Reflecting back on last year I have a mixed bag of emotions. It was a roller-coaster experience of opportunity coupled with some of my darkest times in years. I expected 2014 to be a wonderful year of post–wedding bliss but sadly the Boy and I were not that lucky. A family feud that commenced in the months before our wedding resulted in my family fragmenting apart, and then to add to this heartbreak my business came very close to a similar fate. Worst of all, one of my friends was tragically killed in a horrific car accident.
Whilst trying to deal with all of this turmoil, I injected my energy into writing and saw this humble blog blossom into something even my critical mind can be proud of.
As direct result of such a year I neglected spending time with many of my friends. The only occasions I would see many of them would be at invited foodie events and even then this would be a rushed and distracted moment in time.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend my time more wisely and make more effort to hang with those I heart. Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse and Perth Food Truck Rumble is one of the first food bloggers that I became close friends with. We first met after both being accepted to attend Eat Drink Blog ‘12 in Adelaide. Both being a little quirky in our own individual ways, we connected immediately and have been great friends ever since.
Following with my New Years promise to myself, I met with Ai-Ling for a ladies lunch at Circa in Mount Lawley. Being able to chat without all the fan fare of an official foodie event was such a better way to share company. I need to make time to do this more often.
Circa do not indicate on their menu gluten free options however after a brief chat to our waitress she was confidently able to let me know what I could have. She showed a deeper level of understanding of what constitutes a gluten free dish explaining that some dishes don’t contain gluten however they will still have some contamination and therefore would not be suitable for Coeliacs and those very sensitive.
The chicken parfait was served with toasted gluten free bread. We were kindly offered normal bread for Ai-Ling to enjoy and each serve of bread was served on separate plates to ensure no mixing of crumbs. The parfait was velvety smooth and reminded me of the enormous dish Mum always makes for us around Christmas time. She does everything from scratch and we eat parfait on toast for days until it’s all devoured.
For our main we shared the roasted duck, a tender slightly pink breast served on cauliflower purée and charred cabbage with a sweet apricot jus. Not the most fructose friendly of choices but I have been eating so much vegan dishes in my post-Christmas guilt that I was craving some poultry.
Sadly we ran out of time to hit the dessert menu. I don’t think there was a silent moment for the whole two hours that we sat together and it felt like our time was over in a flash. Of all the lessons I learnt last year, one of those is that life can be short. Sometimes a lot shorter than you were ever expecting. Taking time out from the rat race of life to laugh, connect and share with those you love is so important.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp paid in full for this meal as a gesture of friendship however also because Ai-Ling actually ran out of time and had to race off for an appointment. Time really did escape us!
The Swan Valley have recently been awarded the accolade of becoming Australia’s first Humane Food Region. Earlier last month I attended their launch party held at Sandalford Winery where I learnt all about this RSPCA driven initiative.
The Humane Food movement is aimed giving recognition to businesses that are dedicated to improving the lives of food production animals to allow them to live a more natural and a happy life. To become involved businesses must undergo an accreditation process and those that meet the high standards set by the RSPCA are identified on the Choose Wisely website.
Entwined in the Valley was the first official public event hosted in the Valley since it was declared a Humane Food Region. It was an elaborate evening of seven stunning courses matched with individually selected wines held on the grounds of Houghton Winery.
The indulgent degustation was prepared by Masterchef judge George Calombaris and one of my favourite Perth-based chefs Kiren Mainwaring. The world-famous Ch’ng Poh Tiong was our smiling sommelier for the evening. With Anna Gare as the MC, she successfully managed to maintain lively banter with the chefs and sommelier on stage and kept the feel of the night humorous and light hearted.
Lucky for me the majority of the dishes were already gluten free and therefore required minimal if any adaptations. Our evening started with canapés to share around the table; some Mt Barker humane farmed chicken liver parfait served on a crisp onion skin with pickled celery, and West Australian wild prawn crackers topped with fresh prawn meat and fennel.
Our first entrée was a decadently soft slab of bark smoked West Australian Rainbow Trout with wattle seed and the tiniest shavings of white chocolate. White chocolate with trout you say? Well, as strange as the combination sounds it definitely worked. The chocolate particles were so small that they dissolved on contact with my tongue leaving a subtlety sweet after-taste. I MAY have run my finger across my empty plate a couple of times to smear up the last chocolate fragments but there is no proof I actually did this at such a premium event.
For those of you familiar with Kiren’s amazing repertoire of dishes, you will know his slow cooked eggs are out of this world. The second entrée reminded me of one of his creations that we loved at the Farmer’s Long Table lunch at Truffle Kerfuffle.
A silky smooth cylinder of slow cooked hen’s yolk was served with shards of savoury meringue, cauliflower purée, green olive and shaved Moorish pistachios.
