I love being part of unique dining experiences. I find the excitement of the unknown combined with the knowledge that it is a once off event makes the evening feel so special. Alphabet Soup Dining is a Perth-based pop-up restaurant run by chef Melissa Palinkas who is also the Executive Chef and part owner of Young George in East Fremantle. Melissa started Alphabet Soup because she wanted to offer a quirky degustation style meal where she could let her creativity run free. She holds a dinner event once monthly in locations all around Perth and has popped up in places like Milk’d in Maylands, Cutlery Draw in Manning, Frisk! Small Bar and 399 Bar in Northbridge and most recently at Canton Lounge in the City.
I have wanted to attend an Alphabet Soup dinner for some time so when I saw that chef Melissa was holding a truffle themed dinner this was my immediate cue to book us in. I can never say no to truffle. Before booking I checked that the event could cater for gluten free and was happily assured that it wouldn’t be a problem.
The Alphabet Soup events are based around a six course meal and the menus are published online just a few days before the event. After being seated for the evening, we received a couple of rounds of “snacks” that were not on the menu as a surprise. Our first treat was a reverse crayfish truffle sushi roll using locally caught Mindarie cray. The cray meat was tender and sweet having been cooked sous vide with truffle in the bag to infuse a strong flavour.
Our second surprise snack was a basket of miso lamb ribs, also cooked sous vide in a bag with truffle. The meat slid off the bones easily and the Boy and I sat speechless, both far too busy for words as we sucked and slurped each rib until it was clean.
Our next dish was a little theatrical; sake cured ocean trout with truffle with a yuzu and coconut salad. The portions of ocean trout were suspended on a miniature hanging line with pint-size pegs. Super cute.
The trout was matched with a pomelo mojito, made with Havana 7, pink grapefruit, lime and crème de menthe. It was an interesting experience having a meal matched with not just wines, but also a collection of cocktails.
Who said eating gluten free meant you had to miss out? My truffle chicken karage was made using tapioca flour and tasted just like the real thing. Two crispy morsels were accompanied by some truffled Japanese mustard aioli topped with black sesames. This was finger licking good chicken that left no grease on my hands, my only gripe was that I was left wanting more.
My fried chicken yearning was quickly forgotten upon the arrival of the next dish; broken truffle sticky rice with a 62 degree egg. It is hard not to fall madly in love with the magical combination of slow cooked eggs and truffle, and thankfully there are a number of chefs in Perth that have caught onto this simple decadence.
It is guaranteed that this combination will never fail to make me swoon, those flavours are perfectly married in heaven. Poised with my camera in hand, my predictable squeal of delight emitted when the Boy cut into his yolk was met with his usual eye roll. I may be a little over the top with my love for yolk porn, especially after a few cocktails.
For our next dish, we enjoyed a pork and truffle dumpling served in a richly flavoured dashi broth with fresh shiitake mushrooms. To finish the dish, shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle cascaded on the surface adding a stronger hit of truffiliciousness.
I was to learn that the element of surprise is the norm for the Alphabet Soup dinners. Our next course was yet another secret item that was not found on the menu. I really love surprise dishes! A super tender, baby carrot was cooked in truffle dashi before being grilled and then served with an XO sauce ash.
Our final main course was the seared duck breast, cooked Chinese BBQ style with truffle mushrooms, edamame and of course, fresh truffle.
The duck breast was crispy thin on the outside yet remained tender pink and buttery moist on the inside.
To freshen up our palates ready for dessert, we were given a bite sized spoonful of mandarin and yuzu jelly. It was uplifting and refreshing, combining perfectly with my jazzed up G&T made with Bombay Sapphire, lemon and jasmine tea.
Our dessert brought me back to my childhood when Mum and I would go to the Adelaide Central Markets to do our weekly food shopping. My reward for being the good daughter who would come along and help her mother would always be some sort of treat we shared before going home. Most weeks we would end up walking over to Adelaide’s Chinatown precinct and finding something delicious. These were the days I was oblivious to the fact gluten was killing me, and in my ignorance I would eagerly look forward to the times we would get ourselves a steam pork bun.
For our final course with Alphabet Soup, the Chef made a special batch of gluten free truffle and pear steam buns just for me. The buns were made using potato, corn flour and rice flour giving an authentic doughy, but fluffy texture. We were given truffle honey and Anglaise sauce to drizzle lavishly over our buns. It was a perfect way to end our evening.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening out with Alphabet Soup and will be watching out for her next event. There was all the right elements of entertainment, quirkiness and originality that I had hoped for with some extra surprises to boot. Chef Mel effortlessly catered for my dietary needs without making me feel like I missed out on any of the degustation experience. Thanks Melissa!
Alphabet Soup | www.alphabetsoupdining.com
Canton Bar | 532 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000 | (08) 9325 8887 | www.cantonbar.com.au
The Boy is the youngest in a family of three boys. His oldest brother still lives in Perth, but his other brother is a nuclear physicist who lives in Boston. His brother has lived in the US for over ten years and sadly is unlikely to ever return to Australia permanently. Every couple of years, his brother tries to return back to Perth with his lovely American wife to spend time with the family. Because American employees don’t receive as much annual leave as we do in Australia, they both struggle to get time off work and will save up their leave for a few years before being able to visit us.
This year was their first family visit to see us in over three years which was made even more special as it was also the first trip since the birth of their adorable daughter Noelle. The Boy and I had been busting to meet our little niece ever since she was born, especially after having to cancel our planned 2014 USA trip where we were going to go and stay with them in Boston.
To maximise quality time with his brother’s family, the Boy and his brother organised a family mini-break in Margaret River staying at the secluded Merribrook Retreat. While I already knew my brother-in-law enjoyed fine wine, I had never spent enough time with him to know if he was a foodie like us. You can imagine my pure delight when I discovered that both him and his wife were super keen to join us on a degustation for lunch while down south. I booked us in at Studio Bistro in Yallingup.
I notified the chef in advance of my dietary requirements and they were more than happy to accommodate for me. Studio Bistro’s degustation offers six courses for $95 or $135 with matched wines. We had already been wine tasting at a number of vineyards earlier in the morning and were in the mood for a bit of fun so we all chose the matched wines.
