It is no secret that this little blog has been on “sabbatical” and whilst I have continued to explore eating our city’s gluten free options, I haven’t had the gumption to write about it. Some may say this is a little selfish and I cannot deny I have been racked with guilt from neglecting this much loved creation. For those of you who know me, you will understand why. I have been somewhat preoccupied with the realisation of a long-term dream that is totally unrelated to food. I have pursued keenly for the past eight years of my life the ambition of opening the first cat-only hospital in Perth and finally this year after much hard work my dream has come true. Opening a hospital from scratch is no mean feat and consequently blogging had to take a back seat for fear of it becoming a chore rather than a hobby. Trust me, no one wants to read what I write when I’m bored, it’s total snoozeville.
This year Valentine’s Day fell on the day before our big opening and the Boy knew he had to do something to calm my rattling nerves. After heading into the hospital with me in the morning to put some final touches including hanging up the gorgeous cat art that I had bought over the years in my travels, we headed out to Jarrahdale to Millbrook Winery.
It is impossible not to fall in love with this winery, and within seconds of arriving I immediately felt my pulsing veins in my head relax, my breath deepen and my stress wash away. I was thankful that my obsession with organising had taken a back seat and that I had let the Boy choose our venue. We were warmly greeted and shown to a perfect table overlooking the water, with lots of beautiful natural light cascading onto us. After a run of stinking hot days in Perth we were blessed with a day of cool breezes and gentle sun.
Millbrook’s Valentine’s Day menu consisted of a three course menu with a glass of 2010 Blanc de Blanc sparkling for $99 per person. Whilst the Boy and I thought at first that there wouldn’t be enough food for our inflated appetites, I can guarantee the meal sizes are substantial. There were plenty of gluten free options and the kitchen and wait staff were very aware of avoiding cross contamination.
Staying true with it being a day to celebrate being a couple, we decided to order everything gluten free so we could share each other’s dishes. We even shared the matching wines as they were different for each dish. We have our cute moments and this was one of them. Our first dish of blood plums and duck hearts was so pretty it was a shame to deconstruct it to eat.
Utilising colourful seasonal vegetables and leaves from the vineyard’s own gardens, this dish was an abundance of sweet crunch and juicy heartiness, if you pardon the pun. I haven’t tried duck hearts before, and probably wouldn’t have ordered this dish if the Boy hadn’t wanted to. The hearts were a lot more gentle in flavour than I expected, and their texture was so soft and delicate.
Our second entrée also showcased some produce from the chef’s pride and joy country garden. Some flavourful preserved vegetables accompanied barbecued Fremantle octopus with house-made safflower mayonnaise. I am a bit particular about my octopus, if it is as tough as old boots I just can’t be bothered eating it. I figure there is no point eating food that uses more calories to eat it than it provides you. Suffice to say there was no food wastage with this dish and in fact when no one was looking the Boy would intermittently sweep his finger over the plate to get every last morsel of flavour before licking his finger clean. My mother would be horrified. I simply smiled.
For our two mains we shared the viognier braised rabbit risotto and the beef brisket. The risotto was creamy, with big chunks of tender local rabbit and topped with crispy pancetta and fine shavings of parmigiano reggiano.
Fears of being underfed quickly left us as we gazed across the full table packed with colourful greens, potatoes and our mains. The beef brisket was served with a bean salad, white anchovies and healthy dollop of mustard. I so rarely eat beef these days but again I was glad I followed the Boy’s wishes and ordered this dish. The meat was so lovingly prepared it fell apart with the most gentlest nudge of the fork.
As the Boy and I had our commonplace discussion of whether we would order cheese versus dessert for our final courses, we were given some fresh fruit as a simple and mouth watering palate cleanser. As I cannot tolerate watermelon due to the high fructose content, they were happy to offer me some beautiful grapes plucked from the vines.
We ended up ordering both cheese and dessert with the continuous plan of sharing each others dishes. The chef created a special gluten free dessert for us using beautiful, seasonal fresh and dried stone fruits with chocolate chunks and sorbet.
Our cheese course was just as decadent. The highlight of the plate was a round of vine-wrapped sheep cheese from Cambray Cheese. These local cheese makers are based in the south west in Nannup and make a selected range of artisans sheep cheese. I love the distinctive tang of cheese made with sheep milk, and it is lower in lactose meaning I have less of an aftermath!
A little heady and carefree from all the wine, I joined in with the Boy in a rare moment of mannerless enjoyment of food and simultaneously swept my own finger across the plate before licking my finger with a smirk on my face. If you can’t beat them, join them. After spending months and months of none stop talk about every tiny detail of the cat hospital, we both realised we had actually gone through the whole lunch without even mentioning it once! He had truly fulfilled my need to switch off and relax for just a short while. Or perhaps it was a need for us both! 😉
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery at her (and the Boy’s) own expense. Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends.
One thing I have learnt from the Boy is that I need to take more time out to relax. Relaxing does not come naturally to me and generally the only way I can do it is if I am forced. Last weekend we drove down to the South West to stay at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, a five-star beach front resort only minutes’ drive from Dunsborough and Yallingup.
The reason for our single night stay at Bunker Bay was to sample the resorts’s launch of their new High Tea. High Tea is available at Pullman Bunker Bay resort every day of the week until the 20th of December, and Executive Chef Grant Murray is more than happy to accommodate for guests like myself with dietary requirements.
We sat out on the sunny deck overlooking the wonderful ocean view where we could see glimpses of majestic whales out in the bay. Regrettably I didn’t come prepared with a zoom lens to capture their beauty.
Being able to enjoy gluten, the Boy’s high tea was plated separately to mine to avoid cross contamination and as our waitress brought over our tiers of food we both let out a sigh of pleasure. Each plate was an array of vibrant spring colour and neither of us could wait to tuck in!
Chef Murray enthusiastically spoke to us about his focus on utilising fresh, seasonal produce and wherever possible he will obtain his ingredients locally. All the pastries and baked items are made in their own kitchen, with our muffins and scones coming just out of the oven that morning.
My gluten free savoury course included a cucumber, tarragon and chicken sandwich made with compressed cucumber to give more flavour. The tomato salad contained tomatoes that were grown especially for the restaurant on a property only a few kilometres away. Nothing beats the taste of home-grown tomatoes.
