Some of you may recall my unusual Australia Day weekend this year. It started off at our local pub The Broken Hill Hotel where we munched on casual pub food with drinks a plenty and could even see the fireworks show from where we sat on their balcony. A far cry from our usual annual party extravaganza we hold at our house but a great night out all the same. The reason for such a tame national holiday you see was that the weekend preceeding this relaxing weekend happened to be my Hen’s day. In true Chompchomp style I burnt all my candles at both ends and managed to come out with a fair share of bruises coupled a strained joint in my spine. It was worth it; we had a total hoot of a time but entertaining and cooking for the masses was out of my capabilities that following weekend.
After such a fun night at The Broken Hill, we decided to continue in our “let’s go local” mode and walked down to the other end of Albany Highway to The Publican Bar. Our wedding was just over a month away at this point in time and both of us were filled with excitement and anxiety. The biggest thing that recently was absorbing our thoughts was the choreographed dance for our first dance. We were both feeling like we may have bitten off more than we could chew but knew how jaw dropping it would be if we could pull it off. To make matters worse, our dance practice had been stalled to a halt by my stupid drunk and disorderly neck injury from the Hen’s. This left me feeling guilty as I was the one responsible for disrupting our progress.
We initially took a seat indoors but after such a relaxed evening outdoors the night before I could immediately see the Boy was uncomfortable and not happy with our choice. We looked out into the tiny courtyard and although there were no customers sitting out there to give any atmosphere it was still better than sitting under the dim lights indoors.
The Publican Bar has a number of gluten free options and these are clearly marked on their menu. We started with some lemon pepper squid and garlic prawns. Their prawns had a lot more flavour than those we had the previous night at the Broken Hill Hotel lacking that metallic watery after taste that can only come from frozen produce. The calamari were an eclectic mix of chewy and soft so it was a secret surprise whether you got the perfectly cooked piece or the rubbery one.
Predicting what the Boy will order to eat can sometime be a challenge. Often he will go for a long spell of choosing the same dishes over and over and then randomly pull out a left field and often successful punt at something more unusual. This Australia Day weekend however he has sticking to true blue Aussie man food and ordered another steak, this time the surf and turf.
I could hear an audible crunch as he chowed down his beer battered chips and noticed that his steak was cooked rare just as requested. We have had previous experiences where this wasn’t the case so it was a relief to see the kitchen was on track to serve this simple hearty meal well. The prawns however were more tasteless than our entrée and his salad appeared like it was dressed much earlier in the day leaving it looking sad and wilted.
I never used to be one to obsess over calories but preparing for a wedding will surely do it to the best of us and after drinking more than a bottle of wine with my three course meal the night before I was feeling racked with guilt for my indulgences this close to our wedding. To amplify my worries my injured neck meant my usual fall back to combat caloric excesses of running long distances was an absolute no go zone.
Taking this into mind I chose the grilled vegetable salad served with baby spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin, almonds, feta and roasted beetroot. Now I cannot say I’m a vegetarian by any means but I do actually prefer to eat a lot of vegetarian meals. I would expect maybe 3 out of 5 of my meals are meatless and when I do eat meat it tends to be from the sea. However, vegetarian doesn’t have to equate to boring and I cannot imagine what the chef was thinking when he prepared this salad. What ever happened to tossing all ingredients together? Odd. Needless to say I do love roast veggies so I still managed to walk away very satisfied. Just a little confused.
The Publican Bar is one of our locals but with the increasing number of new bars and restaurants opening up in the area I think they should really consider lifting their game in order to keep up with the competition. There were items still on their menu that I recall from visits several years back. I’m sure we will head back there again but it won’t be in a hurry.The Publican Bar 774 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park 6101 WA | (08) 9470 5818 | http://thepublicanbar.com.au Price: $$$ (Tapas $7-16, Mains $23-36) Food: 3/5 (a little hit and miss but does the staples well) Service: 2.5/5 (slow and reluctant) Ambience: 2.5/5 (it has a sports bar feel) Drinks: 3/5 (big range of beers, wine list fairly standard) Total: 11/20
The Bestie’s birthday weekend fortunately coincided with her parent’s return from their month-long holiday in Vietnam. Her parents live in southern Western Australian in a town called Esperance which is about a ten hour drive from Perth. This means she doesn’t get to see them as often as she would like and having them in Perth for her birthday was a bit of a treat. To make the most of the occasion, she agreed to stretch out her celebrations over two nights starting with her parents cooking up a storm for us at their friends’ house followed by a casual night out at the Karalee Tavern in Como.
