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
At the very tail end of my annual leave I received a spontaneous call from one of my dearest friends and business partner Chris to join her on a lunch date. She was freed of the responsibility of her little offspring for the afternoon and wanted to make the most of it. She wasn’t fussy where we went and let me choose the venue. With so many new bars popping up around town it is hard to keep up despite being a food blogger. One bar that has sparked my interest is Shadow Wine Bar located in the new Alex Hotel. Moving away from the current trend of tight spaces and walk-ins, Shadow Wine Bar fills a large space with dramatic black and white interiors, massively high ceilings and an industrial warehouse-gone-chic feel.
I tend to avoid making an early judgement on the fluidity of service for new venues like this, not only are the staff new but everything is new and everyone deserves time to land on their feet. So I excused our waiter’s error in telling me all the pasta dishes were gluten free along with a dish with a rye crumb. It was even easier to forgive him quickly when the rest of our service was accompanied with smiles and attentiveness.
We started with the potato crisp topped with fresh crab and a lemon aioli. These morsels were a mouthful of flavour however the potato didn’t hold up to the weight of its toppings and became a little soggy in the middle.
The pan-fried haloumi was a squeaky treat matched beautifully with slightly sweet, slightly sour pink grapefruit and peppery fresh watercress. A simple collection of ingredients that balanced elegantly.
The veal carpaccio was the winner of the day. Nearly translucent slices of veal were marbled with spider thin strands of white fat and tore apart like tissue paper across the plate. Truffle mustard drizzled generously on top gave a subtle hint of truffiliciousness.
Shadow Bar’s crispy pork jowl is a must for pork lovers. The crackling was browned to a tooth-chipping, crunchable texture while the underlying unctuous goodness melted in the mouth without any lingering aftertaste.
A meal with Chris is never complete without sweets. In fact, over nearly two decades of friendship I cannot recall ever eating with her and not ingesting something saccariferous. Not that I am complaining because I am no different. After a round of giggles from us both trying to pronounce “tart tartin” properly in French, Chris ordered the pear tart tartin. It was served with tonka bean ice cream which had a similar flavour to vanilla with a hint of caramel.
The only gluten free dessert option was the poached rhubarb served with a scoop of mascarpone and shards of meringue. Whilst my dessert certainly looked the part, I found its flavours to be underwhelming with the creaminess and tartness unbalanced due to a distinct lack of sweetness. It almost felt like there was a missing ingredient.
Our lunch experience at Shadow Wine Bar left me undecided on my opinion so the following day I brought the Boy back there for lunch for a second chance. Our waitress was much more clued on about what was gluten free and sailed me through the menu without hesitation. Sadly only a handful of the small plates could be adapted and despite being a hotel there was no gluten free bread available.
We started with the jamon iberico which was served with fresh bread on the side for the Boy and some very tasty pickles. Like the carpaccio, the meat was high quality and similarly soft and flavourful.
The fish of the day was two fillets of pan-fried King George Whiting with a puttanesca sauce made with olives, eggplant, zucchini and capsicum. I picked out the fructose loaded onions easily. As the Boy devoured his share he wondered why I had any reservations about this venue as he had only experienced winning dishes.
Our next dish was the braised lamb neck ragu and this cemented his positive opinion on Shadow. Served on a bed of soft polenta, the lamb was delicately textured, moist and rich and we both savoured each mouthful.
In contrast to Chris, the Boy doesn’t have a sweet tooth except for his weakness for ice cream. I was happy to settle for some cheese instead especially as I had seen two of my favourites of all time on the menu; namely Manchego and Brillat Savarin. These are two very different cheeses but are both ground-shakingly amazing. The cheeses were served at the perfect temperature to maximise their flavour but sadly there were no gluten free crackers or bread to accompany. I am hoping this is just one small oversight that they plan to resolve.