There was no sensation of feeling like I was missing out on a gluten free diet, with my second tier of baked goods tasting just as good the Boy’s looked. My scone didn’t crumble apart like many gluten free versions and my muffin was still warm.
My final top tier of high tea was the prettiest of all, decorated in fresh edible flowers and plump blueberries. My mini tartlets were filled with juicy fresh Western Australian mango. The little meringues had all the layers of textures that a quality meringue must have; a powder poof crunchy shell with a sumptuous gooey centre. Perfection.
The Boy’s standard high tea looked very similar to mine, except that of course it contained gluten. This is the second time he has joined me for high tea and whilst I doubt he will start swilling hot tea any time soon, I can be sure he will happily join me on my next one.
The Boy’s dessert course was just a pretty as my gluten free version, and included a selection of macarons, profiteroles and chocolate mousse cake.
For our accommodation we stayed in a garden view studio villa. Our room was elegantly appointed with a comfortable, king sized bed and a fully equipped kitchenette. Not that we ever needed it to cook for ourselves!
The bathroom was spacious and modern, complete with fluffy bathrobes and slippers along with luxury amenities for those who forgot their toiletries.
Being such a brief stay, we decided to dine at the resort’s fine dining restaurant Other Side of the Moon for our evening meal. Our bubbly natured waitress was very knowledgeable with respect to what was gluten free and what could be adapted on the menu.
We started off our evening with some natural oysters from Coffin Bay served with shallot vinegar.
For our entrée, we opted to share the local South West tasting plate for two. For those with less agreeable dining companions, this tasting plate was also available as a single serve for a lower cost. In the centre of the plate was a gluten free adapted serve of Geographe Bay squid fried with a spicy Asian herb salad and nahm jim dressing. We were advised to start in the middle of the plate and work our way out.
The second tasting was a Swiss brown mushroom filled with confit Baldivis rabbit on bacon and Jerusalem artichoke purée.
We ended the tasting experience with some thin slices of Margaret River venison carpaccio and local pickled onions. Of course I left the onions for the Boy to gobble as I’m not good with the added fructose. A gluten free crouton with olive tapenade accompanied the small serve of venison.
The Boy ordered the duo of beef for his main course. A lightly pan-seared Harvey beef tenderloin accompanied a pot of beef cheek daube. A scoop of truffle mash and cute little heirloom carrots added in some vegetable goodness and was drizzled in a Capel Vale Cabernet Sauvignon jus.
We also ordered a side of fries which our waitress told us would be cooked in clean oil to avoid any gluten contamination. The Boy suggested that perhaps an order of fries on top of all the rest of the food we had eaten so far may be considered somewhat excessive. I was pleased to see our waitress was on the same page as me as she agreed that not only is there a second stomach for desserts, that there is in fact a specific “potato stomach” to fit in potatoes in all forms: be that fries, chips, wedges, whatever, wherever 😉
For my main choice, I ordered the daily special of roasted duck breast. It was served on a bed of quinoa, parsnip purée, and locally grown golden beets. The duck was delicately tender and soft, literally melting in my mouth without a hint of dryness.
Whilst I had big ambitions of pushing the boat out for the evening and having both dessert and cheese, when it came to the crunch I sadly realised I only had room for one or the other. It was a hard choice as there were a decent selection of local and imported cheese on offer. I turned to the Boy for guidance. He had already spotted the Simmo’s ice cream menu with no less than ten flavours to choose from. It was decided. We would have dessert.
The daily dessert special was light, refreshing and perfect to satisfy my sweet tooth. A lemon-scented toasted marshmallow cloud with fresh mango and lychee gel on lime granita had an interesting tango of sweet and citrus flavours. I reluctantly let the Boy taste a mouthful as he even more reluctantly let me sample his ice creams. He is generally very easy going with letting me eat off his plate, except when it is ice cream. He becomes very territorial of every mouthful!
The following morning we opted for a light room service breakfast before taking a stroll around the beautiful resort. There is a 24 hour room service menu offering lots of gluten free options including pizzas and other main meals for late night snacking. The beach is only a short walk from the villas, and is such a beautiful spot with the characteristic stunning white sands and clear blue water that the region is well known for.
After a enjoyable walk along the beach, the Boy and I headed to the resort spa; Vie where we had booked a massage in the couples room along with a Pevonia signature facial. It has taken me some time to convert the Boy to enjoy spa treatments but each time he comes along he warms further to the concept.
Sadly, our whirlwind weekend was coming to an end and prior to departing we took some time to relax in the bistro area of the resort where they have a tapas menu serving small plates that highlight on the local produce that is seasonally available. Again there were both gluten free and vegetarian options available.
Our vegetarian dish of roasted cauliflower was exceedingly addictive with charred grilled piquillo peppers, toasted macadamia and pomegranate. It came with creamy tahini for a tangy hit of extra flavour. I loved the presentation with lots of splashes of colour and fun.
Our second dish of Fremantle octopus was adapted to be gluten free by the omission of chorizo. It was paired with smoked yoghurt, local olives, edamame and grilled tomato. I have a tendency to be quite fussy with my octopus having be very spoilt in my time in Spain. It is far too common that it is not prepared well and the meat ends up being as chewy as an old sock. This octopus did not disappoint my critical opinions, each piece was deliciously tender and did not give my jaw a work out to chew. It was a perfect way to end our very short stay.
For much of the drive home to Perth, the Boy and I talked about making plans for when we could next return to stay at Bunker Bay. It is rare that we simultaneously relax together and despite such a short stay, this trip was a success. The resort has enough options to be able to stay there and not leave, but is located so close to the wineries and tourist sights for the Margaret River region such that if you don’t want to stay put you don’t have to. Suffice to say we have already booked our next trip 😉
High Tea at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort is available at the resort’s bistro until 20 December 2015.
Cost is $37 per person with a Dilmah specialty tea, barista-made coffee or hot chocolate, or $45 per person to add a glass of sparkling wine. Kid’s Menu available for children up to 12 years. Bookings require 48 hours’ notice with pre-payment at the time of reservation. With advance notice, dietary requirement can be catered for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was a guest of Pullman Bunker Bay resort and received her night accommodation and high tea for two at no cost. She paid in full for her dinner at Other Side of the Moon, for the tapas at Tapestry and for her Spa treatments at Vie.
Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 42 Bunker Bay Road, Naturaliste WA | (08) 9756 9100 | Website
There were many things that I discovered about Tasmania on our first trip; their weather is unpredictable, their folk are super friendly, their landscape is breathtaking and their food is more than just good, it is brilliant. We were hard pressed to find somewhere that wasn’t fabulous and what I loved most of all was their locally farmed oysters. I became a crazed fool insisting on eating oysters at every opportunity and I struggled to go for more than a a day without fulfilling my addiction.
We were house-siting in the North Hobart area which is a just a stone’s throw away from the CBD. This conveniently allowed me to hit up some of the best places in town without much effort. One cold midweek evening I knocked off for the day from my locum job at the Hobart Cat Clinic and joined the Boy for a brisk walk into town to the Westend Pumphouse. The Pumphouse is a relatively new venue that recently debuted in The Financial Review’s Top Restaurants of Australia.
The restaurant is housed in an impressive open plan industrial space with massive high ceilings, exposed wooden roof beams and a crackling hot open fire in the centre. Our waiter helped us negotiate the wine list to settle on a luscious bottle of local red while he talked us through their menu. Most of their menu focuses on using locally sourced produce which of course won my heart in a second. We started with some natural local oysters,. Plump, creamy and slightly sweet I still have wistful dreams about these beauties.
The octopus was also locally caught and was served charred with Pink eye potatoes, tangy bitter lemon puree and dried olives. This was such a refreshing dish and it matched well with the succulent oysters.
Pumphouse offer a number of small and large share plates including some mouth-watering slow cooked meat options. I saw posted up on the chalkboard near the bar that you can pre-order whole roasted pig served with all the trimmings for $45 per person for groups of nine or more.
Neither of us are really great pork eaters and we happily we settled for the dry aged sirloin; a massive 1.4 kilograms of beef cooked on the bone for maximum flavour and then chopped up into bite sized pieces for more elegant eating. Each cube of tender beef was lavishly drizzled in a toothsome, rich white anchovy sauce. In an attempt to balance out this high protein feast, we also received a small serve of local Pink eye potatoes tossed in cultured butter. It was the perfect nourishment for the unexpected cold windy weather.
Despite feeling like we had nearly eaten half a cow, it was not exactly a surprise we still managed to find room for dessert. The gluten free option was an adapted version of their molasses parfait and was served with smoked apple and blueberries.
Along with oysters, local blueberries became another Hobart daily addiction for me meaning the added novelty of smoked blueberries made this dessert quite interesting. Because my stomach doesn’t tolerate high fructose apple I spent a fair few minutes trying to unsuccessfully separate the apple from the blueberries before giving in and letting the Boy eat the rest of the fruit while I tucked into the silky parfait. 😉
Westend Pumphouse is a funky, modern eatery with a casual vibe serving simple local produce. I could have easily seen myself relaxing many a Sunday session there if I was a Hobart resident. They offer a changing menu and have a dynamic team that obviously love what they do, and do it well.
Westend Pumphouse 105 Murray Street, Hobart TAS | (03) 6234 7339 | www.pumphouse.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
I never anticipated that my blog would have any degree of measurable success. Blogging wasn’t something I planned to do, nor does creative writing or photography play any part in my real career. Despite being a complete self-confessed amateur I have relished in watching Chompchomp metamorphosize from an ugly duckling into something I’m proud of. Reflecting back on my first and comparatively horrendous post I can see the blog undergo constant improvement. When I recently researched to find out the Hottest 100 Food Blogs of Perth, I was blown away that my blog is at Number 5! I hope that I can remain motivated to keep it ever-evolving so that my readers stay entertained and keen to return back for more. I am always happy for feedback so let me know if you think there is something I could change or add to the blog to improve it.
Another more unexpected and even better aspect of being a blogger has been the friendships that I have made along the way. One of my closest blogging friends Michelle from Foodie Cravings had been trying for weeks on end to organise a catch up with me and after a couple of false starts we finally matched up our busy schedules. We were both happy to travel to Fremantle and agreed to meet at Bread In Common.
I had heard much about Bread in Common but didn’t expect to be greeted by the wonderful airy modern open space of which it comprises. Situated in a renovated old Fremantle warehouse, it has lots of natural light flooding through at an angle onto large communal tables and they have a sociable menu designed for sharing.
In continuing my attempts at keeping my alcohol consumption as close to zero as humanly possible for sixty days, I was relieved that Michelle was also happy to abstain. It isn’t often that there are fructose friendly juices on the menu and looking on their menu I was happy to see I had options. It made it a lot easier to skip the wine when one of the juices I love making at home is up for grabs; a combination of carrot, orange and ginger juice. It makes such a refreshing drink for a hot summer’s day.
I was dismayed to learn that they do not have any gluten free bread to offer. The manager made kind apologies and indicated coyly that it could be possible if only I bought him a new oven. I initially wondered why they couldn’t at least temporarily source some from other local Fremantle bakeries such as Abhi’s until I realised their philosophy is to make everything in house where possible. Avoiding cross contamination of flours in one open plan kitchen would be very difficult.
Michelle and I simultaneously chose the duck fat roasted potatoes as our first pick. My stepmother’s duck fat potatoes are yet to be rivalled and are consistently out of this world. Bread in Common’s version ended up coming in a fairly close second attaining all the right layers of textures; from crispy to chewy, ending in a super fluffy soft centre. They are served with rosemary, whole roasted garlic cloves and some ketchup. Each garlic clove squeezed out like toothpaste onto my plate sealing the deal that no vampires would come near me that evening. Nor would my husband for that matter!
Michelle’s dish choice was the pork belly which she raved about from her previous visit. Each piece was delicately gelatinous and sticky sweet. Topped with a sweet green tomato chutney and on a bed of crunchy, slippery greens it was far too easy to eat.
Our lunch date was the first time I had eaten out without the Boy in tow for a while and it was refreshing to be able to order some non-vegetarian dishes without getting a high browed look from him! My choice was a dish of succulent Fremantle octopus served on a bed of green olive tapenade with cubes of fresh watermelon. It was topped with the unexpected treat of tiny shavings of crunchy hard pork crackling. Whilst I was happy to indulge in the crackling, I left the watermelon for Michelle to enjoy as it is high in fructose. In turn she was happy to leave any octopus pieces with suckers intact as she found the whole look of them disturbing.
Michelle had forewarned me to save room for dessert as she recalls them being worth relishing. I was impressed; I rarely plan my meals with this level of strategy which probably explains why I often end up overeating. I was not prepared for the visually exquisite surprise that each of our desserts provided.
