I am known for my obsession with planning. Before going on a holiday I will spend weeks researching the best accommodation, the absolute “must eat” restaurants and other things to see and do which usually are predominately food orientated. This strong need for mapping out the future doesn’t necessarily come from a desire to control but more a fear of missing out. Yes, I suffer from FOMO. Although I am what some may consider an organisation freak, I can still have moments of spontaneity and when those care free moments involve food I am happy to throw all planning out the window. The Boy can be hard to convince to dine out during the week but when I mentioned the key words “Mexican” and “beer” he became very agreeable. Unbelievably we still hadn’t visited el PÚBLICO despite being regulars at their other popular joints Greenhouse and Cantina 663.
El Publico is one of the first “real” Mexican places to open up in Perth after a plague of El Paso-styled greasy spoons tarnished our streets for years. Their vision is to serve Mexican street food and both the owners and the chefs have travelled through Mexico to submerge themselves in its authenticity. They accept walk-ins and only take bookings for groups over six thus they fitted the bill perfectly to be the venue for our spur of the moment outing. They offer a number of vegetarian and gluten free options which are both cleared marked on the ever-changing seasonal menu. We started with the fried chickpeas with burnt tortilla salt and the crispy street prawns.
The street prawns were reminiscent of the fried insect stalls at the night markets in Thailand and are surprisingly moreish. They are a little prickly in the mouth so I do not recommend downing too many at one time or their teeny legs poke into the inside of your cheeks. I washed the salty critters down with a glass of 2011 Ventisquero Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley, Chile whilst the Boy drank a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
We ordered a bunch of share plates to be brought out staggered in a very sociable Mexican style of tapas dining. This proved to be conducive to meandering chatter between the Boy and me taking us both far away from our working week and into a relaxed and happy place. I wish the Boy would be keen on mid-week outings more often! Our cuttlefish was served on crisp tostada with a jalapeño and corn salsa. Fresh summer flavours tossed with soft pieces of cuttlefish left a refreshing spritz on the palate.
The salmon ceviche was similarly uplifting with cubes of raw salmon cured by the lime juice dressing buried in among chunks of tomato, avocado and coriander. A touch similar in its profile to the cuttlefish, it made me dream of the long summer months soon to come.
After two rounds of seemingly healthy and light dishes, it was time to get down and dirty with some tacos. Now I’m not talking about refried beans, avocado and tomato salsa. I’m talking about REAL tacos! There were a few to choose from that were suitable for me so we agreed to share the vegetarian option; the potato tacos.
Deep fried cubes of potato and cheese topped with the skinniest slivers of potato made a picture perfect handful. We were very tempted to order another round of these tacos and I recommend that if you see them on the menu again … DO IT!
By this point in the meal, my planning brain had already scanned the dessert menu and selected my choice so I would have been more than happy to move onto sweets. The Boy thought differently and with room in his belly for more he knew ordering another round would be easy. When it comes to having seconds, I suffer from a serious case of rubber arm.
One of the last vegetarian options left on the menu were the black bean quesadillas. Our waitress warned us that they were very filling which prompted the Boy to order them immediately. Four soft pillows of corn quesadillas filled with cheesy black bean goodness were topped with punchy green sauce. Yes, she was right, they were quite filling but despite my smaller size I can fit a large amount of food into me and we finished them without discomfort leaving room for dessert.
And what a dessert it was. Let’s hope THIS one never comes off the menu. Peanut butter parfait topped with rocks of dulce de leche that literally collapse in your mouth on contact with your tongue. It really was a killer.
Like as if we hadn’t eaten enough, to finish off our last drinks we nibbled on a couple of chocolate chilli truffles. The Boy wasn’t mad on these as they were quite bitter but he wouldn’t’ let me eat his for him so I guess they weren’t so bad. After our socks being knocked off by our dessert, it was really pointless eating anything else.