The first main dish was George’s dish. A buttery soft confit duck leg topped with germinated lentils and drizzled with a spiced plum purée. A single sake compressed cucumber added some Japanese styled acidity and tang to the dish. The germinated lentils gave an interesting crunchy element without being too bitter. The sprouting process also has the added benefit of raising the nutrient level of these legumes making this dish somewhat healthy! 😉
The second main course was a slow cooked kangaroo tail with Jerusalem artichoke crisps and purée, fresh apple and crisp salt bush. I was a bit nervous to eat this dish as I have a history of reacting to kangaroo where the back of my throat becomes puffy and swollen almost like a mild anaphylactic reaction. Last time I ate kangaroo was over ten years ago and long before I was diagnosed with my all my food intolerances. I have avoided eating it since reacting three times in a row. I have always wondered whether it was something else in the dish each time or I was actually allergic to just the roo itself.
The Boy suggested I try a small mouthful and wait ten minutes or so to see if I still had a problem with it. I bravely tried a mouthful and within minutes developed only a slight scratching at the back of my throat. Nowhere near the severe reaction that I had many moons ago. I cautiously ate a few more mouthfuls before surrendering my plate to the Boy to finish it off.
Having survived my re-entry into the kangaroo eating world without the need to reach for an Epipen, I was very excited to tuck into the selection of artisan cheese from the Cheese Barrel complete with gluten free crackers for me to enjoy.
The final dish was one of Kiren’s dessert masterpieces, once again gluten free and as always totally addictive. A moist thick cut slice of chocolate and beetroot cake was literally engulfed in a sour cream mousse with some chocolate sorbet hidden inside the mousse. Thin slivers of fresh beetroot that I nearly mistook for rose petals decorated the dish with a splash of bright colour.
As I nearly slipped into a food coma, I had to remind myself that I had a full day of work the next day and wished I hadn’t enjoyed quite so much of the free flowing wine! Lucky for me I can survive for a short time on little sleep and whilst I cannot say the next day was easy I can guarantee it was all worth it! If Entwined in the Valley is anything to go by, I look forward to the next Humane Region food event!Chompchomp was a guest of the City of Swan at Entwined in the Valley. As paid tickets to this event were very popular there was no offer of a plus one so Chomp was happy to fork out her dosh for another ticket so that the Boy could accompany her. Houghton Winery (note the food for this meal was not prepared by Houghton’s) 148 Dale Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | (08) 9274 9543 | www.houghton-wines.com.au/our-cafe Dear Friends and Co op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au
There are a small handful of restaurants dotted around Perth that I have particularly soft spot for. The mention of their name will always bring a smile to my face and propositions to return will always be met with a resounding yes. Must Wine bar is one of these venues. I have enjoyed countless meals in this classic French bistro with friends and family alike and I feel that I can always depend upon them to deliver polished service and quality dishes. Of course this meant that upon receiving an invitation to return to sample their new Bistro lunch special I was quick to schedule this lunch date in.
Whilst our bistro lunch was kindly on the house, the Boy and I wanted more than just two courses for no other reason than we are greedy. I am not sure what has overcome us both this winter but we have both been eating like there is no tomorrow. We started off with some freshly shucked oysters and Must’s famous chicken liver parfait.
I am a total purist when it comes to my oysters and will always be satisfied if they are served to me natural however the Boy wanted to try something different so we also ordered some Rockefeller oysters grilled with spinach, Pernod cream and Gruyère. Whilst the flavours of the rich cream and Gruyère were luscious, I remained a loyal fan to the naked oysters. Each one of my oysters still had a pool of fresh sea water revealing to me just how freshly shucked they were. Exquisite. A couple of slurps and it was all over.
I have had the pleasure of devouring Must’s chicken liver parfait on many occasions. It has the same smearable smoothness of my mother’s homemade version. Eating it conjures up comforting memories of my childhood at Christmas time when Mum would made enough parfait to feed an army yet there were only three of us. Mind you, it never went to waste.
The Boy was provided with soft slices of toasted brioche however as there was no gluten free equivalent I was happy enough to make do with the rice crackers provided. After sectioning off a non-contaminated gluten free portion for myself I proceeded to get quite excited by my feelings of nostalgia. It wasn’t long before my flying hands has sent the Boy’s water glass tumbling across the table onto his brioche and separate portion of parfait. Ooops! No more brioche for him now!
After a weekend at the Truffle Kerfuffle festival my stomach was craving something simple. I ordered the Sirloin steak with frites and béarnaise sauce; a classic French dish that is one of my French-born father’s favourites. My steak was cooked rare exactly as I had requested and was ever so juicy and flavoursome. The béarnaise sauce was rich and buttery with a lovely sweet aniseed aroma from the fresh tarragon.
The Boy opted for the char-grilled Huon Tasmanian salmon served on a bed of creamy lemon risotto with a fennel and caper salad. His choice was also gluten free allowing me to be able to sneak a couple of mouthfuls as he reached over and simultaneously stole some of my frites. His fish was tender soft with a crispy skinned surface.
