I am refusing to let this back pain rule my life. When I originally injured it ten years ago, the pain overwhelmed me and I was terrified that I would never get back to my previous level of activity. This time round I am better prepared for the ride and thankfully my pain has been easier to control. It was my mother-in-law’s birthday a few weeks ago and it was at a point that I was still maxed out on my pain killers and mostly housebound. I was determined not to be beaten by this fact and agreed to join them for a lunch outing to celebrate.
To avoid having me seated in a car for too long, the Boy chose a local venue called Hopscotch Bar which is a new addition on Angelo Street in South Perth. This beautifully decked out bar is located in an old supermarket that remained vacant for some time after a storm blew its roof off last winter. I was glad to see they opted for a more modern and social way of dining with a small menu of share plates.
My parents-in-law are always so accommodating and generally let me order for everybody so that I don’t miss out. I think the truth of it is they like being able to sit back, relax and not have to stress about trivial things like what to eat or drink. Neither of them have any food intolerances nor are they fussy so it is an easy job for me.
We started with the free range chicken wings which I was originally told were gluten free provided I didn’t eat the sauce so the waitress ordered the sauce to be served on the side. After placing our order she came back and informed me that the chef wanted to advise that the oil may be contaminated with gluten as he had fried food with a flour coating prior to cooking the wings. This level of knowledge about gluten inspired great confidence in me. It is such a relief to know the chef already understands the basics of cross contamination when it comes to feeding a Coeliac.
Many of the small plates were able to have gluten free crackers substituted for bread leaving us quite a few options to enjoy. The duck liver pâté was smooth, smearable and richly flavoured although the jar made it a little difficult to serve easily. I cannot say I’m a fan of the trend of serving food in jars. I always feel like it is a short cut way to serve things rather than making an effort to plate the food up.
One of the vegetarian dishes of quinoa tossed with kale, mushrooms and goats cheese was a more substantial size and reasonably priced. It appeared that they had run out of kale and substituted spinach instead. The mushrooms had a wonderful meatiness to them and I could have happily eaten this dish to myself. But then again I am a mushroom addict!
The jamon-wrapped salmon fillets were served on a bed of cauliflower purée and topped with grilled asparagus and microherbs. The crispy jamon gave a great textural contrast to the softly cooked fish and I was pleased to note the salmon was cooked to have a satisfying dark pink centre. I get cranky when my salmon is overcooked as I believe it ruins it.
Neither of the desserts on the menu were gluten free however the Earl Grey pannacotta could be easily adapted by the omission of the shortbread biscuit. It had the requisite wobbly movement and the hint of bergamot aromas were so uplifting.
The Boy ordered the chocolate pudding to share based purely on the addition of vanilla ice cream. Ice cream really is his weakness. The “Sailor Jerry” chocolate pudding was irrelevant to him and he left it for his parents to enjoy instead. He can be easily pleased sometimes. Sometimes I said! 😉
Angelo Street was in dire need of somewhere cool that took it beyond the realms of sandwich bars and brunch spots. I look forward to seeing how Hopscotch Bar fits into the scene and will definitely be returning.
Hopscotch Bar | 79 Angelo Street, South Perth WA | 0418 399 966 | Facebook
“Take me back to Barcelona!” These are words that escape my mouth on more than one occasion. My love affair with Spain first developed back in the 90’s when the Boy and I went backpacking around Europe together for the summer. We were uninhibited by shackles of any debt or responsibility and traveled nearly six months roaming from city to city without any real plan. We stayed in hostels and I successfully survived living out of a backpack with only two pairs of shoes to choose from. I laugh at this fact when I think of how I travel now; with suitcases the weight of bricks complete with multiple pairs of shoes, boots, jackets, dresses, running gear, party outfits, lap tops and camera equipment. My how time can change people!
More recently I traveled alone to Barcelona on conference and despite being ten years between visits, I slipped back into my hedonistic state within the first day. Simply I ate, and I ate and I ate. There wasn’t a single meal that didn’t excite me and my only regret was not bringing the Boy with me.
People in Barcelona don’t eat three square meals like us Aussies tend to prefer, and more curiously they eat at the strangest times of day with most restaurants not opening their doors until 9 pm at night. During the day for those who want a snack, there are a multitude of “pintxos” bars serving a variety of small bites of tapas with a wooden stick skewered in the middle of it. At the end of your meal, the waitress would count your sticks to determine your bill.
Pintxos have started to take off in Perth with a couple of options around town. It is somewhat comforting to know I don’t have to travel too far to get a little piece of Barcelona. I was recently invited to dine at Pinchos in Leederville for a bloggers lunch.
Run by the same team behind Jus Burgers, Pinchos takes that concept of all day bites to the Spanish level, with a multitude of morsels to fill your hungry belly. They have a separate food intolerances menu making ordering very easy.
We ordered a bunch of my favourites including boquerones y pulpo; white anchovies and octopus served with ribbons of zucchini, chilli and grapes. The octopus was not as tender as that in Spain but then I have set very high standards for myself. I loved the addition of sweet grapes. The Boy added even more sweetness to his by drizzling the honey from the chorizo pintxos on top.
Another Spanish thing I adore is manchego cheese. This aged hard sheep cheese has a very characteristic flavour and I ate it by the truckload in Barcelona. The De la Casa salad, or house salad, is made with thin slices of manchego tossed with iceberg lettuce and a sherry vinaigrette. A simple but addictive dish that I could easily eat every day.
We wanted to try a few of Pincho’s cured meats but I was mindful that there were a number of other dishes I was desperate to order. We agreed to compromise and order a “taste of four for one”. Our plate included Jamon Serrano, Morcon, Chistorra and Fuet Anise.
Our favourite two on the meat plate were the Jamon Serrano and the Chistorra. Chistorra is a traditional sausage from the Basque region made from minced pork and flavoured with garlic, salt and paprika.
Both of the two daily specials were able to be adapted gluten free so we chose the Bienmesabe fish with stuffed squid. Served in two components, the fish was delicately tender and infused with gentle spices on a bed of roasted cherry tomatoes and capsicum.
The stuffed squid were particularly delicious, stuffed with a sweet fig paste and drizzled in caramelised balsamic. My only gripe was I was left wanting more.
A Spanish tapas feast is never complete without a slice of tortilla. In Spain a tortilla is not a form of flatbread, but instead comprises of a thick omelette with chunks of potato and other ingredients cooked through. They are generally gluten free and an easy quick snack for a Coeliac on the go. Pincho’s tortilla is served with some salad and made a substantial meal on its own.
We were far too full for dessert but as always I was left with the need to end with something sweet on my palate. We ordered a couple of chocolate and sherry fig truffle to finish. They were soft and melted in the mouth leaving a creamy sensation to roll over my tongue for a lingering moment.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp dined as a guest of Pinchos. Her opinions and photos are her own and she will not be influenced by the fact her meal was at no cost. In a desperation for a little bit of Barcelona without the cost of an airfare, she has already returned in cognito and found the quality of the food and service to be consistent.
749 Newcastle Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9228 3008 | pinchos.me
Despite knowing that the menu at Ace Pizza is devoid of gluten free pizza options, this has been a venue that has remained on my wish list for some time. Don’t be fooled by their name, whilst I’m told Ace’s pizzas are far from shabby it’s their share plates that I was keen to try. Being paid monthly means when we hit the end of the month we are scratching for a cheap place to eat out without compromising on our needs for quality or flavour. I was hoping Ace Pizza would fulfil this basic need.
Dishes are certainly cheap, reasonably sized and served with lickity split, no fuss speed. Perhaps too much so as within about ten minutes of placing our order all of our dishes had made their way to our table. There were a number of gluten free and vegetarian options to suit both our needs however as is often the case, we ordered far too much food.
The grilled corn was a refreshing way to start with each of the juicy cobs lavishly drizzled in thick chilli mayo and balsamic.
The beet salad came with crunchy walnuts and dollops of whipped salted ricotta. The ricotta had the texture of soft serve giving a great play in textures with the remaining ingredients.
I was in a rare mood for a morsel of red meat and ordered the chop chop beef without the bread. There was sadly no gluten free replacement for the bread which would have been a nice touch. I confess that after having eaten the steak tartare a bunch of times at Rockpool I am yet to find a match of that calibre elsewhere in Perth. Whilst Ace’s chop chop beef was enjoyable it lacked the smooth finesse and fresh aftertaste of Perry’s signature version. I reminded myself that it was also half the price.
The squid was my favourite dish of the evening with the surprising element of super crunchy deep fried chickpeas mixed with rings of squid all drizzled in generous lashings of chilli aioli. I love it when you don’t have to ask for more aioli! The Boy and I have a bad habit of eating quickly and before we gave our stomachs a chance to register what we had already eaten, we jumped ahead to ordering another dish; the crispy potatoes with Nduja mayo.