We started off with an amuse bouche of exquisitely fresh steak tartare made with succulent, tender Cape Grim grass-fed beef. The steak tartare was served with an emulsion containing a subtle kick of tabasco.
Our first course was an asparagus gazpacho served with a thick blue cheese cream that was poured table side. I love interactive dishes, they always make for more interesting photography provided I’m quick enough!
The aromatic butteriness of the blue cheese cream made this one of those dishes that leaves you wanting to lick the bowl at the end. Crispy jamon iberico added wonderful textural contrasts to the dish.
Our next course sent me further spiraling into a state of heavenly bliss. Many of my regular readers will know how I am totally obsessed with slow cooked eggs. I would actually be happy to eat a degustation with them included in every course. My chunks of slow cooked silky salmon were arranged around a slow cooked free range hen’s egg and drizzled in syrupy teriyaki.
My hen’s egg was picture perfect with a nearly translucent egg white and ooey gooey yolk porn centre. The salmon was topped with rice crisps that were made from scratch in house. The chef explained to me that to make them he boils the rice until all starch come out and then rolls the rice out between sheets of baking paper. He then dehydrates these sheets of squished rice at 50 degrees for 17 hours before being fried to serve. The rice crisps were puffy and light, dissolving like prawn crackers on my tongue.
Our next dish was made using local, free range pork from Big Red Pork. Unlike many intensive pig farms, Big Red pigs are raised in family groups in a more natural environment of paddocks filled with woodlands, creek lines and pasture. This allows the pigs to forage for food like in the wild. Their natural diet gives the meat a darker colour when compared to intensive, less humanely farmed pork.
The pork was served in two ways; a cube of twice cooked pork belly paired with a soft mound of pork cheek and a generous amount of garlic confit and vanilla dressing.
I loved how not only does Studio Bistro focus strongly on using locally farmed and grown Western Australian produce, but that they also ensure to source their meat from organic free range farms where the animals live humanely and are ethically farmed.
Our final main course consisted of a delicately soft portion of slow cooked organic Blackwood Valley lamb rump served with a yellow curry whip and fried sweetbreads. Fresh cooked peas and shavings of coconut gave this dish an interesting fusion of flavours. The rump came accompanied by a lamb gyoza, which meant I couldn’t eat it due to the dumpling pastry. However the chef must have pre-empted my disappointment in advance and kindly plated some of the dumpling filling onto my dish so I didn’t feel like I missed out at all.
The degustation dessert wasn’t gluten free so I chose to have the cheese course instead. There were three cheeses on the platter; Manchego, Heysen Blue and Wensleydale which were served with gluten free crackers, quince paste, walnuts and some fruit. Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese that is made from sheep’s milk and is one of my most favourite cheeses of all time. Heysen Blue is a mild, fruity blue cheese that is made in the Adelaide Hills with cow’s milk. Wensleydale is a classic, crumbly cows from Yorkshire in the UK.
As our lunch drew to an end, we were joined by the Boy’s parents and of course our gorgeous little niece. Upon seeing my little niece, I was surprisingly satisfied that I had eaten enough for the day and left the rest of the adults sitting at the table to join my niece in the gardens. Fueled by a number of glasses of wine I proceeded to leap about and dance with her to music on my iPhone before eventually we both tumbled on the grass puffed out and giggling madly. Such fun times, it is hard when distance separates you from those you love but hopefully we can get over to visit them in Boston soon.
7 Marrinup Drive, Yallingup, WA | (08) 9756 6164 | www.thestudiobistro.com.au
The Swan Valley have recently been awarded the accolade of becoming Australia’s first Humane Food Region. Earlier last month I attended their launch party held at Sandalford Winery where I learnt all about this RSPCA driven initiative.
The Humane Food movement is aimed giving recognition to businesses that are dedicated to improving the lives of food production animals to allow them to live a more natural and a happy life. To become involved businesses must undergo an accreditation process and those that meet the high standards set by the RSPCA are identified on the Choose Wisely website.
Entwined in the Valley was the first official public event hosted in the Valley since it was declared a Humane Food Region. It was an elaborate evening of seven stunning courses matched with individually selected wines held on the grounds of Houghton Winery.
The indulgent degustation was prepared by Masterchef judge George Calombaris and one of my favourite Perth-based chefs Kiren Mainwaring. The world-famous Ch’ng Poh Tiong was our smiling sommelier for the evening. With Anna Gare as the MC, she successfully managed to maintain lively banter with the chefs and sommelier on stage and kept the feel of the night humorous and light hearted.
Lucky for me the majority of the dishes were already gluten free and therefore required minimal if any adaptations. Our evening started with canapés to share around the table; some Mt Barker humane farmed chicken liver parfait served on a crisp onion skin with pickled celery, and West Australian wild prawn crackers topped with fresh prawn meat and fennel.
Our first entrée was a decadently soft slab of bark smoked West Australian Rainbow Trout with wattle seed and the tiniest shavings of white chocolate. White chocolate with trout you say? Well, as strange as the combination sounds it definitely worked. The chocolate particles were so small that they dissolved on contact with my tongue leaving a subtlety sweet after-taste. I MAY have run my finger across my empty plate a couple of times to smear up the last chocolate fragments but there is no proof I actually did this at such a premium event.
For those of you familiar with Kiren’s amazing repertoire of dishes, you will know his slow cooked eggs are out of this world. The second entrée reminded me of one of his creations that we loved at the Farmer’s Long Table lunch at Truffle Kerfuffle.
A silky smooth cylinder of slow cooked hen’s yolk was served with shards of savoury meringue, cauliflower purée, green olive and shaved Moorish pistachios.