It may have taken us a while to get ourselves to el PÚBLICO but our visit has left me repeatedly wondering how soon we can head back. It has a heart and soul that is packed with spunk and effortless cool. And it has a neon donkey on the bar. Now everyone who knows me KNOWS how much I love donkeys!el PÚBLICO 511 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0418 187 708 | www.elpublico.com.au Price: $$ (Entrees $9-18, Mains $24-28) Food: 4.5/5 (captures our seasonal produce and injects a little Mexico into it!) Service: 4/5 (funny, efficient and helpful with suggestions) Ambience: 4/5 (vibrant, happening and noisy) Drinks: 4/5 (small well thought out wine list….over 100 Tequilas behind the bar!) Total: 15.5/20
The second day of Eat Drink Blog 4, the Australian Food Blogger’s Conference for this year consisted of three different activities; Mastering French Pastries with Emmanuel Mollois, Unearth the Mystery of Mushrooms and finally the Cocktail and Cuisine Matching Masterclass at The Classroom, North Perth. I was excited to get my first choice of the Cocktail Class along with number of my close blogging friends.
Everyone knows about the concept of wine and food pairing. A seamless match of these two elements can take your culinary journey to great heights and many fine dining degustation menus are designed to offer this. More recently beer lovers have jumped on the pairing band wagon and some establishments now offer dishes with matched beers too.
But have you ever consider matching cocktails with food? Cocktails can bring an additional element of texture that makes wine feel comparatively one-dimensional. They allow a more tactile experience to expand on the palate and create a totally different type of adventure.
I am always inspired by people who love their craft. Classroom’s bar manager Andrew Bennet and Chef Daniel Sterpini talked passionately to us about the development of their Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclasses from its humble beginnings in their own homes to the sell-out events they hold today. Their cocktail choice for us was their signature drink; a liquid nitrogen Espresso Martini served with an Asteroid Rocher dessert which was sadly not gluten free.
Their Espresso martini consists of three layers. The first layer contains their own house made blend based around a fresh shot of Dark Star coffee which is pulled to order to maintain its crema and aroma. Added to this is some vanilla vodka, dark chocolate liqueur, Italian coffee liqueur and some Pedro Ximenez sherry to give you a “kick on the back palate”.
The second layer is created by adding liquid nitrogen to the top of the drink which subsequently freezes the crema of the coffee like a crème brûlée giving it a frozen edge.
The final layer is created to remind you of a tiramisu; the martini is topped with a swirl of house made sherry and mascarpone foam and then dusted with coverture chocolate.
The Asteroid Rocher dessert contained numerous elements all of which looked delicious. Popping candy, gold dust, malted honeycomb, Persian fairy floss, fresh blueberries and banana foam surrounded the “asteroid” making it an eye catching dish. I looked on in envy as everyone chowed down until my gluten free adapted version was given to me, sans asteroid and popping candy. I had been spoilt rotten with so many gluten free options over the weekend that I was hardly going to complain but I cannot deny my replacement didn’t look nearly as amazing. Hopefully when Classroom next offers a Cocktail matching Masterclass they will have one that is totally gluten free friendly? I await with bated breath!The Classroom 356 Charles Street, North Perth WA 6006 | (08) 9444 7729 | www.theclassroom.com.au
After decades of suffering from the consequences of eating gluten, it has been incredible to discover what life is really about. No itching and scratching, no depression or wild mood swings, endless energy, the disappearance of embarrassing, unsightly eczema and best of all I feel on top of the world. Since learning more about my body and what it can and cannot digest, I have delved deeper and deeper into what IS ideal nutrition. Part of that journey has involved eating much more raw, unprocessed and plant based food. Whilst I’m not a strict vegetarian by any means, meat is only something I eat once or twice a week and the majority of that is seafood. Recently we took a weekend break down to Margaret River and fell off the wagon by eating and drinking ourselves into a blissful coma. After three days of pure gluttony it was time to head home by which point our bodies were crying out for something healthy. I had heard of a vegetarian café called Samudra located in the heart of Dunsborough and instructed the Boy to take us there urgently!