During our time living in London, it was a common occurrence for the Bestie, the Boy and I to visit a number of run down English Pubs. Horrendous food and cheap drinks would be served well past the old fashioned pub curfew under the premise of a “lock out”. These were crazy times and there is a little part of each of us that wistfully longs for those hedonistic days gone by. I’m got the feeling that was part of the vibe she was going for by choosing The Karalee as especially since Chompchomp’s creation we have a tendency to go more popular or newly established venues. Despite the fact the windows at Karalee face out onto the Como foreshore, it was near impossible to see through the smudgy cloudy glass and even with a recent revamp of their décor I still felt trapped in the nineties.
To my complete surprise there were a number of gluten free options marked on their menu. Of course the Bestie had kindly thought ahead and made sure we were going somewhere where I could eat something. I started with the char-grilled calamari served with tomato kasundi, warmed chick peas salad with a lemon dressing. The kasundi had none of the spiciness I would expect in this Indian relish and the chickpeas had that flavourless powderiness I can only expect came from a can. The calamari was ever so slightly overcooked and chewy. Not a good start.
The Bestie ordered the grilled chilli and garlic tiger prawns. Four small shelled Tiger prawns sat perched on a few triangles of cold toasted Turkish bread. Although the prawns looked a little dry to me, I didn’t taste them so cannot pass a true judgement.
The Bestie and I both ordered the veal saltimbocca. The veal medallions tasted like overcooked cardboard and literally sucked all the moisture from out of my mouth. I’m sure it took me a good five minutes to chew each mouthful. I was thankful for the crunchy prosciutto topping to add some flavour into all that blandness. The thick creamy mushroom sauce did nothing to improve the meal nor did the unseasoned gritty block of set polenta that was meant to be crispy.
The Boy ordered the slow cooked lamb shank with sweet potato and maple syrup mash and roasted broccolini. The succulent lamb collapsed effortlessly off the bone and was accompanied by moans of approval and enjoyment. I often put a dash of maple syrup in my pumpkin and sweet potato mash when cooking at home. As long as you only put a dash it serves to provide a subtle lingering to the already dulcet flavours of the vegetables. Although the texture of this mash could have been creamier, they were cautious enough not to overdo it with the maple and its hint of flavour was balanced just right. The broccolini was burnt to a crisp which completely sabotaged any sense of its flavour other than charcoal.
The Bestie’s Mum ordered the roasted sticky glazed pork belly. It was curiously paired with a mound of potato mash and sesame tossed Asian greens. The pork was buttery smooth with crunchy crackling and she was left feeling very full and satisfied.
The meal sizes at Karalee are generous meaning this is a good place to come if you want value for money. If quality is more what you look for in a night out I suggest you look elsewhere.The Karalee on Preston 25 Preston Street Como WA 6152 | (08) 9367 1848 | www.thekaralee.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrée $12-16, Mains $23-38) Food: 2/5 (very average, poor execution and odd combinations of ingredients) Service: 3/5 (a little slow but friendly enough for a sports bar) Ambience: 2.5/5 (despite the potential views, ambiance is definitely lacking) Drinks: 2.5/5 (average wine list, nothing exciting) Total: 10/20
What a horrific week it’s been for me! This persistent stomach bug has put me out of action for the whole week!. It started brewing on my wedding dress shopping day with my bestie and then developed more dramatically into a further two days at home in bed. I always get racked with guilt whenever I take a sick day as everyone else’s work load increases to compensate for my absence. So when I woke up on the fourth day and managed to hold a piece of toast down I figured surely I must be good to go. I was wrong and a few hours later my manager sent me home ashen-faced and dizzy.
Being our first Easter off together in several years, I had booked a weekend getaway with the Boy down in Margaret River which also happened to coincide with our 14th anniversary celebration. Prior to falling sick I was so excited about this little minibreak and was looking forward to a few days of eating, drinking and romantic fun. As I sat unusually quietly in the car on the drive down, I accepted that although I am not feeling at my best I was not going to let it ruin our holiday.