The first main dish was George’s dish. A buttery soft confit duck leg topped with germinated lentils and drizzled with a spiced plum purée. A single sake compressed cucumber added some Japanese styled acidity and tang to the dish. The germinated lentils gave an interesting crunchy element without being too bitter. The sprouting process also has the added benefit of raising the nutrient level of these legumes making this dish somewhat healthy! 😉
The second main course was a slow cooked kangaroo tail with Jerusalem artichoke crisps and purée, fresh apple and crisp salt bush. I was a bit nervous to eat this dish as I have a history of reacting to kangaroo where the back of my throat becomes puffy and swollen almost like a mild anaphylactic reaction. Last time I ate kangaroo was over ten years ago and long before I was diagnosed with my all my food intolerances. I have avoided eating it since reacting three times in a row. I have always wondered whether it was something else in the dish each time or I was actually allergic to just the roo itself.
The Boy suggested I try a small mouthful and wait ten minutes or so to see if I still had a problem with it. I bravely tried a mouthful and within minutes developed only a slight scratching at the back of my throat. Nowhere near the severe reaction that I had many moons ago. I cautiously ate a few more mouthfuls before surrendering my plate to the Boy to finish it off.
Having survived my re-entry into the kangaroo eating world without the need to reach for an Epipen, I was very excited to tuck into the selection of artisan cheese from the Cheese Barrel complete with gluten free crackers for me to enjoy.
The final dish was one of Kiren’s dessert masterpieces, once again gluten free and as always totally addictive. A moist thick cut slice of chocolate and beetroot cake was literally engulfed in a sour cream mousse with some chocolate sorbet hidden inside the mousse. Thin slivers of fresh beetroot that I nearly mistook for rose petals decorated the dish with a splash of bright colour.
As I nearly slipped into a food coma, I had to remind myself that I had a full day of work the next day and wished I hadn’t enjoyed quite so much of the free flowing wine! Lucky for me I can survive for a short time on little sleep and whilst I cannot say the next day was easy I can guarantee it was all worth it! If Entwined in the Valley is anything to go by, I look forward to the next Humane Region food event!Chompchomp was a guest of the City of Swan at Entwined in the Valley. As paid tickets to this event were very popular there was no offer of a plus one so Chomp was happy to fork out her dosh for another ticket so that the Boy could accompany her. Houghton Winery (note the food for this meal was not prepared by Houghton’s) 148 Dale Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | (08) 9274 9543 | www.houghton-wines.com.au/our-cafe Dear Friends and Co op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au
One of our best wedding presents that we received was a gift voucher for a degustation at Dear Friends Restaurant in Caversham. Dear Friends is owned and run by Welshman Kiren Mainwaring and his Canadian wife Kelli. My first introduction to this team’s talent was at the final Largesse dinner held at Petit Mort last year. For this charity event he created a spectacular and beautiful dish of air dried ham, Swan Valley yolk, ajo blanch and foraged herbs. Since this evening I have longed to make the trip to their restaurant in the Swan Valley to be wowed by his creations once again.
Dear Friends is located on the rural flat lands of the Swan Valley and has featured in the Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide and the Good Food Guide year after year. Chef Kiren focuses on utilising the variety of local and seasonal produce from the region sourcing directly from local farmers or foraged from the wild surrounds. The entrance to the restaurant is quaint and understated, bordering on old fashioned. For our seven course degustation I chose to have the matched wines and for each course sommelier Kelli took time to explain to me the origin of each wine and why she chose it.
The Boy and I now each have our own individual dietary requirements; obviously I’m still gluten free and fructose friendly but more recently the Boy is a vegetarian. I can see how some kitchens would baulk at having the two of us as their customers. Upon arrival we were immediately made to feel relaxed and at ease as our dietary requirements presented the Dear Friends team with no problems. More importantly each of our dishes were not just ones with alterations and deletions but were carefully planned; plated with elegance and originality.
Our first course consisted of some “tasters”; call them modern day amuse bouche if you like. There were super cheesy Manchego tacos containing some house made fresh cheese, crispy lupin chips topped with eggplant and Saratoga chips with balsamic vinegar. Despite being proud of both my father’s French heritage and all the cheeses that come from this fabulous country I have to confess Spanish Manchego is by far one of my favourite cheeses. It has such a distinctive flavour and the tacos made me reminiscent of my recent over indulgence in Barcelona.
My next course was a Welsh styled watercress soup. Watercress is supposed to aid with the digestion and this soup certainly did sit wonderfully warm in my stomach. The soft flaky blue swimmer crab contrasted with the strong pepperiness from the watercress leaving a fresh crisp taste on the palate.
My third course was the same as the Boy’s as it was a vegetarian dish. Who on Earth said vegetarian food was boring? Silky cubes of home-made soy tofu and locally grown Swan Valley field and oyster mushrooms sat upon a richly flavoured bed of smoky tomato puree. Some crunchy parsnip chips provided an interesting change in texture. This dish threatened to turn any meat eater into a vegetarian!
My next course of West Australian cuttlefish was served with tender tips of new season asparagus, Muchea grown Japanese turnips and shavings of fennel. I was intrigued by these turnips having never eaten them before as they were nearly as sweet as the fennel and as soft like potato. As I made my way through each of the generous wine matches I was glad this dish featured early in the meal. I tend to be a bit of a messy eater; which can worsen the more wine I drink. I could see the potential for me making a complete spectacle of myself and ending up with black ink purée everywhere.
As much as I am very respectful and proud of the Boy in his strong decision to become a vegetarian, I am yet to join him 100% and for my next course I could sense his disapproval at me eating animal flesh. I can console myself that Dear Friends source their organic free range pork from Margaret River Big Red Pork. Big Red’s pigs are kept in small family groups and run free range in the creek lines, grass lands and woodlands of their farm. They are fed on a natural diet of grasses, legumes, grains and grubs which gives the meat a characteristic dark colour. The Kassler pork loin was cured using a German technique which involves smoking and ripening the meat in brine for about 7-10 days. It was served with yellow squash and pickled cucumber. The cucumber gave some lovely sweetened acidity to the saltiness of the meat.
There was no missing out for the Boy as his next vegetarian course looked just as mouth-watering as mine. A near-translucent slow cooked egg sat nestled in amongst a variety of freshly foraged vegetables and herbs. As he cut into the egg, the yolk burst into life engulfing everything on his plate. Regrettably I missed the opportunity to take a picture of this egg porn moment as I was far too engrossed enjoying my cured pork.