At home the Boy and I are very dependent on our Omniblend blender to allow us to drink freshly made smoothies regularly. I was suffering from smoothie withdrawal and needed one to hydrate and cleanse my poor overworked liver. Samudra have a number of freshly made juices and smoothies to choose from so I chose their “ABC” which contains apple, beetroot, carrot and ginger. I asked for them to not include the apple as I cannot eat them due to their high fructose content.
The waitress kindly replaced apple with celery and kale to give it an extra antioxidant boost. Sitting outside soaking up the sunshine, it was a wonderful feeling to treat my body with such fresh organic goodness and I vowed to have the next seven days off alcohol and all other decadent excesses.
Secretly I was craving eggs, so I chose the scrambled tofu which I figured would be pretty close in their texture at least. I was right. My “vegan eggs” were coloured bright yellow with added butternut pumpkin and resembled what I craved enough to leave me very satisfied. It was served on thick slices of grainy gluten free toast with tamari balsamic glazed Portobello mushrooms and zigzags of parsley pesto. Despite being a tower of food it didn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortably full.
The Boy ordered the breakfast burrito with smoky red kidney beans, smashed avocado, greens, tomato and coriander all wrapped in organic spelt mountain bread. It was wrapped tightly making it quite easy to eat and didn’t fall apart after one bite.
The sauce that accompanied it was very spicy and too hot for the Boy but it went very nicely with my tofu so I finished it off for him.
Earlier this year a few months before the Boy decided to be vegetarian, I suggested to him to try doing a six week “Meatless Monday Raw Food Challenge”. I planned out our recipes so we would only eat raw food on Meatless Monday, all of them adapted for my gluten free, fructose friendly diet. Prior to the challenge I never really realised how diverse a raw food diet could be. It was loads of fun and inspired me to eat more raw food in the future.
We probably didn’t really need sweets after a whole weekend of spoiling ourselves but it isn’t often you see raw, gluten free, dairy free carrot cake on the menu and after a little insistence the Boy agreed to share one with me. The only thing I have to be careful about with raw desserts is that they often contain a lot of dried fruit such as sultanas and dates which both hold a very high fructose content. I carefully negotiated parts of the cake that didn’t have dried fruit while the boy ate the remainder. It was moist, soft and had just a hint of sweetness.
As we were paying the bill, my emotions hit me; I was so sad that our short trip was all over. It had been a magical weekend away and was just what we both needed; for our inner selves and for each other as a couple. To end the wonderful experience with such a fresh, healthy breakfast left us smiling all the way back to Perth. I couldn’t help myself and bought us a bag of dried kale chips to snack on once we hit the half way mark and stretch out the holiday vibe as long as I could.Samudra 226 Naturaliste Terrace, Dunsborough WA 6281 | (08) 9779 9977 | www.samudra.com.au Price: $ (Breakfast $12-18) Food: 4/5 (lots of interesting choices, perfect for that healthy boost) Service: 3/5 (unobtrusive and meals came out fairly quickly) Ambience: 3.5/5 (Fremantle styled hippie chic) Drinks: 4/5 (this is the place to drink green!) Total: 14.5/20
I have to admit I am one of those people that tend to get a bit starry eyed with fancy restaurants that get into the big halls of fame. I am always hinting to the Boy that the holiday of my lifetime would be one where we travel around the world business class eating at the top ten restaurants in the San Pelligrino World’s Best. Focusing more locally than globally, the West Australian Good Food Guide is a highly esteemed annual publication where top restaurants around the state can be awarded one, two or three stars.
For the awards this year, there were five Perth venues and four regional venues that received a two star rating. This award is considered to identify “the best of the best: that small band of restaurateurs who are at the very apex of professional cooking and service”. As yet no Western Australian restaurant has ever achieved a three star rating.
In the weeks preceding our recent trip down to Margaret River I booked a table at Wills Domain, the winner of two stars in addition to the best WA regional restaurant of the year. I wanted fancy and was certain this would fit the bill perfectly.
