A couple of months ago I attended a very motivating seminar by Darren Rowse the founder of Problogger. This was the first time he had come to Perth to share some of the secrets of his blogging successes. Having already attended two Eat Drink Blog conferences I was unsure what I could learn in one seminar yet I came away refreshed with loads of new ideas and approaches. I was joined by a number of familiar faces from the blogging community including one of my close friends Michelle from Foodie Cravings. After the seminar finished the two of us were keen to brainstorm a few ideas and the most logical way to inspire the two of us is with food. Wanting to go somewhere nearby I suggested we try Three Five Three in Wembley as I heard on the grapevine that they have free popcorn. And that is enough to draw my attention!
I was not to be disappointed. Every table was already adorned with a joyous bowl of freshly popped corn. I have a number of weaknesses and my addiction to popcorn is not something I hide very well. I have been known on countless occasions to eat whole bags in one sitting and I am on a first name basis with the gourmet popcorn company Hot Pot Popcorn purely because I buy it so often. Three Five Three’s popcorn was lightly salted without any fancy flavouring but this still hit the spot for me regardless. Especially when it’s for free.
The menu is very gluten free friendly with a number of options for both entrées and mains. Michelle is a very easy-going person to dine out with and she is always happy limit herself to the gluten free dishes so we can share. We started with the minted haloumi served with smoked chipotle and a zesty salsa. The haloumi slices were grilled lightly and squeaked delightfully with every bite.
Upon the chef’s recommendation we also tried the bruschetta made using gluten free corn bread that the chef had only just baked earlier that morning. I enjoyed the bread’s doughy texture however I am obviously quite accustomed to the ups and downs of gluten free bread. Michelle wasn’t as excited by the corn bread and was happy for me to finish the dish off.
Since the Boy moved to eating a plant-based diet I sometimes find myself craving protein when I’m out and about. For my main dish I ordered the Hideaway Bay Tasmanian salmon served lightly pan seared on top of a nicoise salad of potatoes, olives and green beans. A spoonful of uplifting fennel and lemon salsa further brightened this happy dish leaving me with a lovely clean feeling on my palate. My salmon steak was a rich dark pink colour on the inside resulting in a silky smooth texture.
Michelle ordered the chilli mussels which was served in a South-eastern Asian style as opposed to the usual tomato based sauce often used. A light coconut cream broth flavoured with lemongrass and chilli emitted beautiful fragrant aromas across the table. With a smile on her face I could see it was just what she needed.
I have some friends that can be overwhelmed by the amount of food I have a tendency to order in restaurants but thankfully Michelle is not one of them and like me she always has room for dessert. We shared the Leatherwood honey pannacotta served with blood orange lychee granita and tangy mandarin sherbet. I absolutely loved the added surprise of pop rocks, really I am just a big kid at heart.
As we both walked back to our cars I was gobsmacked to see how late it has become. Neither of us had stopped to take a breath for hours, with both of us alternating between talking at one hundred miles an hour and stuffing our faces. I love that we are always on the same page and I am certain it won’t be long before we do it again!Three Five Three 353 Cambridge Street, Wembley WA 6014 | (08) 9387 5252 | www.threefivethree.com.au
Some people shop until they drop. Me? I just eat until I drop. gluten free Barcelona
Surely, by far and by large the best part of travelling to another country is being able to taste their local cuisine. When the Boy and I travel together we will always share our dishes so that we can try as many different things as possible. Recently I travelled to Barcelona without my lovely husband to attend the International Society of Feline Medicine’s World Feline Veterinary Conference. This was a new experience travelling solo and it presented me with a problem; I no longer had a buddy to share food my food with. Now logically one would think that there is an easy solution to this problem. Just order less food. But no, this solution was never going to work as moderation has never been my forte. I take the concept of “all or nothing” very seriously.
For most of my restaurant meals that I devoured in Barcelona I will write (or have already written) an individual blog post about the experience. But as I wandered through the cobbled streets of this wonderful city I found that it was so easy finding a gluten free Barcelona to enjoy so in addition to my more elaborate meals I wanted to share these extra snippets and snacks with you.
