I owe you, my dear readers a small apology. Many of you may have noticed that my recent posts on Chompchomp have been fewer and far between and are often written using content that dates further back than I would prefer. For this I am truly sorry. If the lack of reading has bothered you, I can assure you that the frustration is mutual. Whilst I hate to go on like a broken record and whinge incessantly, the reality is that my slipped disc in my back has made our dining experiences virtually non-existent. Needless to say, life goes on around me and consequently my list of new venues in Perth that I want to visit is growing at an alarming rate.
For the Boy and me, our times spent dining out together form a major part of our enjoyment and their absence leaves us both feeling depressed and disconnected. So, this weekend I necked back a couple of strong pain killers, splashed on some mascara and red lipstick and headed out for a lunch date with my love. I will not be beaten by pain! The Boy wanted to take my new wheels for a spin so we headed down to Fremantle to Chef Kenny McHardy’s new restaurant Manuka Woodfire Kitchen.
Chef Kenny is one of those who will go above and beyond for us allergy-prone intolerants as I discovered recently on our decadent Truffle Kerfuffle weekend. When I heard that he had moved up to Perth with his family from Albany and opened a new restaurant I placed his venue at the top of my to-do list.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen is a cosy space with a warm and inviting atmosphere, a gluten free friendly menu and a short but well-chosen Western Australian wine list. We selected a bottle of Domaine Naturaliste 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was rich in luscious berry and spice aromas making it perfectly matched to the stormy weather outside.
The Boy filled himself up quickly with the wood fired garlic and herb bread while I appreciated having my own gluten free counterpart to enjoy. Manuka make their gluten free bread themselves and it tasted wonderfully fresh and fluffy.
Manuka’s menu features a number of uncomplicated share plates using fresh seasonal produce cooked to smoky heavenliness in their wood fire oven. It was hard to choose where to start so we agreed to let the chef decide while we sat back and relaxed.
At $4 a serve there was nothing not to love about Manuka’s wood roasted olives. Served warm, the delicately flavoured olive flesh slid off the pits with a light squeeze of my teeth. It would have been an easy task to sit all afternoon with my wine in hand eating more of these olives while we watched the quirky world of Fremantle walk by.
Our next dish was a plate of chorizo sausage that had been grilled over hot coals. The sausage had a gentle hint of spice and each slightly charred piece remained burst-in-the-mouth juicy.
One of the standout dishes for me was the roasted button mushrooms, the mushrooms were so meaty and succulent. They were served with paper-thin, crispy kale leaves and dollops of garlic sour cream.
Another fabulous vegetarian dish was the roasted baby beetroot. I could really taste the difference from cooking the beets in the wood fire oven, there was a subtle smokiness and just so much more flavour. The toasted hazelnuts added some great crunch and texture.
The Boy’s favourite dish was the wood roasted miso chicken. Each piping hot piece of chicken was torn apart easily by our eager fingers and we gobbled it down like we had only just sat down to eat.
It was tempting to lick the remaining sticky miso sauce from the bowl as we both slurped sauce from our messy fingers. I guess we could have used a fork and knife to eat but when the chicken is this finger-licking good why bother?
Just when we thought we were too full to fit in any more food, our waitress brought us one last dish to the table. And of course being good sports, we found room to fit in some dreamy tender slow cooked osso bucco. 😉 All my good table manners fell out the window as I sucked loudly on the shin bone ensuring to remove all traces of the rich bone marrow.
Despite continuing to feebly protest about being too full, my rubber arm was easily twisted into sharing dessert. Look, my back may be injured but there is nothing wrong with my stomach!! Secretly you and I both know I ALWAYS have room for dessert. Our chocolate mousse was so light and airy leaving us with no problems polishing it off.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen has only been open for three weeks and yet their team showed no signs of any teething problems that I have come to expect with newly opened establishments. The wait staff are friendly and passionate, the dishes are decently priced and the Chef’s use of fresh local ingredients cooked in a wood fire oven speaks for itself.
Manuka Woodfire Kitchen, Fremantle
134 High Street, Fremantle WA | (08) 9335 3527 | Facebook
Since leaving the East coast as a fresh faced teenager to pursue a career in veterinary science, I quickly learnt to depend on only myself. While I already had an innate level of independence at that age, being separated from my parents by thousands of kilometres had a way of perfecting this skill. Nearly two decades have passed since then and I’m now at a point in my life now where I realise being fiercely self reliant isn’t always a good thing. Recognising that I need and am needed by my close family members seems much more relevant, especially given the distance that separates some of us. I haven’t lived in the same city as either of my parents since I departed long ago and can sometimes go for over twelve months before I cast eyes on their lovable faces. As we all get older, I am realising that I need to make more effort to spend quality time with each of them individually.
It has been years since Mum has come over to visit us in Perth and even longer since she came over with her other half, Jack. They both adore our South West region and requested that we take them down to “The Margaret’s River” as Mum loves to call it. No amount of convincing can get her to call it otherwise.
It is rare for us to be able to relax together so to celebrate this occasion I booked us in at Vasse Felix winery for a long lazy lunch. On our way to Vasse Felix we stopped off at Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Company.
Neither Mum nor Jack are big wine drinkers so the Boy and I tried to avoid boring them to pieces with winery after winery. Bettenay’s do have some wines on offer in addition to some luscious liqueurs and, of course, loads of nougat. Their nougat is all handcrafted with gorgeous flavours including cherry and coconut, and my favourite chocolate mint.
After each purchasing a bundle of nougat we headed off to one of Margaret River’s most popular caves; Lake Cave. It has been ages since the Boy and I have gone down into the caves yet every time we do we are reminded what a natural beauty it is.
Lake Cave has one of the only “suspended tables” in the world which weighs several tonnes and forms a breathtaking sight floating in the air casting its refection in the ripples of water below. This cave is one of the deepest in the region so be prepared to walk down and then back up a fair number of steep stairs. There are rest points along the way for those less fit and able.
There were enough stairs to work up anyone’s appetite and after the Caves we headed straight to Vasse Felix for lunch. It was a long weekend and I was grateful that I had pre-booked because every winery that we passed along the way looked packed with cars.
Vasse Felix have an à la carte menu or alternatively if you select dishes marked on the menu with a star you can enjoy three courses for a set price of $65.
There were a handful of gluten free options and one vegetarian dish for each course. Upon arrival our waitress brought out some fresh bread and cultured butter. There was no gluten free bread available so they kindly brought out some marinated olives for me to nibble on while my family hungrily feasted on the bread.
The marinated olives are sourced from a local olive farm called 34 Degrees South and were served warm. I loved how the olive flesh slithered off the pit easily and consequently I downed most of the bowl before I realised that I should probably share.
Mum and Jack both ordered the omelette for entrée. Cooked sous-vide with mirin, it was served with new season asparagus and locally foraged mushrooms. The egg was browned to a glowing caramel colour and garnished with chilli threads, tiny crumbles of popcorn and togarashi. Togarashi is a type of Japanese chilli pepper and thankfully it wasn’t too hot for my Mum’s palate. The omelette was a gluten free dish however to avoid all three of us having the same dish, I ordered the other gluten free option which was the quail.
I struggled somewhat get a good photo of my entrée due to the sun coming in at an angle on my deep bowled dish. Maybe I need to bring a reflector with me when I’m out dining? Is that too crazy? My quail breast was cooked sous-vide with a confit leg and served on a bed of quinoa, zucchini and olives. It was topped with what I first thought was shaved parmesan but soon found out was feta shaved in liquid nitrogen. It had an unexpected creaminess that dissolved on contact with my tongue. To enhance the delicateness of this light dish some caper puree added some punch into the flavours.
For his entrée, the Boy decided to pop his ramen cherry. Ramen hasn’t really taken off in Perth to the extent it has over in Sydney and therefore neither of us have tried it before. Using house made ramen noodles, this dish was given a South-west twist using Manjimup marron and local fresh water crustaceans. A soft gooey quail egg and some fried nori finished it off and as the aromas wafted to my side of the table I was so envious that I couldn’t even taste one mouthful. Damn you gluten!
For those of you who have yet to try Cone Bay barramundi, you really don’t know what you’re missing out on. These fish are farmed in unique environmental conditions in the north west of Australia that imparts a very clean, and sweet taste.
The fish came with a potato fondant and shards of translucent potato glass topped with luxurious drizzles of smoked oyster butter. It was nearly as good as truffle butter. Nearly I said! There was also a little bit of fructose naughtiness with locally foraged charred leeks and leek foam.
Mum and Jack both ordered the lamb shank for their main, such peas in a pod those two! The locally sourced lamb was cooked sous-vide over 48 hours making it uber-soft in texture however sadly it was served lukewarm. I offered to get the waitress to take it back to the kitchen but my Mum didn’t want to make a fuss. The lamb was accompanied with a black barley risotto and ratatouille made of smoked tomato petal, tomato fondue, picked red onion and eggplant purée.
Although the Boy predominantly will stick to his vegetarian diet at home, like me he can on occasions crave meat. Ordering himself the kangaroo loin today was one of these days.
The loin was served rare and was as lean can be without an ounce of detectable fat present. It was served with textures of beetroot, wattleseed crackers and oil made from dandelions foraged on the property.
Our mains were decent sized meals so after stuffing our faces with the addictive duck fat potatoes there was only a small amount of room left for dessert. We agreed to share a couple of petit fours plates between the four of us however the only gluten free element on the plate was the passionfruit macaron. There was only one macaron on each platter but the waitress was kind enough to put an extra one on there for me.
The Boy was absolutely smitten by the bite size ice cream sandwich made with cinnamon ice cream. Many of us food bloggers claim to have a second stomach for dessert and whilst I was reasonably full, one macaron was not going to cut it even if it was one of my favourite flavours.