For dessert the Boy chose the warm chocolate moelleux with white chocolate ice cream. This wasn’t a gluten free option so I didn’t get to sample its oozing deliciousness. Unlike me, the Boy isn’t a big fan of cakes or puddings and as I crooned over the molten chocolate centre erupting out from the centre he didn’t even bat an eyelid.
Despite being relatively un-fazed by the beauty of chocolate lava, he barely uttered a word as he scooped up spoonful after spoonful until his plate was empty. It was obviously not THAT bad! 😉
After taking all my food photos I proceeded to fall into a similarly silent food trance as I golloped up my own sweet treat. Trust a French bistro like Must to excel at making a stellar brulée.
I loved the layering of textures commencing with a crisp sesame snap on top of smooth raspberry sorbet leading to a translucently thin coating of caramel and finally ending in the smoothest of custard base.
After allowing ourselves to be blissfully ignorant to the world while we feasted in the warmth of the restaurant, it was hard to imagine that we had to return back to the real world of boring Saturday chores and errands. Knowing I still needed the energy to get through a big list before the day was over I ordered my usual coffee; a short macchiato. And of course I didn’t need to say to our waiter “not topped up”, these guys know what a REAL short mac is!
Must Wine bar are offering an $80 bistro lunch for two special which includes two courses with a glass of wine for two people. The menu is changed daily and customers have the choice of ordering an entrée and main, or a main and dessert. This special will run 7 days a week until November this year. Booking are recommended.Chompchomp was an invited guest of Must Wine bar and received the $80 bistro lunch for two as a gift. She was in no way obliged to write a favourable review in exchange for this free feed. Being the over-indulgent person she is, a two course lunch wasn’t sufficient enough for her large appetite and she was happy to pay for her additional dishes at the above indicated prices. Must Wine bar 519 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | (08) 9328 8255 | www.must.com.au
For those of you living in Perth, think back to what it used to be like on a weeknight in our City five years ago. Once the day ended and the clock hit five, all the bustling daytime cafes and bars would shut and everyone would head straight home. Before long the streets of our capital would be stark empty and it was like you were standing in a ghost town. A rapidly growing city with a population of over one million people and yet we turned our backs on our own city centre!? Thankfully things didn’t stay that way forever and after some government incentives like the new small bars laws and the construction of flashy inner city apartment blocks; little sparks of life started popping up everywhere throughout the city. This energy has now burst into full flame and the memory of Perth’s once deserted streets is just an embarrassment of the past.
One of the most exciting new developments in the city is Brookfield Place situated on St Georges Terrace. This complex is based around the BHP skyscraper and is an entertainment hub filled with high end restaurants and bars. Print Hall is one of the more sophisticated new eating locations within the complex and is housed in the beautiful heritage listed Newspaper House. Print Hall recently won six awards at the Australian Hotels Association Western Australia Hospitality Awards for Excellence and has also received one star in the 2014 Good Food Guide. The kitchen team is led by David Coomer of iconic Star Anise fame and Executive chef Shane Watson and these talented guys are very focused on using Western Australian produce to serve European influenced dishes.
My first visit to Print Hall was earlier in the year when we stopped for a couple of quick drinks before seeing David Attenborough’s live show at the Perth Convention Centre. Immediately upon entering the bar I was wowed by its opulence and sense of grandeur; it is massive by Perth standards. Situated at one end of the luxurious bar is a permanent oyster bar manned by the lovely Jerry Fraser who is also known as the “King of Oysters”. Jerry is there nearly every day freshly shucking oysters on demand for hungry diners in addition to serving a variety of super fresh local seafood. On this night however we missed out on meeting the man himself and got his more than competent side kick Tony.
Like moths attracted to a bright light the Boy and I gravitated over to the neon “Jerry’s Oysters” sign and sat ourselves in front of Tony at the bar. Looking at my clock I saw we had exactly one hour until the show began and ambitiously ordered the biggest and most expensive seafood platter to share; “The Print Hall”. The Boy gave me a bit of a high brow look but didn’t make any attempts to stop me ordering it.
Tony assured us he would have our platter ready for us in a jiffy and made quick work preparing everything giving us plenty of time to make a total mess of ourselves as we devoured it.
Our enormous platter was piled high with all the delights of the sea including a full Western rock lobster, Blue Ridge marron, Blue Manna crab, Tiger prawns, mussels, cambinata yabbies and oysters. Nothing beats the taste of freshly shucked oysters in my humble opinion; I can eat them by the dozen. These combined with nearly every other tasty crustacean from the sea it was enough to send us both into a dizzy head spin. It was a fabulous experience and worth every single cent.