The restaurant faces out onto the winery boasting 180 degree views of the sweeping vineyards. It had been a very wet weekend and we were blessed with some of the first rays of sunshine we had seen for days. A nippy breeze remained in the air to remind us that summer was still a few weeks away. We started off at Wills Domain’s cellar door to try a few of their wines and walked away appreciating why they hold a number of accolades for their collection. Suffice to say we didn’t walk away empty handed, in fact we had to pick up a full case on the way out!
Once seated at our table, we asked for some spice roasted almonds and marinated olives to be brought out while we perused the menu. I had forced the Boy to go on a short but rather hilly jog earlier in the morning and both our tummies were rumbling as loud as the thunderstorm the night before. The nuts were roasted with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander seeds and honey and packed a decent punch of flavour.
We both ordered the gin cured trout for entrée. Many of you may know about my gin obsession so for me this was a logical choice. Bright colours of locally grown heirloom beetroots, nasturtium flowers and pickles wound elegantly around the plate like a Spring garden bed. I found the “prawn crackers” quite curious. They were actually made from trout skins that are dried and puffed. You could even see the tiny little scales in them. They dissolved on the tongue satisfyingly.
After a considerable wait for our next dish whilst surrounded by very vocal young babies, our mains finally arrived. I was craving beef which is unusual for me so I ordered the Wagyu brisket despite getting a low brow from my dear husband.
I haven’t had red meat in some time, not necessarily because I don’t want it but more so because the Boy no longer eats it and we usually share our food! Three solid chunks of Ningaloo Wagyu brisket were served plank style with fresh kale, parsnip puree and fresh orange.
This was a very simple dish with each element done perfectly but I couldn’t help but feel that this was a very safe menu choice and lacked the creativity and imagination I would have expected for a two starred restaurant. The meat shredded with no effort under my fork and oozed that characteristic smooth, buttery flavour that one can only expect from Wagyu.
The Boy ordered the line caught snapper served with mussels, cuttlefish, fennel and nettles. His fish was also tenderlicious and flakable using only the freshest ingredients and served with a relaxed level of simplicity. We ordered a couple of sides to accompany our mains; roasted pumpkin with seeds and pomegranate and the radicchio and baby cos with buttermilk dressing.
Now as I have told you before, the bar has been set for the most amazing roast pumpkin in all the land by Rockpool. I have now eaten their version of this side dish at more than one Rockpool location, and, on half a dozen occasions. It never fails to woo me every time. If you are going to make a basic dish like this, then make sure you make it really really well! Wills Domain is first place I can confidently say serves roasted pumpkin that is AS GOOD AS ROCKPOOL’S!
Yes, I called it!
There was another fairly extended delay until our plates were cleared and another again before our smiley waitress finally brought the dessert menus out for us. Not quite the polished service I was expecting. As is often the case I couldn’t decide between cheese and sweets so the Boy and I agreed to share one of each. However, in a rare moment of contradiction, we found that we couldn’t agree on which cheese. Accustomed to usually ordering them all, it is a difficult task picking just one! We solved things the old fashioned way and flipped a coin. To my delight I won and selected the Vigneron cheese, or “winemaker’s cheese”.
This cheese is sourced from Woodside Cheese Wrights in South Australia and was created to “showcase the vine leaves and wines” from their vineyards in McLaren Vale. The young cheeses are wrapped in specially selected vine leaves and then washed in white wine. The end result is a fairly complex tasting cheese with a pleasant sweet, slightly earthy flavour ending with a nutty after-taste.
The Boy’s choice of dessert to share was the bitter sweet chocolate slab served with coconut ice cream, passionfruit gel and fresh fruit. The full gluteny version also has a macadamia crumb but the chef was happy to serve the crumb in a little bowl on the side so the Boy could enjoy this component without me.
