Not everyone marries their best friend and I am so grateful that I was blessed with the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones. Whilst our life is by no means perfect, for the major things we are invariably on the same page. Where we want to live. Our love for animals. Our passion for fine food. Particular black truffles and chocolate. Our core values. And, our love for staying at luxury lodges and hotels! 😉
For our Christmas present to each other we chose to forgo buying each other materialistic stuff, I mean who really needs stuff? We both work and play hard, sometimes too much so, such that our best gift to each other is just spending quality time together. I was once again reminded that I married my soul mate when he agreed without hesitation to go stay at the Lake House in Daylesford for a couple of nights squeezed in between our family Christmas in Melbourne and a friend’s wedding on New Year.
We booked a Luxury Package for two nights in a waterfront suite. Our package included breakfast and dinner for both nights and some spa treatments to enjoy together.
Our room overlooked the lagoon and the shores of Lake Daylesford and facilitated complete relaxation with a very comfortable king sized bed, sofa and armchairs. There were a pair of sunbeds out on our deck however the weather was scorching hot and no sane person would have basked in that heat.
There was a bottle of chilled complimentary champagne ready for us on arrival. The minibar was stocked with a small number of locally sourced drinks and nibbles, Salus Spa’s own sparkling mineral water and a Nespresso coffee machine. Unlike some of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, the minibar was not included as part of our stay. Considering the price was comparative with other Lodges, it would have been a nice touch if it was.
The bathroom was spacious with a dual shower, double spa bath and heated bathroom floors. There was a modest sized flat screen television, an iPod docking station to play our tunes and free in room Wi-Fi access.
Every evening between 6 pm to 8.30 pm cocktails are served in the Argyle Library along with some complementary canapés. I was hoping that the canapés would keep coming for as long as we ordered drinks however we quickly learnt that you get one round of delicious canapés and then that is it.
I am guessing they expect you to move through into the restaurant at that point. Nobody ever seems to understand that our appetites are not those of normal people!
After enjoying a round of nibbles and a few more rounds of Campari spritzers, we headed out for a walk around the Lake before returning to our suite for dinner. There are two Lakes to walk around each taking less than half an hour on a shaded and pretty path.
Our package included an in-room supper for two on the first evening with two glasses of house wine. We weren’t expecting such a feast to arrive and this seemed to make up for the feeling of wanting more of those canapés earlier on.
Everything was adapted to be gluten free including gluten free bread and crackers. There was creamy pea soup, an antipasto platter, a cheese platter and plate of fresh fruit.
Breakfast is included for both mornings of our stay and consisted of a continental buffet in addition to a choice of a main dish from their a la carte menu.
The buffet had an array of freshly baked pastries, sliced meats and cheeses with a few gluten free and vegetarian options.
For my main dish I ordered the house baked beans with goats cheese, wilted spinach and poached eggs on gluten free toast.
The beans had wonderful depth of flavour but sadly the gluten free toast let the dish down being quite tasteless and crumbly in texture.
We had minimal plans for our weekend, in fact I was hoping to do very little other than relax but as is always the case with us we cannot help but do a little exploring. The Daylesford Sunday Market operates each Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm and contains a wide range of stalls selling all sorts of antique bric-a-brac, locally grown produce, clothing and crafts. We already had suitcase filled with loot from Christmas so I made do with purchasing a refreshing beetroot, carrot and ginger juice. Oh, and I bought a book about cats
We also visited Lavandula, a Swiss Italian lavender farm. It was a melting 40 degrees Celsius and we lingered only long enough to smell the fragrant flowers, scull a lavender lemonade in the shade and then retreat back to our air-conditioned car.
For our second evening at Lake House, our package included an eight course degustation with matched wines in the restaurant. We started the evening off again in the Library with some canapés before taking a seat by one of the large windows to watch the reflections of the setting sun across the Lake.
Our degustation took us on a journey using local seasonal food some of which is harvested from their own gardens. This is a restaurant that has repeatedly earned two hats and as our dishes started to roll out I began to see why.
Our amuse bouche consisted of a mouthful of veal tartare and mojama which is a salt cured tuna. This was served with some bonito aioli on a nori crisp so light it dissolved on the tongue like a wafer.
