It is no secret that this little blog has been on “sabbatical” and whilst I have continued to explore eating our city’s gluten free options, I haven’t had the gumption to write about it. Some may say this is a little selfish and I cannot deny I have been racked with guilt from neglecting this much loved creation. For those of you who know me, you will understand why. I have been somewhat preoccupied with the realisation of a long-term dream that is totally unrelated to food. I have pursued keenly for the past eight years of my life the ambition of opening the first cat-only hospital in Perth and finally this year after much hard work my dream has come true. Opening a hospital from scratch is no mean feat and consequently blogging had to take a back seat for fear of it becoming a chore rather than a hobby. Trust me, no one wants to read what I write when I’m bored, it’s total snoozeville.
This year Valentine’s Day fell on the day before our big opening and the Boy knew he had to do something to calm my rattling nerves. After heading into the hospital with me in the morning to put some final touches including hanging up the gorgeous cat art that I had bought over the years in my travels, we headed out to Jarrahdale to Millbrook Winery.
It is impossible not to fall in love with this winery, and within seconds of arriving I immediately felt my pulsing veins in my head relax, my breath deepen and my stress wash away. I was thankful that my obsession with organising had taken a back seat and that I had let the Boy choose our venue. We were warmly greeted and shown to a perfect table overlooking the water, with lots of beautiful natural light cascading onto us. After a run of stinking hot days in Perth we were blessed with a day of cool breezes and gentle sun.
Millbrook’s Valentine’s Day menu consisted of a three course menu with a glass of 2010 Blanc de Blanc sparkling for $99 per person. Whilst the Boy and I thought at first that there wouldn’t be enough food for our inflated appetites, I can guarantee the meal sizes are substantial. There were plenty of gluten free options and the kitchen and wait staff were very aware of avoiding cross contamination.
Staying true with it being a day to celebrate being a couple, we decided to order everything gluten free so we could share each other’s dishes. We even shared the matching wines as they were different for each dish. We have our cute moments and this was one of them. Our first dish of blood plums and duck hearts was so pretty it was a shame to deconstruct it to eat.
Utilising colourful seasonal vegetables and leaves from the vineyard’s own gardens, this dish was an abundance of sweet crunch and juicy heartiness, if you pardon the pun. I haven’t tried duck hearts before, and probably wouldn’t have ordered this dish if the Boy hadn’t wanted to. The hearts were a lot more gentle in flavour than I expected, and their texture was so soft and delicate.
Our second entrée also showcased some produce from the chef’s pride and joy country garden. Some flavourful preserved vegetables accompanied barbecued Fremantle octopus with house-made safflower mayonnaise. I am a bit particular about my octopus, if it is as tough as old boots I just can’t be bothered eating it. I figure there is no point eating food that uses more calories to eat it than it provides you. Suffice to say there was no food wastage with this dish and in fact when no one was looking the Boy would intermittently sweep his finger over the plate to get every last morsel of flavour before licking his finger clean. My mother would be horrified. I simply smiled.
For our two mains we shared the viognier braised rabbit risotto and the beef brisket. The risotto was creamy, with big chunks of tender local rabbit and topped with crispy pancetta and fine shavings of parmigiano reggiano.
Fears of being underfed quickly left us as we gazed across the full table packed with colourful greens, potatoes and our mains. The beef brisket was served with a bean salad, white anchovies and healthy dollop of mustard. I so rarely eat beef these days but again I was glad I followed the Boy’s wishes and ordered this dish. The meat was so lovingly prepared it fell apart with the most gentlest nudge of the fork.
As the Boy and I had our commonplace discussion of whether we would order cheese versus dessert for our final courses, we were given some fresh fruit as a simple and mouth watering palate cleanser. As I cannot tolerate watermelon due to the high fructose content, they were happy to offer me some beautiful grapes plucked from the vines.
We ended up ordering both cheese and dessert with the continuous plan of sharing each others dishes. The chef created a special gluten free dessert for us using beautiful, seasonal fresh and dried stone fruits with chocolate chunks and sorbet.
Our cheese course was just as decadent. The highlight of the plate was a round of vine-wrapped sheep cheese from Cambray Cheese. These local cheese makers are based in the south west in Nannup and make a selected range of artisans sheep cheese. I love the distinctive tang of cheese made with sheep milk, and it is lower in lactose meaning I have less of an aftermath!
A little heady and carefree from all the wine, I joined in with the Boy in a rare moment of mannerless enjoyment of food and simultaneously swept my own finger across the plate before licking my finger with a smirk on my face. If you can’t beat them, join them. After spending months and months of none stop talk about every tiny detail of the cat hospital, we both realised we had actually gone through the whole lunch without even mentioning it once! He had truly fulfilled my need to switch off and relax for just a short while. Or perhaps it was a need for us both! 😉
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery at her (and the Boy’s) own expense. Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends.
Only a few weeks ago the Boy and I shared a very memorable lunch at Dear Friends and it was easily one of the best meals we have had in Perth for some time. I love their philosophy of focusing on local and seasonal produce with much of their ingredients being sourced directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. On our way home that day we both decided to book in at their city restaurant Co-op Dining, East Perth to celebrate our six month wedding anniversary.
