty minutes I was still undecided about my choice from the menu. The lay out of the menu is a little odd with three different time slots with varying overlap. Even after a couple of coffees it was hard to know where to look! We both agonised over it long enough for the waiter to come to our table twice to take our orders only to be met with two blank indecisive faces. It was a bee’s bum away from midday and logic drew me away from ordering some lunch as my hunger for some egg porn was uncontrollable. It’s not uncommon for me to have a second breakfast and I figured this was going to be one of those days.
There were a number of morning options that you could still order throughout the day and so my choice was a hot potato cake with smoked salmon, wilted spinach and a poached egg. Thankfully I was blessed and my burning desire for a sumptuous gooey egg was completely satisfied. The remainder of the dish was less than impressive however. The lemon butter was poured over my dish to the same exaggerated extent that the rain flooded the streets. The sheer amount of lemon butter would have been overwhelming had it not been that the potato cake was bland and poorly seasoned and was in dire need of a lift.
Whit had her own issues to contend with. Whilst egg porn was far from her mind, she was determined to have a lamb burger. She was on an unofficial mission to find the tastiest lamb burger in town so if it is on the menu, it must be devoured. That is until we were told they had run out of lamb; at twelve o’clock on a Monday. I could feel her disappointment from across the table and empathised; if there weren’t eggs on the menu to feed my addiction I was fairly confident I would pack up and go as I wanted them so bad.
As I nodded consolingly, Whit ended up choosing the lamb burger’s cousin; a pulled pork sandwich with Asian slaw and chilli jam. It turns out she is on a similar quest for the perfect pulled pork as she is with lamb. As she nibbled on her chewy, dry bun and flavourless pork my heart went out to her as my rays of golden egg enveloped everything on my plate. Looking at the torrential rain outside, my egg was to be the closest either of us would get to any sunshine that day.
As the pouring rain became apocalyptic outside, the whole of Napoleon Street completely filled up like a river breaking its banks. It looked like neither of us were heading anywhere else in a hurry. Brushing the let-down of the pulled pork aside, we looked about for a dessert menu to cheer up the taste buds.
Our dessert choice to share was a caramelised ginger rice pudding with the deceptive appearance of being a crème brûlée. We tapped and cracked the thin shell on top to reveal a thick creamy bed of dulcet rice pudding. Subtle hints of fresh lemony ginger added a bit of zing with even more tangy ginger in the scoop of ice-cream.
Encouraged by our winning dessert, we thought we would sit out the rain for a bit longer and have a round of coffee. We had already been chattering away for over four hours and I resigned to myself that my long list of tasks to do on my day off could simply wait for another day. With all the crazy crap that is going on in my life at the moment, whiling a day away in a café chatting with a newly found friend was much more enjoyable. As Whit took a sip of her coffee her face screwed up into contortions of displeasure border lining on pain. I reached over to grab her coffee for a taste; it was piping hot with an after-taste much like charcoal. What was to follow was something I’m sure can be defined as “how not to handle a disgruntled customer 101”. After three rounds of burnt coffee and a number of condescending comments implying that we obviously had no idea what a long macchiato tasted like, we were both left bewildered and mildly offended.
Customer service unfortunately still remains sorely lacking in some venues around Perth. With the recent opening of so many exciting and switched on eateries it would be wise for these restaurants to start improving or risk ending up getting left behind in the slipstream of other’s successes.
For the full story on what went down with the coffee saga head over to Whit’s account of our lunch on her blog: “Off the wall and into Vans”.Vans Café 1 Napoleon Street, Cottesloe WA 6011 | (08) 9384 0696 | www.vanscafe.com.au Price: $$$ (Breakfast $13-23, Mains $18-42) Food: 2.5/5 (hits and misses) Service: 2/5 (1st rule of customer service: the customer is always right) Ambience: 3.5/5 (bright, airy and even with the gloom outside felt sunny) Drinks: 2/5 (burnt Crema coffee…..so sad) Total: 10/20
We all have our own addictions and vices. Things we simply cannot live without, things we cannot control ourselves around and things that make our life complete. Chocolate is one of these things for me. Whenever it is in the house it haunts my every waking thought until I know it has all been eaten. I can eat it in the early hours of the morning for breakfast, I can eat it before and after a run, in fact I’m sure I could find anytime of the day to eat it. I struggle to stop at just one piece and on many occasions have made myself sick by bingeing on it. Despite being a mad chocoholic, over the years I have grown to fine-tune my palate to chocolate in a similar fashion as to wine.
I first became introduced to the bean to bar concept at Gabriel Chocolate in Margaret River last year. Prior to this visit I was naïve to this concept and had little appreciation for the difference that region and climate can have on the flavour of chocolate. Gabriel has a wide range of chocolate from a variety of plantations around the world and it was fascinating to taste all the different types. Additionally by sourcing single origin beans, producers can make sure that their product supports ethical farming processes and allows the farmers to get an honest price for their hard work.
Matale chocolate is a newcomer onto the artisan chocolate scene and I was recently contacted by their producers Thibault and Eloi to sample some of their gluten free, fructose friendly and dairy free chocolate. How could I refuse such an offer? I was sent two luscious bars of chocolate to try.