Consequently I ordered the gluten free dessert option to share with the Boy. I love abstract desserts, plates of multiple elements that you can mix and match on your tastebuds at your leisure. Fluffy portions of cardamom chiffon cake and silky chocolate cremeaux were paired with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream. Passionfruit caramel and gel added a tart sweetness with chocolate soil and dehydrated mouse contrasting with velvety cocoa bitterness. Heavenly to say the least. My claims for being full surpassed me as I competed with the Boy for every spoonful.
The weekend went by all too quickly, time honestly does fly when you’re having fun. There is no one in the world that can make me laugh the way my Mum can and I realise that I need to stop running the rat race of life and take time out to giggle with her more often.Disclaimer: Despite Mum and Jack insisting on trying to pay for everything, the Boy and I managed to sneak in paying our own way for lunch. Blame it on that independent streak of mine. I want to thank Mum, Jack and my beloved for sharing such a wondrous weekend away. Our times together are always cherished xxxx Bettenay’s Margaret River Nougat Co Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Miamup Road, Cowaramup, WA 6284 | (08) 9755 5539 | www.margaretrivernougat.com.au Lake Cave Caves Road, Forest Grove WA 6284 | (08) 9757 7411 | www.margaretriver.com/operators/7706 Vasse Felix Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Margaret River WA 6284 | (08) 9756 5050 | www.vassefelix.com.au
Many of you will appreciate that an important part of travel preparation is to plan all the places where you are going to head out to eat. As a direct result of this pre-planning, my holidays always seem to turn into a crazed eating feast moving from one venue to another in a mad attempt to complete an enormous bucket list of dishes and venues. One of the places I really wanted to visit in Barcelona was the famous Ferran Adria’s Tickets Bar. Tickets has the reputation of being one of the hardest restaurants in the world to secure a table at. I tried my best to get a seat online before I left Australia without success. On arrival in Barcelona I tried waiting outside Tickets before they opened that night in the grim hope of scoring someone else’s cancellation but this was all in vain. The closest I could get to entering the restaurant was a quick photo taken out the front with Debbie, my lovely new friend from Texas, that I had met at the conference I was attending that week.
Luckily there are a number of more accessible restaurants owned by the same group within walking distance albeit neither are headed by the acclaimed Chef Adria.
I consoled myself knowing at least I would be able to visit both of these other locations called Casa de Tapas and Rias de Galicia. I was so thankful that my newly made friends that I had met at the vet conference were also keen foodies and were more than happy to oblige my needs. I loved Casa’s quirky menu which came presented as a children’s book complete with wacky cartoons.
We ordered a bunch of tapas dishes to share, many of which were naturally gluten free and thus not requiring any adaptation. Within the first few days of arriving in Spain I had learnt to politely request to the wait staff “Sin gluten per favor?” voiced in my poorly pronounced Spanish. These seemed to be the magic words needed to help reveal my gluten free options. It amazed me that how no matter where we stopped to eat in Barcelona, everything tasted so damn good! Casa de Tapas’s marinated olives contained a mix of four different types including gordal sevillana, caspe, verdial and kalamata.
A simple dish that I grew to love in my time in Spain was “escalivada”, or smoked roasted vegetables. Soft strips of capsicum and eggplant were lightly charred and drizzled with olive oil making them as delicate as butter. This dish would have been even more amazing cast on top of some crusty bread. Sadly the only place I found gluten free bread in Barcelona was back at my hotel.
My friends each ordered themselves a “fried box of things” as it was described on the menu. Each wooden box contained a variety of crispy fried pieces of seafood including school prawns, calamari and octopus. It smelt absolutely amazing and made me quickly reach over for the menu to order myself some more food as I started to salivate.
With each dish we ate, Casa de Tapas reinforced the concept that you don’t need to use lots of fancy ingredients to make food taste amazing. All you require are fresh ingredients prepared with love. Dishes as simple as flash fried green peppers and poached prawns needed nothing extra for flavour other than a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Of course a meal in Spain wouldn’t have been complete without a serve of “pulpo”. There is nothing quite like Spanish octopus, it takes on a texture I rarely find replicated back home in Perth. It is so soft and nearly creamy, with no chewiness and is dusted with paprika and spices. This dish was served on top of slices of boiled potato that mashed easily under my fork. I smeared the potato over the spicy octopus sections and happily gobbled it up.
Casa de Tapas offer simple traditional Galician styled tapas without breaking the bank. I was very appreciative that they were so helpful with selecting gluten free tapas dishes for me. We found the service to be quick and friendly and would have been happy to return again and again if it wasn’t for my lengthy bucket list!Casa de Tapas Cañota Calle Lleida 7, 08004 Barcelona, Spain | 93 325 9171 | casadetapas.com Chompchomp’s Barcelona trip in July 2013 was partly funded for by her place of work as part of her continuing education fund. She had to foot the food bill for the week herself however despite eating the most absurd amount of food she found it to cost much less than an equivalent amount of feasting in her home-town of Perth, Australia.
It isn’t often that the Boy wants to go out for a bite to eat and I turn him down. Being not just a mad foodie but also a food blogger means I am forever on the search to find myself decent content to publish. Ordinarily I will take every opportunity I can grab as not all our meals end up being blogworthy; be it because my photos aren’t good enough or maybe there just isn’t a story worth telling.
After working two full weekends in a row on top of my usual full working week, my overtime hours clocked through the roof. Tired, grumpy and in a rare moment of unsociability all I wanted to do was engross myself in front of the computer and work on my massive “blog-log” which is my term for the ever increasing back log of posts needing to be written. After barely seeing each other for the past two weeks, the Boy implored me to stop being so lazy, get up off my bum and go out with him for a late lunch. Having heard mixed reports about Typika Artisan Roasters in Claremont, we both agreed to go there and see for ourselves.
Situated in a large warehouse style building, Typika import their own beans and roast them on site. In the centre of the dining area is a glass encased room housing their huge coffee roaster so you can watch their creations unfold before your eyes. We didn’t arrive until minutes before the kitchen was closing which made it far too late in the day for me to try their coffee. In fact, I was wired enough from work and didn’t actually need further stimulation to add to the mix. Instead we opted for a couple of fruit smoothies to accompany our nuts and olives whilst we waited for our food.
Within a couple of minutes of being seated our nibbles were brought to the table. The nuts contained a lovely mix of macadamias, cashews and almonds. They were spiced with smoked paprika, chilli, honey, garlic and sea salt. The serve was quite substantial in size.
Typika’s olives contain their own mix of kalamata and ligurian olives warmed with chilli, garlic, rosemary, cumin and slices of lemon. Soft and nearly velvety, the olive flesh slipped clean off the pit in one easy slurp. The amount of spice was fairly mild and I could easily have enjoyed a bit more kick.
The Boy wasn’t that thrilled with any of the vegetarian options and opted for the beer battered fish of the day. After reminding me that he “isn’t really a fish and chips person” I was surprised that he ordered it. If any serve of fish and chips was going to win him over this would have been it. Swirls of batter fried to a crisp golden colour coated each fillet of fish. It was served with battered chips and sweet potato wedges with a side serve of tartare sauce and a bottle of vinegar.
I have to admit I was a little envious of the appearance of his dish and longed to be able to at least sink my teeth into one bite. That was until later in the day when all that fried batter started to disagreed with him. Being on a plant based diet and no longer used to such fatty foods his digestive system uttered roars of complaints which spanned throughout our yoga class!
Unlike the hungry lad, I only felt like something light and enquired to our waitress which of the two gluten free scallop options on the menu could be adapted to be fructose friendly. The chef recommended the scallops with black pudding, minted pea puree and romesco sauce. They were happy to serve the romesco on the side as it contained garlic which is something a lot of FM’s have to limit.
Plump and only briefly seared each scallop was a little raw on the inside which fortunately is just how I prefer them although I realise others may prefer them more cooked through. The black pudding was cut into the skinniest slivers such that its flavour didn’t overpower the delicate scallops. The pea puree was a little under-seasoned but had enough of a hint of sweetness to allow the scallop’s fresh taste to shine.
I didn’t think it was fair to write a blog post on a coffee roaster without trying their coffee so as all that overtime gave me an extra day off in lieu I chose to head back to Typika Artisan Roasters solo. That day luck was not on my side as it turned out that a power line had come down across Stirling Highway making access nearly impossible with the Police blocking off the road completely. After getting lost winding my way through the back streets I finally managed to pop out upwind of the drama.
It was bustling for a late weekday morning and most tables were occupied. I sat down on my lonesome ready to get down to business. The drive had taken me a lot longer than I anticipated and I was champing at the bit for a coffee. Served with a bit more milk than I prefer for my short macs, my coffee was quite smooth and creamy however lacked the wow-factor that I expected from a self-proclaimed artisan roaster.
I um-ed and ah-ed whether I needed a second breakfast for about two full seconds before I called the waiter back to take my food order. I chose the Typika breakfast stack which included a shredded potato crisp, wilted spinach, avocado and house smoked ocean trout all topped with fried egg. Service was prompt and before I had finished my coffee my meal arrived. The waiter seems rushed and as he placed my dish on the table the whole mountain of food came toppling down in one messy and very un-photogenic pile. I sheepishly requested if it could kindly be send back to the kitchen for reconstruction.
I guessed at this point there was no way of remaining incognito for the purposes of my blog post. I winced a little at openly giving myself away and acting like a diva sending my food back. As I pricked my knife into my egg these thoughts quickly vanished to the back of my mind as I watch the bright yellow yolk porn dribble gracefully down my enormous stack. Oh yes.