I am glad I returned back to Shadow Wine Bar as I can now appreciate it has oodles of potential. Housed in an impressive space, with a short to the point menu and serving wines by the glass or carafe Shadow Wine Bar proves that our little city Perth is finally growing up. I am hoping that they will progress to becoming a little more gluten free friendly so that people like me can enjoy more of their European styled menu.
Shadow Wine Bar
214 William Street, Northbridge WA | (08) 6430 4010 | www.shadowwinebar.com.au
“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
Degustation is a French word which can be translated into meaning “a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods focusing on the senses using high culinary art”. I have always been a huge fan of tasting menus as they allow me to taste a myriad of different dishes and leave me so insanely full that I never feel like I missed out. This style of dining is one best done slowly with good company and conversation which makes me thankful that my dear husband loves “degos” as much as I do. As you can imagine, for my recent solo trip to Barcelona I became emotionally torn; do I have a degustation in a city known for its fabulous food ON MY OWN? Is that too weird? I had read great things about Michelin starred Restaurant Nectari where their Chef Jordi Esteve offers a gluten free tasting menu complete with matching wines. Nectari opened their doors nearly five years ago and since then they have worked toward earning a well-known reputation for their service and food leading to receiving their first Michelin Star in 2013.
I tried to visualise myself sitting alone in a restaurant eating a ten course meal and decided that although I could do it I would be less conspicuous at lunchtime. I arranged my booking via email before leaving Australia but on my arrival I was met with a few surprised looks, mainly because I was on my own and regrettably spoke negligible Spanish. I was ushered into the empty restaurant, looked around at the vacant seats and started to wonder if this was all a big mistake. I tried to remind myself that the Spanish eat out late, and that it would be normal to find a restaurant empty on a week day.
My nervousness was soon to pass as my waitress for the day approached me with such genuine warmth that I immediately felt at ease. I quickly learnt she was a cat person and before long we were exchanging feline stories in broken English. My amuse bouche was so colourful with four very different mouthfuls of deliciousness; a spoonful of fresh raw salmon with a sliver of creamy egg frittata, a fold of mango wrapped in jamón, fresh mandarin with mozzarella and a quail egg on top of olive purée. Some home-made gluten free olive and spiced tomato breads were also brought to the table with a selection of local olive oils to choose from.
In my excitement to share my first course on Instagram I completely forgot to take a photo with my SLR camera “Gordon” and therefore only have this iPhone shot. Sorry peeps! The soup was a mussel cream served with sesame and green oil. Even though it was served cold it had a rich, strong flavour. Hidden in the bottom was a single super sweet prawn.
The foie gras terrine was served with an unusual combination of watermelon coulis, pistachio and fresh strawberries. Each sliver was decadent and creamy with a sweet after-taste accentuated by the coulis. Crunchy almond biscuits with a hint of black pepper provided a textural contrast.
Staying true to the Chef’s traditional Spanish roots his next course was a glammed up gazpacho. Freshly poached lobster, caramelised roasted almonds, melon sorbet and jamón were all gently engulfed by the vibrant gazpacho as it was poured into my bowl tableside.
My palate was entertained with layers of fruity coolness interrupted intermittently by the crunch of a roasted nut or smoked piece of jamón. This was an outstanding dish.
The next course was described as “sting ray with carrot sauce and mussels”. I wished my Spanish was better so I could further enjoy the details that she described of this dish. Each piece of fish was delicate and soft, shredding easily under my fork. The sauce was surprisingly syrupy and sweet.
The following course was the only dish I didn’t thoroughly enjoy; prawn and mushroom dumplings with a seafood sauce. The dumplings were a little chewy and their contents were too salty for my liking.
Before the main course I was served a refreshing passionfruit sorbet “for my digestion” topped with a sugar crusted miniature mint leaf. After the briny dumplings it was a welcome cleanser for my taste buds.
