The Boy is the youngest in a family of three boys. His oldest brother still lives in Perth, but his other brother is a nuclear physicist who lives in Boston. His brother has lived in the US for over ten years and sadly is unlikely to ever return to Australia permanently. Every couple of years, his brother tries to return back to Perth with his lovely American wife to spend time with the family. Because American employees don’t receive as much annual leave as we do in Australia, they both struggle to get time off work and will save up their leave for a few years before being able to visit us.
This year was their first family visit to see us in over three years which was made even more special as it was also the first trip since the birth of their adorable daughter Noelle. The Boy and I had been busting to meet our little niece ever since she was born, especially after having to cancel our planned 2014 USA trip where we were going to go and stay with them in Boston.
To maximise quality time with his brother’s family, the Boy and his brother organised a family mini-break in Margaret River staying at the secluded Merribrook Retreat. While I already knew my brother-in-law enjoyed fine wine, I had never spent enough time with him to know if he was a foodie like us. You can imagine my pure delight when I discovered that both him and his wife were super keen to join us on a degustation for lunch while down south. I booked us in at Studio Bistro in Yallingup.
I notified the chef in advance of my dietary requirements and they were more than happy to accommodate for me. Studio Bistro’s degustation offers six courses for $95 or $135 with matched wines. We had already been wine tasting at a number of vineyards earlier in the morning and were in the mood for a bit of fun so we all chose the matched wines.
We started off with an amuse bouche of exquisitely fresh steak tartare made with succulent, tender Cape Grim grass-fed beef. The steak tartare was served with an emulsion containing a subtle kick of tabasco.
Our first course was an asparagus gazpacho served with a thick blue cheese cream that was poured table side. I love interactive dishes, they always make for more interesting photography provided I’m quick enough!
The aromatic butteriness of the blue cheese cream made this one of those dishes that leaves you wanting to lick the bowl at the end. Crispy jamon iberico added wonderful textural contrasts to the dish.
Our next course sent me further spiraling into a state of heavenly bliss. Many of my regular readers will know how I am totally obsessed with slow cooked eggs. I would actually be happy to eat a degustation with them included in every course. My chunks of slow cooked silky salmon were arranged around a slow cooked free range hen’s egg and drizzled in syrupy teriyaki.
My hen’s egg was picture perfect with a nearly translucent egg white and ooey gooey yolk porn centre. The salmon was topped with rice crisps that were made from scratch in house. The chef explained to me that to make them he boils the rice until all starch come out and then rolls the rice out between sheets of baking paper. He then dehydrates these sheets of squished rice at 50 degrees for 17 hours before being fried to serve. The rice crisps were puffy and light, dissolving like prawn crackers on my tongue.
Our next dish was made using local, free range pork from Big Red Pork. Unlike many intensive pig farms, Big Red pigs are raised in family groups in a more natural environment of paddocks filled with woodlands, creek lines and pasture. This allows the pigs to forage for food like in the wild. Their natural diet gives the meat a darker colour when compared to intensive, less humanely farmed pork.
The pork was served in two ways; a cube of twice cooked pork belly paired with a soft mound of pork cheek and a generous amount of garlic confit and vanilla dressing.
I loved how not only does Studio Bistro focus strongly on using locally farmed and grown Western Australian produce, but that they also ensure to source their meat from organic free range farms where the animals live humanely and are ethically farmed.
Our final main course consisted of a delicately soft portion of slow cooked organic Blackwood Valley lamb rump served with a yellow curry whip and fried sweetbreads. Fresh cooked peas and shavings of coconut gave this dish an interesting fusion of flavours. The rump came accompanied by a lamb gyoza, which meant I couldn’t eat it due to the dumpling pastry. However the chef must have pre-empted my disappointment in advance and kindly plated some of the dumpling filling onto my dish so I didn’t feel like I missed out at all.
The degustation dessert wasn’t gluten free so I chose to have the cheese course instead. There were three cheeses on the platter; Manchego, Heysen Blue and Wensleydale which were served with gluten free crackers, quince paste, walnuts and some fruit. Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese that is made from sheep’s milk and is one of my most favourite cheeses of all time. Heysen Blue is a mild, fruity blue cheese that is made in the Adelaide Hills with cow’s milk. Wensleydale is a classic, crumbly cows from Yorkshire in the UK.