Our second course of spanner crab and white fish sashimi had a Nobu-esque twist with the addition of jalapenos and an elegant dollop of green gazpacho. Some tapioca pearls on the side added another element of texture.
The next course was a pasta dish which meant I received something different in replacement. The Boy’s pasta was a bug agnolotti, which are similar to ravioli. It was served with house made kimchi butter emulsion and crisp shallots.
My gluten free alternative was some mixed tempura served with the kimchi. I was so chuffed that they could do the tempura gluten free as this is so commonly off the menu for me. It was crispy and light and the kimchi had a decent kick to it.
The next dish was inspired by Chef Alla’s Russian heritage and we were told that a variation of this dish is always on the menu. Smoked eel is considered a delicacy and features in many Russian dishes.
The eel was sourced from the Victoria based Skipton eel factory. Wrapped in pancetta the smoked eel was paired with some locally grown organic beets and served alongside a toothsome mustard crème fraiche. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.
The next dish was some addictive little morsels of tempura quail wrapped in nori.
They were accompanied by dollops of umeboshi puree, coriander puree, wasabi mayonnaise and the cutest coriander flowers.
Our final main dish was locally sourced pasture fed beef; cooked carefully and slowly such that it had the consistency of melting butter. The hearty flavours of the beef had an added surprise of some chilli and togarashi for an interesting kick.
Pre-dessert consisted of a platter named “Playtime”. This consisted of a number of little palate cleansers including a strawberry compote with white chocolate sorbet and strawberry granita, a “plum shot” and blackcurrant marshmallow lollipops.
For our final course, the Boy and I had different dishes as mine had to be adapted to be gluten free. The Boy’s “Summer Ramble” was a garden of gorgeous components and I was gutted there was no more natural light for a stunning photo. His dish had pistachio sponge, almond praline, almond milk pannacotta, honey ice cream, almond tuille chocolate bark berries AND honey comb….all on one plate. It looked heavenly and despite all the different elements it didn’t taste over complicated or flamboyant.
I could have nearly developed a case of food envy if it wasn’t for my rich peanut butter parfait. It was topped with sesame ganache, peanut praline and sesame ice cream. A perfectly balanced blob of lemon curd added a hint of acidity and a black sesame tuille gave it some crunch and texture.
We had such a relaxing stay at Lake House in Daylesford giving the perfect amount of “us” time that we needed together. Having stayed in a number of Luxury Lodges around Australia now, I would have liked to have seen a bit more luxury in our rooms to justify the room price and feel that in these sort of “never want to leave” styled lodges a complementary minibar can encourage you to really enjoy your accommodation more.
We found the Spa to be of a high quality and actually went back for a second massage in the couple’s room. The restaurant is well deserved of its Good Food Guide Hats and is worth a visit even without a stay in the Lodge. Their wine list is enough to impress my father which is saying something and I heart how they focus on local and seasonal produce.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp and the Boy paid in full for a Lake House Luxury Package for $1200/night. This package included two night accommodation in a Waterfront Suite, light supper for the first evening and a degustation with matched wine on the second night, a full breakfast each morning and a massage and facial at Salus Spa.
4 King Street, Daylesford, Victoria 3460 | www.lakehouse.com.au
Accommodating for people with coeliac disease must feel like a daunting task for many chefs. The need to be aware of every single ingredient in every single dish is simply just not enough. Chefs must also be mindful of other difficult aspects like cross contamination. All cutlery, chopping boards and other cooking utensils must be cleaned carefully before preparing a gluten free meal. For some sufferers it can take only one microscopic grain of gluten to send them to the bathroom for the evening.
That is why I am so appreciative when a chef takes this challenge on board as I realise how much effort it requires. On our recent trip to Margaret River, we found such a restaurant named Piari & Co. Situated in Dunsborough and run by a husband and wife team, these guys have a dedicated gluten free menu making selecting dishes as easy as it gets.