The rack of lamb was served very rare which is thankfully just how I like it. I visualised in my mind some of my more conservative friends gasping at the deep red colour and lack of brown sear on the meat. It was served with a bright red pepper sauce and roasted green garlic. The green garlic was quite mild in flavour but even so I knew there would be no vampires attacking me on my walk back to the hotel.
The cheese plate included Tous del Tillers, Comte and Gorgonzola. Tous del Tillers is a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Catalan province of Lleida and had Brie-like bloomy rind and rich creamy centre. Comte is a semi-hard unpasteurised cheese from France and is thus is hard to obtain in Australia. It has a complex, nutty flavour and similar texture to Gruyère. Many of you will be much more familiar with Gorgonzola as this is a regular feature on many cheese platters back in Perth.
My dessert was quite an unusual surprise. A shimmering gold bullion shaped block of rich chocolate mousse sat comically on my plate. As I plunged my spoon into its foamy texture, thick cranberry liquor oozed out. It was magical and unexpected. The combination of tart and sweet was perfectly balanced and ended this experience on a high note.
As my petit fours was brought to the table I realised that I had journeyed through a whole ten course degustation on my own without once feeling bored or lonely. For someone who is normally highly gregarious I felt this to be a big achievement. I have to confess however the restaurant DID have WIFI allowing me to skate across a number of social media platforms for the duration of my meal. The lunch ended with the chef coming out to my table wanting to get my feedback and to make sure that I enjoyed my meal. A lovely personal touch.
Nectari RestaurantCarrer València, 28 08015 Barcelona | 932 26 87 18 | www.nectari.es Price: $$$ (Awarded One Michelin Star 2013, caters for gluten free) Food: 4.5/5 (presented exquisitely and passionately, fresh flavours with local influences) Service: 4/5 (one of the waitresses speaks reasonable English, otherwise best learn Spanish) Ambience: 3.5/5 (hard to assess as I dined at an unusual time in the middle of the week and day) Drinks: 4/5 (beautifully matched wines choosing predominately local wines) Total: 16/20
The Boqueria Markets in Barcelona date all the way back to the 1400s when a pig market existed on the same site where the markets exist today. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later in 1826 that these markets were legally recognised and shortly later an official undercover structure was built. Unlikely most things in Spain, the Boqueria markets get well under way by mid-morning and so I advise you to get there well before 12 pm. I made the mistake of fueling up at my hotel’s breakfast buffet and arrived at the markets with a full belly. Definite fail. Next time I am in Barcelona, I will be sure to arrive at Boqueria Markets hungry. Very hungry.
These markets are filled will all sorts of fresh local produce and if your accommodation has kitchen facilities I suggest you do your food shopping here! Or better still grab yourself some provisions and head to Park Guell for a picnic in the Spanish sunshine.
I spent several hours wandering the market aisles taking it all in; sights, smells and bustling atmosphere. Here’s a taste of the excitement.
La Boqueria is located just off La Ramblas and is open from 8am until 8.30 pm Monday to Saturday.
After landing in Singapore on the overnight flight from Perth I was accompanied by the Boy and one of my business partners Woki to attend a friend’s wedding at the Fairmont Hotel. Not willing to be discouraged by our lack of sleep we refused to waste our free day and spent most of it exploring the city. We conveniently ended our self-guided tour at Ku De Ta which is situated on the 57th level of one of the three Marina Bay Sands (MBS) towers. Sipping our drinks we watched a blanket of dark ominous clouds slowly envelop the city from our viewpoint on high and by the time the tropical storm reached us we were all seriously hungry. We headed back downstairs in search of some food.
Back on the ground floor foyer, we were served by a small framed, elegant woman who kindly took great trouble to ring around a few restaurants in the complex in search of a table. She managed to secure us a booking at Guy Savoy, one of the “celebrity restaurants” at the Casino. The only time available was just an hour away yet there we stood all wind-swept, sweaty and in no way presentable for fine dining.