I am still nursing a broken toe therefore my ability to go running has come grinding to a complete halt. We enjoy eating out a lot and I am totally devastated that I can no longer burn it all off on the tarmac. Honestly, it won’t be long before I’m the size of a small house. In a vain attempt to mitigate the anticipated caloric excesses for our dinner we agreed to walk, or in my case shuffle, from our house to Co-op Dining. I sighed in disappointment that I cannot wear high heels, sulkily chucked a pair of flats in my LV bag and headed off in my flip-flops.
It was a Friday night and both of us had to work the next day meaning a degustation was unfortunately out of the question. Instead we chose the five course menu with a couple of suggested wines by the glass. A bit more of a reserved affair compared to our lunch date at Dear Friends when I am told I may have been a bit flamboyant.
Work or no work I just couldn’t commence this celebratory meal without some bubbles; Champagne definitely remains one of my weaknesses. Coop Dining serve NV Gosset Grande Reserve by the glass which comes from one of the oldest and original Champagne houses originating way back to 1584. Rich and creamy with incredible structure I made sure I savoured every drop. The Boy chose to bypass the booze and ordered a lemon and lime bitters made with lemon myrtle and fresh limes. Some of the soft house churned Guernsey butter that we had enjoyed at Dear Friends was served alongside some home-made bread.
Our first course was a sweet Manjimup marron served with peppery watercress puree, Swan River samphire, a twig of warrigal and some glistening syrupy fermented lime. The samphire has quite an unusual salty, tangy flavour and is foraged from the banks of an estuary near the Swan River. It was the same type of samphire that we enjoyed last year at Millbrook Winery as part of the Mushroom Mania campaign.
The Boy’s next dish was a luscious chestnut soup made from whole roasted chestnuts grown locally in Bridgetown. I really love how these guys are such great supporters of WA produce. His soup was rich and creamy and smelt like Paris in winter to me. For those who are yet to travel to this romantic city; roasted chestnuts are sold there as street food in cones of newspaper on the boulevards.
Although I was highly envious of the Boy’s heart-warming chestnut soup, I was not to be disappointed with my non-vegetarian option. Chef made his own rabbit chorizo which he served with some WA cuttlefish and more of that dangerously black squid ink puree that we enjoyed at our Dear Friends lunch. The slight gamey flavour of the rabbit was in no way overpowering and balanced graciously with a gentle kick from the cute little blob of kimchee. I successfully avoided getting any squid ink on me again. Winning. Maybe I’m gaining more coordination in my older years?
For our next dish, the house made soy tofu made a return visit too. I like how each of the menus for their restaurants shared key elements but then diverged out into their own individuality. Coop’s tofu dish looked so simplistic and symmetrical with each ingredient placed in alternation across the slate. Cubes of house made soy tofu and velvety soft chunks of confit carrot were sprinkled with dashes of spinach powder and placed on a bed of smoked egg yolk.
Looks can be deceiving and although this dish may appear basic, more complex flavours were thoughtfully hidden to surprise us. The smoked yolk was thick and strongly flavoured and gave the more subtle flavoured tofu and carrot a bit of oomph. The gently scented wild garlic is foraged on the Mainwaring’s property and I couldn’t help but smile when Kelli’s eyes lit up as she told us how each year they get so excited when they see it sprout up.
The Boy and I diverged again for our next course as mine included **shock horror** meat. I was given a choice of pork belly or Wagyu beef and opted for the later. Admittedly I confess that as it was a Friday night and as I was onto my third glass of wine by this point my mind had blissfully travelled off with the fairies. As a result I forgot to photograph my dish until I have already devoured a few wondrous mouthfuls. My deepest apologies dear readers, however I’m sure you can still get the idea what luscious cuts of beef they were from what was left on my plate. Cooked over bark and crusted with carbonised leek powder each piece of 4+ Wagyu beef was as soft as sashimi. The wine match for this dish was the 2012 Myattsfield Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier and was the second time I had tried this local wine from Myattsfield Wines. After our lovely outing at the Bickley Harvest Festival I have started to appreciate the sumptuous reds made in this region and are going to need to return for more.
The Boy’s vegetarian main focused on Jerusalem artichoke which is just still in season for a few more weeks. The artichoke was prepared two ways; cooked artichoke was compressed into chunks overnight and cooked sous vide and then for the base of the dish was artichoke purée. Chunks of leeks and courgettes tumbled in amongst Guernsey curd and Nasturtium flowers. Mushroom and green olive powder was sprinkled over for a strong flavour boost.
Although we only selected the five course menu, the chef was so kind to send us a complimentary cheese course. It was called Brin d’Amour, or “birth of love”. A perfect choice to celebrate our first six months as newly-weds! Chef Kiren makes this traditional Corsican cheese himself using half Guernsey and half ewes milk. Once made it is rolled in mustard seeds, house made smoked paprika, rosemary, oregano and black onion seeds. The whole process takes about two weeks. The cheese was served with carrot molasses and olive bread. I received some gluten free bread as a replacement.