Overall, our meal at Wills Domain was very enjoyable however I cannot deny I walked away a little disappointed. We have been fortunate enough to dine at a decent number of starred restaurants around Australia and I expected their service to be as polished as their food. Whilst our wait staff were dynamic and friendly, there was long waits between courses, empty plates remained on tables for prolonged times, and even though I made my booking a few weeks in advance, we were seated down the end of the balcony between two families with young children rather than in the body of the restaurant. If I hadn’t built up my expectations due to their rating, we would have actually had a fabulous day and will have to go back again to see if this was a once off.Wills Domain Lot 341 Brash Road (Corner of Abbey Farm Road & Brash Road), Yallingup WA | (08) 9755 2327 | www.willsdomain.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $19-21, Mains $29-39) Food: 4/5 (simple, executed precisely without fanfare or extravagance) Service: 3/5 (friendly but inattentive & slow) Ambience: 3.5/5 (placed between two noisy families it was hard to appreciate potential) Drinks: 4.5/5 (the wines are superb, our fav was the 2009 Reserve Bitza) Total: 15/20
Last year was the first time that I was selected to attend the Eat Drink Blog Australian Food Blogger’s conference and I spent three days in Adelaide eating more food than I ever thought was imaginable. And for those of you who know me you will appreciate that is a LOT of food! My blog was barely a year old at the time and I felt humbled to be in the presence of so many talented writers and photographers. Friendships that had previously only existed in cyberspace were materialised and new friendships were created. It opened my eyes to the strong sense of community and togetherness that food bloggers share and inspired me to improve my blog with the aspiration it would become something much more individualistic and personalised.
This year Eat Drink Blog was held on home ground at Perth City Farm where many of you may remember I visited to go behind the scenes for Mushroom Mania just a few months ago. Eat Drink Blog is a free conference for selected delegates and all costs are funded by sponsors and donors. Coordinating such a venture with zero start-up funding sounds like a horrendously difficult task yet despite this significant hurdle the Committee managed to create an experience that exceeded most people’s including my expectations.
Although a large part of the weekend involved a serious amount of eating; contrary to popular belief that isn’t ALL us food bloggers do. Behind each blog is a person with their own aspirations, core values and ambitions. Some bloggers are in search of a big break such as a cook book deal, some blogger’s ultimate goal is to score free meals or products and on the opposite end of the spectrum there are some bloggers who are so determined to do it on their own that they refuse to write anything sponsored be it a free product, meal or holiday.
At the end of the day’s motivating lectures and discussion panels, I reflected back to try to define where my blog falls on this spectrum. Whenever considering a sponsored post or free meal, I always stop to think very carefully about whether it is applicable to my blog content.
I bring myself back to my vision of why I created this blog in the first place: to connect with others with food intolerances and show them that you can still be a foodie despite the barriers and restrictions.
I ask myself “Would I pay to go and eat a meal here?” or “Would I use this product at home?” If I find myself answering Yes to this question, this prompts me to give the offer further consideration.
Ultimately one of the most important things I try to achieve when writing these types of reviews is to remain truthful, accurate and give you dear readers full disclosure. I am naturally quite a blunt and truthful character, so I feel that this honesty comes relatively easy to me but because of the potential bias for sponsored posts I never give these meals a score because this cannot be done accurately unless I’m incognito.
In total contrast to Eat Drink Blog’s more formal sit down dinner last year at the Hilton Adelaide, this year the team organised a pop-up dinner containing a number of Perth’s well-loved food trucks. Butty’s, Marcelita’s Empanadas, Jumplings, Delish Ice and Bangkok Jump Street all donated their time to provide an evening of highly addictive scrumptious street food. We even managed to twist a few rubber arms and get a West Winds Gin bar spontaneously created at the thirteenth hour after a series of thirsty gin-craving tweets from delegates earlier the day.
I MAY have played a central part in the last-minute gin-spiration! 😉
As the celebrations drew to a close for the evening, Michelle from Foodie Cravings and I headed into Must Wine Bar along with our newly found friend Coconut Joe for a couple of night caps before heading home. Michelle’s blog remains one of the most popular Perth based blogs and is usually one of my first go-to references to suss out new places to eat. I find her a wealth of knowledge for advice and guidance with blogging but even better she is a wonderful friend who can always make me laugh.