Jumping in a cab the Boy, Woki and I made a mad dash to return to our hotel but as we crawled inch by inch through peak hour traffic I started to feel the tension among us rising. By this point, the monsoonal downpour was in full force and I could barely see the road in front of us. Jumping out of the cab to proceed on foot was completely out of the question!
Upon our return to Fairmont Hotel we quickly raced upstairs dripping wet to our rooms. With my heart pounding in excitement I flurried about spraying my hair with a ton of hair products and my face with a lathering of makeup. After the finishing touch of a smear of bright red lipstick I prayed my transformation into something more elegant was successful.
However, our building anticipation was not to end there. It almost felt like fate was against us as we ended up taking the wrong train, got off on the wrong station and then took a full circle route on foot of the entire MBS complex before we could actually find the restaurant. Let me tell you, it is not well signposted and MBS is huge!
A little flustered and nauseatingly hungry we were seated at our table ready for the fun to begin. Our meal was kick-started by a few adorable bite size canapés.
The gluten eaters received a pint-sized foie gras club sandwich and similarly Lilliputian cube of parmesan waffle.
My gluten free canapés included a spoonful of miniature cubes of beetroot sprinkled with black truffle on a herb purée and some finely grated apple with baby celery leaves on an almond crumble.
As we allowed these flavours to entertain our palate, our waiter wheels out an old polished wood trolley with a whole leg of Joselito’s Ibérico de Bellota Jamón. Ibérico jamón is a type of ham made from black Iberian pigs that are kept free range on pasture and oak groves where they feast on a diet of acorns, grass, herbs and roots. Joselito’s Ibérico jamón is world famous for being the best ham in world and wholesale prices start at around $600 for a small leg and can get well over $3000-4000 for an aged leg. They pride themselves on raising “happy pigs” and believe this is a major factor in their meat quality.
The waiter carved in front of us about a dozen slices straight off the bone. Dark purple in colour and with multiple thread-like veins of white fat coursing through the meat; the wafer thin slivers of ham nearly dissolved on contact with my tongue. Eating Joselito jamón is quite an unforgettable foodie’s experience and I highly recommend that you try it yourself if you ever have the chance.
The unusual pretzel shaped bread was unfortunately not gluten free and as there wasn’t any gluten free bread option I had to satisfy myself by just having a brief sniff of its fresh doughy aroma. I cannot deny it is always a little disappointing when I visit fine dining institutions such as this and a gluten free bread option is overlooked. Not that I really needed bread given the enormous meal we were about to enjoy!
Our Amuse Bouche was a chilled Vichyssoise-styled soup made from leek, potatoes and cream. The addition of fennel gave a slightly sweet and refreshing after-taste. Curiously hidden under the small mug of thick soup contained two little half spheres of fennel and leek “royale”, basically a smooth lime green custard topped with minuscule little micro herbs and pea sized blobs of herb purée. With the subtle sweetness of the fennel in the soup still lingering, this little dollop served to extend and enhance the ambrosial experience with utmost precision.
Both the Boy and Woki ordered the “crab with multi-coloured beetroot variations” for their entrée. The concept of this dish was to “marry land and sea”. The blood red and lemon yellow shavings of roasted beets were curled into cone like flowers. Each little beet “flower” was filled with a foamy light beetroot blancmange followed by delicate portions of the cooked Australian Spanner crab meat. Savoury shortbread crumble and flecks of beetroot crisps sprinkled over the dish to add more complexity.
Alongside the salad was served a warm golden beetroot tartlet containing hints of cardamom and orange. The pastry collapsed in the mouth like fairy floss. It lay on top of a wafer thin square of transparent paper that looked a bit like cellophane. We were informed this was salt paper and was entirely edible. Despite the tart being the accompaniment, both the boy and our companion agreed it was the star of the two components.