After our brief but awesome experience at Print Hall Bar, I was very eager to return. My Dad and Stepmum are two very well-travelled foodies who live in the heart of Melbourne just off Flinders Lane where they are surrounded by the City’s top end restaurants. I knew they would be hard to impress so when they came over for a whirlwind business trip to Perth I took a punt and booked a table in the Print Hall Dining Room.
We started the night off with a round of cocktails upstairs in the Apple Daily Bar overlooking Print Hall’s long bar. Dad and the Boy both ordered the daily special cocktail which was made with apple and rosemary. Not really the Boy’s thing however as you may know he is a purist strawberry daiquiri fan. This drink wasn’t pink enough for him!
I ordered the White Lady Boy made with white spirits, yuzu and ginger. It was topped with pretty little flowers and was fresh, light and far too easy to knock back. I could have gulped another down if it wasn’t a work night! My Stepmum ordered Milk of the Poppy with pandan, mandarin and coconut and her drink tasted like an alcoholic version of something you get off the dessert tray at Dim sum. Just minus the cubes and balls.
After our drinks we were escorted back downstairs to the Print Hall Dining Room. My heart sunk a little as I looked around and saw the dim level of ambient lighting as I knew my photography skills were in for a test. Not to worry, I’m always up for a challenge and what better way to create a beautiful mood than to turn the lights down real low?
After listening to our waitress give us a very polished but somewhat lengthy description of the three champagnes served by the glass, she brought our complementary amuse bouche to the table. A curious zesty tasting disc of fresh cheese made from a mixture of mascarpone, cream, feta and yoghurt and garnished with dried black olives, roasted parmesan, dill pollen and some fresh dill. It was so soft that it begun to melt sumptuously on the plate.
To scoop the cheese up we were given an enormous cracker that looks like something from another planet. It was gluten free and made from potato, tapioca and brown rice flours. It had a similar texture to a prawn cracker being light and easy to start. It was fun passing it around taking turns to snap off a piece.
We chose to have the four course meal option for $110 per person as there was something on the menu for everyone including both vegetarian and gluten free options. To start off with Dad and I chose the Blue Manna crab with curried egg, cucumber and avruga caviar. The crab was so sweet it was almost like eating dessert and the addition of the avruga gave it a wonderful salty finish. My gluten free version omitted the crisp bread however my dish didn’t feel unfinished without it. Our waitress gave me another giant sized cracker in case I wanted that textural crunchy component.
The Boy and my Step mum chose the tartare of Point Samson scampi. It came with a flavoursome carrot, ginger and orange puree and tiny slivers of seaweed and micro herbs.
The Boy chose the vegetarian option of wood grilled black salsify for his second course option. Black salsify is a root vegetable that belongs to the dandelion family and is also known as the oyster plant because it has an oyster like taste when it is cooked. It is considered to be very nutritious containing proteins, fats, essential amino acids, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, E and C. It was served with brilliant green kale, hot smoked ricotta and meaty oyster mushrooms.
The remainder of us chose the roasted pigeon breast for our second course. The pigeon was cured in gin, juniper and sage and then roasted to a luscious ruby red rare. To further enhance the rich colours and flavours, a chunk of creamy rare seared chicken liver was buried in amongst the tender breast along with sweet pickled and pureed beetroot.
Some slightly bitter cooked radicchio leaves were also tossed in there giving a wonderfully diverse tickle to my taste-buds. As I savoured every twist and turn of this dish’s elements I looked up to see both my Dad and Stepmum’s facial expressions indicating they were doing the same!
The main course fish of the day was Red Emperor and have to I apologise to you my dear readers as you will only get to see and hear about one main dish despite there being a number of other beautiful options on the menu. It is a rare occasion that I dine out with my family and we all order the same thing but we did this time round. When I first moved out of home at the tender age of seventeen, the first whole fish I ever attempted to cook was an enormous Red Emperor. It barely fit into my oven and my fellow flat mates looked on with suspicion and doubt. Thankfully the fish turned out perfectly, I proved them all wrong and my love for this fish has stayed ever since. Print Hall did not disappoint and I was served an exquisitely cooked thick wedge of juicy fish topped on a neat pile of wood grilled mussels and squid. Brightly coloured and aromatic sofrito introduced a bit of a South American feel to this dish and it was so good I nearly wanted to lick my plate clean.
To accompany our mains a side serve of salad and a bowl of duck fat potatoes were brought to the table. Now if you bear in mind that my Stepmum has a well-known reputation amongst both friends and family for making the best duck fat potatoes these potatoes were up for some scrutiny. Thankfully they were damn good and although my Stepmum’s are definitely better, it was a pretty close call!
For dessert the Boy ordered the pumpkin pie with pepita sponge and maple ice cream. Not being a much of a sweet tooth, he isn’t really one to get into the whole concept of de-constructed desserts and I guarantee the only reason he chose this was because it said maple ice cream on the menu. He is very easily pleased for his sweets; give him ice cream and it will satisfy him every time.