Typika Artisan Roasters makes a nice modern change from the surrounding old-fashioned styled cafes in the Claremont area. Whilst their coffee was by no means incredible, it still hit the sweet spot for me. Their menu is very gluten free friendly and has a good variety of options beyond the standard eggs benny and big breakfasts.Typika Artisan Roasters 331 Stirling Highway, Claremont WA 6010 | (08) 9284 6088 | www.typika.com.au Price: $$$ (Breakfast $12-21, Lunch $17-34) Food: 3/5 (a touch on the oily side, plenty of GF options) Service: 3/5 (quick, friendly but minimal menu knowledge for ingredients) Ambience: 3/5 (loud, busy, hive of activity) Drinks: 3.5/5 (great coffee but not blow-your-socks-off coffee) Total: 12.5/20
My father-in-law’s birthday falls between Christmas and New Year’s Day making it an occasion that is usually celebrated in a very relaxed style at their home. This year we were unable to attend the family gathering and proposed to take them out for lunch instead with just the four of us. Predictably for the time of year in Perth, the weather was absolutely glorious so I convinced everyone to head to the coast and meet at Il Lido Italian Canteen in Cottesloe.
The beach in Cottesloe is something to be proud of and in my humble opinion has to be one of the prettiest beaches in our state. The sky was as blue as the clear waters below it and the white expanses of sand were splashed with bright colours of beach towels and bikini clad sunbakers. There are people around the world who pay to go on holiday to be able visit locations like this and here we have it on our back door step. You cannot help but love Perth.
Il Lido is built in a 1935 heritage building and back in the 1940’s this site housed Lido Cabaret, which was the old-time equivalent to our modern day nightclub. Much of the interior has been kept intact with decorative high ceilings and windows facing out onto the beach. Il Lido has been on my ever growing wishlist of places to eat for some time having already been to both of their sister restaurants Duende and Gordon Street Garage a number of times.
Most of the small plates were already gluten free or were easily adaptable so we started off with a number of them to share before moving onto something more substantial. I have always been a huge lover of oysters as many of you may have noticed. Despite having tried them prepared countless different ways, until recently my favourite style has be “au natural”. That was until I tried Lalla Rookh’s incredible freshly shucked oysters with cucumber chilli granita. The combination of fresh saltiness and sweet iciness ending in a gentle spicy kick was more than just intriguing.
So when I saw something that sounded very similar on Il Lido’s menu I got quite excited. I should have however ordered them with no expectations because these oysters came with just a teeny dollop of melted sorbet not a shell full like I was expecting. Although the oysters were delightfully fresh, having such a small amount of sorbet made them lacklustre by comparison.
It must have been the day for carpaccio because I found myself unable to decide between the tuna and the beef. My solution was to simply order one of each. The tuna carpaccio was a complete hit. The dish was literally as pretty as a picture; chewy pieces of candied chilli, torn fresh orange and olives were scattered on top of thinly sliced fish. Each piece of tuna dissolved on the tongue leaving a surprisingly complex array of flavours on the palate.
The beef carpaccio was just as tender and was served with generous shavings of truffle sottocenere cheese along with lavish smears of horseradish cream. Each mouthful was as soft as silk and resulted in a brief period of silence across the table while we all gustated in pleasure.
I mean, who can say no to truffle cheese?
Our last starter of scallops had to be slightly adapted to be gluten free by omission of the “crumbs”. Plump scallops were hidden under piles of freshly tossed beans and greens. Whilst not the biggest scallops in town, each mouthful was browned to a warm caramel colour yet remained juicy and soft.
My father-in-law ordered himself the lamb cutlets for his celebratory birthday meal. The two meaty lamb chops came with light salad of fresh figs, spinach, basil, goats cheese and pine nuts all tossed enthusiastically to coat each component in tangy, creamy cheesiness.
My mother-in-law opted for a lighter meal, choosing the poached chicken salad with peaches, prosciutto, almonds and goats cheese. Her plate was piled high and ended up being a bigger serve than she had anticipated. I love how each of their salads came with a mix of seasonal fresh fruit and goats cheese, such a lovely combination to have on a hot summers day.
The Boy ordered the beetroot and goats cheese crespelle. Crespelle are the Italian equivalent of crepes, can be served as a savoury or sweet dish and are usually made using small sized pancakes folded with a sauce filling. By the time I had taken shots of his parent’s meals he was starting to get impatient giving me not much more than a millisecond to capture its vibrant colours.
I was in the same boat as my MIL and craved a light and healthy salad. I always eat way too much over Christmas and by the time New Year’s approaches I’m actually ready for a break! I chose the hickory smoked salmon with avocado, green beans and a yoghurt dressing. My helping was also generous with all the ingredients tumbled together evenly. I hate salads where the key ingredients are just dumped on top of the greens; everything needs to be tossed through!
My husband’s family are usually big eaters especially the men. It’s those long Dutch legs that need that extra filling up! I didn’t anticipate our big servings and ordered a couple of sides; crisp potato skins with paprika salt, aioli and a rocket, pear and parmesan salad. The potato skins are worth returning back for. Slightly spicy, super crunchy with just a hint of soft potato flesh these little numbers didn’t last long.
There were a couple of dessert choices that were gluten free including the pineapple upside down cake and the flourless chocolate cake. Having four mouths to feed on the table allowed me to order one of each knowing anything I couldn’t eat would still get eaten.
The pineapple cake was very moist and accompanied some poached pineapple and extra virgin olive oil ice cream that is made in house. The extra virgin flavour in the ice cream was not too over powering to be unpleasant and gave a pleasant fruity end to the tongue.
The Boy gobbled up a substantial part of his cake before I could get a fork in edgewise which generally is a good sign coming from someone who claims to not like desserts. The tall disc of cake came in a puddle of chocolate sauce and honeycomb pieces with honeycomb ice cream. I had a couple of mouthfuls and thought it was a little dry for my liking.
As both the Boy and I tend to work long hours, it isn’t often that we get to spoil either of our parents and it was totally worth it to see the beaming faces at the end of it all. To help all the food excesses digest we took a relaxing stroll along the coastline together and longed for the day to never end.
Il Lido was even better than we expected given our excellent experiences at Duende and variable meals at Gordon Street Garage. They have successfully emulated a casual beach side vibe yet serve stunning Italian “peasant” food that left the in-laws very impressed. I can guarantee we will be back.Il Lido Italian Canteen 88 Marine Parade, Cottesloe, WA 6011 | (08) 9286 1111 | illido.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-20, Mains $28-42) Food: 4.5/5 (focuses on simple Italian dishes with local, seasonal produce) Service: 4/5 (helpful with allergy choices, accommodating with alterations, full of smiles) Ambience: 3.5/5 (noisy but that is part of the atmosphere, indoor and outdoor options) Drinks: 4/5 (comprehensive wine list with many interesting Italian and Aussie options to suit all prices) Total: 16/20
The latter half of last year was emotionally and physically draining for me due to some major, yet to be resolved issues at my work. It is hard to believe that this year of rock bottom lows also contains what was undoubtedly THE best day of my life; my wedding day! I’ve resigned myself to accept that such extremes of ups and downs were simply what 2013 had in store for me. Such is life as they say.
In the lead up to Christmas our workload began to increase rapidly and with everything else that was going on around me I could feel myself close to a burnout. I took a proactive approach and booked a week of leave at the last minute to divert a mental disaster. During this week off I was invited to attend a Royal Canin seminar for a veterinary talk held at the Pan Pacific Hotel. Seeing as I didn’t have to work the next day I decided to catch a cab into the city so I could enjoy a few drinks courtesy of Royal Canin. When I let the Boy know of my plans, he kindly offered to drive me there instead and so we headed in a bit earlier to grab a bite to eat together.
Lalla Rookh Bar and Eating House is only a couple of blocks walk away from the Pan Pacific and has been on my wish list for ages. The Head Chef Joel Valvasori and I follow each other on Twitter and Instagram and I have already suffered several episodes of food envy from looking at his drool worthy food photos.
We entered Lalla Rookh via their side entrance through the wine store which I initially thought was actually the whole restaurant. As we continued to walk through to the bar area I was surprised at each turn how big the place is. Their venue spans over multiple different areas including an open bar area, a lounge area, a sun lit courtyard and a more romantic, formal dining room. They serve an all-day menu which is a useful fact to know if you happen to be hungry and stuck in the city in that in-between time after lunch and before dinner.
We were on a strict short time frame with less than an hour to order, eat and be on our way. Their menu was filled with loads of gluten free options including pizza so I was spoilt for choice. When I placed our order I informed our waitress we only had limited time and she was very accommodating with this. We ordered a collection of little share dishes starting off with the freshly shucked oysters. I am usually a traditionalist when it comes to my oysters; they just need to be super fresh, natural and naked with just a squeeze of lime. Each of these oysters were topped with some icy cold cucumber chilli granita and salmon roe but even to my critical, purist tastebuds this combination was a delight.
A hint of sweet, a hint of spice and a mouthful of creamy fresh oysterness. Perfection.
I was literally gobsmacked to see that all their pizzas were gluten free. There wasn’t just a gluten free OPTION; the Chef decided boldly that ALL the pizzas would be available as either standard or gluten free. I LOVE this guy! I figured it would be totally negligent of me to not order one to try. Simple but tasty our pizza was topped with tomato sugo, olives, Sicilian anchovies and blobs of luscious melted fior de latte, a type of fresh mozzarella. The base wasn’t doughy tasting and held its form until the last bite.
To balance out the less healthy option of pizza I made the token gesture of ordering us some salad. We are still in asparagus season here in Perth and whilst I cannot go nuts on this vegetable due to its moderate fructans content, I find I can tolerate a small amount without any issues. The asparagus spears were soft without being soggy and served with a softly boiled egg and shavings of Trentingrana which is a hard Italian cheese similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Our final and relatively random choice was the baked fior de latte stuffed lemons with Sicilian anchovies. The obvious way to eat these lemons was to squeeze the ooey-gooey cheesy stuffing out with our teeth and leave the rind. For some reason however, I blame it on my foggy state of mind, I decided to try eating them whole including the rind and skin. The Boy looked on in surprise and found my resulting facial expressions somewhat entertaining. Although quite chewy, I strangely enough didn’t actually mind eating the entire thing although I doubt I could eat my way through two.