Although she does think I’m a little crazy. Just you wait until you read her Coconut Joe post and then we can discuss crazy!
Our final stop was at Enrique’s School for to Bull fighting where we continued in the spirit of the ongoing gin-theme for the evening. We were served Glorious Gin from Brooklyn based Breuckelen Distilling mixed with Kaffir lime leaves, fresh white grapefruit and the uplifting botanical flavours of Fentimans Tonic. Without any doubt it was the best G&T I have ever had and THAT is a big call! It provided the perfect ending to a fabulous day.
Organising an event of this magnitude wouldn’t have been possible without the vision, energy and efforts put in by the most awesome five Committee Members. My thanks and appreciation cannot be expressed enough in words and without these dedicated people none of EDB4 would have been possible.
Thank you 100 billion times over! You guys rock!
● Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse (Chair)
● Matt from Abstract Gourmet
● Bri from Eatmeetswest
● David from Food Blarg
● Chris from Bon Viveur
With the disappointment resulting from our cancelled Adelaide trip still fresh in our minds, we both looked forward to our weekend break down in Margaret River with an exaggerated level of enthusiasm. Our darling fur-child Eddie had made a full recovery and we both coördinated getting out of work on time on the Friday making for a perfect start to the weekend. To facilitate this further, earlier on in the week I had purchased enough gourmet treats to feed an army and the Boy had stocked up on wine, champagne and plenty of beer. We drove down on the Friday night to our Chalet at Chandeliers on Abbey where we have stayed before some years back. The following morning we lazily lounged in bed and I flicked through my Twitter feed to see what was happening in the real world. I was awakened by a stunning photograph of flash cooked snapper for Knee Deep Wines.
I was actually so excited by its beauty that I woke the Boy up to show him. It was met with some grunts of approval before he drifted back off to sleep. Later that morning as I was cooking us breakfast, I mentioned the photo again and he suggested making a booking at Knee Deep for lunch. Expecting there to be no chance to score a table at such last minute I whooped with joy when I was told there was one table left!
Knee Deep Wines first started producing wines in 2004 and are rated 5-stars in the most recent James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. We arrived a little early and enjoyed working our way through their collection at the cellar door before we sat at our table. We particularly enjoyed the 2010 Limited Release Kim’s Chardonnay with its buttery creaminess and the medium bodied 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Knee Deep Restaurant’s chef Ben Day is a recent addition to the kitchen only starting in late February this year and since then has received a number of accolades including a Chef’s Hat in the 2013 West Australian Good Food Guide.
We chose the “Trust the Chef” five course menu where the chef chooses five courses for us matched with Knee Deep Wines for $115. To start with we were brought some freshly baked organic sourdough and cultured butter which are both made in house. The butter is made from local cream and infused with beautiful fresh nasturtium flowers and leaves. The aromas wafted across the table and made me so hungry I started to salivate.
Thankfully our waitress didn’t leave me hanging for too long and after apologising for not having any gluten free bread available, brought some flavoursome marinated olives for me to nibble on. She informed us that like most ingredients used in the kitchen all the olives are marinated in house with the chef using different marinades for each type of olive.
For our first entrée, it was like the long awaited joy of spring had been captured and masterfully spread across our plate. Fresh tangy milk curds made from un-homogenised milk obtained from Millers dairy in Cowaramup, vibrant seasonal flowers and wild fennel laced the plate with shavings of zucchini and zigzags of sweet jarrah honey. Scattered in amongst the colour were paper thin “milk crisps”. Our waitress described with great enthusiasm how the chef made these crisps from skim milk infused with all the parts from the wild fennel plant. Each crisp is flavoured with sprinklings of fennel pollen to add extra punch and brought a wonderful textual contrast to this unique and pretty dish.
Continuing with the same level of originality and intrigue our next dish consisted of a wedge of smoked eel, yabby tail and for the Boy a curly whirly prawn cracker. It was freezing cold and raining outside and the delicately flavoured, warming coconut broth hit the spot.