For my dessert our waitress recommended for me to have the Valrhona chocolate mousse as she felt this was the best gluten free option to have. It sounded nothing short of amazing; Valrhona chocolate mousse, hazelnut, single origin coffee crème and milk sorbet. I have to say however, after enjoying a succession of very impressive courses, my dessert actually left me feeling somewhat under-whelmed. Even my chocoholic Stepmum agreed with me that it wasn’t that exciting. Please don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything specifically wrong with it; it just didn’t feel special like everything else did. After all our other dishes totally exceeded our expectations it was a shame to end the night on a bit of a fizzer.
Overall we were both very impressed on each of our evenings at Print Hall . These guys have nailed all the essential key elements for success; polished, knowledgeable service, interesting and creative food with fresh locally sourced produce where possible and an ambience that makes you feel like you are dining somewhere quite special. I look forward to returning but maybe I will go for lunch next time so that I can actually take some decent photos of their beautiful food!Apple Daily Bar & Eating House 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6282 0088 Print Hall Bar and Dining Room 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 6282 0000 | www.printhall.com.au Price: $$$$ (2 courses $70, 3 courses $90, 4 courses $110, dego $150)) Food: 4.5/5 (creative but with classic elements) Service: 5/5 (faultless) Ambience: 4.5/5 (very romantic and opulent, just not great for a food blogger’s photos!) Drinks: 4.5/5 (extensive wine list, thank god Da chose because I got lost in it all) Total: 18.5/20
Yelp is a company that operates a local search website focused on user reviews much like Urbanspoon, however it encompasses all types of businesses not just restaurants and cafes. Whilst Yelp originated in the US nearly ten years ago, it has more recently landed upon our shores in Australia and has grown steadily in its popularity since. Each capital city has its own dedicated team of promoters who host a number of fun events for their “Yelp Elite” reviewers with the aim to help raise the profile of local businesses. I don’t often blog about these events however my most recent experience at Five Bar has made me want to share my renewed opinion of this venue with you.
I first visited Five Bar back in my early blogging days in November 2011. I cannot believe how much my writing style and photography have developed since then! Whilst I didn’t have anything truly negative to say about that visit, I did find I was very limited with what I could eat that would suit my food allergies. There was a distinct lack of flexibility with kitchen staff and as a result we didn’t return. When I recently received an invitation to their new Spring menu launch I was intrigued to see how they would handle my requirements this time round.
After being greeted by the always smiling Yelp team, Five Bar’s manager Andy welcomed us warmly and talked us through the philosophy and history behind Five Bar. Later in the evening he came over to me to chat and explained that in previous years gone by his kitchen staff weren’t as familiar in working with customers with food allergies as his current staff are today. He carefully advised me what I could and couldn’t enjoy off their tasting menu and assured me that the kitchen would organise a couple of extra gluten free dishes just for me.
I was happy to see two of my favourite gluten free dishes from my previous visit remained on the menu as regulars; the roasted field mushrooms and the addictive sweet potato fries. The mushrooms are normally served on bread but are just as tasty on their own. The sweet potato fries come with a coriander mayo and are the type of chips you would fight someone over for the last one. The kitchen appeared to be well rehearsed in churning out a number of gluten free options for me over the course of the evening. Now whilst I understand that at a free sponsored event it is impossible to document an honest, accurate review of the food because the chef knows that people will be scrutinising it; I wouldn’t have thought that a total change in attitude towards food allergies would be something that you could fake.
There was a distinct Asian influence with a lot of the dishes making them light and easy to eat, the perfect food to match with a casual Sunday session with friends. The coriander and avocado ceviche with cucumber and crispy salmon skin tasted as fresh as summer and I was informed by the beer drinkers it matched perfectly with the chosen beers from Feral Brewery.
To wrap up the night, Steve from Feral Brewery gave us a very animated and passionate summary of what his microbrewery Feral is about. You can read about my recent visit to Feral Brewing Company here.
It may not come as a surprise to you that after eating all this food the Boy and I still wanted more. I take this food blogging career very seriously; it’s not a successful foodie outing until I am bursting at the seams. I am one of those strange people that actually really enjoys the feeling of being overly full. Thankfully the Boy and I were joined by a couple of other like-minded food bloggers; Whitney from dineWHITme and Sandy from Hungry Again. The four of us bundled ourselves up in jackets and scarves and traipsed down Beaufort Street to the Beaufort Street Merchant.
As always the Merchant had plenty of vegetarian and gluten free options to satisfy our needs. I particularly liked their chick pea chips. Thick cut like polenta, they were fluffy light inside almost like tofu.
Whit and Sandy shared the potato gnocchi which we were informed they considered it to be the best gnocchi in town. With added truffled Swiss Brown mushrooms, toasted hazelnuts and comte cheese it may have been a fair statement. Oh gluten why do you have to be in gnocchi?