I was a little off my form as I also forgot to take a picture of our pre-dessert; fresh Donnybrook mandarins and lemon scented fennel topped with Thai basil flowers. A mouthful of spring this cleansed the flavours of dairy goodness off our palates in preparation for our final course.
Once again I appreciated the personal touches made by the Mainwaring team to make our experience all the more memorable with “Happy” and “Anniversary” scribed in chocolate on each of our plates.
Juicy fresh Donnybrook Pink lady apples took the centre stage star for the finale. On a bed of peachy coloured apple puree laid an ice cool scoop of rhubarb sorbet encircled by portions of fresh and poached apples. Topped with slivers of glass sugar, oats and pistachios I loved the layering of textures, temperatures and flavours.
Our night ended with some healthy and cleansing Kombucha, a type of fermented slightly effervescent black tea.
It comes as no surprise that Co-op Dining came out winners at the recent Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards where they received a placing in the top 100 restaurants in Australia. Both Co-op and Dear Friends were also awarded One Star in the highly esteemed GT Restaurant Guide for 2014. This is a team that have proven and maintained their place as foodie “royalty” in Perth yet remain humble, modest and true to their passion. We will most definitely be back.Co-op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au Price: $$$$ (5 course menu $95, 10 course menu $120, matched wines extra) Food: 5/5 (consistently excellent, original and proudly West Australian) Service: 5/5 (once again charming, enthusiastic and passionate) Ambience: 4/5 (would have been improved if busier but we had our own booth and each other, who needs more?) Drinks: 4.5/5 (wished I could have gone for matched wine as my selected few were wonderful ) Total: 18.5/20
Many of you may recall my ongoing obsession with mushrooms. I eat them nearly every day and they are definitely up there as one of my most favourite foods. Even better still they are so good for you! So logically I was so excited to be selected as one of eleven bloggers from around Australia to take part in Mushroom Mania! For the whole month of July, over 2000 restaurants, cafes, bistros and clubs around the country will be involved in serving up wonderful mushroom dishes for us all to enjoy. You can download the App on your iPhone for a locality guide of participating businesses.
Millbrook Winery has been one of those stunning locations that I have longed to visit for quite some time. It is located on Chestnut Farm in the picturesque Jarrahdale area about fifty minutes south of Perth. The property spans over 300 acres and is nestled in amongst gently sloping valleys bordering along the National Park whilst boasting breathtaking views across the countryside. The Winery is owned the Fogarty Wine Group who also own Deep Woods Estate in Margaret River, Smithbrook in Pemberton and Lake’s Folly in the Hunter Valley. Millbrook utilise grapes from their own small vineyards in addition to grapes from their vineyards in the cooler climates south of the State.
The winery has a tasting room and cellar door where you can sample their wines at no cost. The Boy and I ensured to arrive a little early so we could squeeze in some tasting. Their range included some interesting wines and while I won’t confess to being an expert in describing them I did walk away with a few purchases! Better still they offer a membership discount of 20% if you join up before you buy.
The restaurant is located upstairs giving nearly 180 degrees views across the brilliant landscape and I can only imagine how much more gorgeous it would be sitting out on their decking area in the warmer summer months. Being a crisp winter’s day we didn’t get to experience this and stayed inside where it was cosy and warm.
Head chef Guy Jeffreys focuses his menu on using all the freshly grown produce from the large property which includes 150 year old orchards growing citrus, stone fruit, figs, quince and apples, and an acre sized garden filled with over 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables. Herbs, free-range eggs, wild mushrooms, olives and honey are also sourced from the estate. While waiting for our meals we were brought out some complementary house made sour dough with marmalade. Although the menu has a wide range of gluten free dishes available, the bread wasn’t so I dipped my fingers in the marmalade a couple of times to taste its home-grown deliciousness straight up while the Boy devoured the soft bread.
We ordered a selection of entrées to share and couldn’t fault any one of them. The braised lamb’s tongue with quail eggs was richly flavoured and contained curious little stems of salty plant called wild samphire. We were told the chef foraged for this unusual but powerfully flavoured plant along the banks of the Swan in Bassendean. It is also termed “sea asparagus”.
Not that I’m a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I do appreciate that octopus can be one of those things that without appropriate care in the kitchen can turn into a rubbery chewy disaster. Not this time round; our octopus was so juicy and soft that even the thin tentacles were tender. It was served with some of Rosa’s popular chorizo from Spanish Flavours in Wembley. We fell in love with this well-known locally made delight when at Amphoras Bar recently and you can be sure to see it feature on menus of a variety of restaurants all over Perth including Cantina 663. The octopus was also served with some pickled potato and smoked paprika.
I order the salad as our third entrée because we didn’t really need a third dish so I justified ordering it by choosing something light. Freshly picked vegetables from the farm’s garden included roasted and raw heirloom carrot and radish. Some tangy goat’s cheese was slivered on top and the salad was dressed with a light, sweet pomegranate dressing and some fresh mint leaves.