Each dish exuded Chef Day’s passion for local and seasonal produce and this dish was garnished with locally foraged “beach herbs”. He later informed me that these beach herbs can include on any day the familiar samphire along with dune spinach, salt bush, sea celery, pig face flowers and native spinach.
I am a sucker for meticulous presentation. In my own line of work as a vet, attention to detail is everything especially with my niche field of feline medicine. When this attitude is applied to fine dining, it is by far a step in the right direction in my humble opinion. Our main dish of barramundi and octopus was indeed a plate of perfection. Each component and flavour was carefully thought out and prepared yet still retained an air of simplicity with no pretention. The octopus passed my current “Barcelona test” and the mojo picon had just a teeny bit of kick to it.
I used to be a fan of having “all the cheese” when dining out and have been known to order up to five different cheeses for just the two of us because it’s too hard to choose. I figure it’s just another way I show my “all or nothing” side of myself. Since then I have come to realise that with the right chef it is possible to have just one cheese and turn it into a course of its own right by simply pairing it with the right accompaniments. Five is not necessarily better than one! A humble slice of Pont L’Evêque was served with organic Sundowner apples, pickled watermelon and shaved macadamia. Pont L’Evêque is a French cheese and is one of the oldest Norman cheeses still in production. It is an uncooked, un-pressed, washed rind cheese made with cow’s milk and is creamy pale with a smooth fine texture and pungent aroma.
A refreshing palate cleanser of quince & watermelon sorbet gave just the right element of turning our savoury to sweet notes on our palate and tuned us in perfectly for the final course; dessert.
After not a single dish faltering in its own wonder, we were wide-eyed with anticipation to see what was going to be next. We were not disappointed. Foamy light bitter chocolate espuma with blood orange sorbet and cubes of tart blood orange jelly lay hidden under fracturable shards of chocolate wafer. This whole dish of magnificence was dusted in freeze dried blood orange powder.
I was impressed. For a spur of the minute decision to make a reservation because of a photo I’d seen on Twitter for a restaurant that was never really on my radar; we had experienced a total wow factor from beginning to end. Quirky and knowledgeable service, elegant but simple presentation and a level of true passion and enthusiasm that filtered from the kitchen all the way through to the dining room. This was a late minute change of plans I will never regret.
Knee Deep Winery & Restaurant61 Johnson Road, Margaret River WA 6280 | (08) 9755 6776 | kneedeepwines.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $16-22, Mains $28-40, 5 course Trust the Chef $90 + $25 matched wines) Food: 4.5/5 (creative, intriguing and locally sourced) Service: 4.5/5 (quirky and passionate) Ambience: 4/5 (even in the pouring rain, the vines are pretty as a picture) Drinks: 4/5 (only Knee Deep Wines available, but they matched well with each course) Total: 17/20
The Boy and I were desperate for some time-out. We planned to visit Adelaide for the weekend of my high school reunion and to make the most of our trip, we organised a full schedule including winery visits and lots of eating. I booked our flights months back but with all the havoc and uncertainty recently; the trip couldn’t have come at a better time. We were both really looking forward to switching off and relaxing. That is, until one of our darling fur-children fell ill. Now bear in mind that we are without human children and our two Burmese cats are the next best thing. Well, in my opinion, they ARE the best thing!
Eddie is our youngest “son” and has the softest, sweetest nature. If he was human I’m sure every sentence would start with “Please” and end in “Sorry”! The night before our departure for Adelaide, Eddie started with profuse vomiting and the poor little guy was still unable to hold anything down the next morning. After rushing him to work and running blood tests, performing x-rays and an ultrasound, we diagnosed a flare up of his inflammatory bowel disease which may have possibly been worsened by pancreatitis. He needed an overnight stay in hospital so he could get intravenous fluids, pain relief and further treatment.