As I quickly looked at the clock I estimated we just had enough time (and room) to fit in dessert. There were a couple of gluten free options but the pannacotta vera with roasted cocoa and walnut crumble got my attention. Perfectly jiggly and smooth, this traditional Italian dessert was executed in its true glory. The sugar kick snapped me out of my depressive slumber for long enough to be chaperoned by the Boy on my power walk down to the Hotel for my seminar.
We were both left pleasantly surprised with our experience at Lalla Rookh. Having only got to try a few of their share dishes, my interest for them has definitely strengthened and I look forward to returning for a more formal meal in the future.Lalla Rookh Bar and Eating House Lower Ground, 77 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 7077 | www.lallarookh.com.au Price: $$ (Small bites $4-16, Mains $25-38) Food: 4/5 (well versed in gluten free, could consider sourcing GF bread) Service: 4/5 (quick, efficient and super friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (pick your own ambience! There is an area for everyone!) Drinks: 4.5/5 (some interesting Australian and International wines by the glass or bottle) Total: 16.5/20
I have to admit I am one of those people that tend to get a bit starry eyed with fancy restaurants that get into the big halls of fame. I am always hinting to the Boy that the holiday of my lifetime would be one where we travel around the world business class eating at the top ten restaurants in the San Pelligrino World’s Best. Focusing more locally than globally, the West Australian Good Food Guide is a highly esteemed annual publication where top restaurants around the state can be awarded one, two or three stars.
For the awards this year, there were five Perth venues and four regional venues that received a two star rating. This award is considered to identify “the best of the best: that small band of restaurateurs who are at the very apex of professional cooking and service”. As yet no Western Australian restaurant has ever achieved a three star rating.
In the weeks preceding our recent trip down to Margaret River I booked a table at Wills Domain, the winner of two stars in addition to the best WA regional restaurant of the year. I wanted fancy and was certain this would fit the bill perfectly.
The restaurant faces out onto the winery boasting 180 degree views of the sweeping vineyards. It had been a very wet weekend and we were blessed with some of the first rays of sunshine we had seen for days. A nippy breeze remained in the air to remind us that summer was still a few weeks away. We started off at Wills Domain’s cellar door to try a few of their wines and walked away appreciating why they hold a number of accolades for their collection. Suffice to say we didn’t walk away empty handed, in fact we had to pick up a full case on the way out!
Once seated at our table, we asked for some spice roasted almonds and marinated olives to be brought out while we perused the menu. I had forced the Boy to go on a short but rather hilly jog earlier in the morning and both our tummies were rumbling as loud as the thunderstorm the night before. The nuts were roasted with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander seeds and honey and packed a decent punch of flavour.
We both ordered the gin cured trout for entrée. Many of you may know about my gin obsession so for me this was a logical choice. Bright colours of locally grown heirloom beetroots, nasturtium flowers and pickles wound elegantly around the plate like a Spring garden bed. I found the “prawn crackers” quite curious. They were actually made from trout skins that are dried and puffed. You could even see the tiny little scales in them. They dissolved on the tongue satisfyingly.
After a considerable wait for our next dish whilst surrounded by very vocal young babies, our mains finally arrived. I was craving beef which is unusual for me so I ordered the Wagyu brisket despite getting a low brow from my dear husband.
I haven’t had red meat in some time, not necessarily because I don’t want it but more so because the Boy no longer eats it and we usually share our food! Three solid chunks of Ningaloo Wagyu brisket were served plank style with fresh kale, parsnip puree and fresh orange.
This was a very simple dish with each element done perfectly but I couldn’t help but feel that this was a very safe menu choice and lacked the creativity and imagination I would have expected for a two starred restaurant. The meat shredded with no effort under my fork and oozed that characteristic smooth, buttery flavour that one can only expect from Wagyu.
The Boy ordered the line caught snapper served with mussels, cuttlefish, fennel and nettles. His fish was also tenderlicious and flakable using only the freshest ingredients and served with a relaxed level of simplicity. We ordered a couple of sides to accompany our mains; roasted pumpkin with seeds and pomegranate and the radicchio and baby cos with buttermilk dressing.
Now as I have told you before, the bar has been set for the most amazing roast pumpkin in all the land by Rockpool. I have now eaten their version of this side dish at more than one Rockpool location, and, on half a dozen occasions. It never fails to woo me every time. If you are going to make a basic dish like this, then make sure you make it really really well! Wills Domain is first place I can confidently say serves roasted pumpkin that is AS GOOD AS ROCKPOOL’S!
Yes, I called it!
There was another fairly extended delay until our plates were cleared and another again before our smiley waitress finally brought the dessert menus out for us. Not quite the polished service I was expecting. As is often the case I couldn’t decide between cheese and sweets so the Boy and I agreed to share one of each. However, in a rare moment of contradiction, we found that we couldn’t agree on which cheese. Accustomed to usually ordering them all, it is a difficult task picking just one! We solved things the old fashioned way and flipped a coin. To my delight I won and selected the Vigneron cheese, or “winemaker’s cheese”.
This cheese is sourced from Woodside Cheese Wrights in South Australia and was created to “showcase the vine leaves and wines” from their vineyards in McLaren Vale. The young cheeses are wrapped in specially selected vine leaves and then washed in white wine. The end result is a fairly complex tasting cheese with a pleasant sweet, slightly earthy flavour ending with a nutty after-taste.
The Boy’s choice of dessert to share was the bitter sweet chocolate slab served with coconut ice cream, passionfruit gel and fresh fruit. The full gluteny version also has a macadamia crumb but the chef was happy to serve the crumb in a little bowl on the side so the Boy could enjoy this component without me.
Overall, our meal at Wills Domain was very enjoyable however I cannot deny I walked away a little disappointed. We have been fortunate enough to dine at a decent number of starred restaurants around Australia and I expected their service to be as polished as their food. Whilst our wait staff were dynamic and friendly, there was long waits between courses, empty plates remained on tables for prolonged times, and even though I made my booking a few weeks in advance, we were seated down the end of the balcony between two families with young children rather than in the body of the restaurant. If I hadn’t built up my expectations due to their rating, we would have actually had a fabulous day and will have to go back again to see if this was a once off.Wills Domain Lot 341 Brash Road (Corner of Abbey Farm Road & Brash Road), Yallingup WA | (08) 9755 2327 | www.willsdomain.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $19-21, Mains $29-39) Food: 4/5 (simple, executed precisely without fanfare or extravagance) Service: 3/5 (friendly but inattentive & slow) Ambience: 3.5/5 (placed between two noisy families it was hard to appreciate potential) Drinks: 4.5/5 (the wines are superb, our fav was the 2009 Reserve Bitza) Total: 15/20
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
Earlier this year I was in Barcelona for eight days to attend a conference. Despite this being a short trip, I managed to squeeze in a tremendous amount of eating and I can proudly look back and commend myself with my efforts. The downside of my gluttony was incrementally revealed day by day as I stood in front of my hotel room mirror each morning I could see my waist line slowly enlarging! After the first few days I realised I needed an action plan and so first thing in the morning I forcibly dragged myself out of bed hung-over and blearily eyed in order to jog up the 200 stairs leading to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
On reaching the summit I nearly tripped over my own feet in exhaustion with my sides heavily heaving and my face flushed tomato red. Feeling hideously nauseous but oh-so-satisfied I vowed to return to repeat it all again the next day. This was my warped mental justification for spending the remainder of my day eating.
After thoroughly enjoying a vibrant degustation solo at Restaurant Nectari, I accepted that eating alone in a restaurant isn’t nearly as daunting or as boring as I originally had once thought and so off I set on foot to do it again. Prior to my departure from Perth I had read about Chef Carles Abellan and was keen to try one of his tapas bars. After getting a little lost wandering the streets of Barcelona I conveniently stumbled upon one of his restaurants Tapas 24.
One of the waiters could speak very good English and was happy to help me choose a couple of dishes that would be gluten free. I looked around and noticed there was a mix of locals and tourists and was relieved that I hadn’t landed myself in a tourist trap. As I waited for my dishes to be prepared I was brought some flavourful, soft marinated olives on the house.
My orders came out one by one allowing me enough time to sit and enjoy each one without feeling like a greedy piglet surrounded by her solitary feast. My first dish was ceviche de corvina; thinly sliced raw sea bass. The fish was nearly translucent and delicate, tasting as fresh as the sea and melting in my mouth upon contact. It was served chilled on a bed of ice with fresh chilli and avocado on a crisp baby cos leaf.
The next dish was the Presa iberica with chimichurri. This was an Iberican pork dish that was quite unlike any pork I have ever had. The meat was a rich ruby red colour and it was served rare like a fine beef fillet topped with spoonfuls of spicy chimichurri. It was incredibly juicy and tender as was by far my favourite dish of the afternoon.
As I waited for my next dish to arrive, the family sitting at the bar next to me turned towards me and asked me where I was from in a familiar Australian accent. It turned out that they too were from Perth and we soon got busy chatting. Theo, the father of the family humbly talked about his day job owning a family run seafood distribution business and that this was his first family holiday in many years. As he spoke it suddenly dawned upon me who he was and I blurted out:“Are you the real Mr Kailis from the Kailis Brothers? OMG! You are basically like Perth foodie royalty!”
Oh dear. Perhaps this is why I shouldn’t dine out on my own. My mouth speaks before I think, especially once I’ve been drinking wine!
Realising that I may have just totally embarrassed myself and possibly also Theo, he graciously brushed my compliment aside with a very down to Earth and warm manner. With perfect timing my last dish arrived; tacos de cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is a traditional Mexican slow cooked pork dish where citrus is used to marinate the meat to give an acidic tangy flavour. It was served with fresh limes and red onions but of course I omitted the onions due to my fructose malabsorption. This was the perfect dish to end on; it was satisfying, filling and very tasty albeit somewhat messy.