We didn’t arrive until the late afternoon on Good Friday by which I was too tired to consider the notion that I may want to blog about our accommodation so dear readers please forgive me for the lack of any photos. We stayed at Chandeliers on Abbey in Yallingup and were quite impressed with the quality of the chalet – it had a fabulous sound system with speakers throughout the chalet, warmed bathroom tiles, and a fridge stocked with fresh milk, OJ, eggs and butter. The kitchen was well equipped and there were candles all about the chalet to help give more atmosphere.
After relaxing on the deck for some time, we headed out to Gnarabar Bar and Bistro which was seemingly one of the only places I could find open on a Good Friday. Situated just out of Margaret River Township near the Gnarabup beach, the bar was humming with life and nearly full capacity. The staff seemed a little run off their feet and perhaps also a tad disorganised.
Seeing a menu clearly marked with gluten-free options always instills hope for an easy ordering experience. If gluten-free dishes are regular menu items then this indicates to me that the kitchen must be familiar with correct food preparation for us more challenging customers. I ordered the gluten-free option of chilli salted calamari with Thai chilli jam and lime. I just wanted a light snack for entrée as my stomach had shrunk from my lack of food intake during the week as a result of being so unwell.
When my dish arrived, it was coated in batter and for some reason I thought there was a chance it wasn’t actually gluten-free. I asked the waiter who assured me this was gluten-free batter and I was totally fine to eat it. Fortunately my usual ritual of photo taking delayed me starting to eat this dish as a few minutes later the same waiter came out of the kitchen looking a little flustered exclaiming I can’t eat it and that it WASN’T gluten free. I couldn’t believe my ears! If I hadn’t double checked with the waiter, and then paused to take photos, I would be back to square one with my stomach ills and our romantic weekend would have been ruined. It astounded me that the kitchen allowed this error to occur!
The Boy order the pan-fried gnocchi with rabbit and shiitake mushrooms. I told him not to wait for my replacement meal to arrive before commencing so he could enjoy his while it was still hot. The gnocchi was soft and not too doughy and he said the rabbit was tender and sweet. My dish didn’t end up being brought out to the table until well after he had polished off his gnocchi.
It didn’t actually look a grand deal different from the previous dish but the Boy had snuck a taste of the one with gluten and said it tasted different. Seeing as my appetite wasn’t the best I was happy to share some of my calamari with him rather than have him stare hungrily at me while I ate. I’m not sure what happened to my “chilli jam” as my calamari was served with some aioli…maybe I read the menu wrong. The calamari was fairly bland and not seasoned very well, and although most pieces were tender there were a few chewy ones in there.
There was only one main dish on the menu that was able to be prepared both gluten and onion free and unfortunately it was a fairly unexciting looking chicken breast dish. Thankfully I was informed by our waitress that it wasn’t a problem for the chef to make any of the entrée dishes into a full main meal size for an extra ten bucks. I was impressed with the size of the meal that was to follow. Juicy meaty Moroccan spiced quail served on a creamy pumpkin purée with an olive, feta and parsley salad. The spices were not too overpowering for my delicate gut and the quail were super-sized and succulent.
The boy ordered the 10 hour braised beef cheek with parmesan polenta for his main meal. He was quite disappointed in his choice as the meat was unexpectedly dry and chewy; not tender or flavoursome as he imagined.
There was no way I was going to fit in a third course until I had given myself another day or two for my stomach size to re-expand to its previous size so we skipped dessert – an unusual occurrence for me indeed! We returned to our cosy chalet and flaked out for what was to be one of the best night’s sleep either one of us has had in over a week. Bliss.
For what it is, a casual beach pub, the Gnarabar fits the bill. However despite us using our Entertainment Book discount, we both felt we could get better quality food at better value at many of the beautiful wineries we visited over the following few days. Additionally the oversight of serving me gluten accidentally is of considerable concern not just for me but for other gluten intolerants out there. If I hadn’t asked, I would have found out the hard way a few hours later.
Follow Me on Facebook!Gnarabar Bar and Bistro Margarets Beach Resort, 1 Resort Place, Gnarabup Beach, Margaret River, WA 6285 | (08) 9757 1583 | www.gnarabar.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-17, Mains $28-35, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 2/5 (dodged a gluten bullet!) Service: 2.5/5 (friendly but haphazard and disorganized) Ambience: 2.5/5 (bubbling pub vibe, needs more dim lighting too bright in restaurant area) Drinks: 3/5 (some great MR choices, need more by the glass options) Total: 10/20
As a thoughtful engagement present to us from one of our friends we were given a dinner voucher from Our Deal at Celyta’s Cuisine in Midland. Our friend had done her research and chosen this restaurant based on a great Urbanspoon rating and a wide range of gluten free options on their menu. Having just returned from Bali and a little on the broke side it was so good to be able to go out for a meal where everything was already paid for!