Nduja is a spicy spreadable type of Italian pork sausage typically made using the shoulder, belly and jowls along with the stomach lining (tripe). I wasn’t sure how this would work in a mayo. Basically it turns the mayo into some sort of strange meat sauce. The Boy was horrified at the mere sound of this yet once the dish was brought to our table he couldn’t resist a taste. The spuds were perfectly crispy with soft velvety centres and the “meat sauce” was in no way overwhelming. I decided I was certain there would be no room for any more food after this.
Exploding at the seams we paid our super cheap bill and with some spare change in our pockets we agreed to waddle up the street to Enrique’s School for to Bullfighting for a night cap. On Sundays, Enrique’s serves their signature sangria for $5 per person – a total bargain. It is served with a cute little jar of sherbet for an added element of zing.
After a round of drinks I became aware that I did indeed have a teeny bit more room to end our night of cheap gluttony. Neither of us could agree on whether we ordered sweet or savoury so to avoid a squabble we ordered one of each. The Boy’s choice was a hard goats cheese; Queso de cabra Pedro Ximenez. This is a smooth semi-soft cheese that is bathed in Pedro Ximenez wine for four months. It was quite a dense almost elastic cheese with a slightly sweet flavour.
My choice was the gluten free dessert option. Hardly surprising really, I mean, shouldn’t I make use of that second stomach of mine? 😉 The gluten free dessert option was a Pannacotta served with honeycomb, salted caramel ice cream and chocolate soil. I was initially confused by our first waiter who told me that the chocolate soil wasn’t gluten free. Thus when it was served to us with the soil I humbly asked for it to be sent back to the kitchen. I hate being a pain in restaurants but it’s not like I can just eat around the gluten on the plate!
Returning from the kitchen our second waiter had double checked with the chef and thankfully assured me that the whole dish was actually gluten free. I nervously ate it hopeful that I was given the right advice, whilst grateful that I could eat it as it was the bomb! I had absolutely no ill effect that evening and have since contacted management who confirmed that this is correct, the dish is completely gluten free. Bit of a mix up but it was all good in the end.
Ace and Enrique’s are both affordable places to hit up for a decent meal when you’re on a bit of a budget but want more than just fast food. The music is pumped up loud, the lights are dimmed and the service is quick and friendly.Chompchomp dined at Ace and Enrique on her meagre end of month budget with an equal contribution from the Boy. Ace Pizza 448 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0499 448 000 | www.acepizza.com.au Price $$ Share plates $6-32, Pizzas $15-26 (no GF pizza available)
Enrique’s School for to Bullfighting 484 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0438 248 414 | Facebook
Many of you will appreciate that an important part of travel preparation is to plan all the places where you are going to head out to eat. As a direct result of this pre-planning, my holidays always seem to turn into a crazed eating feast moving from one venue to another in a mad attempt to complete an enormous bucket list of dishes and venues. One of the places I really wanted to visit in Barcelona was the famous Ferran Adria’s Tickets Bar. Tickets has the reputation of being one of the hardest restaurants in the world to secure a table at. I tried my best to get a seat online before I left Australia without success. On arrival in Barcelona I tried waiting outside Tickets before they opened that night in the grim hope of scoring someone else’s cancellation but this was all in vain. The closest I could get to entering the restaurant was a quick photo taken out the front with Debbie, my lovely new friend from Texas, that I had met at the conference I was attending that week.
Luckily there are a number of more accessible restaurants owned by the same group within walking distance albeit neither are headed by the acclaimed Chef Adria.
I consoled myself knowing at least I would be able to visit both of these other locations called Casa de Tapas and Rias de Galicia. I was so thankful that my newly made friends that I had met at the vet conference were also keen foodies and were more than happy to oblige my needs. I loved Casa’s quirky menu which came presented as a children’s book complete with wacky cartoons.
We ordered a bunch of tapas dishes to share, many of which were naturally gluten free and thus not requiring any adaptation. Within the first few days of arriving in Spain I had learnt to politely request to the wait staff “Sin gluten per favor?” voiced in my poorly pronounced Spanish. These seemed to be the magic words needed to help reveal my gluten free options. It amazed me that how no matter where we stopped to eat in Barcelona, everything tasted so damn good! Casa de Tapas’s marinated olives contained a mix of four different types including gordal sevillana, caspe, verdial and kalamata.
A simple dish that I grew to love in my time in Spain was “escalivada”, or smoked roasted vegetables. Soft strips of capsicum and eggplant were lightly charred and drizzled with olive oil making them as delicate as butter. This dish would have been even more amazing cast on top of some crusty bread. Sadly the only place I found gluten free bread in Barcelona was back at my hotel.
My friends each ordered themselves a “fried box of things” as it was described on the menu. Each wooden box contained a variety of crispy fried pieces of seafood including school prawns, calamari and octopus. It smelt absolutely amazing and made me quickly reach over for the menu to order myself some more food as I started to salivate.
With each dish we ate, Casa de Tapas reinforced the concept that you don’t need to use lots of fancy ingredients to make food taste amazing. All you require are fresh ingredients prepared with love. Dishes as simple as flash fried green peppers and poached prawns needed nothing extra for flavour other than a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Of course a meal in Spain wouldn’t have been complete without a serve of “pulpo”. There is nothing quite like Spanish octopus, it takes on a texture I rarely find replicated back home in Perth. It is so soft and nearly creamy, with no chewiness and is dusted with paprika and spices. This dish was served on top of slices of boiled potato that mashed easily under my fork. I smeared the potato over the spicy octopus sections and happily gobbled it up.
Casa de Tapas offer simple traditional Galician styled tapas without breaking the bank. I was very appreciative that they were so helpful with selecting gluten free tapas dishes for me. We found the service to be quick and friendly and would have been happy to return again and again if it wasn’t for my lengthy bucket list!Casa de Tapas Cañota Calle Lleida 7, 08004 Barcelona, Spain | 93 325 9171 | casadetapas.com Chompchomp’s Barcelona trip in July 2013 was partly funded for by her place of work as part of her continuing education fund. She had to foot the food bill for the week herself however despite eating the most absurd amount of food she found it to cost much less than an equivalent amount of feasting in her home-town of Perth, Australia.
We really have to consider ourselves lucky living here in Perth. Not only do we have the Swan Valley, a fabulous wine region only half an hour’s drive from the CBD, but for those willing to do a weekender trip we also have Margaret River. In November every year this relaxed little town becomes a buzz with life for the three day food festival; Gourmet Escape. Last year the Boy and I attended in full feasting force visiting the Gourmet Village on both days in addition to attending a few fabulous satellite events. We ate uncontrollably all weekend long and our repeated episodes of over-indulgence stretched our stomachs to near-bursting capacity. After just a few hours of not eating, our saggy baggy internal gizzards would start to gurgle and unbelievably we would get hungry again. On our last night before returning to Perth, we rolled our giant sized bodies down to the main strip to find ourselves more food. Our noses lead us to Morries Anytime.
I started off with looking at Morries Anytime’s cocktail menu. Their mixologist Billy Phillips was recently awarded “highly commended” for the Mixologist Award in the 2013 AHA Awards. Earlier that day at the Food for Thought sessions at Voyager Estate I had thoroughly enjoyed his Billy’s Punch and now I was keen to try more of his beverages. It had been quite a hot day and I needed something non-alcohol to start. This being quite a rarity for me I was thrilled to see a variety of interesting mocktails available. I chose the Green Guy; a jar of cold Green tea with added cucumber, rosemary and lime. I gulped it down eagerly and felt its icy freshness hit the back of my palate and slowly cool me down from the inside. My second drink was a Tart Gin Cooler. It contained a long pour of Tanqueray gin split with a freshly squeezed grapefruit and topped with a splash of Peychauds bitters tonic & fresh basil. It was as strong as rocket fuel and made up for my earlier sobriety.
Morrie’s menu facilitates shared style dining which suited us fine as we just wanted to pick and nibble the night away together. Our first choice was the treacle cured salmon. Melt-in-your-mouth thin slices of brightly coloured salmon had just a delicate hint of caramel sweetness. It was coupled alongside a grilled fennel and pear salad with orange vinaigrette.
For nearly a whole year previously the Boy refused to eat oysters after eating a bad one and I’m so relieved that he has finally put those memories behind him and got back in the oyster saddle. Morries oysters came with a perfect sized dollop of gin and cucumber sorbet. We necked back these fresh, slurpalicious beauties much quicker than we really should have. Gluttony dies hard.
Relishing in the freshness of the seafood we ordered the fresh prawn meat salad served with crispy baby cos lettuce, sweet corn, radish and a thick lemon dressing. After eating quite a lot of heavy food all day these dishes sat so light in our overextended stomachs. The only problem was we kept ordering more.