My banana dessert contained all kinds of my favourite sweet things; caramelised bananas, cubes of torched marshmallow and blobs of softer meringue alternated with smaller dots of tart lemon curd. With such a variety of textures and flavours this dish played the risk of being too busy but each element complemented the other well and was perfectly orchestrated music to my mouth. I wanted more and quietly plotted in my mind how to get back before the menu is changed.
Michelle’s dessert was even more spectacular than mine with scoops of peanut mousse and chocolate brownie ice cream laying on a bed of Oreo “soil”. Dollops of brilliant red raspberry gel spotted about the plate with some sort of raspberry crumble tumbled over the top. It looked totally divine but alas is not gluten free for those wondering.
As time ticked into the late afternoon I had to decline the offer of coffee and opted for a peppermint tea instead. The tea was fresh and uplifting without any of the unpleasant metallic aftertaste that poorer quality peppermint tea often has.
Whilst I cannot deny I was somewhat disappointed I didn’t actually eat bread at Bread in Common, there were plenty of other gluten free options on the menu to fill up on. The desserts were particularly mind-blowing it’s worth returning back just for them.Bread in Common 43 Pakenham Street, Fremantle WA 6160 | (08) 9336 1032 | www.breadincommon.com.au Price: $$$ (Share plates $12-28) Food: 4/5 (creative concepts using fresh, local produce) Service: 4/5 (quick, efficient and well conversed with the menu) Ambience: 3.5/5 (noisy but buzzing, communal tables) Drinks: 3/5 (interesting but small wine list but of course didn’t get to try any!) Total: 14.5/20
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
With the disappointment resulting from our cancelled Adelaide trip still fresh in our minds, we both looked forward to our weekend break down in Margaret River with an exaggerated level of enthusiasm. Our darling fur-child Eddie had made a full recovery and we both coördinated getting out of work on time on the Friday making for a perfect start to the weekend. To facilitate this further, earlier on in the week I had purchased enough gourmet treats to feed an army and the Boy had stocked up on wine, champagne and plenty of beer. We drove down on the Friday night to our Chalet at Chandeliers on Abbey where we have stayed before some years back. The following morning we lazily lounged in bed and I flicked through my Twitter feed to see what was happening in the real world. I was awakened by a stunning photograph of flash cooked snapper for Knee Deep Wines.
I was actually so excited by its beauty that I woke the Boy up to show him. It was met with some grunts of approval before he drifted back off to sleep. Later that morning as I was cooking us breakfast, I mentioned the photo again and he suggested making a booking at Knee Deep for lunch. Expecting there to be no chance to score a table at such last minute I whooped with joy when I was told there was one table left!
Knee Deep Wines first started producing wines in 2004 and are rated 5-stars in the most recent James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. We arrived a little early and enjoyed working our way through their collection at the cellar door before we sat at our table. We particularly enjoyed the 2010 Limited Release Kim’s Chardonnay with its buttery creaminess and the medium bodied 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Knee Deep Restaurant’s chef Ben Day is a recent addition to the kitchen only starting in late February this year and since then has received a number of accolades including a Chef’s Hat in the 2013 West Australian Good Food Guide.
We chose the “Trust the Chef” five course menu where the chef chooses five courses for us matched with Knee Deep Wines for $115. To start with we were brought some freshly baked organic sourdough and cultured butter which are both made in house. The butter is made from local cream and infused with beautiful fresh nasturtium flowers and leaves. The aromas wafted across the table and made me so hungry I started to salivate.
Thankfully our waitress didn’t leave me hanging for too long and after apologising for not having any gluten free bread available, brought some flavoursome marinated olives for me to nibble on. She informed us that like most ingredients used in the kitchen all the olives are marinated in house with the chef using different marinades for each type of olive.
For our first entrée, it was like the long awaited joy of spring had been captured and masterfully spread across our plate. Fresh tangy milk curds made from un-homogenised milk obtained from Millers dairy in Cowaramup, vibrant seasonal flowers and wild fennel laced the plate with shavings of zucchini and zigzags of sweet jarrah honey. Scattered in amongst the colour were paper thin “milk crisps”. Our waitress described with great enthusiasm how the chef made these crisps from skim milk infused with all the parts from the wild fennel plant. Each crisp is flavoured with sprinklings of fennel pollen to add extra punch and brought a wonderful textual contrast to this unique and pretty dish.
Continuing with the same level of originality and intrigue our next dish consisted of a wedge of smoked eel, yabby tail and for the Boy a curly whirly prawn cracker. It was freezing cold and raining outside and the delicately flavoured, warming coconut broth hit the spot.
Each dish exuded Chef Day’s passion for local and seasonal produce and this dish was garnished with locally foraged “beach herbs”. He later informed me that these beach herbs can include on any day the familiar samphire along with dune spinach, salt bush, sea celery, pig face flowers and native spinach.
I am a sucker for meticulous presentation. In my own line of work as a vet, attention to detail is everything especially with my niche field of feline medicine. When this attitude is applied to fine dining, it is by far a step in the right direction in my humble opinion. Our main dish of barramundi and octopus was indeed a plate of perfection. Each component and flavour was carefully thought out and prepared yet still retained an air of simplicity with no pretention. The octopus passed my current “Barcelona test” and the mojo picon had just a teeny bit of kick to it.
I used to be a fan of having “all the cheese” when dining out and have been known to order up to five different cheeses for just the two of us because it’s too hard to choose. I figure it’s just another way I show my “all or nothing” side of myself. Since then I have come to realise that with the right chef it is possible to have just one cheese and turn it into a course of its own right by simply pairing it with the right accompaniments. Five is not necessarily better than one! A humble slice of Pont L’Evêque was served with organic Sundowner apples, pickled watermelon and shaved macadamia. Pont L’Evêque is a French cheese and is one of the oldest Norman cheeses still in production. It is an uncooked, un-pressed, washed rind cheese made with cow’s milk and is creamy pale with a smooth fine texture and pungent aroma.
A refreshing palate cleanser of quince & watermelon sorbet gave just the right element of turning our savoury to sweet notes on our palate and tuned us in perfectly for the final course; dessert.
After not a single dish faltering in its own wonder, we were wide-eyed with anticipation to see what was going to be next. We were not disappointed. Foamy light bitter chocolate espuma with blood orange sorbet and cubes of tart blood orange jelly lay hidden under fracturable shards of chocolate wafer. This whole dish of magnificence was dusted in freeze dried blood orange powder.