Over the next few days I tried my hardest to get back to Tapas 24 for a second meal but unfortunately didn’t manage it. To be sure it will remain on my hit list for when I return back to Barcelona with the Boy. It was so inspiring to meet the Kailis family, their business is a household name for most of us Perth foodies and when I go shopping at their fish café I’m like a child in a lolly shop wanting to buy more than I could possibly eat.
Shortly upon my return to Perth I returned to their Fish Café in Leederville for a very enjoyable meal where I found their marinated octopus was as good as that I ate in Barcelona. And that is saying something!Tapas 24 Calle diputación, 269, Barcelona 08007 | +34 (0) 934 880 977 | www.carlesabellan.es/restaurantes-tapas-24 Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (hard to fully assess with only 3 dishes but fresh ingredients and great flavours) Service: 4.5/5 (my waiter wouldn’t let me leave & gave me a extra glass of wine on the house! Too sweet) Ambience: 3/5 (I went and sat straight at the bar where the action was at) Drinks: 3.5/5 (mainly Spanish wines on the list – ask the waiter for a suggestion) Total: 15/20
It was bucketing down with rain and the wind cut through me like ice. This is not exactly the best weather to be walking through the city in search of a bite to eat. The Boy and I had just been dropped off at the Wellington Bus Station by Loris from Taste Bud Tours after an afternoon Speed Grazing in the Swan Valley. I had adamantly put my foot down refusing to return home and cook dinner. It was too enjoyable a day to return to the humdrum just yet. But we were a little peckish so I suggested we pop across the road to Jamie’s Italian for some pucker tucker before catching a cab. We were loaded up with bags of loot that we had bought along the way and desperate for a quick solution we both agreed this sounded like an easy option.
Our wise plans were to prove nothing short of stupid as it turned out that our impromptu dinner happened to coincide with the New Directions concert held at the Perth Arena only a minutes’ walk from the restaurant. Unbeknownst to us nearly every single parent of the 14,000+ teenage concert goers ALSO chose to eat at Jamie’s Italian while they waited for the three hour concert to finish. To add insult to injury these possibly clueless parents were either not educated in the Jamie way of high table turnover, or more likely they didn’t really care, and thus once completing their meals they were happy to just sit and occupy their table for a bit longer.
And they sat.
Meanwhile at the bar overlooking the restaurant floor, it was bursting at the seams with hungry customers waiting for a table. I noticed a number people casting intense glares at the well-fed diners seated below in hope this would prompt them to feel guilty, get up and move back to the bar to give up their table. I’m surprised there wasn’t a mutiny!
I have to say for the first hour I was still a bit full from our Speed Grazing and was happy to snack slowly whilst taking in the whole atmosphere. My absolute favourite of the bar snacks was the crispy fried polenta chips with fresh rosemary and finely grated parmesan. These are most definitely worth the hype. Obnoxiously crispy on the outside with a soft fluffy centre I could have easily downed several rounds of these if I could have made my way back to the bar more easily to place another order.
It’s a big call to call your olives the World’s Best olives but Jamie in his over confident manner is obviously happy to do so. Large, firm green olives and black olive tapenade were served on ice with paper-thin, crispy “music bread” which was not gluten free. Olives are a very individual taste and personally I wouldn’t go so far as to call these the World’s best as the flesh was a little hard. I like my olives to fall off the pip like slow cooked meat falls off a bone.
The sweet mini chilli peppers were stuffed with whipped ricotta, mint & lemon and were soft and delicate providing a good textural contrast to our super crunchy polenta chips. Our bar experience would have been greatly improved if our waiter brought us some serviettes and cutlery to the table with our food order. There may have been some available at the bar but as we were packed in like sardines I didn’t bother to check.
After what turned out to be a two and a half hour wait I was escorted to our table along with a very disgruntled husband. He had to start work early the next day, it was nearly nine o’clock and we were only just getting seated. We were originally told it would be about an hour and a half wait and had no idea that it actually would mean nearly double that! I felt terrible because I was the one that had pushed him into dining here, after our long day he would have been happy with some local take out and a night snuggled up on the couch.
Trying to make light of the situation I persuaded him to forget temporarily the busy day ahead of him as we had undergone such a long haul to get this table and we needed to make the most of it! I ordered the pan-fried whole pink snapper with olives, garlic, wine, capers, parsley & the “sweetest baby plum tomatoes”. The wonder about fresh seafood is that you really need very little effort to make it a delicious meal. Cooked on the bone the snapper had so much flavour but I did need to eat it slowly so as not to choke on a fish-bone.
The Boy had a fillet of baked King Salmon served with whipped lemony artisanal ricotta, balsamic roasted winter vegetables and a zesty crunchy salad. He was understandably far too hungry to go into details of listing adjectives to describe his dish but he did comment that all the ingredients seemed extremely fresh.
We ordered a couple of nicely priced side dishes to boot. The “Humble Green Salad” contained thick, bright chunks of cos lettuce with a lemon, mustard, crushed pink peppercorns & mint yoghurt dressing and topped with a variety of mixed seeds. It tasted like it had come straight from the garden.
The Boy and I are mad for roasted pumpkin and my tired eyes nearly missed seeing it on the sides menu. Thankfully the Boy was on the ball and ensured we ordered a serve. It was layered with chunks of roasted beetroot and garlic cloves and tossed with chilli, roasted nuts & seeds. Whilst this dish in its simplicity will never fail to excite me; my bench mark for hitting the wow factor is Rockpool’s Pumpkin with burnt butter and garlic yoghurt. Jamie’s pumpkin was good, but it was not THAT good.
The tension across the table from our overly excessive wait for a table had dissipated. I love how good food can fix nearly everything. For dessert I really didn’t think I could squeeze much more in so I opted for the poached Winter fruits with vanilla frozen yoghurt and smashed honeycomb. While being thankful my choice was light and easy to eat I couldn’t help eyeing off all the more elaborate desserts brought to our surrounding tables. I guessing I will have to come back with a more empty stomach next time. If the Boy lets me!Jamie’s Italian The Mitchell Building, 140 William Street, Perth, WA 6000 | (08) 9363 8600 | www.jamieoliver.com/italian/australia/perth Price: $$ (Entrees/Small bites $9-16, Mains $17-34) Food: 4/5 (simple, wholesome goodness, certainly nothing fancy but hits the sweet spot) Service: 2.5/5 (although the table service was brilliant, please don’t tell customers it’s a 90 minute wait when it is actually 2 & 1/2 hours) Ambience: 4/5 (noisy, energetic and vibrant) Drinks: 3/5 (very Italian focused) Total: 13.5/20
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
Some of you may think I’m a bit insane throwing myself head first into the Mushroom Mania celebrations every year but I can assure you I am not the only one. In addition to a number of bloggers from around the country, there are many local chefs and food producers that join in the mushroomy celebrations. Last week I introduced you to Cris from Perth City Farm who is totally mad for his mushrooms, nurturing them carefully from spores to fruit with tenderness and loving care. And it shows; his mushrooms are packed full of flavour and were so meaty I swear they nearly tasted like chicken. For the second post in my Mushroom Mania series this year, I wanted to take it beyond just eating one or two mushrooms dishes. I wanted to find a talented chef who was willing to make me a whole mushroom themed degustation. I approached Chef Scott O’Sullivan from the award-winning Red Cabbage Food and Wine in South Perth to see if he was keen. It turns out that he and his wife are big mushroom fans and he jumped at the opportunity to join in the fun!
On arrival we were greeted warmly by Hazel O’Sullivan and shown to our table where our own personal mushroom menus were laid out ready for us. As my eyes gazed over each delicious looking course I knew we were in for a special treat. To start us off for the night, thickly sliced and toasted gluten free sour dough with olives and truffled honey were brought to the table. There was also some fresh brioche for the boy to eat that wasn’t gluten free. The sour dough was soft with a lovely slightly sour after taste and it soaked up the truffled honey thirstily.
The truffle honey was, as I’m sure any of you who have tried it before, totally exquisite and was further enhanced by the addition of some fragrant fresh thyme. I was glad I brought my glucose tablets to counter act the fructose content in the honey so I could enjoy it liberally with minimal consequences. To be honest…even if I had forgotten those glucose tablets, I would have happily endured the suffering anyway. The honey was THAT good.
Our second course arrived under a large glass dome filled with smoke. I love theatrics when I’m out dining; it makes the whole experience so much more of a show and brings some of the magic that happens in the kitchen out to us at the table.
The richly earthy flavours of fresh smoked shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms were the ideal amuse bouche for the commencement of this mushroom journey. The gluten free croutons were crunchy without being overly hard and left a sumptuous lingering buttery flavour in my mouth.
Our next course of duck lasagne and seared scallops were a creative play on textures. Pig’s ear mushrooms were dehydrated to dry them out and then deep fried so that they had the consistency of potato crisps. Combined with the velvety soft scallops and duck this was truly a wondrous dish. Being truffle season here in Western Australia, I was so pleased to see these fabulous fungi made a recurrent feature across our evening meal with some truffle jus drizzled romantically over this dish. Sorry you don’t get a visual on this one folks!
I love it when food is synonymous with art and as our evening progressed I began to understand that Chef Scott shares a similar passion. Each dish was presented in a precise and methodical manner with every component so carefully planned and prepared. The marron and salmon pastrami matched well with the stronger flavours of the shimeji and shiitake mushrooms. There were crisp fried nuggets of sunchoke, dollops of carrot purée and mushroom ketchup along with lashings of sticky sweet soy caramel.
Most excitingly, my truffle obsession was fuelled furthermore with generous shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle falling across my plate like millionaire’s snowflakes.