For the days preceding our trip I was convinced that my iron level were plummeting again as that familiar tiredness, cold chills and achiness had started to return. Whilst I don’t eat red meat often, when my body craves it I listen and consequently ordered myself the porterhouse steak.
The steak was served with a luscious scoop of horseradish crème fraiche on a creamy potato terrine with asparagus and vine ripened tomatoes. That’s my dose of iron for the day, check. As a backup, I wrote myself a reminder in my calendar to take more iron tablets in the following week.
The Boy has also recognised my need for iron as I’m normally a very energetic person and the iron deficiency version of me becomes very quiet and sleepy. Thankfully he kept his lectures on the need to eat a plant based diet to himself that evening and ordered himself the raw zucchini pasta and a rocket salad.
Each “pasta” ribbon was long and spaghetti-like just how we both like it and I quickly nabbed a big forkful before he could fight me off. The zucchini was coated liberally in a creamy nut truffle sauce and mixed in with fresh raw peas and herbs. My inner truffle addict relished in that wondrous unique flavour.
Morries Anytime is a must on your next visit to Margaret River. They have options to suit all dietary requirements including gluten free, vegetarian and vegan dishes. I was really keen to return to try their breakfast menu on the next day but we ran out of time and had to get back to Perth for work. Morries have placed as finalists in both the AHA Awards and the Gold Plate Awards in 2013 and scored an appearance in the latest West Australian Good Food Guide. And rightfully so, we will definitely make a repeat visit next time we are down south.Morries Anytime Shop 2, 149 Bussell Highway, Margaret River WA 6285 | (08) 9758 8280 | www.morries.com.au Price: $$$ (Tapas $7-15, Mains $32-38) Food: 3.8/5 (right on the money with share dishes, local ingredients) Service: 3.8/5 (relaxed and casual, no pretension) Ambience: 3.2/5 (dark and moody at night, hard for food photography!) Drinks: 4/5 (go for the rocket fuelled cocktails) Total: 15.2/20
Some of my friends suggest that I eat out too much. While that may be true it does depend on what you use as your reference point. The fact that I have an ever-increasing back log of pending blog posts may give some weight to support this accusation. On my trip to Barcelona last year I travelled without my husband making it the first time we were separated since we started dating nearly sixteen years ago. It felt strange and empty without him but I was lucky enough to find myself a wonderful group of friends which became my buddies for the whole week I was away. Every night the five of us would journey out into Barcelona for a meal together and I was so appreciative of their lovely and welcoming friendship. We all are still in contact with each other and hope to meet together again sometime. On our first night out for dinner as a group I really wanted to try to score a table at Tickets but being such a famous venue they were booked out well in advance. Deb and Tyler, the married couple among us strongly recommended to return where they ate at the night before; Restaurant L’Amfora.
Traditional and unassuming it didn’t look like much from the front as is typical of many of the excellent restaurants we ate at that week. I love the simplicity and lack of pretension in Barcelona leaving the focus to always be on the food. We were very warmly greeted and offered a table alfresco style on the street or indoors. All wanting to soak up the weather and atmosphere we sat outside.
Each table already had fresh tomatoes, garlic and oil placed for customers to make their own tomato bread. As I expected they didn’t have any gluten free bread so I watched with gleaming hungry eyes as my apologetic friends rubbed their garlic vigorously into the freshly toasted bread. I made a mental note to ensure to make this basic but very tasty snack as soon as I could get hold of some decent gluten free bread.
Having already started our own personal culinary exploration of this beautiful city, we each had found a number of Catalan favourites. For Deb and Tyler, one of these was a dish that I hadn’t seen before; a whole sea bass baked in sea salt. Interestingly this dish is not salty at all as the sea salt hardens around the fish into a crust when in the oven. This locks in all the flavour and juices of the fish.
Our fish was part baked before being brought to the table for a theatrical finish. I am presuming most of the actual cooking is done in the oven. Our waiter put on quite a show as he lit up the whole fish into flames. You could pick who were locals and who were tourists as the former barely batted an eyelid whilst the foreigners on surrounding tables looked on in awe.
After allowing the flames to die out our waiter carefully removed the solid chunks of salt along with the skin to expose the soft, moist flesh underneath.
You can order paella from literally everywhere in Spain; in fact it was easier to find it than a burger and fries. No matter where any of us ordered it we were never disappointed. Personally I tended to steer away from ordering it too often as it often contained onions. Our table’s serve was meant for one but could have easily fed two and was topped with a variety of fresh local seafood.
Although our waiter spoke English quite well, I still showed him the courtesy of handing over my eating card in Spanish to take to the kitchen. He was knowledgeable enough of the very large menu to recommend a couple of dishes for me. The squid was simply prepared with garlic, fresh lemon and herbs. Tender without any chewiness I began to wonder if there would be anywhere in Barcelona where the food would fail to impress me.
My second dish he recommended was smoked flathead with marinated eggplant and capsicum. With such basic and minimal ingredients this is a meal that fresh ingredients and preparation is key. There were more fillets of fish than I could finish and each piece flaked apart easily imparting a deep smoky aftertaste. Whilst I initially thought this to be a strange combination with the marinated vegetables, the sweetness of the capsicum and near creaminess of the eggplant rounded the flavours off perfectly.
We ended the night with a bit more entertainment as our very expressive waiter insisted we try his speciality; the banana flambé. Whilst this is by no means a traditional Spanish dessert, it allowed our seemingly pyromaniac waiter to light another fire. As we had already drunk our way through a fair bit of gin and sangria by this point, we were not complaining. As he prepared our dish rather flamboyantly, he learnt from my friends that I was a food blogger and proceeded to extend an invitation for me to return the next day to try the whole menu. All ten of or pages of it! Suffice to say I didn’t get back to try such a feast but there is always a next time! Barcelona taught me not to judge a restaurant by its cover as it has many pleasant surprises and Restaurant L’Amfora Barcelona was certainly one of them.
Restaurant L’Amfora Barcelona
Avenue Paral-lel, 184, 08015, Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 933 253 427 | www.restaurantamfora.com
Some people shop until they drop. Me? I just eat until I drop. gluten free Barcelona
Surely, by far and by large the best part of travelling to another country is being able to taste their local cuisine. When the Boy and I travel together we will always share our dishes so that we can try as many different things as possible. Recently I travelled to Barcelona without my lovely husband to attend the International Society of Feline Medicine’s World Feline Veterinary Conference. This was a new experience travelling solo and it presented me with a problem; I no longer had a buddy to share food my food with. Now logically one would think that there is an easy solution to this problem. Just order less food. But no, this solution was never going to work as moderation has never been my forte. I take the concept of “all or nothing” very seriously.
For most of my restaurant meals that I devoured in Barcelona I will write (or have already written) an individual blog post about the experience. But as I wandered through the cobbled streets of this wonderful city I found that it was so easy finding a gluten free Barcelona to enjoy so in addition to my more elaborate meals I wanted to share these extra snippets and snacks with you.
If you head out toward the coast of Barcelona you will find a quaint neighbourhood called La Barceloneta. It is a triangular shaped district that cuts into the sea and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Port Vell and the trendy El Born neighbourhood. Filled with cute little narrow streets you can smell the fresh taint of sea in the air. Strolling through the cobbled lane ways I found loads of busy tapas bars and restaurants serving wonderful cheap Catalan food.
On my first day in Barcelona I wanted to familiarise myself with some key foodie spots so I took a small personalised tapas tour with a German man named Dirk Engelhart. One of the places he took us to was a bustling little joint called La Bombeta who specialise in a Catalan dish called “bombas”. Bombas are deep-fried balls of fluffy mashed potato with a minced meat centre and they are served with a spicy brava sauce. They are not gluten free unfortunately so I didn’t try them. As I looked around the cramped bar I noticed it was filled with a combination of both locals and tourists. Always a good sign.
Bombas are not the only thing on La Bombeta’s menu and there were plenty of gluten free options for me. I ordered of bowl of piping hot steamed mussels, a plate of grilled sardines and some fresh prawns. The service was quick and the vibe was noisy but fun. The prawns were so fresh and crunchy with a strong, rich flavour; these were ones that were good enough to suck the juices out of their heads. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to enjoy such a delicacy, I shamelessly sucked every one noisily while the remaining two tour members in our group looked on in horror.
Dirk also took us to a small little dessert bar called Sweet Dreams, which is located in the heart of the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter. I was ecstatic to see quite a number of gluten free mini-cakes that looked very different from the usual boring, bog standard offerings. I tried their chocolate genoise cake with orange cream and passionfruit coulis. Fairy light sponge was topped with uplifting cream and embellished with tangy coulis. This was an assault on my senses that I could happily endure again and again.