My final main course was undoubtedly one of the highlights. Over the years I have worked my way through eating a variety of slow cooked meats but this was my first opportunity to enjoy a lamb cutlet prepared in this way. It was just as delicately soft as you could ever imagine. To complete the decadence it was finished with a bone marrow jus. Oh heaven! I was grateful for the lack of pretension and stuffiness as I just couldn’t help myself picking up the chop with my fingers and nibbling every last tasty morsel off the bone, not something I could get away with at every fine dining establishment. My Mum would shudder at the thought!
The Boy’s final main dish was a thick Glamorgan sausage served with Brussel sprouts, celeriac and broccoli. Glamorgan sausage is a traditional Welsh vegetarian sausage made with cheese, leek, potato, cabbage, herbs and breadcrumbs. A fermented Chenin hollandaise sauce was drizzled luxuriously over everything on his plate.
It was now time to veer away from all these amazing savoury courses and enjoy some sweets. Our pre-dessert teaser consisted of two medallions of macadamia and white chocolate chiboust which is basically pastry cream lightened with egg white meringue. Light and airy, each portion of chiboust dissolved with a “poof” on the tongue. Dollops of kumquat curd and glazed kumquats gave a tart element to the dish along with the nutty sweetness of shavings of locally grown macadamias. The Boy also received a paper thin peppercorn tuille.
Our dessert was quite possibly one of the most stunning carrot cakes I have ever seen. Made with purple carrots it was scattered in soft crumbles around a scoop of carrot ice-cream and decorated with honey comb, marshmallows, fresh blueberries and cute little sour grass flowers. As my belly expanded over the top of my pants it was hard to believe our magical afternoon was nearly over.
However as many of you will know, it doesn’t matter how full I am I can always fit in cheese. The cheese course at Dear Friends is an optional extra but if you have the gumption to squeeze it in I can highly recommend it. Our three cheeses were Ubriaco al Vino Rosso, an Italian hard cheese from Northern Italy, a West Australian brie from Dellendale in Denmark and Colsten Bassett Shropshire Blue, a lesser known blue from the same cheese makers as the famous English Blue Stilton. Kelli continued to be far too generous and offered me not one but two different wine matches to go with our cheese; thank goodness I wasn’t driving!
The concept of enjoying a coffee after a degustation is always so appealing. However most of our dego experiences are in the evening so unless I want to lay wide awake in bed all night I tend to end up drinking tea instead. I look on in envy at those that can drink coffee after dinner and then fall blissfully asleep. Being a lunch time meal I was in luck this time round as the time to sleep was still a long way off. Knowing this was a rare opportunity I made sure I savoured every last drop.
It is easy to see why Dear Friends has maintained their position as one of Perth’s top restaurants for a number of years. Sommelier Kelli provides charming and faultless service whilst each dish clearly shows Kiren’s passion and love for his craft. A definite thumbs up from both of us; and as we walked away we were already planning our visit to their East Perth digs Co-Op Dining.Dear Friends Restaurant 100 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055 | (08) 9279 2815 | www.dearfriends.com.au Price: $$$$ ($115 for a 7 course degustation, $70 for matched wine) Food: 5/5 (each dish was filled with wonderment despite our different dietary requirements) Service: 5/5 (charming, knowledgeable and with a humble sense of well-deserved pride) Ambience: 4/5 (you do feel like you are in the country) Drinks: 4.5/5 (seamless matching of wines) Total: 18.5/20
For those that know me, you will agree that I’m not a calm or quiet person. Nor do I tend to run out of things to say. With some people I can sense this personality trait of mine can be a little over bearing yet with others it creates a spark for even more animated conversation. One of my dear blogging friends Amanda from Chew Town shares a similar passion for words and during one of her return trips to Perth we caught up for some brunch and a “talk-off”. We cannot agree between us who can talk more and happily settled for a tie after this round. She is always keen to try new places around Perth having left our sunny city some years ago so after throwing a few options around we agreed on Miss Kitty’s Saloon in Inglewood. I mean, anything that refers to felines in its business name has to be good!
Miss Kitty’s is a quirky new-ish venue on Beaufort Street in Inglewood. Their menu is inspired by Canadian and American cuisines and they shamelessly have a pig’s head suspended in one of their fridges behind the bar. Our delightful waitress proudly informed us they buy the “whole pig” and pretty much use all of it in their dishes. The pig’s head specifically features on their evening menu in the form of Pig’s head nuggets!
There are a number of gluten free options and the chef seemed happy to fiddle around with some options to accommodate me. Our stand-out dish for the day was undoubtedly the char-grilled tamarind pork ribs. I’m not normally a big pork fan, nor do I often order ribs, I often find that they are too fatty and grisly for my liking. Additionally getting all the meat fibres stuck between my teeth drives me mad.
After eating Miss Kitty’s Saloon ribs, I am proud to say I am a converted rib fan. The meat pulled off the bones in one clean bite and the mapley after taste was enough to make me weak at the knees. Our more heart conscious choice of the fennel salad balanced the syrupy sweet ribs with some acidity and freshness. Surely all that summer on a plate negated the sugar and fat in the ribs?
Although I had already had breakfast, I couldn’t resist ordering a serve of their devilled eggs. The cute presentation of these little beauties was enough to make me giggle. The seasoned whole boiled egg gave me my much needed egg porn of the day and if I had showed better self-control and not already eaten earlier that morning I would have been happy to do another round of eggs and ribs.
At this point in time our entertaining waitress had caught eye of my conspicuous SLR camera and shimmied back to our table for a laugh and a chat. She was such a crack up, even to herself, and she confessed that she was obsessed with reading Miss Kitty’s Saloon reviews on Urbanspoon to see what things people said about her and her fellow colleagues. It turns out that she is also gluten intolerant and we shared stories of our experiences eating out. After finding out there were no gluten free desserts on offer she offered to us a de-constructed gluten free version of their Banoffee pie. Finding her wide eyed energy and joy hard to resist we found room in our bellies and ordered dessert to share.