I was impressed. For a spur of the minute decision to make a reservation because of a photo I’d seen on Twitter for a restaurant that was never really on my radar; we had experienced a total wow factor from beginning to end. Quirky and knowledgeable service, elegant but simple presentation and a level of true passion and enthusiasm that filtered from the kitchen all the way through to the dining room. This was a late minute change of plans I will never regret.
Knee Deep Winery & Restaurant61 Johnson Road, Margaret River WA 6280 | (08) 9755 6776 | kneedeepwines.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $16-22, Mains $28-40, 5 course Trust the Chef $90 + $25 matched wines) Food: 4.5/5 (creative, intriguing and locally sourced) Service: 4.5/5 (quirky and passionate) Ambience: 4/5 (even in the pouring rain, the vines are pretty as a picture) Drinks: 4/5 (only Knee Deep Wines available, but they matched well with each course) Total: 17/20
Staff shortages are a quick way to destroy anyone’s social life. Recently at work we have been stretched thin on the ground turning my standard weekend roster of two-on-three-off into a full roster circuit of five weekends working. Joy. As the chance for my weekend time-out finally approached, I pre-emptively booked a dinner reservation for us at a local Italian restaurant L’Enoteca. The restaurant is a short skip and jump from our front door so all week in the lead up anticipation I envisaged strolling down hand in hand with the Boy to the Broken Hill Hotel for a few drinks then crossing over the road for a romantic meal.
When the weekend actually arrived, it was joined by a severe weather warning. Complete with dark ominous skies and whirling wind that vortexed around our house like a hurricane I could see the chances of us walking anywhere were doomed. Not willing to be beaten we rugged up and bundled into the car for our date night.
After a few rounds of drinks at the pub we were lucky enough to catch a break in the rain and power walked as best as one can with a broken toe down Albany Highway to L’Enoteca. The inside of the restaurant was cosy and warm and a welcome relief after the blustery walk. The menu was uncomplicated and clearly marked with both vegetarian and gluten free options. It made a nice change as it made ordering dishes so easy. As we perused the wine list we asked the waitress to bring out some marinated olives. Each olive was a soft little bomb of flavour with hints of citrus and the slight heat of some chilli. I prefer my olives soft; I don’t enjoy the harder ones as much.
The stuffed field mushrooms were the Boy’s choice and although this dish is something I often enjoy making for us at home it was by no means less satisfying eating it out in a restaurant. There is something oddly meaty about mushrooms when they prepared this way and I almost feel like I’m eating a bit of steak. Weird I know. L’Enoteca’s mushrooms were flavoured with fresh parsley and basil and were thick, juicy and surprisingly filling.
Since my trip to Barcelona, I remain on a quest to find myself octopus in Perth which tastes as good as the dishes I ate in all those late night tapas bars. Although this octopus was very tasty it just didn’t have that plump soft texture that I’m aspiring for and it was a touch on the chewy side.
Risotto is a dish I rarely have the time or patience to make at home. Maybe one day when I eventually get myself a Thermomix my world will change but until then I find it hard to justify standing in front of my stove stirring for what feels like an eternity.
Our waitress came to our table and placed a huge bowl of creamy duck risotto in front of me and my lusting for Spanish octopus quickly faded back to the distant corners of my mind. The thickly sliced duck breast was cooked to a buttery soft texture and rich nutty tones from the porcini mushrooms added beautiful depth and substance.
Our night was like a re-run of one of our Mushroom Mania meals. Not only was our shared entrée a mushroom dish but both of our mains were a mix of hearty mushroom goodness too. There was certainly no complaints from either of us! The Boy ordered the handmade chestnut tagliatelle with a creamy mushroom ragu and generous shavings of truffled pecorino (Moliterno tartufo). Each ribbon of soft pasta coated itself beautiful in the rich chestnut puree and buried amongst this was a variety of slippery soft mushrooms and whole roasted chestnuts . The Boy commented that the truffle aroma from the cheese was very subtle and being a truffle addict he would have preferred a touch more pungency.
We had a teeny bit of room left to share one more dish. I would like to have tried some of their cheeses which I noted were all proudly Italian. There was one cheese in particular that sparked my attention; the Moliterno tartufo that the Boy had grated over his pasta. This is a type of truffle infused pecorino cheese. But recalling the Boy isn’t really into his cheese, I considerately selected a dessert for us to share instead. Such a good wife I am! Suffice to say we were pretty chuffed with our selection. The pannacotta had perfect form and cemented my deduction that L”Enoteca know their Italian cuisine. Delizioso!L’Enoteca 249 Albany Highway, Victoria Park WA 6100 | (08) 9472 5881 | www.lenoteca.com.au Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (classic Italian favourites made with obvious passion and love) Service: 4/5 (friendly & knowledgeable about their menu) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a bit noisy, subdued lighting, quite romantic) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of predominately Italian wines) Total: 15/20
People come and go in your life; sometimes through your own choosing and sometimes due to circumstances out of your control. Their departure can often be filled with all sorts of mixed emotions but when you know that their decision is a good one for them personally it makes saying goodbye so much easier. We recently bade goodbye to a dear friend and colleague who is entering a new chapter in their life; one that I’m certain will give them the security and happiness they deserve. To bid him farewell, we dined at the Kailis Bros Fish Café, Leederville for a simple, fresh seafood meal.
I had spent the earlier part of the day at Feral Brewery for lunch for a friend’s baby shower and was grateful there were many light options on the menu. I was informed that many of the dishes could be adapted to be gluten free as they only involved simple ingredients while relying on the freshness of the seafood to take centre stage.
For entrée I started with the herb and garlic crusted scallops with fresh chill. Kailis’s Bros support sourcing local produce and their scallops are West Australian, from either up North in Carnarvon or from the icy water of Esperance depending on the time of year. Each lightly browned scallop was a delicate, tender pillow of flavour and my notion that I was too full from my lunch passed from my consciousness as I plopped each morsel into my mouth in quick succession. The Boy made a little underhanded comment at my speed of eating which I can only presume meant he wished that I saved him one! His consolation prize was getting to mop up the remaining garlic juices on my plate with his garlic bread instead.