I ordered the vitello tonnato; thinly sliced veal dressed with a thick tuna mayo, crispy capers and crumbed mozzarella that I was assured by our waiter was gluten free. I also ordered some baby potatoes on the side which came with Brussel sprouts and truffled mayo. I must admit that as I ate each indulgent ball of crumbed mozzarella, there were alarm bells going off in the back depths of my brain saying: “Warning! Warning! Gluten alert!”. I mean since when are crumbed mozzarella balls gluten free? However courtesy of the sultry dim lighting, excesses of wine and abundance of good conversation my subconscious’s attempt to save me was wasted.
The Boy ordered the organic spelt salad which almost looked too healthy to be tasty but I was assured that not only did his body thank him but so did his taste buds. The spelt was tossed through some spicy Harissa along with coriander, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and radish.
This night was one of those rare occasions where was no room for dessert and as the Boy and I both had to start work the following day at an obscenely early hour we were happy to call it a night. The penny didn’t drop that I had eaten gluten until much later into the wee hours of the morning when I was woken by the delightful effects that gluten casts upon me. Suffice to say my next day at work was quite a grim one. Gluten makes me very fuzzy in the head and it is no surprise that I ended up crashing my car on the way home from work! Damn you gluten! I was left feeling very disappointed as I have always thoroughly enjoyed my visits to the Beaufort Street Merchant. Not anymore. On a brighter note, I’ll be sure to be returning to Five Bar.www.fivebar.com.au www.beaufortmerchant.com
As I approach my blog’s second birthday in September this year, I have been reflecting back on what I have achieved in these past two years. Starting from humble and amateurish beginnings I have strived to improve both my writing and photography style and understand this will forever be a learning curve for me. This constant growth and development gives a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. Blogging is and always will be my hobby and finding enough time alongside my day job as a small animal vet can sometimes be a bit of a challenge!
One of the aspects of my blog that I want to improve is my food photography skills. I look at my hideously boring food styling and poor quality restaurant photos and dream wistfully that I had natural talent. Billy Law from A Table For Two is one of those people blessed with such a gift. His photos are always clean and crisp, enticing you to dive deeper and deeper into his blog. He was a finalist on Master Chef and has scored that all elusive book deal that so many bloggers dream of.
His food photography workshops are well known by foodies over east and generally sell out well in advance. So when he announced that he was planning to bring the workshop over West I took no hesitation in signing up. Held at The Terrace Hotel we were treated to a two day insight into his trade secrets paired with good food, wine and lots of laughter.
The first day was aimed at a beginner’s level teaching us how to get the most of our cameras regardless of whether it was a point-and-shoot compact or a niftier DSLR. We went through the basics of composition, white balance and he provided some helpful post processing tips. Billy went around the table and individually looked at each of our cameras to help us familiar ourselves with the manual settings. I was able to put his suggestions straight to work as food was continuously being brought to us. We certainly didn’t go home hungry!
The second day was aimed at a more intermediate level and Billy showed us how to utilise props and lighting to get the best out of our shots at home. The attendees at this day included a wide range of people from passionate foodies and bloggers to professional photographers. The atmosphere was very informal and friendly and many of us exchanged business cards and twitter handles at the end of each day.
The Terrace Hotel staff knew they were serving a roomful of bloggers so I have refrained from reviewing these meals as it would be impossible for me to give an accurate unbiased review. Throughout the day we were treated to very personalised and friendly service and I walked away impressed with the level of attention. I am keen to return for a meal incognito to discover whether this is true for all patrons.
A big thank you to Billy for making the trip over to Perth!The Terrace Hotel 237 St Georges Terrace Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9214 4444 | http://www.terracehotelperth.com.au/
A very close friend of ours moved away from Perth to the central NSW coast nearly ten years ago to be with the love of her life. Although Facebook has allowed us to both stay in nearly daily contact, we haven’t cast eyes on each other since she left many years ago. She is one of those kindred souls that when you are lucky enough to cross paths in life you never want to let them go. There is just one thing about her that we both hate; she has cystic fibrosis. Not that in the past that ever seemed to stop her living her life to the fullest. She is by far and by large the most positive, brave and strong willed person I know, occasionally to her detriment! But there is only so much a pair of lungs can take and since the birth of her gorgeous doe-eyed daughter, her lungs have been on a slow and steady decline. She has been on the transplant list for the better part of a year now and we are all crossing every finger and toe that some beautiful brand new shiny lungs will be on her doorstep soon.
My conference lectures were held at the Sydney University which is conveniently located right next door to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where my dear friend was currently staying. The luxury of being able to pop “next door” and see her after lectures was a privilege I didn’t want to waste so I tried to get over there as many times as possible. After our initial tears of joy in seeing each other for the first time in so long, we easily slipped into our old habits as we joked and laughed the afternoons away. This wasn’t without receiving a few frowns from the surrounding patients in the ward as we are invariably very loud together.