What came out was the most hilarious Banoffee pie I have ever seen; thick syrupy banoffee pie contents sans casing filled the plate and was decorated with chocolate nibs, fresh banana and kitsch bright yellow dyed cream. Amanda and I could not stop cracking up at this comical dessert. Although it was super sweet, the lack of pie casing didn’t stop us and we sat giggling like school girls as we spooned it into our gobs.
My late morning brunch has definitely incited my interest in this venue and I am determined to come back and try their evening menu. All the staff were vibrant, passionate and looked like they loved their jobs and enthusiasm is very infectious. I can’t wait to see what the Boy thinks of Miss Kitty’s!Miss Kitty’s Saloon 882 Beaufort Street, Inglewood WA 6052 | (08) 9272 6669 | Facebook Price: $$ Food: 3.5/5 (keen to go back and try some more dishes as they use some interesting combinations of flavours) Service: 4.5/5 (bubbly, interesting and funny without being obtrusive) Ambience: 4/5 (an eclectic muddle of Country and Western style with quirky antique oddities) Drinks: 4/5 (Five Senses coffee……) Total: 16 /20
I have to apologise to you my dear readers for my recent habit of taking you back and forth in a time machine of my life. This ping ponging through space will continue until I finally manage catch up on sharing all the wonderful food experiences from these past few months. I blame my horrendous blogging back log on our wedding. Although tremendous fun, wedding planning was very time consuming stuff and something just had to give.
Today I take you back to one of my most favourite times of the year: Christmas. Every few years the Boy and I take a return trip back home to Melbourne to spend this festive time with my family. Last year I tallied our trip up with my wedding dress fitting. Strategically I ensured the fitting was done first thing on my arrival so I could let loose for the rest of our stay and make an absolute glutton of myself. It was Christmas after all!
In the lead up to our wedding we were faced with a number of difficult family dramas. It really is true what they say; weddings bring out the best and the worst in people. These sad events meant we were unable to spend Christmas Day with my Mum and were thus allocated time with her on Christmas Eve instead. The Boy and I were trying so hard to save all our pennies for Thailand so we agreed that there was no need to spoil each other with Christmas presents. We decided that our gift to each other was to be our Christmas Eve dinner with dearest Mum. To make the most of this occasion I booked us a reservation at Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Melbourne Crown Casino.
Every year we go completely over the top lavishing gifts for each other so seeing as this meal was our only opportunity to do so we took the liberty to order a lot of food! We really should have remembered that Rockpool’s meal sizes are not exactly tiny as by the end of the night we could barely walk!
I ordered the sautéed white asparagus for my starter. The dish combined my two favourite obsessions for the year; shiitake mushrooms and slow cooked eggs. How could it ever get better than this? The gentle flavours of translucent Onsen style eggs and earthy ‘shrooms are fine for a breakfast dish but add in the sharp bite of melted parmesan cheese and this seemingly simple entrée became so much more exciting. Burnt butter was drizzled over it coating every part of my asparagus in salty deliciousness. At least for my first course I was sticking to my Meatless Monday vow!
The Boy ordered the warm salad of wood fired grilled quail with smoked tomatoes and black olives. The dark meat flaked off the bone without encouragement and his plate promptly filled with its juices as he continued to cut the bird apart.
Mum decided not to order an entrée and was happy to wait for her mains as her choice sounded quite substantial. She ordered the Redgate Farm partridge with roasted eschalots, peas and house cured pigs cheek. Partridge is a pale pink coloured meat and has very tender flesh with a light but gamy flavour. I didn’t get a great deal of adjectives from her describing her dish but I can assure you that her plate was clean by the end. My mum is a light eater so I think that is saying something!
Where I go a bit nutty for my mushrooms and my slow cooked eggs, the Boy goes nuts for mangoes. Fresh mangoes, grilled mangoes, mango daiquiris, mango ice-cream you name it, he will love it. The duck confit was served very simply with a grilled slice of mango and apple balsamic. The skin was thin with a slight crunch yet the meat was smooth like butter. Total dish envy!
I confess that my dedication to the Meatless Monday movements went out the window for my main dish. Rockpool source their seafood from sustainable sources and although this wasn’t a vegetarian dish, I felt at least I wasn’t contributing to the demise of our fish stocks. My grouper was seared and served with tomatoes, peppers, capers and delicious crispy Fratelli prosciutto.
A meal at Rockpool is never complete without some of their sides. The problem with this is that they are all so good it is hard to choose. As always we order too many and struggle to finish all three. My two favourites that I order everything are the sautéed mixed mushroom and more importantly the pumpkin and sweet potato. They are not to be missed I tell you!
Despite all of us protesting loudly to our fun and friendly waitress that we had no room for dessert she still discreetly left us the dessert menus on our table for perusal. Curiosity always kills the cat and none of us could resist a quick peek to see what was on offer. Before we could stop ourselves we had ordered not one dessert to share, not even two desserts to split amongst ourselves, but proceeded to greedily order one each! Mum and the Boy ordered the profiteroles. Crispy outer shells of Choux pastry were piped with homemade vanilla ice-cream topped with hardened chocolate and hazelnuts set on top. They bore some resemblance to a classier version of the movie cinemas Choc-Tops.
My only gluten free option other than ice cream was the crème caramel. Not a bad choice to be left with but I do like to have a selection of gluten free dessert options. Growing up in a household with a French father, crème caramel was a dessert that was made to perfection at home. Flawlessly set like a slice of heaven Perry’s rendition of it was a match for my family’s chefs!
It was creeping past midnight and we all needed to head home to allow our bodies to perform some serious digesting before we would be able to have any room for the following day’s festivities. Once again, reliable Rockpool left me filled to the brim with a beaming smile on my face; a successful fine dining experience without the pretension and fanfare.Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne Crown Casino, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank VIC 3006 | (03) 8648 1900 | www.rockpool.com Price: $$$$ (Entrees $19-30, Mains $23-115) Food: 5/5 (can I say perfection? This time round it was truly faultless) Service: 4/5 (impeccable and entertaining without being obtrusive) Ambience: 4/5 (relaxed but spacious with views right through the shining kitchen) Drinks: 4.5/5 (successful wine matching by the sommelier meant I could relax and enjoy the company) Total: 17.5/20
Having only just celebrated my first blogiversary last month, I consider myself somewhat of a newcomer to Perth’s food blogger ranks. What has truly amazed me and touched my heart profoundly is the strong sense of community amongst fellow bloggers. Despite my inexperience, I have been graciously greeted with open arms not just by other fresh(wo)men like myself, but by those with popular, well-established and recognised blogs. It certainly does make a fresh change from the comparatively serious and introverted veterinary world.