The Boy couldn’t see any vegetarian meals on the menu and so he reluctantly ordered the octopus “a la grec”. For this dish the octopus is carefully simmered in red wine and then grilled. Having recently been very spoilt with some mind blowing “pulpo” in Barcelona I was interested to see how Kailis’s version matched up. After just one mouthful I was left wishing I had ordered this dish instead of my scallops. There was no chewiness or rubbery texture; each piece was as soft and as tender as I recall it being in Spain.
Our guest of honour ordered the grilled New Zealand flounder which he explained was a common dish he ate during his childhood. Having not eaten it in decades he took a bit of a gamble trying to rehash an old school favourite but thankfully he was not disappointed. The fish was served whole with a “latho lemano” dressing which is a traditional Greek baste made with lemon juice, olive oil, wild Greek oregano and a dash of fresh ground black pepper. The meat flaked away off the bone easily and despite this fish’s huge size our friend managed to slowly but deliberately work his way through the lot.
For my main I both ordered the pan seared Tasmanian salmon with a sweet & sour tamarind glaze, sautéed baby corn and bok choy. I was impressed to see the kitchen staff take gluten contamination seriously and ensured my fish was grilled on a separate fresh grill. Not all eating establishments have this level of understanding for what is needed to ensure there is no gluten in their food. The salmon skin was super crispy whilst the steak was just past the point of being rare making it lusciously soft. The tamarind sauce was a touch too sweet for my liking and needed a tiny bit more balance with its other key elements of sourness and spiciness.
We also ordered a few sides to fill in the gaps including crunchy roasted Royal Blue potatoes with wild oregano and sea salt, a green leaf salad with shaved Reggiano parmesan and cracked black pepper and some sautéed seasonal vegetables with tarragon butter. The potatoes were crisp on the outside with a lovely soft centre and were one of the first things to be finished at our table.
Just when we thought we had no room left for sweets, our waitress came over to our table with their daily selection of desserts. She advised us that all their desserts are made in house fresh each day by their dedicated pastry chef.
Once again bursting at the seams I wondered to myself if I would ever gain the ability to exhibit self-control at this point of the evening. I dismissed such a crazy idea and chose the lemon and lime crème brûlée to share with the Boy. Other options included a tiramisu, sticky date pudding and a couple of other more creative looking options. Our choice was a hit all around the table with each couple sharing one brûlée between each other. A well rounded night out indeed.
I have always found Kailis Brothers Fish Café to reliably satisfy me at every visit. They maintain their reputation by staying true to themselves serving the freshest of seafood with minimal fuss. They promote West Australian produce in particular and remain in my humble opinion one of the best providers of fresh seafood in Perth to the public.Kailis Brothers Fish Café 101 Oxford Street, Leederville WA 6007 | (08) 9443 6300 | www.kailisbrosleederville.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrée $12.50-26.50, Mains $27-48) Food: 4/5 (exceedingly fresh seafood needs minimal additional work) Service: 3.5/5 (friendly and welcoming but a bit slow on the drinks service) Ambience: 3.5/5 (busy, loud and non-pretentious) Drinks: 4/5 (a proudly WA heavy wine list with a good selection by the glass) Total: 15/20
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
Many of you may recall my ongoing obsession with mushrooms. I eat them nearly every day and they are definitely up there as one of my most favourite foods. Even better still they are so good for you! So logically I was so excited to be selected as one of eleven bloggers from around Australia to take part in Mushroom Mania! For the whole month of July, over 2000 restaurants, cafes, bistros and clubs around the country will be involved in serving up wonderful mushroom dishes for us all to enjoy. You can download the App on your iPhone for a locality guide of participating businesses.
Millbrook Winery has been one of those stunning locations that I have longed to visit for quite some time. It is located on Chestnut Farm in the picturesque Jarrahdale area about fifty minutes south of Perth. The property spans over 300 acres and is nestled in amongst gently sloping valleys bordering along the National Park whilst boasting breathtaking views across the countryside. The Winery is owned the Fogarty Wine Group who also own Deep Woods Estate in Margaret River, Smithbrook in Pemberton and Lake’s Folly in the Hunter Valley. Millbrook utilise grapes from their own small vineyards in addition to grapes from their vineyards in the cooler climates south of the State.
The winery has a tasting room and cellar door where you can sample their wines at no cost. The Boy and I ensured to arrive a little early so we could squeeze in some tasting. Their range included some interesting wines and while I won’t confess to being an expert in describing them I did walk away with a few purchases! Better still they offer a membership discount of 20% if you join up before you buy.
The restaurant is located upstairs giving nearly 180 degrees views across the brilliant landscape and I can only imagine how much more gorgeous it would be sitting out on their decking area in the warmer summer months. Being a crisp winter’s day we didn’t get to experience this and stayed inside where it was cosy and warm.
Head chef Guy Jeffreys focuses his menu on using all the freshly grown produce from the large property which includes 150 year old orchards growing citrus, stone fruit, figs, quince and apples, and an acre sized garden filled with over 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables. Herbs, free-range eggs, wild mushrooms, olives and honey are also sourced from the estate. While waiting for our meals we were brought out some complementary house made sour dough with marmalade. Although the menu has a wide range of gluten free dishes available, the bread wasn’t so I dipped my fingers in the marmalade a couple of times to taste its home-grown deliciousness straight up while the Boy devoured the soft bread.
We ordered a selection of entrées to share and couldn’t fault any one of them. The braised lamb’s tongue with quail eggs was richly flavoured and contained curious little stems of salty plant called wild samphire. We were told the chef foraged for this unusual but powerfully flavoured plant along the banks of the Swan in Bassendean. It is also termed “sea asparagus”.
Not that I’m a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I do appreciate that octopus can be one of those things that without appropriate care in the kitchen can turn into a rubbery chewy disaster. Not this time round; our octopus was so juicy and soft that even the thin tentacles were tender. It was served with some of Rosa’s popular chorizo from Spanish Flavours in Wembley. We fell in love with this well-known locally made delight when at Amphoras Bar recently and you can be sure to see it feature on menus of a variety of restaurants all over Perth including Cantina 663. The octopus was also served with some pickled potato and smoked paprika.
I order the salad as our third entrée because we didn’t really need a third dish so I justified ordering it by choosing something light. Freshly picked vegetables from the farm’s garden included roasted and raw heirloom carrot and radish. Some tangy goat’s cheese was slivered on top and the salad was dressed with a light, sweet pomegranate dressing and some fresh mint leaves.