This photo of my entrée is not my own and is courtesy of the restaurant. My mosaic of poulard, foie gras and artichoke was by far and by large the highlight of the evening yet for some strange reason it completely bypassed me to take a photo. Like a bizarre form of savoury layer cake, thick door stop-sized slices of young fattened poulard, wedges of soft foie gras and similar textured artichoke sat relatively unimpressively on my plate. They were accompanied by two precisely equal sized blobs of black truffle vinaigrette. The appearance of this dish does in no way make one’s mouth water; which is perhaps why my photography was overlooked. However just one mouthful of these three simple ingredients with a conservative smear of the vinaigrette and you will change your mind forever. This dish was absolutely mind-blowing; the rich buttery elegance showed true respect for the ingredients with no need for embellishment.
As we waited for our mains to arrive out came a little prequel, some sort of intermission entertainment I guess; named the Chestnut Royale. Now I am quite partial to chestnuts, yet I rarely see them feature on the menus in Australia. They always conjure up memories of walking down the streets of Paris where street vendors roast them everywhere in the winter. This innocent looking dish was quite a taste sensation. A perfectly formed dome of smooth chestnut custard sat swimming in a light bed of chestnut milk. Carefully placed on top a milk glazed chestnut glistened under the dim lighting garnished with tiny little pygmy sized celery leaves and chestnut chips.
Woki thoroughly enjoyed his “Shoulder of Australian Wagyu in two preparations”. By using an oyster blade steak or “paleron” as it is called by the French, the meat contained wondrous marbling and flavour. The first portion was braised in a red wine jus topped with baby carrots and a black pepper mignonette. The second portion of beef was purely just seared and garnished with dollops of wasabi. Both portions of beef sliced like butter at room temperature as good Wagyu should.
The accompanying side dish of potato Maxim’s and bitter greens was comparatively lacklustre and did not wow Woki at all.
I ordered the pan seared duck breast with eggplant “gianduja” sauce and “au poivre”. I was informed by our waiter that in order to achieve the creamy pate-like texture of the meat the duck breast was seared, then cooked sous vide, and then finally seared again. On my plate balanced so carefully like a stack of cards were thin slivers of eggplant served with gianduja chocolate sauce. The sauce tasted a little reminiscent of Nutella due to its high hazelnut content. Tiny little purple delight flowers scattered amongst the eggplant giving a splash of colour and bitter flavour. The duck was richly flavoured and buttery tender and left me wanting more.
My side dish was potato tagliatelle; thin ribbon like curls of deep fried potato. This was the only dish I ate that I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps some seasoning would have improved this element however even if that were the case it felt a little mismatched to the fabulous duck dish.
The Boy ordered the “Saddle, rack and shoulder of lamb; Land and Sea”. Unfortunately for him, after being left relatively unimpressed with his entrée choice his main didn’t manage to suitably wow him either. The main part of his dish contained a roasted rack of lamb placed on an almond and hazelnut praline. The saddle of lamb was stuffed with bamboo clams and pan roasted. Next to the lamb I recognised some emerald-green samphire on his plate; something we were introduced to during our beautiful lunch at Millbrook Winery last year where the chef forages it from the banks of the Swan River.
The second part to his dish was his favourite. The shoulder of the lamb was braised and wrapped in thinly sliced potatoes and topped with sprinklings of purple potato crisps. I recall the waiter mentioned that this component contained melted onions so I didn’t get to taste it! This dish was apparently seasoned in the bamboo clam jus.
By this point in time in the night I was starting to receive a number of subtly concerned looks from the Boy and knew he was worried as to how much this meal was going to cost us. He is never been one to be a killjoy by any means and during our near fifteen years together we have shared some highly priced memorable meals together. But he is also a sensible man, and he knew all too well that just coming over to Singapore alone was breaking the budget so close to our wedding, so enjoying a four figure fine dining experience was definitely going to break the bank. A smart move from me at this would have been to proclaim total fullness and call it a night.