It was a stormy night in the South-west, sadly not the weather I would have liked for our whirlwind weekender with the Boy, Mum and her other half. We were staying in a chalet about twenty minutes south of Dunsborough so in order to make our driving through the rain easier, I punched our destination into my Tomtom and sat back to let it do the hard work for me. This turned out to be a tremendous mistake and over forty-five minutes later we arrived at Piari & Co with everyone tired and grumpy with me at my error.
Starting a meal in a bad mood is never a good idea and to further add to the situation the restaurant was completely packed and full of noisy, rather drunk customers. One customer in particular had a laugh that resembled the whoop of a baboon. The Boy detests noisy venues, I refer to this as one of his Grandpa habits. Additionally, my stepdad wears a hearing aid in one ear which in these sort of situations relays deafening feedback down into his ear making listening to conversation impossible. I took the liberty of ordering some starters while they sat in silence reading over the menus.
The lighting was romantically dim as is often the way which increased the pressure of the evening for me as photography is very challenging in such environments. I tried to get photos as quickly as possible so we could start to eat and lighten up. One of the specials of the day were freshly shucked oysters topped with blood orange granita. Slightly sweet and slightly tangy, we slurped these up quickly.
I also ordered the seared Esperance scallops. Just seeing the name Esperance on paper brings a warm glow to my heart as this is where my darling Bestie lives. (***I miss you!***) Whilst small in size, these little morsels were seared to golden brown and served with celeriac remoulade, compressed nashi and crispy shreds of duck meat. I haven’t tried duck with scallops before and found with the sweetness of the pear it balanced well.
Mum is a pork lover and despite her claims of not wanting to eat too much so early in our feasting weekend, she still was brave enough to take on the pork main course. The slow cooked slab of free range Big Red pork belly was slightly over cooked making it a little too dry for her liking. She much preferred the accompanying pulled pork shoulder salad and found the meat in this to be moist and succulent.
I wanted to pace myself for the weekend ahead of us too and ordered the fish of the day for a lighter, healthy meal. The fish was a thick fillet of Mulloway. This is in my humble opinion is one of the finest tasting fish in Australia. The fish was served on a bed of smooth Jerusalem artichoke purée and topped with garden fresh charred corn and peas.
The Boy was having one of his unpredictable meat eating moments and ordered the grass-fed beef cheek. Like most of the ingredients used at Piari & Co, his beef was locally sourced from the South West and slow cooked to the point of meltable soft tenderness.
I had seen pictures of Piari & Co desserts on Instagram and wanted to be able to partake but after having eaten all day there was not a lot of room left. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way so the four of us ordered a single serve of the Bombe Alaska to share, complete with four spoons.
Under the spikey gooey dome of meringue was a chewy, syrupy slice of gluten free pistachio cake. Drizzles of tangy passionfruit coulis lifted the near overpowering sweetness making this a delectable choice. With the crafty work of four eager spoons flashing about quickly, the Bombe Alaska disappeared in a blink of a second.
It seemed that I was the only one at the table not bothered by the noise and sadly the high pitched cackles and racket tainted the experience somewhat for my loved ones. I am a person who loves the hustle and bustle of activity and noise makes me feel alive. Take the drunken whoops of the women at the table next to us out of the equation and I’m certain that we all would have had a fabulous evening. I guess this is a good reason to return…..hopefully not again on the same day as those locals!Disclaimer: Chompchomp would like to disclose that on certain occasions when dining out she may in fact be just like one of those noisy customers as unfortunately she was born without any form of voice volume control. For neighbouring customers on these evenings she is honestly apologetic however cannot promise it won’t happen again. Piari & Co 5/54 Dunn Bay Road, Dunsborough WA 6281 | (08) 9756 7977 | www.piariandco.com.au
Being the only food blogger in the family means the decision on where to go for dinner is invariably left up to me. I am by no means complaining about this allocated role however it does mean that my choices are often somewhat biased towards what I want to eat. For the Boy’s birthday this year, I wanted to make sure it was somewhere HE wanted to go. Upon his request I gave him a short list of choices and left him to do his own research. His first choice was Chefz Table however at the last minute they called to inform us that the restaurant was unexpectantly closing for the weekend. With only two days to find somewhere to book, I was worried we would be stuck with nowhere to go but fortunately managed to grab a table at the Boy’s second choice the Wild Duck in Nedlands.