For my main I could not go past the mushroom risotto. It contained a wonderful combination of both farmed and foraged mushrooms including porcini and button mushrooms, Slippery Jacks from the neighbouring forest and meaty Field mushrooms from the adjacent orchard. To add to the amazing mushroom intensity, the Arborio rice was pre-soaked in a stock containing some Manjimup truffles and the risotto was served with generous drizzles of white truffle oil. Very decadent and definitely not low in calories but packed full of mushroom goodness! I kept convincing myself of all the wondrous health properties of mushrooms I was gaining and chose to overlook the addition of less nutrient rich oils and cheese!
I have recently eaten rabbit a few times both at the epic Largesse dinner and at Villa D’Este and each time the Boy has eyed off my dishes while suffering from a bit of dish envy. He decided to take things in his own hands and order himself the Baldivis rabbit pasta. Soft folds of hand cut pasta were perfectly coated with a thick tomato sauce and scattered with a generous serving of cotechino (a type of Italian sausage) and flavourful pieces of soft rabbit. To accompany we also order the mashed potato with truffle oil and a garden salad. Yes, more truffle oil…..well it IS truffle season after all!
The Boy and I were both so fascinated that nearly all the produce use in the kitchen was foraged or farmed on the property. The Boy prompted me to ask our attentive waitress if there would be any chance we could have a wander around the property to find our own wild mushrooms. I could barely contain my excitement when this was met with a “yes” and we were taken to a part of the property where a number of fist sized meaty field mushroom were popping up out of the lush grass. We were permitted to harvest ourselves a few which they packaged up for us to take home and eat. I began imagining how delicious they would be roasted in the oven with balsamic……see my recipe here.
After our successful mushroom hunt, we returned to the warmth of the restaurant to squeeze in a final dessert course. I was thankful that I had run to the gym for a workout that morning otherwise all my bride dieting would have gone completely out the window! The pannacotta was perfectly formed and served with little cubes of flourless orange cake, Campari sorbet and some surprisingly sweet almost caramelised orange peel.
The Boy’s ice cream was house churned with three flavours; vanilla bean, raspberry and Cajeta. The Cajeta flavour was his favourite and is traditionally made from simmering goat’s milk and sugar until it thickens like condensed milk. It tastes a bit like caramel but isn’t too overpoweringly sweet.
We were lucky enough to kindly get a tour of the property after our meal by the manager Jeremy. He was a wealth of knowledge and proudly showed us through their enormous garden filled with radishes, fennel, broccoli and other winter vegetables. He informed us that they try to be as environmentally sustainable as possible including practices such as recycling water from a natural spring that runs through the property.
We even got to duck into the chicken coop for a little pat, they were so tame and friendly and didn’t seem to mind my incessant photo taking. In fact one of them looked like she enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame!
After all the recent stress we have both had over the past few weeks, our beautiful little outing together proved to be just what we needed. We drove back to the city in comfortable silence content with full bellies and lungs full of fresh country air.
This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. There are over 2000 participating restaurants including many all over Western Australia. The website also contains some delicious mushroom recipes so make sure you check it out.
You don’t have to be a blogger to win either! Just write a short review on a mushroom dish you enjoyed during the Mushroom Mania Month of July and you could win a $150 Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card.
Click here for details.
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends. Price: $$$$ (Entrees $19-22, Mains $36-45) Food: 4.5/5 (nothing beats fresh produce, excellent range GF options) Service: 5/5 (faultless, friendly, knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (restaurant overlooks, lake, forest and vine yards) Drinks: 4/5 (wine license only) Total: 17.5/20
I hadn’t seen my Bestie since our last outing together a few weeks ago when we went hunting for my wedding dress. Once we finally did manage to meet up, we had so much to catch up on that it was hard to know where to start. I was excited to hear all about her new yoga business venture that she was embarking upon. I have never seen her so inspired and passionate about something before and it makes me so happy that she has found her calling in life. Not everyone gets to experience such satisfaction.
Late last year during the whole post-Engagement party debacle we stopped in at The Sentinel for a couple of drinks while we were waiting for The George’s manager to get back to us with the whereabouts of my iPod. In sharp contrast to the abrupt, unfriendly service we had received only minutes before at The George; the Sentinel staff all greeted us cheerily as we entered. This jovial attitude left a lasting impression on our memories.
Recalling our previous experience, we decided to return back for a quick lunch in between errands in the city. The Sentinel is owned by Stephen Scaffidi who also owns the popular Bar One. Sentinel’s dining areas are stunning, sophisticated and oh so suave – I simply love all that dark polished wood and massively high ceilings. Initially when the restaurant first opened early 2011 they received a scathing review by The Australian’s veteran food critic John Lethlean. John scored them a measly 1 out of 5. Luckily for them since then it appears they have picked up their game receiving much better recent reports in local restaurant reviews and blog posts.
We bubbled in to the swanky restaurant chitty chatting away like only besties can. Over the moon to be having some quality “bestie-time” as we like to call it we were determined to make the most of this quick and impromptu catch up. I hadn’t called in advance to notify the chef of my allergies and so I was prepared to be given limited choices off their menu. To my surprise, our waiter and the kitchen worked together to provide us with a number of options to choose from and were not bothered at the potential nuisance of my requests.
As we waited for our food to arrive, our waiter brought to the table some complimentary, freshly toasted gluten free bread with whipped butter. This is not something that happens often and I was suitably impressed. As it was only a Monday afternoon, we both initially hesitated as we gazed over the wine list until we saw some champagne and from then on our rubber arms didn’t need any twisting. Glasses of Mumm champagne in hand we settled in quickly and managed to cover a lot of conversational ground in a short space of time, spanning from weddings to people management through to newsletter writing and coconut water! (Which by the way I am totally addicted to at the moment.)
Kate and I planned to share a few entrees together and seeing as I didn’t get the quinoa dish I wanted recently at Cullen Wines I was keen to try The Sentinel’s version. Kate has been a fan of quinoa for years and has been trying to convince me how awesome it is for some time. It was served with roasted beetroot and dollops of tangy smoked goat’s cheese perched on top of some pickled radish. I am starting to understand what she has been going on about – if prepared with the right foods it is a lovely treat. I did however struggle to taste the smoky notes of the goat’s cheese, they were too subtle.