For my main I could not go past the mushroom risotto. It contained a wonderful combination of both farmed and foraged mushrooms including porcini and button mushrooms, Slippery Jacks from the neighbouring forest and meaty Field mushrooms from the adjacent orchard. To add to the amazing mushroom intensity, the Arborio rice was pre-soaked in a stock containing some Manjimup truffles and the risotto was served with generous drizzles of white truffle oil. Very decadent and definitely not low in calories but packed full of mushroom goodness! I kept convincing myself of all the wondrous health properties of mushrooms I was gaining and chose to overlook the addition of less nutrient rich oils and cheese!
I have recently eaten rabbit a few times both at the epic Largesse dinner and at Villa D’Este and each time the Boy has eyed off my dishes while suffering from a bit of dish envy. He decided to take things in his own hands and order himself the Baldivis rabbit pasta. Soft folds of hand cut pasta were perfectly coated with a thick tomato sauce and scattered with a generous serving of cotechino (a type of Italian sausage) and flavourful pieces of soft rabbit. To accompany we also order the mashed potato with truffle oil and a garden salad. Yes, more truffle oil…..well it IS truffle season after all!
The Boy and I were both so fascinated that nearly all the produce use in the kitchen was foraged or farmed on the property. The Boy prompted me to ask our attentive waitress if there would be any chance we could have a wander around the property to find our own wild mushrooms. I could barely contain my excitement when this was met with a “yes” and we were taken to a part of the property where a number of fist sized meaty field mushroom were popping up out of the lush grass. We were permitted to harvest ourselves a few which they packaged up for us to take home and eat. I began imagining how delicious they would be roasted in the oven with balsamic……see my recipe here.
After our successful mushroom hunt, we returned to the warmth of the restaurant to squeeze in a final dessert course. I was thankful that I had run to the gym for a workout that morning otherwise all my bride dieting would have gone completely out the window! The pannacotta was perfectly formed and served with little cubes of flourless orange cake, Campari sorbet and some surprisingly sweet almost caramelised orange peel.
The Boy’s ice cream was house churned with three flavours; vanilla bean, raspberry and Cajeta. The Cajeta flavour was his favourite and is traditionally made from simmering goat’s milk and sugar until it thickens like condensed milk. It tastes a bit like caramel but isn’t too overpoweringly sweet.
We were lucky enough to kindly get a tour of the property after our meal by the manager Jeremy. He was a wealth of knowledge and proudly showed us through their enormous garden filled with radishes, fennel, broccoli and other winter vegetables. He informed us that they try to be as environmentally sustainable as possible including practices such as recycling water from a natural spring that runs through the property.
We even got to duck into the chicken coop for a little pat, they were so tame and friendly and didn’t seem to mind my incessant photo taking. In fact one of them looked like she enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame!
After all the recent stress we have both had over the past few weeks, our beautiful little outing together proved to be just what we needed. We drove back to the city in comfortable silence content with full bellies and lungs full of fresh country air.
This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2012. There are over 2000 participating restaurants including many all over Western Australia. The website also contains some delicious mushroom recipes so make sure you check it out.
You don’t have to be a blogger to win either! Just write a short review on a mushroom dish you enjoyed during the Mushroom Mania Month of July and you could win a $150 Best Restaurants of Australia Gift Card.
Click here for details.
Chompchomp dined at Millbrook Winery with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association.Millbrook Winery Old Chestnut Lane, Jarrahdale 6124 | (08) 9525 5796 | www.millbrookwinery.com.au Bookings recommended especially on weekends. Price: $$$$ (Entrees $19-22, Mains $36-45) Food: 4.5/5 (nothing beats fresh produce, excellent range GF options) Service: 5/5 (faultless, friendly, knowledgeable) Ambience: 4/5 (restaurant overlooks, lake, forest and vine yards) Drinks: 4/5 (wine license only) Total: 17.5/20
I was lucky enough to secure three tickets to the last of the series of the Largesse dinners. These fabulous degustation evenings have formed a near cult following in Perth and are known to sell out within minutes of going on sale. So what on Earth is Largesse you ask?
Imagine the Head Chefs from six award-winning restaurants from around Perth donating their talents and time to each create one dish to contribute toward a six course extravaganza. Better still each course is then matched with exquisite wines and most importantly all of the proceeds from the evening go toward a charity of the host chef’s choosing. This year the charity of choice was The Royal Flying Doctors Service.
The six chefs are Scott O’Sullivan from Red Cabbage Food and Wine, Kiren Mainwaring from Dear Friends, Jason Jujnovich from Divido, Stephen Clarke of Clarkes of North Beach, Todd Stuart from Petite Mort and last but most definitely not least Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amusé.
This year the night was hosted at Petit Mort which is located in Shenton Park where the popular Star Anise resided for many years. The evening had such a buzz of excitement about it and as I gazed around the room I wondered which faces belonged to other fellow Perth bloggers I knew were attending. I have only been a blogger for about nine months now and have been blown away by the sense of camaraderie and open friendship that exists in this small little community of foodies. My eyes have only really been opened to this supportive side of blogging since joining Twitter last month. Weirdly despite this short space of time, I feel like I already know these people without even having met them.
We were informed that the first two courses were to be swapped in order because Chef Scott needed some extra time to prepare his dish. We were told he apparently lost track of time due to watching a UFC final! This got a round of chuckles from the guests.