We have visited the Wild Duck a couple of times when they were located in Albany. On our most recent visit we even managed to wow my stepdad by giving him his first experience of a degustation meal complete with fancy foams and gels. The Boy has very fond memories of Albany and was happy to see how this creative restaurant has managed moving up to the big smoke.
Our evening began with the chef’s amuse bouche, a Thai influenced fish cake with a herb aioli. This tasty morsel wasn’t gluten free. My gluten free replacement was a single but super fresh oyster from Franklin Harbour.
These South Australian oysters are always so plump and creamy and never fail to excite me. I also chose to have the matched wines with our degustation however I couldn’t help myself from starting the meal with an additional glass of bubbles. In hindsight, I should remember that when doing a degustation with matched wines, I don’t NEED that extra glass of bubbles.
Our first course was a cute little mug of broccoli soup. It was wintry cold and rainy outside and the warming soup was a perfect choice to ease us into an evening of eating and birthday celebrations. The thick creamy soup had a hint of sweet from the swirl of balsamic reduction and ended with a familiar tang from the crumbled Meredith Dairy goats cheese.
Our second entrée was the beef carpaccio. The paper thin slices of brilliant, ruby red beef dissolved on my tongue in a second. Textural contrasts with some shaved fennel and watercress added layers of flavours which were accentuated by fresh horseradish and beetroot. The dish was finished with a sumptuous drizzle of slow cooked egg yolk. We had barely been there an hour and already we had enjoyed some of my favourites of all time; fresh oysters, champagne and slow cooked egg.
Next up was the confit salmon. A perfect bite of salmon slow cooked at 42 degrees proved to be just as outstanding as our previous dishes. I loved how each dish contained elements of contrasting textures and flavours. Served with the salmon were pickled and charred cucumber and fresh samphire which added both crunchy and salty aspects to the palate. This was all smoothed out beautifully by some dollops of crème fraiche and drizzles of a dill infusion oil.
Unlike many of my fellow pork-obsessive bloggers, I don’t eat a lot of pork and I would rarely choose it unless it was part of a tasting menu. Consequently when I do eat it, it has to be pretty damn good for me to enjoy it. Wild Duck’s confit pork belly is prepared using slow cooking techniques over 16 hours resulting in a buttery soft texture and no greasy porky aftertaste. The crispy skin cracked exuberantly in my mouth making me giggle too loudly thanks my increasingly intoxicated state.
The pork belly was served with a steamed pork bun which for me was adapted to be gluten free by leaving out the dumpling skin and serving me just the stuffing. Some grilled polenta, smooth sweetcorn purée, cubes of warm apple jellies and a crunchy apple and micro herb salad completed the dish.
Wild Duck offer a couple of optional extras with their degustation and in our usual state of gluttony we agreed to order both. The first optional course was a rabbit roulade with dates and pistachio alongside a red wine braised rabbit croquette. This dish was unable to be changed to be gluten free so the chef offered to make me something different.
My replacement dish was a duo of beef. Winter really is the time to get slow cooking and one of the best cuts of beef to slow cook is the cheek. My first time I tried cheek was moons ago prior to my blogging days at the Loose Box in Mundaring and I will never forget this memorable meal. Wild Duck’s dish was similarly heart-warming with wondrous soft shreds of beef cheek accompanying a charred nub of Black Angus fillet. It was served with a fondant potato, beetroot and cauliflower crumble, sousvide honey thyme carrots and a cauliflower purée.
I had restrained from eating for most of the day to save room for dinner and it was becoming progressively obvious to the Boy that I was quite drunk. My voice volume was slowly increasing and my attention to detail to my photography had all but expired. The Boy reached across the table to grab my camera and flipped quickly through some of my shots whilst raising his eyebrows at me. I slurped up my sorbet noisily and returned his gaze with a coy smile.