The conference spanned over one week and the majority of it was fully catered for with meals provided by the hotel; Hotel Fira Palace. But honestly, when you are staying in such a fabulous gastronomic country like Spain who wants to eat hum drum catered food? Intermittently I found myself sneaking out of lectures into the sunshine to grab myself a quick bite of something more local. Surprisingly I found that most of the places that I visited had a good understanding of what is gluten free provided that I asked them the correct magic words:
“Por favor, Sin gluten?”
Strangely, the remarkably similar words of “no gluten” or “gluten free’ appeared to be much harder for the locals to understand and consequently I earned the nickname of “Dr Sin Gluten” by a group of four lovely foodie friends that I meet on the first day of the conference.
The wonderful thing about travelling to an international conference is that you can meet like-minded people from all around the world. The five of us spanned across the globe; one from Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, one from West Virginia, a couple from Austin, Texas and then of course there was myself from Perth, Australia. We all instantly seemed to click with each other and proceeded to spend the rest of the week wining, dining, laughing and sharing stories together until the wee hours of each morning. I look forward to the next time that we can all gather together again! Hopefully it will be soon!
Prior to meeting my posse, one of the first places I tried was Conessa, a little sandwich store in Plaça Sant Jaume situated in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Conessa specialise in making gluten free baguettes and they have a huge range to choose from and an English menu. My eating habits had already started to escalate out of control so I sensibly wanted to just try something light. I chose one of their vegetarian options which contained my absolute favourite Spanish cheese manchego along with fresh tomato, fried pepper and oregano. The bread was very fluffy and did not crumble apart as many gluten free breads are prone to doing. The bread had a slight sweet taste that reminded me of brioche both with its texture and its flavour.
Northern Spain is the origin of pintxos and Barcelona has numerous pintxos bars dotted all about their streets. Since Bar de Halcyon recently opened in Perth many of us are now educated to appreciate what pintxos are but for those who are not in the know, they are are basically small snacks that are speared by a wooden stick and served on a bar where you go up and choose for yourself. Once you have eaten your full, the waiter will come over to your table and count how many sticks you have which determines your bill. Like many sushi bars who use coloured plates, some pintxos bars will use different colour sticks to indicate varying prices.
Traditionally pintxos are served on a slice of crusty bread meaning that most of them are not gluten free. Bilbao Berria is a popular pintxos bar in Plaça Nova and their bar is filled with all sorts of amazing Catalan tapas. Unfortunately, whilst the wait staff are friendly and efficient they weren’t overly helpful in assisting me to choose gluten free options. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and made a not so educated guess what was suitable.
Everything looked far too tempting and I wanted to try them all! To maximise how many pintxos I could eat I stupidly talked myself into believing that I would be FINE pulling the toppings off the bread and just eating those without eating the bread. Of course I was totally wrong and the gluten contamination proved enough for me to have a reaction that evening. It’s my own stupid fault for being so brazen. Or greedy. Nevertheless, despite my own self-inflicted gluten ingestion, I was still impressed with the variety and quality of pintxos on offer at Bilbao Berria and for those people blessed with no gluten intolerance I highly recommend a visit.
When we hit the mid-week mark, there was a lecture free afternoon to allow delegates time to explore the city. Our posse of five headed out together with basic ambitions to catch rays of sunshine, eat some food and do a spot of shopping. Off we headed down Avenue Parallel and before long we had worked up a bit of an appetite and agreed to stop and eat. We sat down outside at a fairly nondescript tapas bar situated along the Avenue however I didn’t catch their name. What I do remember is that despite speaking very poor English they were extremely helpful and enthusiastic in advising me what was “sin gluten” on their simple and inexpensive tapas menu.
For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you may have already been reading about my obsession for marinated octopus that started whilst I was over in Spain. Back home in Perth I commonly find octopus to be quite chewy. Not so in Barcelona. The Spaniards obviously take much greater care preparing these creatures and every time I ate it over there I was repeatedly astounded how soft and delicate it can actually be.
My fellow companions also ordered their favourite; tomato bread or pan con tomate. This is one of the simplest, well-loved, widely eaten and famous dishes from Cataluña. Many tapas bars will have a bowl of tomatoes and garlic sitting on the table with a bottle of olive oil so you can make the bread yourself. It is so easy to make but unfortunately not many bars have gluten free bread! Consequently upon my return to Perth I was inspired to make my own gluten free pan con tomate. See my recipe here.
Before I left Perth for Barcelona, I asked around on Twitter for advice on where to eat. I was told by one blogger to just “Eat everything!” There is some merit in this comment because for my whole week in Barcelona, I didn’t have one meal that failed to impress me. Whether it was a planned and highly researched degustation extravaganza like at Nectari and Ria de Gallacia, or just a spontaneous, unplanned stop-in at Restaurant L’Amfora as we were walking past; all the food I ate was amazing. More importantly I found that a gluten free Barcelona really does exist leaving me champing at the bit to return to this amazing city!
It is no wonder that I managed to become a fatty boombaladi so rapidly and although I cannot wait to return to Spain, I have some hard work at the gym first!La Bombeta Calle de la Maquinista 3, La Barceloneta, 08003 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 933 199 445 | (Tapas 4.50-14 €) Sweet Dreams Carrer Regomir 4 bis, Barric Gótico, 08002 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 671 430 115 Bilbao Berria Plaça Nova 3, Barcelona & c/Argenteria 6, Barcelona | +34 (0) 933 170 124 Conessa Barri Gòtic: Llibreteria 1(Plaça Sant Jaume), 08002 Barcelona | +34 (0) 933 101 394 Hostafrancs-Montjuic: Creu Coberta 80, 08014 Barcelona
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
This year has been such a hectic and emotional one which has flown by with the speed of light. It has been a whole year since the Boy finally managed to convince me after much persuasion to start writing a blog. After an initial few quiet months while in its fledgling state, it has now grown to be something I am proud to call my own. Many of my close friends are loyal regular readers and are always keen to be part of the Chompchomp phenomenon by joining me on my gastronomic expeditions around Perth.
My wedding expert friend Tara is one of these supportive people and she jumped at the opportunity of a night out with our respective others to Duende to celebrate my first blogiversary coupled with a bit of “wedding talk”.
It was one of those first glorious balmy spring days and I was drunk on the delightful sunshine and perhaps maybe also the bottle of Billecart the boy bought for us in the afternoon. I donned a short summery frock, slipped on some killer Diavolina platforms and bared my winter legs. Call it a stark rebuttal against any further threats of the dreaded cold weather!
We started at The Garden for a few rounds of drinks before heading over to Duende for dinner. Neither Tara nor her husband suffer from any dietary intolerance and were happy to order a selection of dishes that were suitable for me so we could all share. We started off with a bottle of gorgeously bright ruby coloured Pe Tinto Tempranillo, an organic and biodynamic wine from Portugal. We then proceeded to work our way through most of the gluten free options on the menu. Of which there were many!
The marinated olive selection contained over four different types with a broad range of textures and tastes to suit all of our palates. The chorizo had generous amount of heat in it and was thickly cut and juicy.
Patatas bravas are one of my favourite Spanish dishes. Parboiled potatoes are deep fried before being coated with a variety of spices, vinegar and red pepper. They can be served with a number of different types of sauces depending on the area of Spain and which can range from a tomato based sauce to more of an aioli style. These crispy slices of heaven had a generous paprika dusting and were seasoned with some lemony tasting vinegar. The level of spiciness was fairly mild and I would have preferred a bit more of a punch however the Boy was relieved with the relatively low heat.
The pork belly had a luscious creamy texture and literally melted into the polenta without any fatty aftertaste. The pear and plump muscatels gave a pleasant sweet note but I did my best to avoid these two fructose filled fruits.
The lamb rump was quite a surprise. I didn’t really read the menu carefully enough to be prepared for the enchanting sweet maple flavours from the fenugreek. It actually took us all a few moments to work out where the flavours came from! The rump was succulent and pink.
The pickled beetroots were hidden under a loose pile of fresh rocket, goat cheese and hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are my favourite nut, in part due to my praline addiction but additionally it brings back indulgent teenage memories of eating Nutella by the jar full. Although an interesting dish this wasn’t one of the better ones.
Initially we were a little reserved in ordering the beef cheeks after hearing negative feedback from a friend that found them to be dry. Cheeks are a cheaper cut of meat with a higher proportion of fat, sinew, connective tissue and bone in them. Provided they are cooked correctly this generally means they are more delicious, though they do require a little time and care when cooking.
We were right in taking the gamble because our cheeks were incredibly flavoured, delicately tender and we really should have ordered two serves and maybe left out the beetroot.
The sensation of squeaky haloumi always brings a smile to my face. Coupled with rich smoky undertones of eggplant puree this simple dish was a crowd pleaser.
Px vinegar is made with the sweet Pedro Ximenez grapes and was the perfect combination with gorgonzola to top the earthy mushrooms. I know I’m a little biased as I have a mushroom addiction but these slippery little nuggets packed a powerful burst of flavour and I could have eaten many more had I not already stuffed my face with everything else!