And then out came the cheese trolley. And all my sensibility went out the window. My thoughts of finances, savings and budgets temporarily felt incredibly less important. Our dinner companion Woki was no help either. Being a father to two little ones means he rarely gets to experience such incredible culinary excellence and wanted to make the most of our evening. After a long consideration we settled for three cheeses: the curious looking Mimolette, Fourme d’Ambert and most dear to my heart Saint Marcellin; a cheese produced by my late uncle Jeannot’s factory in the Alps of France.
The Fourme d’Ambert is a very mild blue cheese that is considered to be one of France’s oldest cheeses dating back to Roman times. It is a semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk and has a luscious creamy texture and leaves a slightly sweet earthy mushroom after-taste.
The Mimolette had such a curious appearance that it was our wild card choice for the evening. The cheese looked like a cross between a rock melon and a dusty cannonball. It was a hard round ball with a pocked dimpled surface. I later learnt that the dimpled appearance is actually due to the activity of surface mites that burrow their way through the surface rind which in turn allows the cheese to breathe and mature. From the heart of this bizarre rock, our waiter scooped out some bright orange brittle cheese. It tasted quite unexpectedly sweet and caramelised, and felt like you were eating a hybrid of fudge and cheese, but in a good way.
Our portion of the Saint Marcellin cheese regrettably wasn’t warmed to room temperature and thus failed to relax into that sexy goo I have enjoyed many times before. I was very disappointed because for a number of years I have been talking up about this cheese to Woki. It is not easy to come by in Australia and this was his first time trying it.
For some reason the next two following pre-dessert dishes managed once again to escape my camera. I think I was a little distracted by my growing concern as the impending bill. Our first pre-dessert was so delectable that Woki jokingly exclaimed to the waiter that it was “no good” and that we all requested another one. His sarcasm was lost on our waitress and with a worried look she scuttled away to get us another serve.
We were too full to order a dessert but were tempted by the trolley of “petit fours”-styled mini-serves of ice cream, sorbet and biscuits and each tried a little portion for ourselves.
Just when we thought the near theatrical dining experience was over, as I sipped on my peppermint tea an Earl Grey Sorbet was delivered to our table for a final palate cleanse. Served on top of a black pepper crème anglaise the subtle flavours of the bergamot from the tea left a very refreshing end to our wondrous meal. Suffice to say, the Boy was right; we are still paying back our share of the meal to Woki!Guy Savoy The Shoppes, Atrium 2 L2-01, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8513 | www.guysavoy.com Price: $$$$$ Food: 4.7/5 (my choices were nearly faultless but there were some hits & misses at my table) Service: 5/5 (very knowledgeable and attentive with a noticeable lack of any pretension) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a little formal and stuffy but some fabulous views) Drinks: 4/5 (very extensive wine list but a considerable mark up on bottle prices) Total: 17.2/20
It was my birthday weekend and I decided to treat myself with a three-day eating and drinking fiesta with the Boy and a few of our close friends. Our first night was a very casual affair at our local Victoria Park favourite Little Ying Thai. My bestie and her man came along with us but as it was a weeknight we all managed to contain ourselves from getting too carried away.
On our second night we seized the rare opportunity for an outing with the Boy’s Best Man along with my two Perth-based bridesmaids. His Best Man works FIFO on a number of mining sites so we don’t get to hang out with him nearly as much as we would like to. Last year during one of Mum’s visits to Perth we took her to Cantina 663 and were all really impressed with our memorable meal. Since then I have been really keen to go back and so I suggested going there to one of my bridesmaids Amber. It turns out Cantina has been on her wish list for some time. Perfect!
Decked out in my brand new outfit from Abercrombie and Fitch (courtesy of my Dad and Stepmum) and feeling like a million bucks, we headed out on the town for a night of fun. We were supposed to start off with meeting everyone at the Flying Scotsman for some pre-dinner drinks but we both took way too long getting ready and subsequently had to head straight to Cantina.