If you head out toward the coast of Barcelona you will find a quaint neighbourhood called La Barceloneta. It is a triangular shaped district that cuts into the sea and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Port Vell and the trendy El Born neighbourhood. Filled with cute little narrow streets you can smell the fresh taint of sea in the air. Strolling through the cobbled lane ways I found loads of busy tapas bars and restaurants serving wonderful cheap Catalan food.
On my first day in Barcelona I wanted to familiarise myself with some key foodie spots so I took a small personalised tapas tour with a German man named Dirk Engelhart. One of the places he took us to was a bustling little joint called La Bombeta who specialise in a Catalan dish called “bombas”. Bombas are deep-fried balls of fluffy mashed potato with a minced meat centre and they are served with a spicy brava sauce. They are not gluten free unfortunately so I didn’t try them. As I looked around the cramped bar I noticed it was filled with a combination of both locals and tourists. Always a good sign.
Bombas are not the only thing on La Bombeta’s menu and there were plenty of gluten free options for me. I ordered of bowl of piping hot steamed mussels, a plate of grilled sardines and some fresh prawns. The service was quick and the vibe was noisy but fun. The prawns were so fresh and crunchy with a strong, rich flavour; these were ones that were good enough to suck the juices out of their heads. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to enjoy such a delicacy, I shamelessly sucked every one noisily while the remaining two tour members in our group looked on in horror.
Dirk also took us to a small little dessert bar called Sweet Dreams, which is located in the heart of the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter. I was ecstatic to see quite a number of gluten free mini-cakes that looked very different from the usual boring, bog standard offerings. I tried their chocolate genoise cake with orange cream and passionfruit coulis. Fairy light sponge was topped with uplifting cream and embellished with tangy coulis. This was an assault on my senses that I could happily endure again and again.
The conference spanned over one week and the majority of it was fully catered for with meals provided by the hotel; Hotel Fira Palace. But honestly, when you are staying in such a fabulous gastronomic country like Spain who wants to eat hum drum catered food? Intermittently I found myself sneaking out of lectures into the sunshine to grab myself a quick bite of something more local. Surprisingly I found that most of the places that I visited had a good understanding of what is gluten free provided that I asked them the correct magic words:
“Por favor, Sin gluten?”
Strangely, the remarkably similar words of “no gluten” or “gluten free’ appeared to be much harder for the locals to understand and consequently I earned the nickname of “Dr Sin Gluten” by a group of four lovely foodie friends that I meet on the first day of the conference.
The wonderful thing about travelling to an international conference is that you can meet like-minded people from all around the world. The five of us spanned across the globe; one from Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, one from West Virginia, a couple from Austin, Texas and then of course there was myself from Perth, Australia. We all instantly seemed to click with each other and proceeded to spend the rest of the week wining, dining, laughing and sharing stories together until the wee hours of each morning. I look forward to the next time that we can all gather together again! Hopefully it will be soon!
Prior to meeting my posse, one of the first places I tried was Conessa, a little sandwich store in Plaça Sant Jaume situated in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Conessa specialise in making gluten free baguettes and they have a huge range to choose from and an English menu. My eating habits had already started to escalate out of control so I sensibly wanted to just try something light. I chose one of their vegetarian options which contained my absolute favourite Spanish cheese manchego along with fresh tomato, fried pepper and oregano. The bread was very fluffy and did not crumble apart as many gluten free breads are prone to doing. The bread had a slight sweet taste that reminded me of brioche both with its texture and its flavour.
Northern Spain is the origin of pintxos and Barcelona has numerous pintxos bars dotted all about their streets. Since Bar de Halcyon recently opened in Perth many of us are now educated to appreciate what pintxos are but for those who are not in the know, they are are basically small snacks that are speared by a wooden stick and served on a bar where you go up and choose for yourself. Once you have eaten your full, the waiter will come over to your table and count how many sticks you have which determines your bill. Like many sushi bars who use coloured plates, some pintxos bars will use different colour sticks to indicate varying prices.
Traditionally pintxos are served on a slice of crusty bread meaning that most of them are not gluten free. Bilbao Berria is a popular pintxos bar in Plaça Nova and their bar is filled with all sorts of amazing Catalan tapas. Unfortunately, whilst the wait staff are friendly and efficient they weren’t overly helpful in assisting me to choose gluten free options. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and made a not so educated guess what was suitable.