Like many, I am a macaron addict. These little morsels are as good a pick-me-up for me as a block of chocolate and the very thought of eating them always makes me all girlie and excitable. Over the years I have tried all sorts of macaron flavours as they are such a versatile little treat with the incredible capacity to contain a wide variety of flavours. However I have never eaten a MUSHROOM macaron before so I was so impressed with this course. A gorgeous little cep mushroom macaron sat perched on a parsnip stalk laying on bed of olive and white chocolate snow with a scoop of parsnip ice cream. Too cute!
For our final main course those distinctly flavoured little chanterelle mushrooms featured alongside succulent venison and creamy cubes of foie gras. On a bed of celeriac puree and scattered with pistachios and fresh cherries, the sweet and sour aspects of this dish complemented the venison magically. Buried in amongst all the treasure was a cherry “bomb”. Cherry puree and cherry vinegar encased in a thin film made from a seaweed gelling agent exploded with a POW in my mouth releasing so much flavour my eyes nearly watered. Incredible!
Our next course is one of my favourite parts of a degustation; the cheese course. This cheese course was like no other I have tried before. Expecting some slivers of cheese, crackers and slices of fruit I fascinated to see that Chef Scott put just as much creative thought into this course as he had the rest of the meal. A smear of subtly sweet pumpkin puree was sprinkled with crumbled Irish Cashel Blue cheese and Lancashire cheddar. Instead of some comparatively boring slices of pear there was a scoop of soft pear sorbet.
As our degustation started to draw to a close I reflected back on what we had eaten so far and was surprised with the modest size of dishes. This is a degustation for the hungry; they are quite generous with portion sizes considering we had nine courses to get through yet I wasn’t feeling excessively overindulged. I was chuffed to see that two of the nine courses were desserts and I recall the desserts at Red Cabbage being very memorable. Our first dessert course was called apple, quince and rhubarb. This relatively messy looking dish interestingly gave a different sensation with each mouthful by alternating with textures, temperatures, sweetness, creaminess and tarty sourness.
You cannot go wrong serving me a dessert that is based on chocolate. It is (one) of my true Achilles heels and I struggle to avoid binging on it if it is in the cupboard at home. For our final course in this evening of excellence we were served a soft cube of chocolate mousse surrounded by chocolate and coffee “rocks” and accompanied a velvety scoop of brown butter ice cream. This was such a wonderful way to end our evening.
The service to our table for the whole night was absolutely seamless with Hazel providing me with some excellent wine matching recommendations. Having visited Red Cabbage a number of times some year ago, I was impressed to see how this restaurant has grown and matured to have their own signature style of artistic food that I expect from other top venues in Perth such as Restaurant Amuse. Their passion for quality and service shines through and we both look forward to returning again in the near future.This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2013. Head to the Power of Mushrooms website for loads of mouth-watering mushroom recipes plus if you write your own review on a mushroom dish you could win one of 40 $100 restaurant vouchers! Disclosure: Chompchomp dined at Perth City Farm with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Red Cabbage Food + Wine 49/15 Labouchere Road, South Perth WA 6151 | (08) 9367 5744 | http://redcabbagefoodandwine.com.au/
I received a curious gift in the mail recently consisting of a bottle of fig infused balsamic vinegar. Attached to the bottle like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland was a little card inviting me to the launch of the Fig’s new winter menu at the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Having never been to any of the Fig’s before the Boy and I set out on a cold blustery night with no expectations or presumptions. We were openly greeted by Jamie, the Operations Manager on arrival and before long we had glasses of bubbles in hand to help set the jovial mood for the evening.
The Fig restaurants comprise of three beach-side venues; the Wild Fig in North Beach, the Pickled Fig in South Fremantle, and the Naked Fig in Swanbourne. Whilst sharing similarities in their West Coast scenery, Jamie explained to us that each of their restaurants have been allowed to develop their own “personality” which is a reflection of both their head chef’s ideas and their local clientele’s needs. For the evening the three head chefs wanted to give us a feel for what their own Fig was all about. They in turn each selected an entrée, main and dessert for us to share giving a total of nine dishes to try.
The team had put a lot of thought into how they ran the night keeping the vibe very light hearted and casual while encouraging us to not be shy to give them our honest thoughts both good and bad. A thoughtful touch was the food photography table; a table with great overhead lighting to allow us to take quality pics of the meals without reaching across the table and getting in each other’s way. A big win for us bloggers, but realistically a win for them too as it maximises the appearance of their food on our blogs.
There was no problem adapting the meals on the menu to suit my gluten free and no onion requirement. For each dish Jamie carefully explained to me what adjustments if any were made. Whilst the olive bread looked tasty our gluten free alternative was reasonable and wasn’t too stodgy or crumbly as many gluten free breads can be.
The gluten free version of the tortellini consisted of soft scallops served in shellfish cappuccino sauce without the pasta. The scallops were of a small size but tender on the inside with a slight firmness to the outside. I winced as the boy popped the last one in his mouth as I had been eyeing it off for a few minutes for myself. I quietly consoled myself as there was still a lot of food to come!
The vegetarian entrée from the Wild Fig was by far my favourite starter; a hearty slab of crisp fried polenta served with an aubergine and tomato roulade along with dollops of sweet agro dolce puree. This dish was a little more difficult to share amongst us and I think I made have inadvertently taken more than my fair share. Oops.
Although crispy skinned barramundi may be considered a dish that lacks creativity it is a common fall-back choice for me that when done properly totally satisfies me. This fillet was buttery smooth with paper thin crunchy skin and the serving size was generous. The bed of chorizo, capsicum and orange reduction brought an element of excitement to this staple of mine and spritzed it up to make it a bit more interesting.
The Naked Fig’s main dish consisted of beef prepared two ways. A rich ruby-red wedge of sirloin crusted with pepper and rosemary served alongside a scrumptiously tearable uber-soft portion of blade steak. Having these two very alternate textures, flavours and presentations of meat made this meal a bit more on the lines of fine dining when compared to the fish.
The most outstanding dish of the evening was by far the Wild Fig’s duck main once again prepared two ways. A pan roasted duck breast paired with a confit duck and mushroom tart, creamy parsnip puree, some sautéed kale and a scattering of textured pistachio brittle. For my gluten free alternative they simply omitted the tart casing leaving the confit for us to still enjoy. I’m fairly sure this was the winner from all of us at our end of the table with the beef pulling in a narrow second.
Those of you who know me will be aware of my recent popcorn obsession. Following in the vein of my “all or nothing” personality I have been known to down a whole bag in one sitting before dinnertime. There have also been a number of emergency dashes to the shops in my lunch break. Maybe I’m suffering from a corn deficiency if that is possible. Thank goodness popcorn is gluten free, right? So obviously my favourite dessert for the evening had to be the popcorn pannacotta. I even subjected the pannacotta to the booby jiggle test to which it passed with flying colours. My only criticism, being the popcorn connoisseur, was that the popcorn pieces tasted a bit stale and chewy however the remainder of the dish was absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious.
As the white chocolate and raspberry mille-feuille was not gluten free, I didn’t get to taste it and therefore I am unable to personally comment on it but Perth Munchkin did say this was her pick of the bunch.
We all tap-tap-cracked the top of the mandarin and thyme crème brûlée to expose the custardy deliciousness underneath and although the hint of thyme was a fabulous combination with the sweet citrus the texture was very runny as the custard had failed to set properly. Thankfully this was at no sacrifice to flavour but this dish would have been near perfect if the texture was correct.
As we wrapped up the evening out of the kitchen came the three head chefs; Andy Walton from Pickled, Chris May from Naked and Rodrigo da Rocha from Wild. They were all smiles and took the time to tell us what inspired each of them to create their own menus. I love hearing passionate people talk about what they love and I could see each of these men still maintained their love for what they do.
Having read a mixed bag of reviews on all of the Fig’s, I have to say after our pleasant evening I’m inspired to go back and check them out on a night when they don’t know I’m food blogger. If our wonderful meal is anything to go by I’m fairly certain it will be an awesome experience….watch this space!Chompchomp was a guest of the Naked Fig. As a result I will not give a score on this dining experience as it is too hard to be 100% subjective when the meal is openly complementary. When I return incognito, I may give a score then.
This year has been such a hectic and emotional one which has flown by with the speed of light. It has been a whole year since the Boy finally managed to convince me after much persuasion to start writing a blog. After an initial few quiet months while in its fledgling state, it has now grown to be something I am proud to call my own. Many of my close friends are loyal regular readers and are always keen to be part of the Chompchomp phenomenon by joining me on my gastronomic expeditions around Perth.
My wedding expert friend Tara is one of these supportive people and she jumped at the opportunity of a night out with our respective others to Duende to celebrate my first blogiversary coupled with a bit of “wedding talk”.
It was one of those first glorious balmy spring days and I was drunk on the delightful sunshine and perhaps maybe also the bottle of Billecart the boy bought for us in the afternoon. I donned a short summery frock, slipped on some killer Diavolina platforms and bared my winter legs. Call it a stark rebuttal against any further threats of the dreaded cold weather!
We started at The Garden for a few rounds of drinks before heading over to Duende for dinner. Neither Tara nor her husband suffer from any dietary intolerance and were happy to order a selection of dishes that were suitable for me so we could all share. We started off with a bottle of gorgeously bright ruby coloured Pe Tinto Tempranillo, an organic and biodynamic wine from Portugal. We then proceeded to work our way through most of the gluten free options on the menu. Of which there were many!
The marinated olive selection contained over four different types with a broad range of textures and tastes to suit all of our palates. The chorizo had generous amount of heat in it and was thickly cut and juicy.
Patatas bravas are one of my favourite Spanish dishes. Parboiled potatoes are deep fried before being coated with a variety of spices, vinegar and red pepper. They can be served with a number of different types of sauces depending on the area of Spain and which can range from a tomato based sauce to more of an aioli style. These crispy slices of heaven had a generous paprika dusting and were seasoned with some lemony tasting vinegar. The level of spiciness was fairly mild and I would have preferred a bit more of a punch however the Boy was relieved with the relatively low heat.