In keeping with our usual tradition of eating out, we like to visit another venue before dinner for some pre-dinner drinks so off we headed to The Principal Brewing Company. Our voucher at Celyta’s included a two course meal for two; either entrée and main, or main and dessert. So upon arriving to the pub we decided it would be a great idea to have some pre-dinner snacks to accompany our drinks.
We ordered some salt and pepper calamari which the kitchen was happy to grill without the flour dusting to make them gluten-free for us. The Boy also ordered some beer battered chips. The calamari was disappointingly tough and chewy but was a decent sized serve for an entrée. The chilli aioli reminded me of Nando’s Perinaise– which isn’t actually such a bad thing as I LOVE that stuff!
The beer battered chips were really crispy and the serve was huge considering we both had another two courses to get through. As they were beer battered I have to presume they were not gluten-free so I tried to resist eating any while I watched the Boy eagerly devouring his way through them. I was absolutely starving and hearing each crunch felt like torture so I ended up caving and helped him finish off the bowl. This was a stupid mistake because on the way home later that night I was in agony!! If you are not gluten intolerant however I highly recommend these chips – they were really good!
After we polished off our “snacks” we headed off in the direction of Celyta’s on foot. Just as we set off the rain started to speckle onto us but lucky for us it didn’t start a summer downpour until just after we arrived at the restaurant. The restaurant is BYO so I had stopped at the Bottle shop on the way and bought a bottle of Chapman Grove Chardonnay. This wine is from the Margaret River region and was quite light and fruity with a hint of oak.
I had pre-warned the staff about my dietary requirements a few weeks prior when I called up to make our reservation. I reminded the waiter as we were ordering to which he replied that nearly all the dishes are gluten free but there are only a couple that are onion free. He recommended that I order the Portuguese style steak. I was keen to try this as I vaguely recalled a Portuguese steak traditionally having an egg cracked on top of it while it’s on the grill? Being a big egg fan, this idea quite excited me although I didn’t see any mention of egg on the menu.
My steak came out not quite like I expected. The fatty cut of sirloin was drowned in a thick pepper sauce and there were paperweight sized chunks of prosciutto balancing on top. I had never seen such thick slices of prosciutto and they were extremely tough to eat. The steak was cooked rare as I had requested. The steak was surrounded like a clock face with medallions of potato that tasted like they had been frozen and reheated. Some of the slices had a leathery brown discolouration I can only presume was due to freezer burn.
The Boy ordered surf and turf – not exactly a traditional Portuguese dish either. His steak was also cooked rare to his liking but it was fattier than mine. It was served with some plain boiled rice, a small handful of chips and a pile of coleslaw. I always thought coleslaw was more of a Dutch dish? His chips also had some freezer burn on them.
Our dessert was a curious combination of a crème brûlée and a crème caramel all kind of rolled into one dessert. Seeing as these two desserts are particular favourites of mine I wasn’t really one to complain. Instead of caramelising the surface of the dish with a flame, it appeared that the chef had made some toffee and poured it on top of the custard. This resulted in a near tooth chipping layer of rock hard sugar to crack through. Underneath the custard was a little on the lumpy side and at the bottom of the glass was the runny layer of caramel pooling at the bottom. Totally edible but certainly not mind-blowing.
We still had a great night out regardless and are grateful for this gift, however it is very unlikely we will return to Celyta’s again. As I am frequently in the Midland area for business meetings, I will continue to return to the Principal as they are by far and by large the best pub in the area.Follow Me on Facebook! The Principal Brewing Company 23 Cale Street, Midland 6056 | (08) 9250 2995 | www.theprincipal.com.au Price: $$$$ (Light menu $9-27, Mains $24-34) Food: 2.5/5 (generally average food but better than other pubs in the area) Service: 3/5 (relaxed and friendly) Ambience: 2.5/5 (not very inviting, cold and stark) Drinks: 2.5/5 (small wine list) Total: 10.5/20 Celyta’s Cuisine 30 The Crescent, Midland 6056 | (08) 9274 8318 | celytascuisine.drupalgardens.com Price: $$$$ (Entrees $14, Mains $17-40) Food: 2/5 (very average considering menu prices) Service: 3/5 (a little slow but friendly enough) Ambience: 2/5 (brightly lit) Drinks: 2.5/5 (BYO, serves hot coffee) Total: 9.5/20
It was New Year’s Day and I woke up a bit weary-headed and totally famished. We had started our New Year’s Eve night off at the Greenhouse enjoying some good tunes, food and company then all continued partying on back at our house after they shut at 2am. The night was made even better because my sister had flown all the way over from Melbourne to join us for the week.