We chose 3 out of the selection of five available French and Spanish cheeses and it was quite a feat narrowing it down to three. If I wasn’t already bursting at the seams I would have said one of each! Our choice included a semi-firm cow’s cheese Mahon from Spain and two French cheeses; Roquefort, a creamy blue sheep cheese and Sainte Maure, a soft buttery goat cheese.
For sweets we ordered the doughnut balls with condensed milk ice cream. Obviously these were not for me as they are full of all the gluten in the land; a fact my companions were very content with as it meant there was all the more for them!
After reading a multitude of positive reviews on Duende over the years I cannot believe it took me this long to try them for myself. They more than exceeded my expectations and have to be the best tapas I have experienced in Perth by far. We loved it so much that we actually headed back for a quick midweek bite later that following week! And yes….we ordered more of those patatas bravas.Duende 662 Newcastle Street, Leederville 6007 | (08) 9228 0123 | http://www.duende.com.au/ Price: $$$ (Tapas share dishes range from $4-25, we share 11 dishes/4 people = stuffed!) Food: 4.5/5 (if I had more room I would have tried more!) Service: 4/5 (dishes didn’t come out too quickly, friendly and helpful) Ambience: 4.5/5 (buzzing vibe, I could nearly imagine myself back in Spain…) Drinks: 4/5 (interesting wine list, plenty of by the glass options) Total: 17/20
I had been stuffing my face with scrumptious gluten free cakes at the Clandestine Cake Club all afternoon. Despite my gluttony I wasn’t feeling overly full and seeing as the Boy had actually gone to the effort to book us a dinner reservation at The Precinct in Victoria Park so I couldn’t exactly refuse. Being the obsessed foodie of the house, I am generally the one who arranges our regular eating expeditions and so I get very excited when the Boy does it all for me. I was hoping I could extend my afternoon with the bestie and drag her along too especially as she hadn’t hung out with the both of us in some time. However my powers of persuasion were seemingly dulled by all my cake indulgence because she declined my pleading to return home to study for her yoga teacher training class the following day.
The preceding week had been a fairly traumatic one for us both due to some distressing major family issues all finally coming to a head. To add insult to injury, we were both under the weather with the winter sniffles and as if things couldn’t get any worse I had accidentally reversed into the Boy’s car in the pitch black of the early morning. Eeeek! So I’m sure you can understand why we just wanted to put all our cares aside and do what we both enjoy most….dining out together.
The Precinct in Vic Park was opened earlier this year by Daniel Morris who is well-known for also running the highly successful Little Creatures, Balthazar and Il Lido. It was to be our first proper wine bar here in Vic Park; something many of us locals feel has been a long time coming. But despite public support they were knocked back twice for their Small Bar license and operated as a BYO wine bar for several months. Finally they have managed to secure a restaurant license and have ensured that all their staff know their wines exceedingly well. We have revisited a number of times since they have opened and I have confidence that they can always recommend a suitable choice for us both.
Initially I found that their gluten free, onion free options were quite limited for me but since then I have noticed that this has improved somewhat upon subsequent visits. The food style is quite casual and simple but seemingly executed fairly well. In usual style we started off with a couple of share dishes before our mains. The marinated olives contained a mix of black and green olives with a variety of types and intensity of flavours.
As the Boy wasn’t nearly as full of cake as I, he also ordered the whitebait (not gluten free). They were very crispy, perhaps a little too much so and came served with a beer aioli.
The Precinct’s charcuterie plate changes regularly and although we order it nearly every time we visit we have never had the same plate twice. This night we had some fresh sliced Angus beef salami, some orange chicken pâté and a pair of pork rillettes. Some cornichons and mustard were served on the side. The salami was delicate and soft with a slight salty aftertaste. Hints of citrus undertones came through beautifully in the pâté although I wish they had some gluten free bread for me to smear it onto. The pork rillettes held great shape and texture and were mildly flavoured.
Although the Boy and I love eating and discovering new foods, prior to my blogging days if we were out at one of our regular haunts, we would often both fall back on ordering our tried and tested favourites. These days I feel so guilty when doing this. I believe in order for me to accurately make an assessment for a review of a restaurant I need to sample as many of their dishes as possible. This gives me a much wider and more realistic perception of their food. This ideal has fallen out the window during our past three visits to The Precinct ever since I tried their roast chicken. It’s really really good!
To be quite honest, I’m not even one to order chicken in the first place. I figure why order something I can cook just as easily (and as well) at home? Thank goodness I forgot about this theory and tried this dish. The chicken is slow cooked (sous-vide) and so be aware it is normal for such chicken to appear slightly pink on the inside. The consistency of this chicken is like no roast chicken you have had before. The breast nearly melts under my knife and is as juicy as you would expect a thigh to be. The leg meat slips of the bone effortlessly. You can taste lemon thyme though every mouthful. It is served simply with some seasonal vegetables on the side.
The boy ordered the lamb duo which consisted of some slow cooked pulled lamb topped with a lamb cutlet. The cutlet was very meaty and although quite chargrilled on the surface was cooked beautifully inside. Walnut spaetzle is a type of Northern European style noodle made with flour and eggs, and in this case also walnuts. They almost looked like little dumplings and tasted fairly bland on their own without any of the lamb or sauce (so the Boy informed me).
The Boy kept proclaiming (again) that he didn’t want dessert! I think this past month of incessant eating has dulled his sweet tooth somewhat. Refusing to be completely defeated I ordered us the citrus chocolate salad. I don’t recommend this dish if you genuinely want a dessert as it is very light and refreshing. However seeing as I had indulged all afternoon on all the cakes, it filled my last spot in my stomach perfectly. For something more substantial I recommend their banana pie. This gluten free decadence is nothing like you expect and is more like a mousse than any pie I’ve ever had.
During the course of this evening, the Boy and I pondered over Chompchomp’s growth and development since I commenced blogging some 11 months ago. It has been such an exciting and rewarding journey so far as I continue to try and further improve both my writing style and my photography. Better still it is satisfying to watch my readership grow week by week knowing that others are (hopefully) enjoying reading it as much as I am writing it. The Boy started to consider whether he too may gain such rewards from writing his own blog and decided if he ever did, it would be about beer; a long standing passion of his.
Thus after a number of drinks, together we created the game “Chompchomp roulette”. This is where the Boy hands the beer menu over to me and I choose a random beer for him to enjoy. Relinquishing this control over his beverage choice is huge…..he is a fussy connoisseur with his beers. To make matters more interesting my knowledge of beers is very poor due to my inability to drink it. For our first play on the “wheel” I chose Delirium Nocturnum; a triple fermented Belgian ale known for its high alcohol content.
Suffice to say after finishing our drinks, his attitude on dessert came around full circle and he insisted on stopping in at Baskin and Robbins for a tub of dairy deliciousness. He defaulted to his usual favourites of cookies and cream with peppermint choc chip.
Every night that we have visited The Precinct we have always found all the staff to be energetic, friendly and very well acquainted with both their wine list and their food. On earlier visits we did find the staff lacking a bit of team work with drinks being forgotten and multiple staff coming to us to asked the same questions however, like the number of gluten free options, this is definitely improving. I figure it is better to have overattentive wait staff than ones that ignore their customers. I am keen to return for breakfast as they have slow cooked eggs on the menu but it currently looks like I’ll need to BYO gluten free bread. That I do not mind! I am so happy this is my new local!
I have been literally dying to take the Boy with me to The Imp in Victoria Park for so long but every time we plan to go there it is so packed full of customers that there is no free table available for us. Having been there several times myself I knew he would love it. It’s always buzzing and alive with atmosphere and the staff are all funky, vibrant and friendly. We had completed our usual Sunday walk around the river together accompanied by my new toy; my first DLSR camera which I have nicknamed “Gordon”. I had been busy happy snapping away at the gorgeous scenery and felt that all too familiar reminder what an awesome city we live in.
The Imp is not a place to go if your prone to claustrophobia, it is a tiny cosy little place and the tables are squeezed together closely meaning you have to shimmy in-between them to get to your seat. We sat next to an attractive looking African family who were enjoying their lunch. Sitting with them was their gorgeous little toddler with hair all up in little pony tails. She couldn’t drag her eyes away from staring at us, seemingly mesmerised by my Fendi handbag brimming with contents. As I pulled out my new camera her interest heightened and she watched with great amusement while I played around with the settings.
Upon ordering I enquired which dishes could be made gluten free. I was informed by the waitress that they no longer can guarantee any dishes gluten free. She explained to me that the previous chef made a big mistake in sourcing non-gluten free soba noodles and served them to a Coeliac who proceeded to become very unwell halfway through her meal. This chef was sacked as a consequence of her oversight and since then they don’t want to take any further risks in making people unwell. Fair enough. I appreciated her honesty. I am lucky enough to not be quite as sensitive as other gluten intolerants; provided gluten isn’t an actual ingredient in the dish any slight cross contamination in the kitchen very rarely poses me too much trouble.