Everything looked far too tempting and I wanted to try them all! To maximise how many pintxos I could eat I stupidly talked myself into believing that I would be FINE pulling the toppings off the bread and just eating those without eating the bread. Of course I was totally wrong and the gluten contamination proved enough for me to have a reaction that evening. It’s my own stupid fault for being so brazen. Or greedy. Nevertheless, despite my own self-inflicted gluten ingestion, I was still impressed with the variety and quality of pintxos on offer at Bilbao Berria and for those people blessed with no gluten intolerance I highly recommend a visit.
When we hit the mid-week mark, there was a lecture free afternoon to allow delegates time to explore the city. Our posse of five headed out together with basic ambitions to catch rays of sunshine, eat some food and do a spot of shopping. Off we headed down Avenue Parallel and before long we had worked up a bit of an appetite and agreed to stop and eat. We sat down outside at a fairly nondescript tapas bar situated along the Avenue however I didn’t catch their name. What I do remember is that despite speaking very poor English they were extremely helpful and enthusiastic in advising me what was “sin gluten” on their simple and inexpensive tapas menu.
For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you may have already been reading about my obsession for marinated octopus that started whilst I was over in Spain. Back home in Perth I commonly find octopus to be quite chewy. Not so in Barcelona. The Spaniards obviously take much greater care preparing these creatures and every time I ate it over there I was repeatedly astounded how soft and delicate it can actually be.
My fellow companions also ordered their favourite; tomato bread or pan con tomate. This is one of the simplest, well-loved, widely eaten and famous dishes from Cataluña. Many tapas bars will have a bowl of tomatoes and garlic sitting on the table with a bottle of olive oil so you can make the bread yourself. It is so easy to make but unfortunately not many bars have gluten free bread! Consequently upon my return to Perth I was inspired to make my own gluten free pan con tomate. See my recipe here.
Before I left Perth for Barcelona, I asked around on Twitter for advice on where to eat. I was told by one blogger to just “Eat everything!” There is some merit in this comment because for my whole week in Barcelona, I didn’t have one meal that failed to impress me. Whether it was a planned and highly researched degustation extravaganza like at Nectari and Ria de Gallacia, or just a spontaneous, unplanned stop-in at Restaurant L’Amfora as we were walking past; all the food I ate was amazing. More importantly I found that a gluten free Barcelona really does exist leaving me champing at the bit to return to this amazing city!
It is no wonder that I managed to become a fatty boombaladi so rapidly and although I cannot wait to return to Spain, I have some hard work at the gym first!La Bombeta Calle de la Maquinista 3, La Barceloneta, 08003 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 933 199 445 | (Tapas 4.50-14 €) Sweet Dreams Carrer Regomir 4 bis, Barric Gótico, 08002 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 671 430 115 Bilbao Berria Plaça Nova 3, Barcelona & c/Argenteria 6, Barcelona | +34 (0) 933 170 124 Conessa Barri Gòtic: Llibreteria 1(Plaça Sant Jaume), 08002 Barcelona | +34 (0) 933 101 394 Hostafrancs-Montjuic: Creu Coberta 80, 08014 Barcelona
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
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
Having only just celebrated my first blogiversary last month, I consider myself somewhat of a newcomer to Perth’s food blogger ranks. What has truly amazed me and touched my heart profoundly is the strong sense of community amongst fellow bloggers. Despite my inexperience, I have been graciously greeted with open arms not just by other fresh(wo)men like myself, but by those with popular, well-established and recognised blogs. It certainly does make a fresh change from the comparatively serious and introverted veterinary world.
Four bloggers from Perth including yours truly were selected to attend the third annual Eat.Drink.Blog conference this year in Adelaide. In preparation for our highly anticipated weekend away, we met up during the week prior for dinner to talk “blogger’s stuff” and of course to eat!
After a few restaurant options were toyed around, we ended up agreeing on West End Deli in West Perth. Snuggled in the residential end of West Perth, West End Deli is a quaint little bistro owned by a husband and wife duo; Justin and Christine Peters. I had been here once several years ago and confess my previous experience back then wasn’t very memorable. I vaguely recall the kitchen appearing to have strong reluctance to adapt any dishes for me and that we waited well over 45 minutes for our breakfast meals only for them to forget our coffees. Twice. Having said that, this was quite some time ago and I know one should try to avoid forming a strong judgement from just one experience.