The Boy arrived on the Friday ready for a short weekend city getaway and was able to join me for my last afternoon hangout with her the following day at the Hospital. It was so sad to say farewell as I had been having such a fabulous time seeing her but I have vowed to myself to not leave it so long between visits. What better reason to return to Sydney!?!
In a delayed Valentine’s celebration, I had made a reservation several months ago at Marque knowing it to be in San Pellegrino’s World’s 100 Best Restaurants. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting a wide range of fine dining establishments all over the world. Much of this has been prior to the first seed of Chompchomp being planted. There are some attentions to detail during these experiences that I have come to expect as standard, especially when consider the cost of your meal. One of these details is the execution of unfaultable and impeccable service. The wait staff should literally gush over their guests and make them feel like royalty. Having this above and beyond approach to customers forms nearly as big a part of the wow factor as does the food and is a vital part of the whole experience.
Upon arrival to Marque we were greeted with just a stern nod by a staff member that the Boy and I later named “The Matron”. She left us standing in the doorway nearly on top of customer’s tables long enough to be a little uncomfortable. We were ushered to our seats after a brief delay and started to take in the atmosphere, or lack of it. The dining room felt fairly barren and clinical however I tried to look past this detail as I have found some incredible restaurants where the dining room is very simple and basic. For example Restaurant Amuse; where each of my three visits has left me completely awestruck with the fabulous experience.
I started the night off with the only type of Champagne available by the glass; some René Geoffroy Purete Brut which was quite vibrant and crisp with a dry finish. The perfect way to start a meal! Our amuse bouche looked a bit like a clam shell and consisted of two truffled potato crisps with bonito and foie gras inside. Unfortunately as I was trying to photograph it I was sternly told off by The Matron like a naughty little school child that there is to be no flash photography. Consequently my photos for the evening are nothing short of horrendous – I am so sorry dear readers! (For the full album see my Flickr account.) Now I understand that some customers may find a flash disrupting to their meal and accept this request is totally reasonable. However for the remaining duration of the evening on several occasions I caught “The Matron” giving me disapproving looks across the dining room. This made for a fairly unpleasant vibe. To add to this the remainder of the wait staff were cold and almost snooty giving an air of pretension that in no way added to the experience.
The sommelier of the night was the only exception to the team and I was drawn to a heightened level of excitement for each wine he introduced as he described it and why it complements the food so eloquently.
This first course dish was quite amazing having quite distinct separate layers of flavours almost like you get with some macarons! The initial strong flavours of the soft crab were lifted by a layer of light almond foam, progressing on the palate to the salty fresh sea taste of the avruga and ending with the sweeter butter popcorn aftertaste. Magic! The wine was matched beautifully (as were all the wines of the evening) and its oily aftertaste lingering on the palate with the corn flavours was divine.
The marron course was the Boys favourite. The marron was so tender and was lightly dusted with tomato dust. Each dollop of accompaniments on the plate were absolute delights in their own right and individually married with a morsel of marron to create its own little world of taste sensation spanning from dulcet sweet to buttery and ending with an acidic tomato flavour.
The Wagyu was marbled perfectly and was accompanied with tiny little pencil thin dill cucumbers which were sliced into miniature little medallions packed with a zing. Following on from the beef was the Dutch Cream Potatoes with Bone Marrow, Sea Urchin, and Coffee. (It was matched with 2008 Heymann-Lӧwenstein ‘Schieferterrassen’ Riesling, Mosel, Germany.) This was one of our waiter’s favourite dishes. These potatoes were a hearty delight and made me wish the Boy’s mum (who is Dutch) would serve them at our next family dinner! They were so smooth and delectable!
In the aftermath of the delicious potatoes, the grouper didn’t excite either of us much at all. Although it looked quite attractive on the plate, but it was fairly bland and was made even less inspiring by the following duck egg dish which was outstanding.
Wow. This was my favourite dish of the night by far. The smokey duck egg combined with tart sour cherries was out of this world. My egg wasn’t dusted in the leek ash due to my onion intolerance but the boy said this addition made it even more sumptuous. This course was served with home-baked bread to lash smatterings of duck liver onto.
Unfortunately for me, despite making our dinner reservation no less than five months in advance there was no gluten-free bread option to offer me. I think this would probably have to be one of the first fine dining establishments that this has happened to me since my diagnosis 3 years ago. I couldn’t hide my disappointment watching the Boy eagerly smear his liver onto his own hot steaming bread.
I had not tried Brunet before and given I love goat’s cheese I was excited to try it. Similar to many goats cheese, it was quite tangy and lemony, with sour cream notes, but also with some earthy depth to it. It was topped with tiny slivers of raw velvety mushroom.
The first dessert course was right up my alley of dessert styles; there is something about combining sweet yet piquant berry flavours with contrasting tangy yoghurt tastes that really hits the spot for me.