Consequently details of our final main dish is a little foggier than I would prefer and the angling of my photo is somewhat clumsy. A fillet of crispy skinned duck breast was paired with cubes of grilled speck bacon, aniseed poached pears and braised honey carrots. Coloured smears of carrot purée and creamed peas made this dish quite a substantial one, this wasn’t a degustation where we went home hungry.
Our second optional course was the pre-dessert; a picture perfect lemon soufflé with coconut ice cream. It was powder puff light and I could nearly hear the “poof” as I plunged my spoon in the ramekin. In fact I vaguely recall mimicking that “poof” noise as I tucked into it.
Our evening ended with the Wild Duck’s chocolate delice; a decadent mousse made from cream, eggs and chocolate. Scattered across my plate like Willy Wonka’s garden were wibbly-wobbly strawberry jellies, strawberry sponge and crunchy meringue kisses adorned with blobs of yoghurt parfait, fresh strawberries and bright pink strawberry powder. A bright and cheerful way to end a joyful evening together.
Happy Birthday to my best friend and my one true love. I love you and I love my life with you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Chompchomp paid for this meal out of her own pocket however at the end of the night the Boy reminded her to use their digital version of the Entertainment card to receive a $40 discount of the total bill. Wild Duck 35 Hampden Road, Nedlands WA 6009 | http://www.wildduckrestaurant.com/ $$$$ (Seven course degustation $105, nine course degustation $130, $50 extra for matched wines)
There are so many fantastic foodie events on around the City of Perth for the month of April as part of their Eat Drink Perth Festival. Many of the degustations and roving dinners start at over $150 per person and some are up over $200. For those that have money to burn on these events I can highly recommend heading to a few as they are well worth the expense. However I realise that this is not possible for everyone’s budget so I have tried to recreate the roving dinner experience using a collection of vouchers from the Eat Drink Perth Passport. The Eat Drink Perth Passport is a booklet containing a number of discount vouchers for use at venues located around the City.
My dear friend Tara and I managed to enjoy an extended four course lunch covering four different locations in the city for the grand total of $164.50 for two people including drinks. Yes, that is for two people! It works out to be close to half the price of the ticketed events. We called it our “DIY Roving Lunch” and I can highly recommend giving the concept a go before the Passport vouchers run out at the end of the month.
To set myself in the mood and to give me the freedom to enjoy a few drinks I decided to walk into the city from my house in Vic Park. It works out to be about a 90 minute stroll which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem however I foolishly didn’t check the forecast before heading out on foot. By the time I was halfway there I was sweltering. At this point I checked my phone to see that the day was well on its way to hitting a maximum of about 35 C.
By the time I arrived at our first checkpoint The Terrace Hotel, my face was as red as a beetroot and in no way was I looking glamorous enough for a ladies lunch. The Terrace was nearly fully booked and I was lucky to get us a table.
Within minutes of being seated we were given some complimentary bread; normal baguette for Tara and gluten free toasted bread for myself. We both ordered a glass of Madame Coco sparkling wine from the Aude Valley in France ($11 each).
Our voucher for The Terrace Hotel allowed us to buy one main meal off the à la carte menu and get the second one for free. We weren’t ready to launch into a main course immediately so we started with an entrée to share while we enjoyed our complimentary bread. The menu has a number of dishes marked gluten free however our waitress told us some of the other dishes can also be adapted.
We started with the seared scallops on a disc of richly flavoured Linley Valley pressed pork and scattered with capers and watercress. I was informed that the watercress is hand-picked from the chef’s own garden! On reflection at the end of the day, this scallop dish ended up being the highlight for both of us. The blend of soft scallop, creamy cauliflower purée, salty pork and peppery watercress balanced beautifully and it was presented immaculately. Each scallop was fresh, plump and tender and required very little effort to chew.
A number of the mains could be adapted to be gluten free however I wanted to choose the dish that required minimal alterations. Our waitress recommended the Cone Bay barramundi served with crispy skin and grilled to a buttery soft texture. Having first tried this top class barramundi at Eat Drink Perth’s launch party I knew I was in for special treat. The flesh is quite unlike your standard barramundi, with a soft clean finish.