I ordered the scrambled eggs, herb salad & truffle oil which normally also comes with toast. As they didn’t have any gluten free bread as a replacement the waitress kindly offered to serve some fresh avocado on the side instead at no extra cost. To my satisfaction the truffle oil tasted very strong and fresh. I get so disappointed when the oil is aged so much that the truffle flavour is nothing but a mere hint, that’s just teasing.
The Boy ordered the burger which came with pickled cucumber, hand cut potatoes and aioli with the added option of bacon. The beef burger was small but very juicy and seasoned well. The bun was soft and held its shape adequately without going too soggy or brittle. The bacon was grilled a touch short of crispy which was fortunate as the boy prefers his bacon meaty not crunchy. The fries needed a little extra salt but were otherwise quite tasty.
We had both worked up a reasonable sweat during our walk (despite my constant stopping to photograph things of interest) so we agreed to share a dessert. I ordered a flourless orange cake which came with some vanilla ice cream and was topped with the cutest little meringue. I was probably a bit too full to enjoy this thoroughly as I found the cake to be a little bland. The Boy enjoyed most of the ice cream which was creamy and sweet. Perhaps my taste buds were still too busy rocking out on all that amazing truffle oil!
Serving fabulous breakfast, lunch and dinner; The Imp is somewhat of a foodie’s icon here in Vic Park. They continue to be extremely popular due to consistently great food, quirky friendly service and an ever-changing seasonal menu. A definite local fav of ours.The Imp 863 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park 6101 | (08) 9361 2600 | www.theimp.com.au/ Price: $ (Breakfast $6-20, Lunch $13-16, Tapas $8-26) Food: 4.5/5 (who doesn’t love lashings of truffle oil for breakfast?) Service: 4/5 (no table service, but friendly and fast) Ambience: 4/5 (busy, loud and vibrant) Drinks: 4/5 (serves Fiori coffee, big selection of teas, BYO for dinner) Total: 16.5/20
It is always amazes me how quickly winter creeps up in Perth. Maybe it’s because we’re a little spoilt here in this sunny city. We have long glorious summers and comparably short winters meaning we never really get acclimatised to the concept of being cold so when it does come it really hits us with a shock. Notoriously the Boy’s birthday always comes about at just that point in time when the very first cold snap arrives. Not that we have ever let cold weather stand in the way of good fun mind you, in fact one year I remember he decided it a grand idea to jump in our pool with the bestie! So this year out we went in the freezing rain for some birthday celebrations. As we left the house he excitedly reminded me again that the next time we celebrate our birthdays together we will be husband and wife! It still gives me goose bumps of joy saying that!
A number of weeks ago in an attempt to adhere to our wedding budget I had purchased a Spreets coupon for Villa D’Este. It was a very good deal: a three course meal for two for only $99. Quite a few years ago our bank took us out for dinner here. We all had a wonderful meal back then so I figured that this place had some potential to be a much better coupon experience than our previous recent outings.
One thing that really drives the Boy crazy is feeling like he is being ripped off by cab drivers. As soon as we climb into a taxi no matter where we are, he is as sharp as a tack in noticing any dodgy tactics they might use to make extra money. As I naïvely chatted away to him on our way over to West Perth, I could feel that something was really bothering him yet I couldn’t quite work out what. I continued to remain completely oblivious for long enough for him to become a little impatient and frustrated with me. Finally as I noticed what a long winded route we were taking the penny dropped and I nodded my head knowingly at him.
After our scenic route we eventually arrived at our pre-dinner destination Amphoras Bar. The driver proceeded to slowly and deliberately remove our change coin by coin and placed it on the centre console. He even stopped mid-counting coins a couple of times to fiddle with his phone, Navman and a few other knobs in his car. The Boy was convinced that the driver was pretending to have difficulty hoping we would say not to worry and he could keep the change. Being a very perceptive type he was probably right.
After the tension in the taxi it was a relief to walk into the cosy and warm atmosphere of Amphoras. I was literally freezing to my bones and I wanted a strong drink to defrost myself. I decided against ordering wine and chose a cocktail called La Parta Sur; it filled the spot wonderfully with no ice to chill me.
The mixed marinated olives contained a suitable mix of types and texture for variety; fleshy, firm Spanish olives, soft and flavoursome Kalamata and some little wild Ligurian olives. Not wanting too much food before we headed over to Villa D’Este, we selected a couple of little tapas dishes to keep us going until our late dinner reservation.
The scallops were a buttery treat served with sweet pickled cucumber and a corn relish. The flavours balanced beautifully without drowning out the enjoyment of the brilliant little mouthfuls of tender scallops. We also ordered some Pedro Ximenez glazed Rosa’s chorizo. Unfortunately the lighting didn’t allow my photos to be viewable so dear readers, you miss out on checking out this dish but I’ll let you know it’s worth going back for. The chorizo was literally bursting in meaty juiciness and had a slight caramelised surface due to the glaze. Thankfully this is my last post using my point-and-shoot so fuzzy photos will (hopefully) be a thing of Chompchomp’s past!
After a few rounds of drinks my bones had sufficiently thawed out enough to briefly brave the cold once again and walk quickly around the corner to Villa D’Este. Despite it being a fairly late booking the restaurant was totally packed and alive with noisy atmosphere. Our table wasn’t ready so we were shown to the bar to enjoy another round of drinks while we waited.
The Boy loves snails. You can be sure if they are on the menu he will order them guaranteed. These ones were cooked in the shells and served with a mixture of red wine, butter, garlic and parsley. The little suckers didn’t disappoint him and were soft, succulent and oozing in garlicky flavours.
My beef carpaccio had a lot of potential as the meat was exquisitely sliced and had a rich deep colour to it. Unfortunately I felt it was left a little drowned in the lemon dressing which overpowered any flavour or the meat leaving my mouth feeling pickled and sour.
The Boy ordered the Piccata Tartufata: medallions of veal which was topped with a slice of prosciutto, soft cheese and served with a truffle flavoured barbera wine sauce. He wasn’t very impressed with his choice, his meat was a little tough and the sauce lacked the rich flavours one would expect. He also commented that he could barely taste any truffle flavour.
I chose the Special of the Day which was prosciutto wrapped rabbit with roasted chestnuts and risotto cake. I hadn’t eaten roasted chestnuts since walking along the streets of Paris many years ago where they are sold by street vendors in cones of newspaper. It brought back wonderful memories of our time backpacking through Europe and although the rabbit was ever so slightly overcooked I still really enjoyed this dish.
For dessert I ordered the Duetto di Panna e Caramello which was a match made in heaven: consisting of a layer of pannacotta topped with a layer of crème caramel and drizzled with tart berry compote. Combining these two standouts from Italian and French cuisine and was by far and by large one of the highlights of the evening for me. I was so full that I was nearly on the verge of nausea yet I still managed to gobble most of it. In fact if it wasn’t the boy’s birthday, I would have been very reluctant to share any of it but seeing as it was meant to be his night to enjoy I meekly let his help me polish it off.
Of course I’m sure my regular dear readers could probably guess what he ordered for his own birthday dessert….yes you guess it, gelati! As expected in a fine dining Italian restaurant the gelati was smooth and towards the end I thought I spotted him nearly licking his bowl clean.
Happy Birthday my love, I hope you had a fabulous night out. Here’s to many more amazing birthdays together xxAmphoras Bar 1303 Hay St, West Perth 6005 | (08) 9226 4666 | www.amphorasbar.com.au Price: $$$ (Tapas dishes range from $7-39 per plate) Food: 4/5 (we only sampled a few dishes and must return to make a true judgment) Service: 3/5 (waiter not very knowledgeable about the menu ingredients/details) Ambience: 4/5 (warm, cosy & didn’t want to leave) Drinks: 4/5 (great wine list, fabulous cocktails) Total: 15/20 Villa D’Este Restaurant 49 Outram St, West Perth 6005 | (08) 9322 6262 | www.villadeste.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrees $26-39, Mains $39-54. We bought a $99 Spreets voucher which gave us a three course meal for two) Food: 3/5 (a little hit and miss in its execution) Service: 4.5/5 (brilliant, helpful & accommodating for my allergies) Ambience: 4.5/5 (feels like I’m in Italy) Drinks: 4/5 (extensive list of Australian and Italian wines) Total: 16/20
I am always feeling like I’m so time-starved; something I’m sure many of you readers can empathise with. I never have enough time in my days and weeks to catch up with the friends I hold dear to my heart. There is only so much of that void in my life that I can successfully offset via networks like Facebook and as soon as I have some time off from work, I get busy lining up catch up dates with neglected friends and family. A fellow foodie Tara and I have both been going on and on about wanting to go to Pata Negra together for ages. I’m sure the first time we discussed it must have been last year some time!