The pork belly had a luscious creamy texture and literally melted into the polenta without any fatty aftertaste. The pear and plump muscatels gave a pleasant sweet note but I did my best to avoid these two fructose filled fruits.
The lamb rump was quite a surprise. I didn’t really read the menu carefully enough to be prepared for the enchanting sweet maple flavours from the fenugreek. It actually took us all a few moments to work out where the flavours came from! The rump was succulent and pink.
The pickled beetroots were hidden under a loose pile of fresh rocket, goat cheese and hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are my favourite nut, in part due to my praline addiction but additionally it brings back indulgent teenage memories of eating Nutella by the jar full. Although an interesting dish this wasn’t one of the better ones.
Initially we were a little reserved in ordering the beef cheeks after hearing negative feedback from a friend that found them to be dry. Cheeks are a cheaper cut of meat with a higher proportion of fat, sinew, connective tissue and bone in them. Provided they are cooked correctly this generally means they are more delicious, though they do require a little time and care when cooking.
We were right in taking the gamble because our cheeks were incredibly flavoured, delicately tender and we really should have ordered two serves and maybe left out the beetroot.
The sensation of squeaky haloumi always brings a smile to my face. Coupled with rich smoky undertones of eggplant puree this simple dish was a crowd pleaser.
Px vinegar is made with the sweet Pedro Ximenez grapes and was the perfect combination with gorgonzola to top the earthy mushrooms. I know I’m a little biased as I have a mushroom addiction but these slippery little nuggets packed a powerful burst of flavour and I could have eaten many more had I not already stuffed my face with everything else!
We chose 3 out of the selection of five available French and Spanish cheeses and it was quite a feat narrowing it down to three. If I wasn’t already bursting at the seams I would have said one of each! Our choice included a semi-firm cow’s cheese Mahon from Spain and two French cheeses; Roquefort, a creamy blue sheep cheese and Sainte Maure, a soft buttery goat cheese.
For sweets we ordered the doughnut balls with condensed milk ice cream. Obviously these were not for me as they are full of all the gluten in the land; a fact my companions were very content with as it meant there was all the more for them!
After reading a multitude of positive reviews on Duende over the years I cannot believe it took me this long to try them for myself. They more than exceeded my expectations and have to be the best tapas I have experienced in Perth by far. We loved it so much that we actually headed back for a quick midweek bite later that following week! And yes….we ordered more of those patatas bravas.Duende 662 Newcastle Street, Leederville 6007 | (08) 9228 0123 | http://www.duende.com.au/ Price: $$$ (Tapas share dishes range from $4-25, we share 11 dishes/4 people = stuffed!) Food: 4.5/5 (if I had more room I would have tried more!) Service: 4/5 (dishes didn’t come out too quickly, friendly and helpful) Ambience: 4.5/5 (buzzing vibe, I could nearly imagine myself back in Spain…) Drinks: 4/5 (interesting wine list, plenty of by the glass options) Total: 17/20
The Boy had been given a corporate box ticket for the Western Derby game by some work mates and although he is not the hugest follower of AFL he was still pretty excited with his score. There was only one ticket on offer meaning I missed out and so off he headed into Subiaco solo. In order to try and compensate for leaving me home alone, he was kind enough to send me photos of all the delicious food on offer and update me regularly on the game progress. (Not that I’m any more of a footy fan than he is.) Presumably the beer was freely flowing because after the game had finished I receive yet another text message:
“How do I get home? :(“
Considering he was one amongst another 40,000 fans trying to get home, I didn’t like his chances of hailing a cab, nor did I like MY chances of getting through the traffic anytime soon either. After initially considering walking home (so the beer was definitely flowing fast) he offered to meet me over in Leederville where we could stop for a bite to eat before driving home.
At this point in time I was devoid of any makeup, in my track pants and snuggled on the couch with the boys (our two kitties Rollie and Eddie). Any normal person would probably decline an offer of a night out especially considering how cold and wet it was outside and how warm and cosy it was in. But I am never one to turn down a spontaneous night out to eat something other than hum-drum home-made bride food.
After a fairly pricey foodie month of July which included two nights of degustation at Clarke’s of North Beach and Darlington Estate Winery, we opted for a cheap dinner and headed into Justin Bell’s new(ish) venture Snags and Sons. I found out recently at the Mundaring Truffle Festival that they now stock gluten free buns and have a variety of gluten free sausage choices. Many of you are familiar with Justin Bell; several years ago he was one of the first to open up a gourmet burger bar here in Perth namely Jus Burgers. Promoting use of locally sourced produce he has now expanded to include restaurants in Subiaco, Fremantle, Northbridge and now on Chapel Street in South Yarra. S&S is the next chapter for his casual eating empire. As with Jus burgers, the menu is filled with WA produce right down to the desserts. (More on this later!)
Having trekked on foot in the rain from Subiaco, the Boy was keen to order more than just a sausage in a bun so we ordered some marinated olives and some grilled goat chorizo to start. The chorizo was juicy with a subtle hint of chilli heat. The olives were fairly standard and nothing too spectacular.
The Boy ordered the beef Boerwors with smoked Dutch cheese and peach chutney. Although tasty, he wasn’t wowed by his choice at all and felt after the succulent chorizo his sausage was a little dry and lacklustre.
My venison sausage was very succulent and the gamey taint of the meat matched well with the sweet beetroot. The horseradish was barely noticeable through these flavours and a more generous helping inside would have gone down treat. My gluten free bun looked similar to that you find in Jus Burgers, I have to presume the same supplier, and it held its shape well despite all the delicious juiciness contained inside.
A meal ended on a savoury note just doesn’t make any sense. At least that’s what I keep telling everyone. I shimmied out of my corner to wander over and investigate the sweets cabinet. There wasn’t any gluten free cake options however amongst the minitarts and brownies I did notice some vaguely familiar looking nougat chopped up into bite site pieces.
I enquired if it was gluten free upon which I was told they did not know as they buy it straight from Rochelle’s café. “Rochelle Adonis?” I ask. To which I received an affirmative reply. Having feasted on her nougat many times I know for certain that it is indeed gluten free and bought a piece for us both to share. It was perfection as all her creations usually are.
Leederville, 6007 | (08) 9228 3008 | www.snagsandsons.com.au/ Price: $ (Under $15 per meal) Food: 7/10 (may be gourmet, but they are just hot dogs! Keen to try a few more tho) Service: 2.5/5 (our waitress seemed a little distracted but still served us promptly) Ambience: 3.5/5 (funky, vibrant & fresh)
I had been stuffing my face with scrumptious gluten free cakes at the Clandestine Cake Club all afternoon. Despite my gluttony I wasn’t feeling overly full and seeing as the Boy had actually gone to the effort to book us a dinner reservation at The Precinct in Victoria Park so I couldn’t exactly refuse. Being the obsessed foodie of the house, I am generally the one who arranges our regular eating expeditions and so I get very excited when the Boy does it all for me. I was hoping I could extend my afternoon with the bestie and drag her along too especially as she hadn’t hung out with the both of us in some time. However my powers of persuasion were seemingly dulled by all my cake indulgence because she declined my pleading to return home to study for her yoga teacher training class the following day.
The preceding week had been a fairly traumatic one for us both due to some distressing major family issues all finally coming to a head. To add insult to injury, we were both under the weather with the winter sniffles and as if things couldn’t get any worse I had accidentally reversed into the Boy’s car in the pitch black of the early morning. Eeeek! So I’m sure you can understand why we just wanted to put all our cares aside and do what we both enjoy most….dining out together.
The Precinct in Vic Park was opened earlier this year by Daniel Morris who is well-known for also running the highly successful Little Creatures, Balthazar and Il Lido. It was to be our first proper wine bar here in Vic Park; something many of us locals feel has been a long time coming. But despite public support they were knocked back twice for their Small Bar license and operated as a BYO wine bar for several months. Finally they have managed to secure a restaurant license and have ensured that all their staff know their wines exceedingly well. We have revisited a number of times since they have opened and I have confidence that they can always recommend a suitable choice for us both.
Initially I found that their gluten free, onion free options were quite limited for me but since then I have noticed that this has improved somewhat upon subsequent visits. The food style is quite casual and simple but seemingly executed fairly well. In usual style we started off with a couple of share dishes before our mains. The marinated olives contained a mix of black and green olives with a variety of types and intensity of flavours.
As the Boy wasn’t nearly as full of cake as I, he also ordered the whitebait (not gluten free). They were very crispy, perhaps a little too much so and came served with a beer aioli.
The Precinct’s charcuterie plate changes regularly and although we order it nearly every time we visit we have never had the same plate twice. This night we had some fresh sliced Angus beef salami, some orange chicken pâté and a pair of pork rillettes. Some cornichons and mustard were served on the side. The salami was delicate and soft with a slight salty aftertaste. Hints of citrus undertones came through beautifully in the pâté although I wish they had some gluten free bread for me to smear it onto. The pork rillettes held great shape and texture and were mildly flavoured.
Although the Boy and I love eating and discovering new foods, prior to my blogging days if we were out at one of our regular haunts, we would often both fall back on ordering our tried and tested favourites. These days I feel so guilty when doing this. I believe in order for me to accurately make an assessment for a review of a restaurant I need to sample as many of their dishes as possible. This gives me a much wider and more realistic perception of their food. This ideal has fallen out the window during our past three visits to The Precinct ever since I tried their roast chicken. It’s really really good!
To be quite honest, I’m not even one to order chicken in the first place. I figure why order something I can cook just as easily (and as well) at home? Thank goodness I forgot about this theory and tried this dish. The chicken is slow cooked (sous-vide) and so be aware it is normal for such chicken to appear slightly pink on the inside. The consistency of this chicken is like no roast chicken you have had before. The breast nearly melts under my knife and is as juicy as you would expect a thigh to be. The leg meat slips of the bone effortlessly. You can taste lemon thyme though every mouthful. It is served simply with some seasonal vegetables on the side.