The first bar was made with 68% cocoa and the beans are sourced from the certified organic Somia plantation in Madagascar. Smooth and surprisingly silky for a dark chocolate; there was no bitterness or sickly sweetness and it ended with a very clean and fresh citrusy finish.
The second bar was made using beans from the organically grown Malekula Plantation in Vanuatu. It was a darker chocolate containing 72% cocoa yet it still lacked that sharp bitter taste you can find in mass-produced dark chocolate. The flavour of this chocolate was a bit more complex than the Somia chocolate with distinct coffee notes and hints of spice.
The Boy and I sat down on the floor in the sun room to taste these chocolates, relishing in our attempts at describing the layers of flavours whilst enjoying their velvetiness. Twenty minutes later we realised we had devoured both bars in one sitting. I guess that says it all.Disclaimer: Chompchomp received both Matale Chocolate bars complimentary from Thibault and Eloi. They offered them to me without any obligation to write a blog post be it either negative or positive. I truly found each bar delightful enough to binge on regardless whether it was free or not and wouldn’t hesitate to order more.
Staff shortages are a quick way to destroy anyone’s social life. Recently at work we have been stretched thin on the ground turning my standard weekend roster of two-on-three-off into a full roster circuit of five weekends working. Joy. As the chance for my weekend time-out finally approached, I pre-emptively booked a dinner reservation for us at a local Italian restaurant L’Enoteca. The restaurant is a short skip and jump from our front door so all week in the lead up anticipation I envisaged strolling down hand in hand with the Boy to the Broken Hill Hotel for a few drinks then crossing over the road for a romantic meal.
When the weekend actually arrived, it was joined by a severe weather warning. Complete with dark ominous skies and whirling wind that vortexed around our house like a hurricane I could see the chances of us walking anywhere were doomed. Not willing to be beaten we rugged up and bundled into the car for our date night.
After a few rounds of drinks at the pub we were lucky enough to catch a break in the rain and power walked as best as one can with a broken toe down Albany Highway to L’Enoteca. The inside of the restaurant was cosy and warm and a welcome relief after the blustery walk. The menu was uncomplicated and clearly marked with both vegetarian and gluten free options. It made a nice change as it made ordering dishes so easy. As we perused the wine list we asked the waitress to bring out some marinated olives. Each olive was a soft little bomb of flavour with hints of citrus and the slight heat of some chilli. I prefer my olives soft; I don’t enjoy the harder ones as much.
The stuffed field mushrooms were the Boy’s choice and although this dish is something I often enjoy making for us at home it was by no means less satisfying eating it out in a restaurant. There is something oddly meaty about mushrooms when they prepared this way and I almost feel like I’m eating a bit of steak. Weird I know. L’Enoteca’s mushrooms were flavoured with fresh parsley and basil and were thick, juicy and surprisingly filling.
Since my trip to Barcelona, I remain on a quest to find myself octopus in Perth which tastes as good as the dishes I ate in all those late night tapas bars. Although this octopus was very tasty it just didn’t have that plump soft texture that I’m aspiring for and it was a touch on the chewy side.
Risotto is a dish I rarely have the time or patience to make at home. Maybe one day when I eventually get myself a Thermomix my world will change but until then I find it hard to justify standing in front of my stove stirring for what feels like an eternity.
Our waitress came to our table and placed a huge bowl of creamy duck risotto in front of me and my lusting for Spanish octopus quickly faded back to the distant corners of my mind. The thickly sliced duck breast was cooked to a buttery soft texture and rich nutty tones from the porcini mushrooms added beautiful depth and substance.
Our night was like a re-run of one of our Mushroom Mania meals. Not only was our shared entrée a mushroom dish but both of our mains were a mix of hearty mushroom goodness too. There was certainly no complaints from either of us! The Boy ordered the handmade chestnut tagliatelle with a creamy mushroom ragu and generous shavings of truffled pecorino (Moliterno tartufo). Each ribbon of soft pasta coated itself beautiful in the rich chestnut puree and buried amongst this was a variety of slippery soft mushrooms and whole roasted chestnuts . The Boy commented that the truffle aroma from the cheese was very subtle and being a truffle addict he would have preferred a touch more pungency.
We had a teeny bit of room left to share one more dish. I would like to have tried some of their cheeses which I noted were all proudly Italian. There was one cheese in particular that sparked my attention; the Moliterno tartufo that the Boy had grated over his pasta. This is a type of truffle infused pecorino cheese. But recalling the Boy isn’t really into his cheese, I considerately selected a dessert for us to share instead. Such a good wife I am! Suffice to say we were pretty chuffed with our selection. The pannacotta had perfect form and cemented my deduction that L”Enoteca know their Italian cuisine. Delizioso!L’Enoteca 249 Albany Highway, Victoria Park WA 6100 | (08) 9472 5881 | www.lenoteca.com.au Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (classic Italian favourites made with obvious passion and love) Service: 4/5 (friendly & knowledgeable about their menu) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a bit noisy, subdued lighting, quite romantic) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of predominately Italian wines) Total: 15/20