Pata negra is a Spanish tapas bar owned by chef David Coomer of Star Anise fame which was a fine dining icon in Perth for more than a decade. Regrettably Star Anise closed their doors last year but thankfully her edgier sister Pata Negra has remained opened.
After a number of false starts, Tara and I finally managed to coordinate our busy schedules and it was all locked in for a girlie night out. Her husband offered to stay at home with their two adorable little girls, and the Boy even offered to drop us in so we could both drink! We really are lucky women!
Contrary to my usual organisation, I had failed to notify the kitchen of my dietary requirements in advance. I’m not sure how I missed doing this and thus was a bit apprehensive as I sheepishly apologised to our waitress saying that I am a “difficult” customer with a couple of allergies. She didn’t seem too concerned with this and went off to the kitchen to have a chat with the chef.
We decided it was absolutely essential to start with a glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne while we deliberated over the menu. As we became more and more overwhelmed by all the mouth-watering options our waitress came over to say that pretty much anything off the menu could be adapted for me (except obviously the bread and crumbed items). Given my recent run of limited options dining out I was literally blown away. “Like you mean anything? Wow!”
While we agonised what to order we asked for some marinated olives to be brought to the table, hoping some food would facilitate some decision making. I was so thankful this time round that our waiter was more than happy for me to use my flash to take photos as the interior lighting is quite dim. After all my fuzzy images from Marque, I really wanted to be able to relish in some focused pictorial memories. The olives contained a satisfying range of types, sizes and colours allowing a variety of tastes. It was served in adorable little antiquey dishes.
The beef was such a simple dish yet each ingredient was carefully selected to create wonderful tiers of strong yet complementary flavours. The meat was a stunning dark cherry colour and had micro-thin veins of marbled fat running through it evenly. The walnuts introduced a slight bitter taste which was softened by the silky fetta and sweetened by the beets. Exquisite.
Ok, I realise this dish probably doesn’t look like much, but for those mushroom fans out there – this is the bomb. After falling in love with Andaluz’s mushrooms (and going back for subsequent visits for more) I am tempted to say these are even tastier! Some of this decision is possibly facilitated by my passion for the Spanish cheese Manchego. The distinctive and slightly salty flavour of this sheep’s cheese is wonderfully unique and is something not to be missed. Add in some meaty, juicy mushrooms and you have something quite amazing to devour! I again marvelled at how such simple dishes consisting of such few ingredients could be so fabulous.
I first discovered the deliciousness of slow cooked eggs some time ago at Greenhouse. These eggs are cooked for about 40 to 45 minutes but at much lower temperatures producing a very soft but evenly cooked egg. If you love soft poached eggs you will think these are nothing short of perfection. The octopus was slightly tougher than I prefer but was still very tasty and the chorizo provided a good contrast in textures.
These quails were huge in size! I am so used to being served such tiny little birds but these richly flavoured quails must have been weight lifting in their time! The meat was so moist, easily falling of the bone and it went well with the accompanying nutty wild rice and lentils. Two generous blobs of buffalo mozzarella completed the dish ideally.
The pork was my least favourite dish of the evening however there wasn’t really anything majorly wrong with it except maybe the meaty part of the pork was a bit dry. I think I was so excited about the layering of tastes in our previously ordered dishes that I wanted it to happen again and again.
Our dessert was absolutely blissful. The meringue had all the right components – the crisp outer shell, the hollow crunchy under-surface and the spongy moist centre. After spooning some of the tangy blood plum sauce liberally over the top, it was supremely heavenly. I didn’t try the pistachio cream as it contained gluten but if Tara’s oohs and aaahs were any indication it must have been pretty good. This year I seem to really be having some great success at shortening my restaurant wish list however many of these places just haven’t lived up to my own hype. Pata Negra on the other hand exceeded my expectations by a long shot. Brilliant service, awesome company and fantastic food; I cannot wait to bring the Boy back here!Pata Negra 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (tapas style dishes $7-17, mains $35-65) Food: 4.5/5 (not a single dish disappointed) Service: 4.5/5 (helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (ambient lighting and a Spanish feel, some couches would be nice though) Drinks: 4.5/5 (very large wine list with a lot of Spanish and Portuguese options) Total: 17.5/20
I simply love the concept of wine bars. Imagine a relaxing atmosphere without all the hype and pretention of a formal dining establishment, then add in a well thought out wine list plus some quality food and there you have it….the perfect relaxing quiet night out. Establishments such as Must Wine Bar have mastered this idea to perfection – providing awesome food and service in the best locations and venues. I know I can go to Must on any night of the week and be guaranteed a reliably fabulous night without disappointment. I really wanted to add Clarence’s Bar to my list of wine bar favourites in Perth, especially in light of the recent poor experience we had at Five Bar. In fact I really wanted to love it so much that at the start of our evening there I found myself almost starting to make excuses for all their shortcomings before the Chompchomp voice inside me screamed back “NO! Don’t do it!”
The night was a glut of mistakes and delays to the point that it became quite a comical conversation topic for the evening. As per usual I had notified the kitchen well in advance of my no gluten and no onion requirements. My sister also suffers from fructose malabsorption and I wanted to ensure that she could enjoy her time eating out in Perth as much as she does in her foodie hometown of Melbourne.
The night began with us being seated in one of their booths. The design of these booths was quite curious and I’m not sure what unusually proportioned people they had in mind to sit in them. They are meant to sit four people in them however realistically only four miniature people could successfully squeeze in and still be able to raise their arms up to eat their meals. I felt so sorry for the boy as he really struggled to actually fit into the booth at all – he is a strong, broad shouldered man and stands at 6 feet 3 inches tall – certainly not a small person by anyone’s definition. The poor love shuffled and wriggled in his failed attempts at getting comfortable. Fortunately my sister, Mum and I have all have quite small frames so we managed to crowd in tightly around him. But the bizarreness of the booths did not stop there. The table is set as an oddly high level and the seats are very low – giving one the impression the table is like a bib. It actually came up to the top of our chest. Coupled with being jammed in like sardines it did not make for easy eating.
Our waitress was very well prepared to go through their menu with us and she knew all the dishes on the menu thoroughly. She proceeded to read it out dish by dish, informing us that nearly every dish contained either gluten or onion. There were a small handful of dishes that she explained the onion (or gluten) could be omitted by leaving out particular key ingredients such as the accompanying sauce or base. I get frustrated when this happens – I feel like I’m punished because of my allergies with a more bland or tasteless version of a potentially great dish just because the chef won’t offer substitutions. It’s easy enough to leave an ingredient out – but a talented and creative chef can offer alternatives to ensure the dish flavours remain. This is why I always notify the venue in advance to give the chef time to think and plan.
For entree I ordered one of the few dishes that could be served unaltered which was the barbecued squid. Unfortunately it had been barbecued a tad too long and although I don’t mind a little chargrilled flavour, squid does not do well once it ventures into the well-done and chewy side. I felt the dish had so much potential if cooked correctly as the chermoula spices were uplifting however there is no coming back from tough tentacles.
My mum ordered the seared scallops served on a creative cauliflower brulee with shavings of pork crackle. The feeling of lost potential came through even more strongly with this dish as it was served meagrely lukewarm and on a cold plate. It left us with that sinking feeling of knowing we missed out of something amazing due to oversight and poor timing.
Following along the cold dish vibe, the boy’s soup was similarly served at a tepid temperature and I was unable to get any positive comment out of him about this dish. Unlike pasta, no matter how great a soup is, if it’s meant to be hot, it is rarely enjoyable cold. His bowl for the soup was also cold leaving us thinking someone must have forgotten to turn the heat lamps and plate warmers on.
Our dishes came out at haphazard times, so by the time I had finished my cold tough squid; my sister had only just received her order of the gnocchi. On inspection they looked like the familiar soft and fluffy pillows you would expect, however on tasting the dish my sister questioned to us whether the peas contained in the dish tasted frozen. Upon tasting a few of them I had to agree; there was no burst of flavour as I squeezed the pea between my teeth and they left a distinctive floury after-taste in my mouth. Thank goodness the company was great because the food was heading down a one way street to nowhere! To add to the errors of the evening, as we were sipping on our second glass of Chardonnay, I started wondering to myself why it tasted sweet. Had all this mishmash of tasting and scrutinising everyone’s meals confused my palate? Surely not! Then my sister piped up: “This doesn’t taste like the Chardonnay we ordered! I think they have given us the wrong wine!” We called our waitress over, informed her of our cold meals and asked about our strange tasting wine. Off she quickly went to go and check with the bar staff from which she returned promptly with fresh glasses of Chardonnay in hand.