Four bloggers from Perth including yours truly were selected to attend the third annual Eat.Drink.Blog conference this year in Adelaide. In preparation for our highly anticipated weekend away, we met up during the week prior for dinner to talk “blogger’s stuff” and of course to eat!
After a few restaurant options were toyed around, we ended up agreeing on West End Deli in West Perth. Snuggled in the residential end of West Perth, West End Deli is a quaint little bistro owned by a husband and wife duo; Justin and Christine Peters. I had been here once several years ago and confess my previous experience back then wasn’t very memorable. I vaguely recall the kitchen appearing to have strong reluctance to adapt any dishes for me and that we waited well over 45 minutes for our breakfast meals only for them to forget our coffees. Twice. Having said that, this was quite some time ago and I know one should try to avoid forming a strong judgement from just one experience.
It’s incredible how the same dining room, with all the same interiors, can change its whole persona at night. The casual, sunlit café I remember from previously had magically transformed into a sombre, intimate and classy bistro. It wasn’t long before we all arrived and with glasses of wine in hand we relaxed into the vibe. Some unexpected amuse bouche were brought to our table; a crisp homemade wonton piped with creamy herb and goats cheese and sprinkled with black sesame seeds.
Being unable to eat the wonton, a plump little ball of pear filled with the cheese was offered to me as a replacement. Not wanting to seem ungrateful or fussy, I quickly chowed down on a glucose tablet before I slipped my juicy treat into my mouth. Being such a small amount of pear, it is easy to counteract the fructose with a small dose of glucose. For times like these, I carry these tablets everywhere with me.
Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse started with the potato and pickled sardine terrine topped with a curl of crème fraîche and a poached yabby tail.
Michelle from Foodie Cravings was initially reluctant to order herself an entrée as we had already earmarked a couple of dishes on the dessert menu and she sensibly wanted to pace herself. The ricotta gnocchi managed to twist her rubber arm when the waitress informed her it would be no trouble to omit the candied olives and replace with an alternate ingredient. The gnocchi were light, mini sized pillows, tossed in fresh sage and garlic and tumbled over a thick smear of pesto sauce.
I chose the slow cooked egg for entrée as my obsession with these gelatinous beauties continues. Perched on a nest of crumbled bacon it was accompanied a pea mash flavoured with white anchovies and lashings of truffle oil. Weblike shavings of Reggiano cheese were sprinkled on top. I struggled to do this dish justice with my photography in the flickering candle light however suffice to say my palate was rewarded. This breakfast-esque spin on bacon and eggs was a winner.
Moni from Gastromony chose the elegantly plated charred octopus. Coated with a thin chermoula crust it came with pear and walnut salad and a smear of blood orange. Kudos to her assistance with taking a photo for me as my go-go gadget arms couldn’t reach across the table without losing some degree of decorum. I still get a little embarrassed and feel awkward taking photos of people’s meals as deep in my heart I feel like a novice.
Ideas of pork belly and spatchcock failed to get past the consideration stages for any of us and we all opted for the snapper for mains. The fish was seared to a butter smooth consistency and balanced precariously over some prawns and mussels. A thin saffron coloured broth gave a subtle perfumey bitterness to sharpen the softer flavours of this dish. Tarry coloured squid ink brandade was blobbed on top and gave a pleasant piquant aftertaste. Brandade is French sauce made from an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil.
The girls all ordered the potted cheesecake for dessert. It was served in the same adorable little pots that I saw Rochelle Adonis’s salted caramel mousse recently. Apparently she imports them from France. What was much more curious about this dish was that next to the pot laid an innocent little tube labelled “Squeeze Me” containing salted dulche de leche.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I wondered if my new found friends would slowly start shrinking in their seats to become miniature pint-sized versions of their former selves. Thankfully the only surprise to follow was the unexpected layer of popping candy on top of the cheesecake. No one had any trouble finishing off their desserts which is always a good sign.
I was informed by our waitress that none of their desserts on the menu were gluten free however in complete contrast to my experience at West End Deli many moons ago, the chef kindly rose to the occasion and wasn’t going to let me miss out by any means. I was offered a honey vanilla parfait served with a caramelised warm banana. Grateful for their efforts once more, I didn’t bother going through the finer details that fructose malabsorbers cannot have honey. I presumed the amount would indeed be small anyway so I sneakily crunched on another couple of glucose tablets. My parfait was a little icy and hard for my liking but this was made up for by the dulcet banana.
I have to be honest; my recent experience at West End Deli has turned my opinion around for the better. They were accommodating for our varied requests and their service was discrete yet warm and welcoming. As we left the kitchen staff bid us all farewell from the open plan kitchen; a nice touch. I think I am going to have to give their breaky another try.West End Deli 95 Carr Street, West Perth, WA 6005 | (08) 9328 3605 | www.westenddeli.net.au Price: $$$ ($25-35 per meal, BYO) Food: 7.5/10 (flexible with requests, small menu executed well) Service: 4/5 (attentive without being obtrusive, warm and friendly) Ambience: 4/5 (very dark ambiance, would be romantic for couples) Drinks: Unable to assess as BYO. Total: 15.5/20
My soon to be parents-in-law are always complaining that they never get to spend enough time with us. Both the Boy and I have pretty hectic careers, so when we do actually have a bit of spare time, we want to spend it out and about enjoying good food and company. So when Christmas approached us last year, instead of buying his parents a gift, we offered to take them out to a fancy meal all expenses paid.