The boy ordered the lamb duo which consisted of some slow cooked pulled lamb topped with a lamb cutlet. The cutlet was very meaty and although quite chargrilled on the surface was cooked beautifully inside. Walnut spaetzle is a type of Northern European style noodle made with flour and eggs, and in this case also walnuts. They almost looked like little dumplings and tasted fairly bland on their own without any of the lamb or sauce (so the Boy informed me).
The Boy kept proclaiming (again) that he didn’t want dessert! I think this past month of incessant eating has dulled his sweet tooth somewhat. Refusing to be completely defeated I ordered us the citrus chocolate salad. I don’t recommend this dish if you genuinely want a dessert as it is very light and refreshing. However seeing as I had indulged all afternoon on all the cakes, it filled my last spot in my stomach perfectly. For something more substantial I recommend their banana pie. This gluten free decadence is nothing like you expect and is more like a mousse than any pie I’ve ever had.
During the course of this evening, the Boy and I pondered over Chompchomp’s growth and development since I commenced blogging some 11 months ago. It has been such an exciting and rewarding journey so far as I continue to try and further improve both my writing style and my photography. Better still it is satisfying to watch my readership grow week by week knowing that others are (hopefully) enjoying reading it as much as I am writing it. The Boy started to consider whether he too may gain such rewards from writing his own blog and decided if he ever did, it would be about beer; a long standing passion of his.
Thus after a number of drinks, together we created the game “Chompchomp roulette”. This is where the Boy hands the beer menu over to me and I choose a random beer for him to enjoy. Relinquishing this control over his beverage choice is huge…..he is a fussy connoisseur with his beers. To make matters more interesting my knowledge of beers is very poor due to my inability to drink it. For our first play on the “wheel” I chose Delirium Nocturnum; a triple fermented Belgian ale known for its high alcohol content.
Suffice to say after finishing our drinks, his attitude on dessert came around full circle and he insisted on stopping in at Baskin and Robbins for a tub of dairy deliciousness. He defaulted to his usual favourites of cookies and cream with peppermint choc chip.
Every night that we have visited The Precinct we have always found all the staff to be energetic, friendly and very well acquainted with both their wine list and their food. On earlier visits we did find the staff lacking a bit of team work with drinks being forgotten and multiple staff coming to us to asked the same questions however, like the number of gluten free options, this is definitely improving. I figure it is better to have overattentive wait staff than ones that ignore their customers. I am keen to return for breakfast as they have slow cooked eggs on the menu but it currently looks like I’ll need to BYO gluten free bread. That I do not mind! I am so happy this is my new local!
Back when I first became a partner in my business over six years ago, I was lucky enough to come on board with two other amazing and inspiring people; Chris and Muzz. Chris still remains in the business today, she is the talented surgeon who recently operated on our darling “son” Rollie the Burmese cat and saved his life. Muzz on the other hand sadly had to leave the partnership a few years ago in order to move overseas with the love of his life. As fresh, new and super keen incoming partners, we both shared the same vision for the practice and our enthusiasm would infectiously feed off each other’s. We would spend many of our spare moments and late shifts brain storming and business planning and achieved a lot of growth and development within the business during this time. We both learnt so much from working together and his departure from the country was a hard knock for all who knew him. But thankfully best friends are ones that you can go without seeing for many years and then when you eventually cross paths again, you can pick up right where you left off.
As you can imagine, I was so excited to hear that Muzz was making a brief trip back to Australia and couldn’t wait to catch up and share stories. From the moment we left my house for lunch, until he dropped me back at my front door hours later we did not stop chattering; hearing of each other’s successes, trials and tribulations from over the past three years since we had last seen each other.
The sun was shining gloriously in a clear bright blue sky so in order take the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Perth coastline we headed over to Cottesloe to the Blue Duck. The view from the restaurant is one I could easily enjoy day after day but having not been to the Blue Duck for a number of years I was surprised that such an iconic restaurant had allowed its interiors to outdate themselves so badly. I almost got the feeling I was in a upmarket kiosk rather than a restaurant.
Our service was prompt yet friendly and casual. Our waitress for lunch was very bubby and tried to crack little jokes as we placed our orders. I advised her of my allergies to which she said there was no problems. We wanted to order a couple of nibbles before eating our mains but there were fairly limited gluten free options. Despite the limited menu, the kitchen was happy to alter the salt and pepper calamari to exclude the flour dusting and coupled with some marinated olives there was ample food for us to start with.
The mixed marinated olives were fairly standard fare; in fact they were certainly not bad at all however they in no way could compare to the delicious olives I ate recently with Tara at Pata Negra. Needless to say we are comparing two very different dining establishments here! The salt and pepper squid was extremely tender and the Asian salad was sweet, light and quite moreish.
I was quite surprised to be told the duck curry was gluten and onion free. I don’t get to enjoy a lot of curries as they are usually neither of these so I eagerly ordered this one. Massaman curries are really one of the kings of all Thai curries and manage to cover all those delicious quadrants of flavour you find in Thai food: spicy and sweet, coconuty and sour; all in one curry. It is a relatively easy curry to make taste amazing however although this was a very good it wasn’t quite spicy enough for my liking. Given it was a stinking hot day outside that was probably a good thing. Unfortunately I also noted that there was some onion contained in the rice, an oversight that gave me a bit of discomfort later that afternoon.
Muzz’s linguine looked mouth-wateringly good and eyeing it across the table gave me a pang of food envy! I don’t often miss eating pasta on my gluten free diet but this dish sure made me jealous! The only negative feedback I got was that poor Muzz ended up wearing a lot of it on his shirt by the end of lunch!
Thanks to its fabulous ocean views and beach front location Blue Duck café is something of an institution in Perth and will always be somewhere I will return to from time to time. Compared to some previous experiences, I had a very enjoyable lunch although would have appreciated more attention to detail with my meal so I didn’t suffer consequences from onion ingestion that night.Blue Duck Café 151 Marine Parade, Cottesloe 6011 | (08) 9385 2499 | www.blueduck.com.au Price: $$$ ($16-26 Entrée, $26-39 Mains) Food: 2.5/5 (fresh ingredients but need to be more careful with diners with allergies) Service: 3/5 (friendly and casual) Ambience: 2.5/5 (awesome view but interior needs urgent work) Drinks: 4/5 (WA focused wine list with good range of choices and some well-loved classics) Total: 12/20
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
Spontaneity is an uncommon occurrence for me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, in fact quite the contrary it’s just that I can’t help but plan and organise things. I hate the thought that an element of enjoyment is missed out due to lack of foresight. But as I was running to my car during the heaviest part of the down pouring rain I got this burning desire to go out for the evening. We both work long hours and often have hectic busy days so most weeknights tend to be a sombre experience of crashing on the couch, eating dinner and watching television. I sat in my car drenched right through to the skin in my work clothes and phoned the boy who was still at work, half expecting him to decline the offer with protests of exhaustion and lack of motivation. His immediate response was yes! Wa-toot!
On the previous weekend, a group of us had a pub crawl up Beaufort Street and on our way to the Flying Scotsman we all dropped into Five Bar for a refreshing beverage to quench us for the uphill stagger to the Scotto. I remember making a mental note to return to try their tapas and so we did.
As you walk into Five Bar you almost feel like you are in someone’s oversized living room. There is a mismatched collection of lounge chairs, ottomans and crates to relax on and the interior is decorated with a similarly eclectic collection of lamps and oddities. As I sipped on my Hendricks and tonic, I felt all the tensions of my day smoothly melt away.
The menu is quite small with the majority of the dishes designed to be shared tapas-style. After requesting to our waitress for suitable gluten-free and onion free options, this menu unfortunately further narrowed down to a smaller handful of dishes.
The marinated olives contained a crowd pleaser selection of pitted and non-pitted, black and green, and in all sizes from jumbo through to the teeny-weeny Arbequina olives. They were all of excellent quality and very moreish.
The beef Carpaccio was dressed with cornichons, goat’s curd and capers, pine nuts, some fresh herbs and EVOO. The beef was sliced perfectly paper-thin but was a bit dry and lacked a little flavour. This was somewhat compensated for by the tarty goat’s curd however that shouldn’t really be the aim of this dish. A few extra lashings of olive oil may have improved this dish.
We were informed after ordering the chorizo that it may contain onions so I gave this a miss and let the boy munch his way through the generous sized serve. It seemed to be quite tender and juicy and disappeared with no complaints.
The slow-roasted mushrooms with Danish fetta, balsamic and chives were definitely one of the better dishes. I am a bit of a self-confessed mushroom addict. I really love their rich savoury flavour; in fact it would be safe to say I eat them daily. These mushrooms were roasted wonderfully. The chef has managed to capture and enhance all that delicious mushroomness I enjoy and the subtle tang of the balsamic gently cut through these flavours to then be followed by the more lingering creaminess of the fetta. We ended up ordering seconds!
The final tapas dish we ordered were the sweet potato frites served with a Moroccan spiced mayonnaise. These were very tasty albeit also a tad oily. Nevertheless I could have eaten more of them if I could fit them in!
We ended the evening with a duo of macarons – vanilla and coffee. After overindulging on some amazing macarons from Choux earlier in the week, unfortunately these ones were a bit of a disappointment. I enjoy the contrast of the crispy outer shell with the chewy nearly gooey centre. These ones were consistently chewy all the way through and showed none of the contrast in textures macarons are meant to have.
Given the popularity of tapas in Perth at the moment we are spoilt for choice. I walked away from Five Bar thinking there are better quality options for the price we paid and probably wouldn’t go out of my way to return there.
Venue 8.5/10 Service 7.8/10 Food 7/10Five Bar 560 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley | 0467 534 267