As our lunch drew to an end, we were joined by the Boy’s parents and of course our gorgeous little niece. Upon seeing my little niece, I was surprisingly satisfied that I had eaten enough for the day and left the rest of the adults sitting at the table to join my niece in the gardens. Fueled by a number of glasses of wine I proceeded to leap about and dance with her to music on my iPhone before eventually we both tumbled on the grass puffed out and giggling madly. Such fun times, it is hard when distance separates you from those you love but hopefully we can get over to visit them in Boston soon.
7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup, WA | (08) 9756 6164 | www.thestudiobistro.com.au
I owe you, my dear readers a small apology. Many of you may have noticed that my recent posts on Chompchomp have been fewer and far between and are often written using content that dates further back than I would prefer. For this I am truly sorry. If the lack of reading has bothered you, I can assure you that the frustration is mutual. Whilst I hate to go on like a broken record and whinge incessantly, the reality is that my slipped disc in my back has made our dining experiences virtually non-existent. Needless to say, life goes on around me and consequently my list of new venues in Perth that I want to visit is growing at an alarming rate.
For the Boy and me, our times spent dining out together form a major part of our enjoyment and their absence leaves us both feeling depressed and disconnected. So, this weekend I necked back a couple of strong pain killers, splashed on some mascara and red lipstick and headed out for a lunch date with my love. I will not be beaten by pain! The Boy wanted to take my new wheels for a spin so we headed down to Fremantle to Chef Kenny McHardy’s new restaurant Manuka Woodfire Kitchen.
Chef Kenny is one of those who will go above and beyond for us allergy-prone intolerants as I discovered recently on our decadent Truffle Kerfuffle weekend. When I heard that he had moved up to Perth with his family from Albany and opened a new restaurant I placed his venue at the top of my to-do list.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen is a cosy space with a warm and inviting atmosphere, a gluten free friendly menu and a short but well-chosen Western Australian wine list. We selected a bottle of Domaine Naturaliste 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was rich in luscious berry and spice aromas making it perfectly matched to the stormy weather outside.
The Boy filled himself up quickly with the wood fired garlic and herb bread while I appreciated having my own gluten free counterpart to enjoy. Manuka make their gluten free bread themselves and it tasted wonderfully fresh and fluffy.
Manuka’s menu features a number of uncomplicated share plates using fresh seasonal produce cooked to smoky heavenliness in their wood fire oven. It was hard to choose where to start so we agreed to let the chef decide while we sat back and relaxed.
At $4 a serve there was nothing not to love about Manuka’s wood roasted olives. Served warm, the delicately flavoured olive flesh slid off the pits with a light squeeze of my teeth. It would have been an easy task to sit all afternoon with my wine in hand eating more of these olives while we watched the quirky world of Fremantle walk by.
Our next dish was a plate of chorizo sausage that had been grilled over hot coals. The sausage had a gentle hint of spice and each slightly charred piece remained burst-in-the-mouth juicy.
One of the standout dishes for me was the roasted button mushrooms, the mushrooms were so meaty and succulent. They were served with paper-thin, crispy kale leaves and dollops of garlic sour cream.
Another fabulous vegetarian dish was the roasted baby beetroot. I could really taste the difference from cooking the beets in the wood fire oven, there was a subtle smokiness and just so much more flavour. The toasted hazelnuts added some great crunch and texture.
The Boy’s favourite dish was the wood roasted miso chicken. Each piping hot piece of chicken was torn apart easily by our eager fingers and we gobbled it down like we had only just sat down to eat.
It was tempting to lick the remaining sticky miso sauce from the bowl as we both slurped sauce from our messy fingers. I guess we could have used a fork and knife to eat but when the chicken is this finger-licking good why bother?
Just when we thought we were too full to fit in any more food, our waitress brought us one last dish to the table. And of course being good sports, we found room to fit in some dreamy tender slow cooked osso bucco. 😉 All my good table manners fell out the window as I sucked loudly on the shin bone ensuring to remove all traces of the rich bone marrow.