Just as we managed to lock in a weekend for our dinner, we were blessed with our brand new little niece who was born on the other side of the world in Texas! The Boy’s parents jumped on the first plane out to the States and didn’t return back for three months! We were all so envious of them as they got to meet her and we cannot wait to eventually get over there ourselves.
Upon their return to Australia I was keen to book our outing as soon as possible. This was meant to be their Christmas present after all! The timing worked out quite well because we were in the thick of the truffle season and neither of them had ever had either degustation OR truffles before! I booked at Clarke’s of North Beach as it is local to their house.
Those who have met me you know I am a bit of a talker; however my dearest mother in-law gives me a run for my money in the talking stakes. As a result my usual attentive listening skills were lost amongst all our animated gas bagging and I missed much of the descriptions of our dishes! I will do my best to remember. Forgive me if my distracted palate is incorrect.
The Amuse Bouche was a braised beef shin with cauliflower foam. It contained very interesting combinations of textures; with shredded tender shin accompanied by barely existent foam and the crisp crunch of calamari. It entertained our palates perfectly and we were ready for more.
We opted for the truffle supplement which meant that once every dish was served, our waiter came over to our table donning white cotton gloves and shaved fresh black truffle over each of our dishes. The Linley Valley pork belly entrée was beautifully cooked; the fat was soft like custard and the surface of the crackling had a caramelised shimmer to it. It was sprinkled with “crackle dust” and a variety of textures of apple decorated the plate.
The next entrée was a sliver of King George Whiting, scallop and snapper mouse. The whiting was pan-fried to give a subtle crisp to its surface which contrasted beautifully with the smooth mousse and succulent pillow of scallop. Although not specified on the menu there was also some fresh salmon which added an oilier almost satiny element to this dish. Shavings of fresh black truffle once again graced our plates. The Boy’s Dad swallowed this dish in a few quick mouthfuls, but his Mum deliberated in taking her time, differentiating out all the different flavours. She was learning the art of degustation quickly!
Our next dish was an optional one and when I saw the words “slow cooked egg” on the menu my heart leaped with excitement. My introduction to slow cooked eggs happened quite some time ago at Greenhouse and since then I insist on ordering them wherever I see them. They are like the holy grail of poached eggs to me and I am so elated when I see them feature on menus other than just for breakfast!
In order to successfully cook a slow cooked egg, one must cook them at a much lower temperature of about 60 degrees for 1 hour. The end result is like an improved version of a perfectly poached egg. The egg white has a nearly translucent appearance and the yolk is perfectly molten. Imagine this served over a pulled ham hock cassoulet! The cassoulet was wonderfully deep and rich in flavour but unfortunately there was no gluten free replacement for the brioche for me, considering the price of our meal this was a bit of a disappointment ($155 per person, not including BYO wines). I watched enviously as my family all mopped up the delicious juices pooling in the bottom of their plates.
Some may remember my most recent degustation at Petit Mort for the last in the series of Largesse dinners. For these amazing dinners the Head Chefs from six award-winning restaurants from around Perth donated their talents and time to each create one dish to contribute toward a six course extravaganza. All of the proceeds from the evenings went toward a charity of the host chef’s choosing. The head chef of Clarke’s Stephen Clarke was one of these six chefs and his braised Venison shin with Foie Gras Espuma was a definite show stopper for us all.
The foie gras espuma featured again in this dish but a much larger more generous glob was piped out this time round! The confit leg was encased in chicken mousse to make it into a boudin (sausage) and the buttery breast tasted nearly too soft to be duck! We were all so glad we chose to have these two supplement dishes as they were each outstanding and really completed the meal experience.
Where’s the lamb gone you ask? When I returned from the bathroom, our next course had already been served and everyone had decided to start tucking in without me. I sat down quickly and followed suit savouring every morsel on the plate. It wasn’t until I started scraping the plate clean that I realised I had completely forgotten to take a photo! It’s been a while since I’ve done that! Sorry dear readers! The new season lamb was incredibly delicate and tender. The boulangère potatoes were just like my mum used to make with the chewy outer crust and inner discs of potato encased in slippery creaminess.
I was in for some fortunate luck with our cheese course. The plate included a massive FIVE different cheeses: Miguel (a semi-soft cow’s cheese from Portugal), Valdeón (a blue made with goat and cow’s milk from Spain), Buche d’Affinois (a beautifully smooth and buttery surface-ripened cheese made with cow’s milk in France), Will Studd Brillat Savarin (a classic French triple cream brie from France) and Queso Manchego (a hard sheep’s cheese from Spain). Already a plate with five cheeses is pretty exciting but even better still amongst these portions were not just one but two of my favourite cheeses of all time!
Brillat Savarin is in my humble opinion one of the creaminess and most luscious of the French brie. Thankfully it is a regular resident at my local greengrocer’s Scutti in South Perth so I can spoil myself whenever I wish. My waistline may tell you otherwise though! My other favourite cheese is the Spanish sheep’s cheese Manchego. It is a firm compact cheese with a well-developed, slightly salty flavour and has that characteristic aftertaste of sheep’s cheese that I really enjoy. The cheese was accompanied by some crisp lavosh – once again there were no gluten free alternatives here.
For our pre-dessert we were all in for a fun surprise. My dish was a strawberry espuma with raspberry gel and the rest of my family received an Irish coffee espuma. Sprinkled over all of our dishes was something that took us back to our early childhood: popping candy! After such a decadent and luxurious meal, it was very entertaining for us all to sit there like amused school kids noisily cracking and popping away!
I was amazed that for the whole ten course experience only the two courses that had to be significantly altered for my dietary requirements were the desserts. Not being the odd one out greatly enhanced my evening as I didn’t feel like my dishes had key elements omitted (with the exception of a brioche alternative). My family’s dessert course was described as caramelised mandarin tart, raspberry gel, mandarin macaron and sorbet.
Before I had time to feel any macaron jealousy I discovered that scattered across my own plate was even more popping candy! Stretched across the plate was a colourful array of sumptuous morsels including raspberry gel, pistachio nougat, chocolate ice cream, mandarin jelly cubes and some more strawberry espuma. I wasn’t sure which element to savour the most as they were all so different yet so delicious.