The side dish that accompanied my fish included a baby Exmouth octopus and fennel salad, a half-cob of charred corn and a saffron poached prawn. An interesting combination but it worked. Being the WA Signature Dish official blogger for the Gascoyne region I felt proud to do my duty and have ingredients in my dish that came from the North West of our State.
Tara ordered the Amelia Park beef cheek. A thick nub of meat that had been slow cooked for 12 hours to the point it literally disintegrated under her fork. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my fish I cannot deny I was in envy of that luscious looking chunk of beef.
Her beef was served with some porcini gnocchi that were curiously deep-fried. Tara described them as a crispy skinned, porcini potato croquette and despite not being a traditional way to serve gnocchi she still enjoyed them. To add to more lovely earthy mushroominess, the gnocchi sat on a bed of sautéed oyster, Portebello and button mushrooms.
Despite a very attractive looking dessert menu at The Terrace, we paid our bill and moved onto our next venue; Cheeky Sparrow in Wolf Lane. Wolf Lane has come alive over the past twelve months with a number of great little eateries well worth checking out. I love the feel of being tucked away down a little laneway, it brings up memories of our time living in London where around every nook and cranny you find activity and life.
Cheeky Sparrow’s Eat Drink Perth Passport voucher offers a WA cheeseboard paired with a bottle of either Xabregas Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz for a total of $55. They have gluten free bread available too. The platter contained three Australian cheeses; Tarago River Shadows of Blue, Woodside Charleston Jersey Brie and Old Telegraph Road Mt Baw Baw Gouda.
Alongside the cheese was some Cabernet paste, an oozylicious hunk of raw honeycomb and a very generous mound of toasted gluten free bread. For those with fructose malabsorption, please avoid eating the amazing looking raw honey comb. We are not supposed to eat honey as it is high in fructose.
Our third stop was The Stables Bar for dessert. They offer a dessert tasting platter with the chef’s selection of three desserts for $18. This platter can be adapted to be gluten free.
The first dessert was a deconstructed wagon wheel with a combination of marshmallow, rich dark chocolate ice cream and a sweet raspberry sorbet.
The second component was an Eton mess with tumbles of fresh peaches and plums with meringue and apricot crisps.
The third element was a fluffy light passionfruit and cardamom cream mousse served with passionfruit jelly and a cup of pistachio mango lassi. The lassi was a little overly sour for my liking but I realise that is how they are meant to taste. I only had a small sip anyway as I cannot tolerate mango due to fructose. It was served with a gluten free hazelnut and pistachio biscotti.
Our final stop was for petit fours in the form of a macaron. Jean Pierre Sancho have a buy one get one free voucher in the Passport for their popcorn macaron flavour. With subtle hints of popcorn and a sweet macaron finish this was the perfect finale I needed before braving the sun for the long, slow walk home. By the time I hit the South Perth foreshore I gave up and was thankful that my loving husband empathised and came to pick me up to drive me the rest of the way home.For our DIY Roving Lunch we used the following Eat Drink Perth Passport vouchers: The Terrace Hotel: Buy one main meal and get one main meal free from the a la carte menu for lunch or dinner. Cheeky Sparrow: WA Cheese platter and bottle of Xabregas wine for $55, gluten free bread on request. The Stables Bar: Dessert tasting platter for $18, gluten free option available on request. Jean Pierre Sancho: Buy one popcorn macaron get one free for $2.50. Disclaimer: This roving lunch was funded for by the City of Perth as part of the Eat Drink Perth festival. The individual venues did not receive advance notice of my arrival. Eat Drink Perth is celebrating its 10th year and runs for the whole month of April 2014. For more information head to the Eat Drink Perth website. The Terrace Hotel 237 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9214 4444 | www.terracehotelperth.com.au Cheeky Sparrow 1/317 Murray St, Perth WA 6000 (entry off Wolf Lane) | 0405 550 286 | www.cheekysparrow.com.au www.thestablesbar.com.au Jean Pierre Sancho 878 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6181 1904 | www.jpsancho.com.au
Although I would prefer to experience the summer heat over the winter chills any day there is one major highlight of the winter months: the truffle season. From the very beginning of the truffle season I start searching for events, dinners and menus that feature this delicacy and have been known to get a bit obsessed. We don’t often buy voucher meals as I rarely find them to be good value but I couldn’t resist when I spotted a Groupon for a five course truffle degustation for two for only $129 at Friends Restaurant at the Hyatt.