It’s incredible how the same dining room, with all the same interiors, can change its whole persona at night. The casual, sunlit café I remember from previously had magically transformed into a sombre, intimate and classy bistro. It wasn’t long before we all arrived and with glasses of wine in hand we relaxed into the vibe. Some unexpected amuse bouche were brought to our table; a crisp homemade wonton piped with creamy herb and goats cheese and sprinkled with black sesame seeds.
Being unable to eat the wonton, a plump little ball of pear filled with the cheese was offered to me as a replacement. Not wanting to seem ungrateful or fussy, I quickly chowed down on a glucose tablet before I slipped my juicy treat into my mouth. Being such a small amount of pear, it is easy to counteract the fructose with a small dose of glucose. For times like these, I carry these tablets everywhere with me.
Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse started with the potato and pickled sardine terrine topped with a curl of crème fraîche and a poached yabby tail.
Michelle from Foodie Cravings was initially reluctant to order herself an entrée as we had already earmarked a couple of dishes on the dessert menu and she sensibly wanted to pace herself. The ricotta gnocchi managed to twist her rubber arm when the waitress informed her it would be no trouble to omit the candied olives and replace with an alternate ingredient. The gnocchi were light, mini sized pillows, tossed in fresh sage and garlic and tumbled over a thick smear of pesto sauce.
I chose the slow cooked egg for entrée as my obsession with these gelatinous beauties continues. Perched on a nest of crumbled bacon it was accompanied a pea mash flavoured with white anchovies and lashings of truffle oil. Weblike shavings of Reggiano cheese were sprinkled on top. I struggled to do this dish justice with my photography in the flickering candle light however suffice to say my palate was rewarded. This breakfast-esque spin on bacon and eggs was a winner.
Moni from Gastromony chose the elegantly plated charred octopus. Coated with a thin chermoula crust it came with pear and walnut salad and a smear of blood orange. Kudos to her assistance with taking a photo for me as my go-go gadget arms couldn’t reach across the table without losing some degree of decorum. I still get a little embarrassed and feel awkward taking photos of people’s meals as deep in my heart I feel like a novice.
Ideas of pork belly and spatchcock failed to get past the consideration stages for any of us and we all opted for the snapper for mains. The fish was seared to a butter smooth consistency and balanced precariously over some prawns and mussels. A thin saffron coloured broth gave a subtle perfumey bitterness to sharpen the softer flavours of this dish. Tarry coloured squid ink brandade was blobbed on top and gave a pleasant piquant aftertaste. Brandade is French sauce made from an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil.
The girls all ordered the potted cheesecake for dessert. It was served in the same adorable little pots that I saw Rochelle Adonis’s salted caramel mousse recently. Apparently she imports them from France. What was much more curious about this dish was that next to the pot laid an innocent little tube labelled “Squeeze Me” containing salted dulche de leche.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I wondered if my new found friends would slowly start shrinking in their seats to become miniature pint-sized versions of their former selves. Thankfully the only surprise to follow was the unexpected layer of popping candy on top of the cheesecake. No one had any trouble finishing off their desserts which is always a good sign.
I was informed by our waitress that none of their desserts on the menu were gluten free however in complete contrast to my experience at West End Deli many moons ago, the chef kindly rose to the occasion and wasn’t going to let me miss out by any means. I was offered a honey vanilla parfait served with a caramelised warm banana. Grateful for their efforts once more, I didn’t bother going through the finer details that fructose malabsorbers cannot have honey. I presumed the amount would indeed be small anyway so I sneakily crunched on another couple of glucose tablets. My parfait was a little icy and hard for my liking but this was made up for by the dulcet banana.
I have to be honest; my recent experience at West End Deli has turned my opinion around for the better. They were accommodating for our varied requests and their service was discrete yet warm and welcoming. As we left the kitchen staff bid us all farewell from the open plan kitchen; a nice touch. I think I am going to have to give their breaky another try.West End Deli 95 Carr Street, West Perth, WA 6005 | (08) 9328 3605 | www.westenddeli.net.au Price: $$$ ($25-35 per meal, BYO) Food: 7.5/10 (flexible with requests, small menu executed well) Service: 4/5 (attentive without being obtrusive, warm and friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (very dark ambiance, would be romantic for couples) Drinks: Unable to assess as BYO. Total: 15.5/20