Cantina 663 serves European style food with predominately Spanish, Portuguese and Italian influences. They pride themselves on having a fortnightly changing menu that reflects what’s seasonally available locally and they strive to source organic and ecologically sustainable produce when they can.
The wait staff exude edgy style and are energetic and friendly. Our table’s waitress for the evening was very proficient and her passion for food was obvious as she discussed the suitability of each dish with me even prior to chatting with the chef. She was even familiar with the condition fructose malabsorption which I was impressed with. She happily communicated back and forth with the kitchen to assist in creating an adapted family style menu that was ample food for all of us to enjoy despite my allergies.
The pork rillettes were decadently rich and oh so moreish and this dish was the first thing to disappear. I had brought along some Schar brand Italian gluten-free bread with me in preparation as I recall from our last experience that a lot of Cantina’s dishes would be much more delicious smeared on bread and they currently do not carry gluten-free bread. I delighted in lashing thick layers of the pork on my charred grilled bread. The pickled beans were surprisingly sweet and were the ideal match with the pork.
Because a lot of the dishes on the menu contained onion, the chef offered to especially make for me a fig and goats curd salad. Apparently this dish used to be on their menu and was very popular. Fructose malabsorbers do have to be a little careful with eating figs, but to be honest this salad would have been scrumptious even without them…I have to confess I did eat just a few as I figured can tolerate a very small amount without too much problems. Gluten is my real enemy.
The salumi platter was entirely gluten-free however she informed me that two of the meats may contain onion as they are not made on the premises. I cannot remember all that was on there but I do remember some luscious dark bresaola, spicy chorizo and soft delicate jamon amongst others. It was served with house pickles which were quite tasty and not too acetic or briny.
Unfortunately for me the zucchini flowers were off the menu as they were battered in flour before frying so I missed out on this wondrous looking dish. I was quite jealous as they looked incredible and were demolished very quickly. I was told the batter was fluffy and light and there was so much flavouring in the stuffing. Instead I ordered the tin of pollastrini sardines piccanti served with fresh lemon and my charred gluten-free bread. I used to love sardines on toast as a child and these little fishies brought back great memories. I was nearly the only one who ate these – I guess you really have to be a hard-core fish fan to eat sardines. They also had a bit of a kick to them with the added chilli.
After stuffing our faces with all our entrees, we ordered a couple of mains to share between us. I originally wanted to order the risotto but the rice is parboiled with stock during prep and the stock contained onion. Instead I opted for the pan fried barramundi. The fish was so heavenly and was cooked to a perfect buttery smooth consistency and had crispy crunchy skin. I can honestly say pan fired barramundi is right up there in my top five favourite fish so perhaps I’m a little biased with my praise for this dish. Putting my approval of the fish aside though, even its accompaniments were so appetising in their own right and pushed me and the girls well into the realms of being seriously full!
The boys ordered the gnocchi which although it was a small serve it left them quite satisfied. We also ordered a couple of sides to go with our mains, the spinach and avocado with walnut dressing and the roasted zucchini with tahini yoghurt. Considering these dishes were just meant to be sides – they were so good I could have easily had a whole serve of either to myself! Especially the zucchinis; they were slightly caramelised during roasting and literally burst in your mouth with every bite.
Once again, I can see its obvious why Cantina 663 consistently receives great ratings on Urbanspoon and other restaurant review sites as they have everything going for them: great food, dynamic staff, flexibility with catering for allergies and they are situated in an awesome location. This remains a definite fav for Chompchomp!FOLLOW ME ON FACEBOOK! Cantina 663 Astor Arcade, 663 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, 6050 | (08) 9370 4883 | http://www.cantina663.com/ Price: $$$$ ($7-16 share plates/entrees, $25-35 mains) Food: 4.5/5 (as many dishes are served with bread it would be great if they stocked GF) Service: 4.5/5 (efficient, quick and knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (bustling energy but air con struggled in the heat) Drinks: 4/5 (extensive wine list with a lot of interesting options) Total: 17/20
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
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