Our first dish was air dried ham with Swan Valley Yolk, ajo blancho and foraged herbs. This dish had a number of textural elements which all tied in magically with the fresh gooey yolk. Ajo blanco is a Spanish soup made with crushed almonds and garlic; it was delicately dolloped around the plate and added in a creamy nutty texture to the crunchy herbs and chewy ham.
Our next dish was house-smoked trout, chilli squid and saffron. I was dismayed to see my gluten free version had the squid completely omitted. This meant I only really got half the dish which was quite disappointing considering that with small degustation courses each component is an important element for the overall experience of the dish. I would have preferred if the chef could have perhaps prepared my version gluten free rather than just leaving the squid off completely. Nevertheless the smoked trout was exquisitely soft and buttery leaving no oily aftertaste on the palate. My dining companions who received the full version of the dish commented that the chilli was not a strong enough feature and was barely noticeable.
The next dish was a pasta dish which is obviously not gluten free so Chef Jason from Divido kindly went to the effort of creating a completely different alternate option for me. I received braised rabbit with lentils. The rabbit had obviously been nurtured and cared for in the cooking process because I have never had such tender rabbit before; it had the soft texture of high quality smoked ham. So simple yet so well executed.
The boys had Radicchio Tortellini served with melted Fontina drizzled over it. I was informed that although you could clearly taste that the tortellini was freshly made, it was slightly undercooked and too firm; there was no slippery oyster textures between the teeth here!
The braised venison shin was my second favourite dish of the evening. I simply could not fault it whatsoever. It was accompanied by “Foie gras espuma” where we were told that the chef combined the decadent foie gras with Anglais sauce and piped it out of a canister like whipped cream. The richly flavoured shin meat simply melted in my mouth and if I wasn’t seated at a communal table I might have been tempted to lick this plate clean.
There was a little interlude in the evening at this point allowing a few fellow foodies Perth Munchkin and Gastromony to pop over to our table to introduce themselves. It was awesome to finally put some faces to the blogs that I have been following and I look forward to reading their posts on this fabulous night.
The palate cleanser consisted of ginger and beetroot water. Although this could have been improved by serving at a colder temperature it was definitely uplifting and refreshing.
Pressed duck is a very traditional French dish where the whole entire duck organs and all is partially roasted then put through a special “duck press” to squeeze out the juices which are then used for the sauce. This duck was richly flavoured but in the aftermath of the delicate venison shin its texture felt a little chewy and dry by comparison. It was accompanied by two types of wild mushrooms: the funnel shaped chanterelle and the strong tasting cepe. These were the perfect accompaniment and gave more depth to the dish with their earthy tones.
The dessert was by far and by large the highlight of the evening for me. It reaffirmed to me why Restaurant Amusé remains my most revered dining establishment in Perth. Chef Hadleigh always manages to create food art that is not only visually stunning, but does incredible things to your palate. His dish “chocolate, caramel and sorrel” spanned across a wide range of exquisite textures, temperatures and flavours. The dish started with crunchy, crisp sorrel meringue that completely dissolved on contact with your tongue, onto cool firm chocolate ice-cream that nearly had the chewy texture of a chocolate truffle, and finally ending of a bed of warmed gooey caramel. To finish off the decadence there were fine shavings of white chocolate crumbs over the top to introduce another layer of alternate texture and flavour.
The last of the Largesse evenings was an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss; a night of talented chefs showcasing their abilities in the name of a worthy charitable cause. Although I know the Chefs all said this is their last, surely they can start up something new and similar in concept? The evening has inspired me to visit those restaurants out of the six that I haven’t been to yet and more importantly I want to get back to Amusé for what will be the fourth time! Last time we were we spent nearly six glorious hours overindulging ourselves in a night I will never forget.Red Cabbage Food + Wine 49/15 Labouchere Rd, South Perth 6151 | (08) 9367 5744 | redcabbagefoodandwine.com.au Dear Friends 100 Benara Rd, Caversham 6055 | (08) 9279 2815 | www.dearfriends.com.au Divido 170 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mount Hawthorn 6016 | (08) 9443 7373 | www.divido.com.au Clarkes of North Beach 97 Flora Terrace, North Beach 6020 | (08) 9246 7621 | www.clarkesofnorthbeach.com.au Petite Mort 225 Onslow Rd, Shenton Park 6008 | (08) 9388 0331 | www.petitemort.com.au Restaurant Amusé 64 Bronte St, East Perth 6004 | (08) 9325 4900 | www.restaurantamuse.com.au
It is always amazes me how quickly winter creeps up in Perth. Maybe it’s because we’re a little spoilt here in this sunny city. We have long glorious summers and comparably short winters meaning we never really get acclimatised to the concept of being cold so when it does come it really hits us with a shock. Notoriously the Boy’s birthday always comes about at just that point in time when the very first cold snap arrives. Not that we have ever let cold weather stand in the way of good fun mind you, in fact one year I remember he decided it a grand idea to jump in our pool with the bestie! So this year out we went in the freezing rain for some birthday celebrations. As we left the house he excitedly reminded me again that the next time we celebrate our birthdays together we will be husband and wife! It still gives me goose bumps of joy saying that!