When I called up to make a booking I found that there were very few options available for voucher holders as we couldn’t book on weekends or book when there was any theatre playing. Despite calling to make our booking shortly after purchasing the voucher, I was informed rather abruptly that there were only a couple of nights available. I enquired if my meal could be adapted to be gluten free and was told there would be no problem with this it would just mean I received a different dessert.
The interior of the restaurant is in serious need of updating with the carpet reminiscent of the seventies and a dusty looking faux tree in the centre of the restaurant lit up with fairy lights. The walls were adorned with Awards from a similar yesteryear with most of them at least a decade old.
Within minutes of being seated, the Boy was offered a selection of breads and our waitress offered some gluten free bread for me. I thought this was a good start to the evening and didn’t expect somewhere old fashioned like this to have gluten free bread available. Our vegetable soup arrived promptly afterwards and although it was indeed creamy, there was not much grated truffle to be seen. I squinted at black specks at the bottom of my bowl and figured they must have been it. I nibbled on one and found there was no familiar truffle after taste.
Our entrée of citrus cured Tasmanian salmon was served with pickled black truffle and carrot, Dijonnaise and a blue swimmer crab and mascarpone salad. The Boy commented that the style of plating was a little on the old fashioned side but in defence the ingredients were all fresh. I struggled to taste any truffle flavour in this dish either.
This evening occurred shortly before the Boy’s recent conversion to vegetarianism and it may very well go down on record as one of the last beef dishes he ever ate. Buttery soft beef cheeks had been braised to a delicate tenderness and again the dish was plated with utmost nineties styled precision. The accompanying truffle mash had an obvious truffle aroma and as he started to tuck into his I was keen to see what my gluten free alternative was.
Alas I was soon to be disappointed. Bear in mind I had specifically chosen this meal as a truffle degustation and I didn’t think I would be expecting too much to want truffle with each course. Instead for my main I received a relatively overcooked piece of fish, I think it was snapper but I cannot recall precisely, which was served with pesto beans. I eyed off the Boy’s dish enviously as he savoured every mouthful.
Our cheese course was a wedge of truffled brie served with a fig terrine, crackers, caramelised nuts and a couple of celery sticks. Yes, you heard right. Celery sticks. Am I crazy for thinking this was a bit weird? I asked our waitress if she thought it was strange and she looked at me like I was the crazy one.
My cheese course came with a muffin of gluten free bread as a replacement for the crackers. Whilst the cheese was not served at room temperature and remained a little too firm, the truffle centre finally gave me the taste of truffle I had been waiting the whole meal for.
As if my envy for the Boy’s succulent beef cheeks wasn’t anguish enough for me, out came his dessert; a shining glossy chocolate and banana mousse cake with honey comb crumbles and strawberry coulis. Scooped at the end of his plate was a neat ball of truffle ice cream. More truffles. I knew I was going to miss out again. Sigh.
My crème brûlée was by no means anything to complain about. Except it had no truffle. The crispy top layer was millimetres thin and cracked rewardingly with gentle pressure from my spoon to reveal smooth creaminess beneath.
We found the service at Friends to be highly efficient border-lining on serious with each waitress whizzing around the dining room floor with exact precision. Each course with its matched wine was timed like a well-played Tetris game never leaving us hungry, waiting or thirsty. If you enjoy old school fine dining then this is the place for you.Friends Restaurant 20 Terrace Road, Hyatt Centre, East Perth WA 6004 | 08 9221 0885 | http://www.friendsrestaurant.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (Truffle Tasting menu normally $125 per person, 10 course degustation $155) Food: 3/5 (Highs: beef cheeks and chocolate mousse cake. Lows: overcooked fish) Service: 4.5/5 (faultless but serious) Ambience: 2/5 (dining room in desperate need of a zoozsh) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of matches, I particularly enjoyed the Zema Estate Coonawarra Cab Sauv 2009) Total: 13/20
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