Looking at the casualties scattered around my house that morning it seemed that I was not the only one that was border-lining on starvation either. My sister and I were craving something much more delicious than my fridge could offer us so; accompanied by Big Bones we set off on our search. Unsurprisingly, the boy chose to stay at home nursing his sore head which was a result of the excesses of the prior evening. We had arranged to meet my bestie and her other half at the OBH for some hair-of-the dog drinks later in the evening so we figured head towards the beach and see what we could find.
Not a lot was open around the Claremont area so after some time of driving around we were pleased to see most of the restaurants along the iconic coastal road in Cottesloe were open. Cottesloe beach is internationally renowned for its beauty and lifestyle. Having had many a pleasant breakfast at the beachside café Barchetta before, I convinced everyone to stop in there for a nibble before we recommenced punishing our poor bodies with further frivolities at the Obie.
As we were seated at our table we all realised we were starting to fade fast and were really in desperate need of some sustenance. Our waitress was friendly enough despite the fact she looked like she was suffering from her own post-celebratory pain. She verbally stumbled throughout the whole process of taking our order and she kept repeating herself several times. We ordered some lemon peppered baby calamari but requested for them to be served gluten-free. She warned us the dish wouldn’t taste as nice without the “powder” so we explained to her that we are used to making compromises and we are actually very grateful to the kitchen for willing to adapt. Unfortunately we should have heeded her advice as she was indeed correct, this dish was quite disappointing. The calamari was tasteless without the crumb and was in desperate need for some seasoning of sorts. It was served with a rocket and herb salad which was similarly flavourless and unexciting.
We also ordered the chilled king prawn salad which was served with cherry tomatoes, orange, spinach and crispy pancetta. The prawns were fresh and a decent size, the pancetta wonderfully crispy and crunchy, and the sweet vincotto dressing married perfectly with the addition of juicy pieces of orange. It was a perfectly fresh and uplifting hangover cure.
Big Bones ordered the house made porcini mushroom gnocchi with braised rabbit and chevre cheese. This dish was not exactly what he expected and consisted of a long plate of braised rabbit topped with four gnocchi which were dolloped with the goats’ cheese. The rabbit was apparently quite dry and was in dire need of some more love and attention in its preparation in order to make the most of its delicate flavours. The gnocchi were also a little dry and perhaps not that fresh.
Finally to share we ordered a bowl of cinnamon kumara fries. These were the highlight of the meal, I have never tried the combination of cinnamon with the kumara before and it was a match made in heaven. It was served with a preserved lemon and basil aioli which only made them even more moreish!
Once the food started to line our stomachs, the thoughts of the last night’s overindulgences faded away into a distant memory so we shared a zesty bottle of Mount Langi Ghiran “Cliff Edge” Pinot Gris. With the cool wind gusting around us from the ocean, we sat back and relaxed as someone fossicked around in the sand with her metal detector. I wondered if she would actually find anything of value. Observing her complete lack of expression of her face in the distance, I highly doubt it!
After finishing our meals we sat waiting for over ten minutes to be offered dessert menus and coffees. After seemingly becoming invisible to all staff, Big Bones gestured over to a waitress and requested dessert menus. A further five minutes passed and she forgotten again to bring them over so we had to ask her again. By the time we actually were given the menus in our hot little hands it was getting well into the evening and we were very late for our drinking session across the road. Refuelled we traipsed over the road to recommence our celebrations where we had left off earlier in the wee hours of the morning. We are going to need to do some serious detoxing in the New Year!Price: $$$$ (Entrée $16-24, Mains $25-39) Food: 6.5/10 Service: 3/5 Venue: 4/5 Total = 13.5/20 Barchetta 149 Marina Parade, Cottesloe 6011 | (08) 9385 2411 | http://www.barchetta.com.au/