A number of weeks ago in an attempt to adhere to our wedding budget I had purchased a Spreets coupon for Villa D’Este. It was a very good deal: a three course meal for two for only $99. Quite a few years ago our bank took us out for dinner here. We all had a wonderful meal back then so I figured that this place had some potential to be a much better coupon experience than our previous recent outings.
One thing that really drives the Boy crazy is feeling like he is being ripped off by cab drivers. As soon as we climb into a taxi no matter where we are, he is as sharp as a tack in noticing any dodgy tactics they might use to make extra money. As I naïvely chatted away to him on our way over to West Perth, I could feel that something was really bothering him yet I couldn’t quite work out what. I continued to remain completely oblivious for long enough for him to become a little impatient and frustrated with me. Finally as I noticed what a long winded route we were taking the penny dropped and I nodded my head knowingly at him.
After our scenic route we eventually arrived at our pre-dinner destination Amphoras Bar. The driver proceeded to slowly and deliberately remove our change coin by coin and placed it on the centre console. He even stopped mid-counting coins a couple of times to fiddle with his phone, Navman and a few other knobs in his car. The Boy was convinced that the driver was pretending to have difficulty hoping we would say not to worry and he could keep the change. Being a very perceptive type he was probably right.
After the tension in the taxi it was a relief to walk into the cosy and warm atmosphere of Amphoras. I was literally freezing to my bones and I wanted a strong drink to defrost myself. I decided against ordering wine and chose a cocktail called La Parta Sur; it filled the spot wonderfully with no ice to chill me.
The mixed marinated olives contained a suitable mix of types and texture for variety; fleshy, firm Spanish olives, soft and flavoursome Kalamata and some little wild Ligurian olives. Not wanting too much food before we headed over to Villa D’Este, we selected a couple of little tapas dishes to keep us going until our late dinner reservation.
The scallops were a buttery treat served with sweet pickled cucumber and a corn relish. The flavours balanced beautifully without drowning out the enjoyment of the brilliant little mouthfuls of tender scallops. We also ordered some Pedro Ximenez glazed Rosa’s chorizo. Unfortunately the lighting didn’t allow my photos to be viewable so dear readers, you miss out on checking out this dish but I’ll let you know it’s worth going back for. The chorizo was literally bursting in meaty juiciness and had a slight caramelised surface due to the glaze. Thankfully this is my last post using my point-and-shoot so fuzzy photos will (hopefully) be a thing of Chompchomp’s past!
After a few rounds of drinks my bones had sufficiently thawed out enough to briefly brave the cold once again and walk quickly around the corner to Villa D’Este. Despite it being a fairly late booking the restaurant was totally packed and alive with noisy atmosphere. Our table wasn’t ready so we were shown to the bar to enjoy another round of drinks while we waited.
The Boy loves snails. You can be sure if they are on the menu he will order them guaranteed. These ones were cooked in the shells and served with a mixture of red wine, butter, garlic and parsley. The little suckers didn’t disappoint him and were soft, succulent and oozing in garlicky flavours.
My beef carpaccio had a lot of potential as the meat was exquisitely sliced and had a rich deep colour to it. Unfortunately I felt it was left a little drowned in the lemon dressing which overpowered any flavour or the meat leaving my mouth feeling pickled and sour.
The Boy ordered the Piccata Tartufata: medallions of veal which was topped with a slice of prosciutto, soft cheese and served with a truffle flavoured barbera wine sauce. He wasn’t very impressed with his choice, his meat was a little tough and the sauce lacked the rich flavours one would expect. He also commented that he could barely taste any truffle flavour.
I chose the Special of the Day which was prosciutto wrapped rabbit with roasted chestnuts and risotto cake. I hadn’t eaten roasted chestnuts since walking along the streets of Paris many years ago where they are sold by street vendors in cones of newspaper. It brought back wonderful memories of our time backpacking through Europe and although the rabbit was ever so slightly overcooked I still really enjoyed this dish.
For dessert I ordered the Duetto di Panna e Caramello which was a match made in heaven: consisting of a layer of pannacotta topped with a layer of crème caramel and drizzled with tart berry compote. Combining these two standouts from Italian and French cuisine and was by far and by large one of the highlights of the evening for me. I was so full that I was nearly on the verge of nausea yet I still managed to gobble most of it. In fact if it wasn’t the boy’s birthday, I would have been very reluctant to share any of it but seeing as it was meant to be his night to enjoy I meekly let his help me polish it off.
Of course I’m sure my regular dear readers could probably guess what he ordered for his own birthday dessert….yes you guess it, gelati! As expected in a fine dining Italian restaurant the gelati was smooth and towards the end I thought I spotted him nearly licking his bowl clean.