It was at this point in time, we desperately started wishing that sight of me taking photos of our dishes coupled with our polite complaints would ensure that the remainder of night would proceed with minimal more mistakes. Our hopes were in vain as the next agglomeration of errors proceeded to pan out. Our next round of meals were brought out at staggered times and once again on stone cold plates. At the beginning of the night when she went through the menu in detail with us, she stipulated we couldn’t eat one of the side dishes of chickpeas because it had onion in it, so obviously we didn’t ordered this. Instead we chose the green beans and some parmesan fries for our side dishes plus we each ordered a second entrée for our main dish.
Despite having a whole discussion with her about the chickpeas unsuitability for us, lo and behold some chickpeas get placed on our table. We had to send these back only to have them replaced with a dish of undercooked, tough woody beans that were barely edible. After some considerable wait, some of our meals followed along with the serve of fries. All the fries were cold, yes cold fries. Now honestly, cold fries amount to nothing but grossness. There is no excuse for that surely.
Lucky for me for my second course I had ordered the house cured venison, a dish that was meant to be served cold! It was the only dish that deserved any praise for the night. The sweet beetroot sauce nearly got licked off my plate and softened the saltiness of the cured venison.
The boy ordered the risotto which was of course served on a cold plate. It was at this point we called the waitress over once again and questioned her whether they had heat lamps in the kitchen. She commented to us that they do. We then delved further to explain to her that unfortunately all of our meals were served to us lukewarm. She interjected this feedback by remarking to us that my dish was meant to be served cold, and then proceeded to gloss over the fact that the remainder of the table’s dishes were not. She appeared to only listen to what she wanted to hear. After my comment that the flavours of our dishes had so much potential if only they were served at the correct temperature, she latched onto this feedback as positive and as she cleared the table she nodded her head saying: “Oh well, that’s good, as long as the flavours were delicious!” Huh? It was hard to know if she was being serious with such a ridiculous response!
Over all it was a meal that could have been amazing. The thought that was put behind the creation of the menu was inspiring but the execution was a complete failure. Was the chef just having a bad day? I’m not sure I want to find out and next time I’ll just head over the road to Must where I know I will walk away content.Price: $$$ (Entrée $19-23, Mains $23-38) Food: 4/10 Service: 4/10 Venue: 2.5/5 (for the insane booths) Total = 10.5/25 Clarence’s Bar 566 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, WA 6050 | (08) 9228 9474 | clarences.com.au
Spontaneity is an uncommon occurrence for me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, in fact quite the contrary it’s just that I can’t help but plan and organise things. I hate the thought that an element of enjoyment is missed out due to lack of foresight. But as I was running to my car during the heaviest part of the down pouring rain I got this burning desire to go out for the evening. We both work long hours and often have hectic busy days so most weeknights tend to be a sombre experience of crashing on the couch, eating dinner and watching television. I sat in my car drenched right through to the skin in my work clothes and phoned the boy who was still at work, half expecting him to decline the offer with protests of exhaustion and lack of motivation. His immediate response was yes! Wa-toot!
On the previous weekend, a group of us had a pub crawl up Beaufort Street and on our way to the Flying Scotsman we all dropped into Five Bar for a refreshing beverage to quench us for the uphill stagger to the Scotto. I remember making a mental note to return to try their tapas and so we did.
As you walk into Five Bar you almost feel like you are in someone’s oversized living room. There is a mismatched collection of lounge chairs, ottomans and crates to relax on and the interior is decorated with a similarly eclectic collection of lamps and oddities. As I sipped on my Hendricks and tonic, I felt all the tensions of my day smoothly melt away.
The menu is quite small with the majority of the dishes designed to be shared tapas-style. After requesting to our waitress for suitable gluten-free and onion free options, this menu unfortunately further narrowed down to a smaller handful of dishes.
The marinated olives contained a crowd pleaser selection of pitted and non-pitted, black and green, and in all sizes from jumbo through to the teeny-weeny Arbequina olives. They were all of excellent quality and very moreish.
The beef Carpaccio was dressed with cornichons, goat’s curd and capers, pine nuts, some fresh herbs and EVOO. The beef was sliced perfectly paper-thin but was a bit dry and lacked a little flavour. This was somewhat compensated for by the tarty goat’s curd however that shouldn’t really be the aim of this dish. A few extra lashings of olive oil may have improved this dish.
We were informed after ordering the chorizo that it may contain onions so I gave this a miss and let the boy munch his way through the generous sized serve. It seemed to be quite tender and juicy and disappeared with no complaints.
The slow-roasted mushrooms with Danish fetta, balsamic and chives were definitely one of the better dishes. I am a bit of a self-confessed mushroom addict. I really love their rich savoury flavour; in fact it would be safe to say I eat them daily. These mushrooms were roasted wonderfully. The chef has managed to capture and enhance all that delicious mushroomness I enjoy and the subtle tang of the balsamic gently cut through these flavours to then be followed by the more lingering creaminess of the fetta. We ended up ordering seconds!
The final tapas dish we ordered were the sweet potato frites served with a Moroccan spiced mayonnaise. These were very tasty albeit also a tad oily. Nevertheless I could have eaten more of them if I could fit them in!
We ended the evening with a duo of macarons – vanilla and coffee. After overindulging on some amazing macarons from Choux earlier in the week, unfortunately these ones were a bit of a disappointment. I enjoy the contrast of the crispy outer shell with the chewy nearly gooey centre. These ones were consistently chewy all the way through and showed none of the contrast in textures macarons are meant to have.
Given the popularity of tapas in Perth at the moment we are spoilt for choice. I walked away from Five Bar thinking there are better quality options for the price we paid and probably wouldn’t go out of my way to return there.
Venue 8.5/10 Service 7.8/10 Food 7/10Five Bar 560 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley | 0467 534 267
We dined here with my business partners last night and had a fabulous evening. The staff were all very enthusiastic and cheerful without being overbearing, and assisted us to select some of their delicious tapas style dishes. Unfortunately for me, my doctor’s orders are to subject me to the unpleasantness of a gluten challenge prior to coeliac testing. I tend to be a glass half full type so I have embraced this harrowing experience as a way to enjoy what I used to miss out on. This led us to sample “two of each” of the breads on the menu. There was a toasted ciabatta with truffle mascarpone, the ciabatta was light and crunchy and had a lovely buttery after taste. The house flat bread provided a contrasting texture and was heavy and tangy like sourdough. It came with marinated olives.
For our first “round” we tried the Jamon, the sweet potato skordolia and the duck. The jamon was delicately sliced and quite sweet to taste. It was accompanied by buffalo mozzarella, slow-roasted tomato and a drizzling of basil oil. The sweet potato skordolia didn’t look like much but was very flavoursome and the sweetness complimented the jamon. It was accompanied by char-grilled broccolini, pine nuts and goat’s cheese. The duck was the least favourite of this course; it was a little dry and lacked the strong flavours of the other dishes.
For our second course we had the Khatta-style pork ribs, the scallops, and the lamb. The pork ribs were to die for and came with some kombu pickle. They were cooked perfectly, and contained mainly meat not fat. One of the highlights of the night. The Seared scallops with jamón crumb served with potato crisps were tender and juicy however the scallops had some variability with size meaning some guests got tiny scallops. Despite this, this dish was also one of my favs. The Sumac lamb with pomegranate came with baba ganoush on the side. The lamb was seasoned well but slightly overcooked.
To accommodate for the vegetarians at the table we also ordered the Balsamic beetroot with char-grilled asparagus, the crispy polenta and the potatas bravas. I didn’t try the beetroot but others commented it was a great dish. The Crispy polenta with Gorgonzola cream, hazelnuts and portobellos was really tasty. I could have ordered more of it. The Potatas bravas weren’t the best I’ve had – they lacked the crispiness that highlights this dish.
For desserts we continued in the vein of the bread ordering and ordered “two of each”! The White-chocolate mousse with lemon custard and shortbread was the perfect texture and not too sickly sweet. Being used to the restrictions of a GF diet for years, I felt very naughty indulging in the Cinnamon ricotta doughnuts but loved every moment! I didn’t get to try the Balsamic strawberry cheesecake as it was demolished by others quickly – I’m guessing this is a good sign. The least enjoyable two dishes were the Melting chocolate fondant and the Persian orange macadamia cake.
The fondant was mean to be filled with oozing chocolate goo but when we cut into it, it was dry. The waiter promptly noticed this and said he would remove it off the bill. The Persian orange cake was dry and had minimal zest to it – I definitely think the recipe needs a revise as it is the only GF option on the dessert menu.
The cheese platter was a perfect comination of soft French Brillat Savarin, hard sheep’s Pecorino Romano and a Gorgonzola. I wish I had more room to fit these in!
All in all it was a wonderful experience, great food, awesome service – and we all look forward to returning!
Food 8.1/10, service 8.5/10, venue 8/10
For more photos check out my Flickr account
127 james street