The second dessert course was different for us both and unfortunately I was only given a menu for the courses served to the whole restaurant not with my variations (unlike at Amber in Hong Kong where we each got our own copy ready printed in an embossed folder…..). The Boy doesn’t recall much about his as by this point understandably, all the courses start to blur together a little for him.
The night ended on Mark Best’s Signature Sauternes custard. I had read a number of amazing recounts of this dessert and was keen to see if it lived up to the hype. Despite all the food in our bellies we both struggled to hold ourselves back from gobbling this down greedily. It was served in an egg-shell with the top precisely cut off at a neat and sharp angle. I almost thought it was a fake egg-shell until I saw the Boy accidentally crack his as he eagerly spooned out the delicious silky custard. Before I could even giggle and comment I broke mine too!
Unfortunately for Mark, visitors to his restaurant are going to continue walk away underwhelmed if he is unable to obtain staff with the right attitude to serve his customers in the front of house. Despite most of the dishes being quite outstanding certainly not all were so, and when coupled with the lack of personalised service and cold attitudes Marque would not be somewhere I would be keen to return to in a hurry. I have since spoken to two of my relatives who live in Sydney and after dining at Marque twice have formed similar impressions to me each time. Sadly, I walked away disappointed especially as I thought it would be the highlight of my time in Sydney. On a much brighter note, it turns out hanging out with my pal in the Respiratory ward of RPA took first place as the most wonderful experience in a long time. By several miles. (Totes smoop, love ya Garnet Girl xx….)
Check out my other Sydney postsMarque 355 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 2010 | (02) 9332 2225 | www.marquerestaurant.com.au Price: $$$$ (Degustation $150 excluding cheese course, extra $85 for matched wine) Food: 4/5 (definitely some winners here but some that were just ok) Service: 2/5 (for this calibre of restaurant I expect much more) Ambience: 2.5/5 (stark and uninviting) Drinks: 5/5 (my first 5 in some time – matched wines were exceptional – kudos to the sommellier) Total: 13.5/20
To assist the chef in planning for my meal alterations and adjustments, I always try to ensure to inform the kitchen of my allergy requirements in advance when I book the table. Unfortunately despite giving the restaurant 3 days’ notice about this, when I was trying to order my entrees I was informed by the wait staff that all the sauces in all the dishes contained onions. Despite our lovely waiter Sebastian going out of his way to help me, going back and forth from the kitchen with options, the response from the chef was a resounding “no” for even the slightest alteration. Not even melting some garlic butter was possible. Maybe I’ve been spoilt recently eating out – but this reinforces to me how I appreciate a good chef is one that can accommodate and adjust dishes rather than churn out the standard meals.
I also question whether the reason the meals cannot be altered because they are already pre-prepared? So despite all the entrees looking delectable, the only dish I was able to have was the Asparagus, cherry tomato and radicchio salad with Ravigote dressing. This was a small portion, dressed nicely but not satisfying when you look at the rest of our table’s meals!
Others ordered the Escargot a ma façon (Snails cooked my way), Pan fried duck liver with pea puree and Scallop and truffle filo torte with fennel salad and balsamic dressing. Thankfully the rest of the meals were able to be ordered without a hitch.
For mains I had the Tournedo Rossini: WA Beef tenderloin, foie gras, mushroom duxelle, served on mashed potato (without the jus). The cut of meat was of reasonable quality and cooked correctly. I did however notice that my portion of foie gras was twice as generous when compared my non-allergic partner’s so perhaps this was the chef’s way of making it up to us!
Another ordered the Margaret River Wagyu Beef Rump served with mash potato and green peppercorn sauce. The Wagyu was soft and delicate as it should be although cooked slightly under the request of rare. Another ordered the Pork trotter stuffed with chicken and wild mushroom, mash potato and a Shiraz jus. For desserts we shared the Ile Flottante and again we were given a larger serve – we asked for one to share and they brought us out two and said it was an extra sized single portion. We were only charged for one. Once again a big thumbs up to the wait staff who really tried to make it up to us for the problem with the entrees. Overall it was an enjoyable night and we all walked away with satisfied full bellies.
Service 9/10 Food 7.5/10 Venue 7/10P’tite Ardoise Bistro
283 Beaufort St, Highgate, 6003 | (08) 9228 2008
In continuation of my previous review I would like to let my readers know that the chef has contacted me regarding our meal last night. We accidently left one of our bottles of wine at the restaurant and he wanted to let me know so that I could return to collect it. He also apologised that our dining experience was not up to scratch and extended an invitation for a repeat visit with advance notice of my menu choices so he could be better prepared with appropriate stocks and sauces. He mentioned he did not know of my dietary requests until the day and therefore did not have time to discuss with me prior. I have to say in receiving the call; I was very impressed to see such passion and dedication to customer service and a true effort to redeem a reputation. I shall most definitely be returning …. watch this space….