Happy Birthday my love, I hope you had a fabulous night out. Here’s to many more amazing birthdays together xxAmphoras Bar 1303 Hay St, West Perth 6005 | (08) 9226 4666 | www.amphorasbar.com.au Price: $$$ (Tapas dishes range from $7-39 per plate) Food: 4/5 (we only sampled a few dishes and must return to make a true judgment) Service: 3/5 (waiter not very knowledgeable about the menu ingredients/details) Ambience: 4/5 (warm, cosy & didn’t want to leave) Drinks: 4/5 (great wine list, fabulous cocktails) Total: 15/20 Villa D’Este Restaurant 49 Outram St, West Perth 6005 | (08) 9322 6262 | www.villadeste.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrees $26-39, Mains $39-54. We bought a $99 Spreets voucher which gave us a three course meal for two) Food: 3/5 (a little hit and miss in its execution) Service: 4.5/5 (brilliant, helpful & accommodating for my allergies) Ambience: 4.5/5 (feels like I’m in Italy) Drinks: 4/5 (extensive list of Australian and Italian wines) Total: 16/20
What a horrific week it’s been for me! This persistent stomach bug has put me out of action for the whole week!. It started brewing on my wedding dress shopping day with my bestie and then developed more dramatically into a further two days at home in bed. I always get racked with guilt whenever I take a sick day as everyone else’s work load increases to compensate for my absence. So when I woke up on the fourth day and managed to hold a piece of toast down I figured surely I must be good to go. I was wrong and a few hours later my manager sent me home ashen-faced and dizzy.
Being our first Easter off together in several years, I had booked a weekend getaway with the Boy down in Margaret River which also happened to coincide with our 14th anniversary celebration. Prior to falling sick I was so excited about this little minibreak and was looking forward to a few days of eating, drinking and romantic fun. As I sat unusually quietly in the car on the drive down, I accepted that although I am not feeling at my best I was not going to let it ruin our holiday.
We didn’t arrive until the late afternoon on Good Friday by which I was too tired to consider the notion that I may want to blog about our accommodation so dear readers please forgive me for the lack of any photos. We stayed at Chandeliers on Abbey in Yallingup and were quite impressed with the quality of the chalet – it had a fabulous sound system with speakers throughout the chalet, warmed bathroom tiles, and a fridge stocked with fresh milk, OJ, eggs and butter. The kitchen was well equipped and there were candles all about the chalet to help give more atmosphere.
After relaxing on the deck for some time, we headed out to Gnarabar Bar and Bistro which was seemingly one of the only places I could find open on a Good Friday. Situated just out of Margaret River Township near the Gnarabup beach, the bar was humming with life and nearly full capacity. The staff seemed a little run off their feet and perhaps also a tad disorganised.
Seeing a menu clearly marked with gluten-free options always instills hope for an easy ordering experience. If gluten-free dishes are regular menu items then this indicates to me that the kitchen must be familiar with correct food preparation for us more challenging customers. I ordered the gluten-free option of chilli salted calamari with Thai chilli jam and lime. I just wanted a light snack for entrée as my stomach had shrunk from my lack of food intake during the week as a result of being so unwell.
When my dish arrived, it was coated in batter and for some reason I thought there was a chance it wasn’t actually gluten-free. I asked the waiter who assured me this was gluten-free batter and I was totally fine to eat it. Fortunately my usual ritual of photo taking delayed me starting to eat this dish as a few minutes later the same waiter came out of the kitchen looking a little flustered exclaiming I can’t eat it and that it WASN’T gluten free. I couldn’t believe my ears! If I hadn’t double checked with the waiter, and then paused to take photos, I would be back to square one with my stomach ills and our romantic weekend would have been ruined. It astounded me that the kitchen allowed this error to occur!
The Boy order the pan-fried gnocchi with rabbit and shiitake mushrooms. I told him not to wait for my replacement meal to arrive before commencing so he could enjoy his while it was still hot. The gnocchi was soft and not too doughy and he said the rabbit was tender and sweet. My dish didn’t end up being brought out to the table until well after he had polished off his gnocchi.
It didn’t actually look a grand deal different from the previous dish but the Boy had snuck a taste of the one with gluten and said it tasted different. Seeing as my appetite wasn’t the best I was happy to share some of my calamari with him rather than have him stare hungrily at me while I ate. I’m not sure what happened to my “chilli jam” as my calamari was served with some aioli…maybe I read the menu wrong. The calamari was fairly bland and not seasoned very well, and although most pieces were tender there were a few chewy ones in there.
There was only one main dish on the menu that was able to be prepared both gluten and onion free and unfortunately it was a fairly unexciting looking chicken breast dish. Thankfully I was informed by our waitress that it wasn’t a problem for the chef to make any of the entrée dishes into a full main meal size for an extra ten bucks. I was impressed with the size of the meal that was to follow. Juicy meaty Moroccan spiced quail served on a creamy pumpkin purée with an olive, feta and parsley salad. The spices were not too overpowering for my delicate gut and the quail were super-sized and succulent.
The boy ordered the 10 hour braised beef cheek with parmesan polenta for his main meal. He was quite disappointed in his choice as the meat was unexpectedly dry and chewy; not tender or flavoursome as he imagined.
There was no way I was going to fit in a third course until I had given myself another day or two for my stomach size to re-expand to its previous size so we skipped dessert – an unusual occurrence for me indeed! We returned to our cosy chalet and flaked out for what was to be one of the best night’s sleep either one of us has had in over a week. Bliss.