Despite continuing to feebly protest about being too full, my rubber arm was easily twisted into sharing dessert. Look, my back may be injured but there is nothing wrong with my stomach!! Secretly you and I both know I ALWAYS have room for dessert. Our chocolate mousse was so light and airy leaving us with no problems polishing it off.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen has only been open for three weeks and yet their team showed no signs of any teething problems that I have come to expect with newly opened establishments. The wait staff are friendly and passionate, the dishes are decently priced and the Chef’s use of fresh local ingredients cooked in a wood fire oven speaks for itself.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, Fremantle
134 High Street, Fremantle WA | (08) 9335 3527 | Facebook
They say weddings bring out the best and the worst in people. It has been two years since I married my long-time love in Thailand and this saying rang true right down to the last minute. Staying on a positive note, it was the best side of my family and friends that remain closest to my heart. One of the most supportive and loving people among these heroes was my Dad.
Prior to our wedding, I confess that I could sometimes go for longer than a year without seeing his face. Now in my post-wedding enlightenment somewhat exacerbated by the knowledge we are not getting any younger, I am determined to change my ways. I will no longer think it acceptable to go for greater than six months without seeing either of my parents. Looks like I will be making more trips to Adelaide and Melbourne!
I am always a woman of my word and following with this pledge the Boy and I whizzed over for a whirlwind weekender in Melbourne to celebrate my father’s birthday. The first night we celebrated at home with a party that ran well into the wee hours of the night. Early next day we were enthusiastically prompted by Dad to piled into the car to visit their new venture; a beautiful character property in the Yarra Valley. The Boy and I were seriously hungover and sleep deprived, and we were followed by a convoy of guests in similar states from the night before.
To introduce us to the Healesville area, lunch was booked at Coombe Farm Winery’s Melba Estate. The restaurant is located in a restored building that was once the home of Dame Nellie Melba, one of our most famous Australian opera singers from the early 1900s. The building is surrounded by formal gardens that were landscaped over 100 years ago. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side with blustering wind and rain preventing us from exploring the gardens so we all bundled quickly into the restaurant where we were shown to our private dining area.
Being a large group booking we were provided a set menu for three courses at $59 per head with three choices for each course. There was a gluten free option for each course although some dishes required a little adaptation. It took quite some time for our order to be taken which was extended by further delays because our drink order was forgotten and subsequently reordered.
For entrée I chose the roasted beetroot salad with Yarra Valley white savourine, candied walnuts and mixed leaves. Savourine is a locally made semi matured goats cheese and it paired well with the sweeter flavours from the beetroot and candied nuts. I was also able to get some toasted gluten free bread on request which helped greatly to soak up the previous night’s residual champagne in my stomach.
Other options included the Boy’s choice of crab filled crisp zucchini flowers with lemon yoghurt. Upon dissecting out his zucchini flowers there was very little crab inside which left him disappointed. Other guests at our table ordered the duck liver pâté with Merlot poached figs and Melba toast. The pâté was smooth and velvety and could be served with gluten free toast on request.
Conversation flowed easily across the table as we were among family and close friends so it took us a while to realise that once again our table had been forgotten. Our wine glasses were bone dry, empty plates remained on our tables and our mains were nowhere to be seen. Frustrated with the lack of service, Dad got up from the table and marched off to find a waitress.
Shortly after that, our main meals arrived along with another couple of bottles of wine. It was so cold outside that nearly everyone had opted for the winter warming dish of dry aged Porterhouse steak. It was served with smooth kohlrabi rémoulade, hand cut chips and anchovy butter. I was sold on the mere mention of anchovy butter as for me it is nearly up there with truffle butter. Now hold onto your horses, I did say nearly!
Our mains were accompanied by two side dishes: triple cooked Sebago potatoes chunks with rosemary and garlic confit, and garden leaves with radish, goats cheese and a verjuice dressing. The potatoes were bland in comparison to my hand cut chips and needed liberal addition of more seasoning.
For our last course there was a choice of two desserts or a cheese platter. None of the dessert options were gluten free however the chef was happy to adapt the Peach Melba to be suitable.
Poached peaches, scoops of vanilla ice cream and peach sorbet were served with lashings of syrupy raspberry sauce. Tumbled amongst the peaches were freeze dried raspberries and raspberry jelly and the dish was topped with thin, chewy straps of dehydrated peach and raspberry. It was truly the best dish of the day. The words “happy birthday” written on my dad’s plate was a lovely personalised touch.
Being one of my family’s new local eating options, we couldn’t hide our disappointment in the level of inattentive service we received. While we were mostly happy with our food and I’m sure we will return, it just might take a while for us to work our way through the rest of the local venues first.
Coombe the Melba Estate
675 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream VIC 3770 | (03) 9739 0173 | www.coombeyarravalley.com.au