We also ordered the marinated octopus served with julienned carrot and fennel with a fresh lemony chilli dressing. The octopus was lovely and soft without any chewiness. My only gripe was the serving size – way too small for something this tasty (and for the price I guess)!
For our third dish we chose the steak tartare. This is something I have enjoyed a number of times at Rockpool and been blown away every time with its buttery texture and gentle flavours. Recently the Boy and I have been part-time vegetarians so it actually felt a little odd if not a bit scary to eat this dish once again. To make matter less palatable the meat wasn’t quite as fresh as I would prefer if raw. The crisp and peppery watercress helped somewhat to disguise the tainted flavour of the meat.
The potato chips served with this dish were nothing like what we were expecting. I was anticipating some frites, something I consider a classic combination with steak tartare. Instead there were a neat stack of potato crisps. They were cut incredibly paper-thin to the point of being translucent but unfortunately they tasted like stale oil and not much else. This potentially amazing but simple dish was very poorly executed.
Overall our lunch was enjoyable but with a few hits and misses and I would be keen to go back to sample a greater selection of their food in order get a better idea on their overall quality. The service was friendly and efficient and I look optimistically to my next visit.
Like Me on Facebook!Sentinel Bar and Grill 111 St Georges Terrace, Perth 6000 | (08) 6103 0507 | http://www.sentinelbar.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (Entrees/snacks $4.50-21.50, Mains $26.5-45) Food: 2.5/5 (raw meat has got to be fresh) Service: 3.8/5 (brilliant and enthusiastic) Ambience: 4.5/5 (lovely warm décor, very swanky feel to it) Drinks: 4.5/5 (extensive and interesting wine list) Total: 15.3/20
I am always feeling like I’m so time-starved; something I’m sure many of you readers can empathise with. I never have enough time in my days and weeks to catch up with the friends I hold dear to my heart. There is only so much of that void in my life that I can successfully offset via networks like Facebook and as soon as I have some time off from work, I get busy lining up catch up dates with neglected friends and family. A fellow foodie Tara and I have both been going on and on about wanting to go to Pata Negra together for ages. I’m sure the first time we discussed it must have been last year some time!
Pata negra is a Spanish tapas bar owned by chef David Coomer of Star Anise fame which was a fine dining icon in Perth for more than a decade. Regrettably Star Anise closed their doors last year but thankfully her edgier sister Pata Negra has remained opened.
After a number of false starts, Tara and I finally managed to coordinate our busy schedules and it was all locked in for a girlie night out. Her husband offered to stay at home with their two adorable little girls, and the Boy even offered to drop us in so we could both drink! We really are lucky women!
Contrary to my usual organisation, I had failed to notify the kitchen of my dietary requirements in advance. I’m not sure how I missed doing this and thus was a bit apprehensive as I sheepishly apologised to our waitress saying that I am a “difficult” customer with a couple of allergies. She didn’t seem too concerned with this and went off to the kitchen to have a chat with the chef.
We decided it was absolutely essential to start with a glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne while we deliberated over the menu. As we became more and more overwhelmed by all the mouth-watering options our waitress came over to say that pretty much anything off the menu could be adapted for me (except obviously the bread and crumbed items). Given my recent run of limited options dining out I was literally blown away. “Like you mean anything? Wow!”
While we agonised what to order we asked for some marinated olives to be brought to the table, hoping some food would facilitate some decision making. I was so thankful this time round that our waiter was more than happy for me to use my flash to take photos as the interior lighting is quite dim. After all my fuzzy images from Marque, I really wanted to be able to relish in some focused pictorial memories. The olives contained a satisfying range of types, sizes and colours allowing a variety of tastes. It was served in adorable little antiquey dishes.
The beef was such a simple dish yet each ingredient was carefully selected to create wonderful tiers of strong yet complementary flavours. The meat was a stunning dark cherry colour and had micro-thin veins of marbled fat running through it evenly. The walnuts introduced a slight bitter taste which was softened by the silky fetta and sweetened by the beets. Exquisite.
Ok, I realise this dish probably doesn’t look like much, but for those mushroom fans out there – this is the bomb. After falling in love with Andaluz’s mushrooms (and going back for subsequent visits for more) I am tempted to say these are even tastier! Some of this decision is possibly facilitated by my passion for the Spanish cheese Manchego. The distinctive and slightly salty flavour of this sheep’s cheese is wonderfully unique and is something not to be missed. Add in some meaty, juicy mushrooms and you have something quite amazing to devour! I again marvelled at how such simple dishes consisting of such few ingredients could be so fabulous.
I first discovered the deliciousness of slow cooked eggs some time ago at Greenhouse. These eggs are cooked for about 40 to 45 minutes but at much lower temperatures producing a very soft but evenly cooked egg. If you love soft poached eggs you will think these are nothing short of perfection. The octopus was slightly tougher than I prefer but was still very tasty and the chorizo provided a good contrast in textures.
These quails were huge in size! I am so used to being served such tiny little birds but these richly flavoured quails must have been weight lifting in their time! The meat was so moist, easily falling of the bone and it went well with the accompanying nutty wild rice and lentils. Two generous blobs of buffalo mozzarella completed the dish ideally.
The pork was my least favourite dish of the evening however there wasn’t really anything majorly wrong with it except maybe the meaty part of the pork was a bit dry. I think I was so excited about the layering of tastes in our previously ordered dishes that I wanted it to happen again and again.
Our dessert was absolutely blissful. The meringue had all the right components – the crisp outer shell, the hollow crunchy under-surface and the spongy moist centre. After spooning some of the tangy blood plum sauce liberally over the top, it was supremely heavenly. I didn’t try the pistachio cream as it contained gluten but if Tara’s oohs and aaahs were any indication it must have been pretty good. This year I seem to really be having some great success at shortening my restaurant wish list however many of these places just haven’t lived up to my own hype. Pata Negra on the other hand exceeded my expectations by a long shot. Brilliant service, awesome company and fantastic food; I cannot wait to bring the Boy back here!Pata Negra 26 Stirling Highway, Nedlands 6009 | (08) 9389 5517 | www.patanegra.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (tapas style dishes $7-17, mains $35-65) Food: 4.5/5 (not a single dish disappointed) Service: 4.5/5 (helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (ambient lighting and a Spanish feel, some couches would be nice though) Drinks: 4.5/5 (very large wine list with a lot of Spanish and Portuguese options) Total: 17.5/20