For what it is, a casual beach pub, the Gnarabar fits the bill. However despite us using our Entertainment Book discount, we both felt we could get better quality food at better value at many of the beautiful wineries we visited over the following few days. Additionally the oversight of serving me gluten accidentally is of considerable concern not just for me but for other gluten intolerants out there. If I hadn’t asked, I would have found out the hard way a few hours later.
Follow Me on Facebook!Gnarabar Bar and Bistro Margarets Beach Resort, 1 Resort Place, Gnarabup Beach, Margaret River, WA 6285 | (08) 9757 1583 | www.gnarabar.com.au Price: $$$ (Entrees $14-17, Mains $28-35, accepts Entertainment Card) Food: 2/5 (dodged a gluten bullet!) Service: 2.5/5 (friendly but haphazard and disorganized) Ambience: 2.5/5 (bubbling pub vibe, needs more dim lighting too bright in restaurant area) Drinks: 3/5 (some great MR choices, need more by the glass options) Total: 10/20
It was New Year’s Day and I woke up a bit weary-headed and totally famished. We had started our New Year’s Eve night off at the Greenhouse enjoying some good tunes, food and company then all continued partying on back at our house after they shut at 2am. The night was made even better because my sister had flown all the way over from Melbourne to join us for the week.
Looking at the casualties scattered around my house that morning it seemed that I was not the only one that was border-lining on starvation either. My sister and I were craving something much more delicious than my fridge could offer us so; accompanied by Big Bones we set off on our search. Unsurprisingly, the boy chose to stay at home nursing his sore head which was a result of the excesses of the prior evening. We had arranged to meet my bestie and her other half at the OBH for some hair-of-the dog drinks later in the evening so we figured head towards the beach and see what we could find.
Not a lot was open around the Claremont area so after some time of driving around we were pleased to see most of the restaurants along the iconic coastal road in Cottesloe were open. Cottesloe beach is internationally renowned for its beauty and lifestyle. Having had many a pleasant breakfast at the beachside café Barchetta before, I convinced everyone to stop in there for a nibble before we recommenced punishing our poor bodies with further frivolities at the Obie.
As we were seated at our table we all realised we were starting to fade fast and were really in desperate need of some sustenance. Our waitress was friendly enough despite the fact she looked like she was suffering from her own post-celebratory pain. She verbally stumbled throughout the whole process of taking our order and she kept repeating herself several times. We ordered some lemon peppered baby calamari but requested for them to be served gluten-free. She warned us the dish wouldn’t taste as nice without the “powder” so we explained to her that we are used to making compromises and we are actually very grateful to the kitchen for willing to adapt. Unfortunately we should have heeded her advice as she was indeed correct, this dish was quite disappointing. The calamari was tasteless without the crumb and was in desperate need for some seasoning of sorts. It was served with a rocket and herb salad which was similarly flavourless and unexciting.
We also ordered the chilled king prawn salad which was served with cherry tomatoes, orange, spinach and crispy pancetta. The prawns were fresh and a decent size, the pancetta wonderfully crispy and crunchy, and the sweet vincotto dressing married perfectly with the addition of juicy pieces of orange. It was a perfectly fresh and uplifting hangover cure.
Big Bones ordered the house made porcini mushroom gnocchi with braised rabbit and chevre cheese. This dish was not exactly what he expected and consisted of a long plate of braised rabbit topped with four gnocchi which were dolloped with the goats’ cheese. The rabbit was apparently quite dry and was in dire need of some more love and attention in its preparation in order to make the most of its delicate flavours. The gnocchi were also a little dry and perhaps not that fresh.
Finally to share we ordered a bowl of cinnamon kumara fries. These were the highlight of the meal, I have never tried the combination of cinnamon with the kumara before and it was a match made in heaven. It was served with a preserved lemon and basil aioli which only made them even more moreish!
Once the food started to line our stomachs, the thoughts of the last night’s overindulgences faded away into a distant memory so we shared a zesty bottle of Mount Langi Ghiran “Cliff Edge” Pinot Gris. With the cool wind gusting around us from the ocean, we sat back and relaxed as someone fossicked around in the sand with her metal detector. I wondered if she would actually find anything of value. Observing her complete lack of expression of her face in the distance, I highly doubt it!
After finishing our meals we sat waiting for over ten minutes to be offered dessert menus and coffees. After seemingly becoming invisible to all staff, Big Bones gestured over to a waitress and requested dessert menus. A further five minutes passed and she forgotten again to bring them over so we had to ask her again. By the time we actually were given the menus in our hot little hands it was getting well into the evening and we were very late for our drinking session across the road. Refuelled we traipsed over the road to recommence our celebrations where we had left off earlier in the wee hours of the morning. We are going to need to do some serious detoxing in the New Year!Price: $$$$ (Entrée $16-24, Mains $25-39) Food: 6.5/10 Service: 3/5 Venue: 4/5 Total = 13.5/20 Barchetta 149 Marina Parade, Cottesloe 6011 | (08) 9385 2411 | http://www.barchetta.com.au/