I sure you will understand that upon realising this, neither of us could pack our bags, leave him and get on that plane. I was reminded again that I married the perfect man when he jumped onto the phone to Qantas without hesitation and rescheduled our trip to early next year. At least we are equally crazy about our kitties. Eddie was discharged from Perth Veterinary Emergency the following day. By Sunday he was obviously feeling much better asking to be picked up for a cuddle like usual. How does a cat ask this you say? Well, being Burmese he IS quite talkative but when he wants to be picked up he does something that is a little toddleresque. Standing up on his hind legs he reaches to tap-tap-tap on my upper thigh with his soft front paws. If I reach down to pick him up he stretches his “arms” right out to reach over my shoulder and then snuggles into me. So fricking cute.
Relieved that our child was well on the road to recovery the Boy proposed a Sunday country drive to enjoy the first of Spring’s warming rays of sunshine. I wanted to visit Myattsfield Winery to try more of their sumptuous reds so with my old map from the Bickley Valley Harvest Festival in hand we drove up into the Hills. To our surprise we found a hive of activity at the winery; it was their annual “Strawberry Fayre” where the winery recreates the celebrations from their ancestors when they used to cultivate both wine and strawberries.
There was live music, wood fired pizza and their full range of wines for tasting. Strangely there were no strawberries however. We worked our way through all their wines; from their whites through to their reds and ending on their sticky. It was hard to choose what to bring home and we ended up buying not one but two cases of our own personal selection including a couple of bottles of that delightful Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier that I fell in love with at Dear Friends.
As the Boy lined his stomach with some pizza I looked on in starving envy soaking up some sun while my tummy grumbled furiously. After much whinging about the lack of gluten free edibles, I suddenly remembered the Core Cider House was gluten free friendly and so we left the Fayre goers behind in search of something I could eat.
For those who haven’t yet managed to spend a lazy Sunday at Core Cider House, you are definitely missing out. Every time we have visited them they have been packed to near capacity and we were very lucky according to our waiter to score a table as they were fully booked.
Despite being obviously under the pump, the wait staff were all very jovial and friendly. Whilst by no means fancy, this place oozes character and charm. Tables are spotted about on the grass under the apple trees overlooking views of the orchards and vineyards. I could consciously feel my stress levels drop down notch by notch. All their ciders are gluten free although I doubted they were fructose friendly so I downed a couple of glucose tablets to counter act any issues and shared a tasting paddle with the Boy. Not being a big cider drinker I am probably the worst person to review them but for what it’s worth I really enjoyed “Pith’d”; a refreshing sparking lemon cider and “Core Reactor”; a medium dry more traditional cider made from apples and pears.
We ordered a couple of plates to share starting with the thyme and garlic infused warm brie. Deliciously gooey in the centre it was served with candied walnuts, Cabernet sauvignon sultanas and toasted gluten free bread. The bread was not stodgy or crumbly and held its texture perfect while we smeared the molten cheese on it.
Our second platter was one of the vegetarian options called “The Orchardist’s Platter”. Thick rounds of aged creamy chevre Rondelle (soft goat’s cheese), some blanched broccolini and rich red pepper puree, more gluten free toast were flavoured with rosemary salt, roasted garlic cloves and preserved lemon slivers. Although we enjoyed this platter, I did feel it was a little overpriced and it could have easily been improved with the addition of more vegetables.
Overall we had a wonderful day out in Bickley Valley, it was a nice alternative to the more mainstream Swan Valley and I am chuffed to see my wine rack filled once again. I’m not sure how long they will last though!Myattsfield Vineyards Cellar Door Union Road, Carmel Valley, WA | www.myattsfield.com.au CORE Cider House 35 Merrivale Road, Pickering Brook, WA 6076 | (08) 9293 7583 | www.corecider.com.au/core-cider-house Price: $$$ (Share plates $10-32, Mains $19-33) Food: 3/5 (excellent range of gluten free, would like better value on the platters) Service: 3.5/5 (bright and bubbly just like their ciders) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a great way to lower the blood pressure) Drinks: 2.5/5 (spritzy Pith’d lemon cider was so refreshing) Total: 12.5/20