As our evening drew to a close I was left with the feeling of complete satisfaction that we had thoroughly and deservedly spoilt our parents. We drove them home in a comfortable silence full of so much trufflicious food. Clarke’s is definitely a great choice for special occasions….it just might break the bank a little!www.clarkesofnorthbeach.com.au/ Price: $$$$$ (Basic degustation $120 including cheese course and Manjimup truffle, supplementary courses an additional $15/20 each) Food: 8.5/10 (exquisitely prepared, need to provide bread/crackers for us GF-ers) Service: 4.5/5 (attentive without intrusion) Ambience: 4/5 (don’t judge a book, enter to find a warm, unpretentious atmosphere) Drinks: N/A (BYO – I tried to cater for the ranging wine palates of the group, starting with Perrier Jouët, then Millbrook Viognier 2009 and ending on Moss Wood Cab Sav 2009) Total: 17/2
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
A very close friend of ours moved away from Perth to the central NSW coast nearly ten years ago to be with the love of her life. Although Facebook has allowed us to both stay in nearly daily contact, we haven’t cast eyes on each other since she left many years ago. She is one of those kindred souls that when you are lucky enough to cross paths in life you never want to let them go. There is just one thing about her that we both hate; she has cystic fibrosis. Not that in the past that ever seemed to stop her living her life to the fullest. She is by far and by large the most positive, brave and strong willed person I know, occasionally to her detriment! But there is only so much a pair of lungs can take and since the birth of her gorgeous doe-eyed daughter, her lungs have been on a slow and steady decline. She has been on the transplant list for the better part of a year now and we are all crossing every finger and toe that some beautiful brand new shiny lungs will be on her doorstep soon.
My conference lectures were held at the Sydney University which is conveniently located right next door to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where my dear friend was currently staying. The luxury of being able to pop “next door” and see her after lectures was a privilege I didn’t want to waste so I tried to get over there as many times as possible. After our initial tears of joy in seeing each other for the first time in so long, we easily slipped into our old habits as we joked and laughed the afternoons away. This wasn’t without receiving a few frowns from the surrounding patients in the ward as we are invariably very loud together.
The Boy arrived on the Friday ready for a short weekend city getaway and was able to join me for my last afternoon hangout with her the following day at the Hospital. It was so sad to say farewell as I had been having such a fabulous time seeing her but I have vowed to myself to not leave it so long between visits. What better reason to return to Sydney!?!
In a delayed Valentine’s celebration, I had made a reservation several months ago at Marque knowing it to be in San Pellegrino’s World’s 100 Best Restaurants. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting a wide range of fine dining establishments all over the world. Much of this has been prior to the first seed of Chompchomp being planted. There are some attentions to detail during these experiences that I have come to expect as standard, especially when consider the cost of your meal. One of these details is the execution of unfaultable and impeccable service. The wait staff should literally gush over their guests and make them feel like royalty. Having this above and beyond approach to customers forms nearly as big a part of the wow factor as does the food and is a vital part of the whole experience.
Upon arrival to Marque we were greeted with just a stern nod by a staff member that the Boy and I later named “The Matron”. She left us standing in the doorway nearly on top of customer’s tables long enough to be a little uncomfortable. We were ushered to our seats after a brief delay and started to take in the atmosphere, or lack of it. The dining room felt fairly barren and clinical however I tried to look past this detail as I have found some incredible restaurants where the dining room is very simple and basic. For example Restaurant Amuse; where each of my three visits has left me completely awestruck with the fabulous experience.
I started the night off with the only type of Champagne available by the glass; some René Geoffroy Purete Brut which was quite vibrant and crisp with a dry finish. The perfect way to start a meal! Our amuse bouche looked a bit like a clam shell and consisted of two truffled potato crisps with bonito and foie gras inside. Unfortunately as I was trying to photograph it I was sternly told off by The Matron like a naughty little school child that there is to be no flash photography. Consequently my photos for the evening are nothing short of horrendous – I am so sorry dear readers! (For the full album see my Flickr account.) Now I understand that some customers may find a flash disrupting to their meal and accept this request is totally reasonable. However for the remaining duration of the evening on several occasions I caught “The Matron” giving me disapproving looks across the dining room. This made for a fairly unpleasant vibe. To add to this the remainder of the wait staff were cold and almost snooty giving an air of pretension that in no way added to the experience.
The sommelier of the night was the only exception to the team and I was drawn to a heightened level of excitement for each wine he introduced as he described it and why it complements the food so eloquently.
This first course dish was quite amazing having quite distinct separate layers of flavours almost like you get with some macarons! The initial strong flavours of the soft crab were lifted by a layer of light almond foam, progressing on the palate to the salty fresh sea taste of the avruga and ending with the sweeter butter popcorn aftertaste. Magic! The wine was matched beautifully (as were all the wines of the evening) and its oily aftertaste lingering on the palate with the corn flavours was divine.
The marron course was the Boys favourite. The marron was so tender and was lightly dusted with tomato dust. Each dollop of accompaniments on the plate were absolute delights in their own right and individually married with a morsel of marron to create its own little world of taste sensation spanning from dulcet sweet to buttery and ending with an acidic tomato flavour.
The Wagyu was marbled perfectly and was accompanied with tiny little pencil thin dill cucumbers which were sliced into miniature little medallions packed with a zing. Following on from the beef was the Dutch Cream Potatoes with Bone Marrow, Sea Urchin, and Coffee. (It was matched with 2008 Heymann-Lӧwenstein ‘Schieferterrassen’ Riesling, Mosel, Germany.) This was one of our waiter’s favourite dishes. These potatoes were a hearty delight and made me wish the Boy’s mum (who is Dutch) would serve them at our next family dinner! They were so smooth and delectable!
In the aftermath of the delicious potatoes, the grouper didn’t excite either of us much at all. Although it looked quite attractive on the plate, but it was fairly bland and was made even less inspiring by the following duck egg dish which was outstanding.
Wow. This was my favourite dish of the night by far. The smokey duck egg combined with tart sour cherries was out of this world. My egg wasn’t dusted in the leek ash due to my onion intolerance but the boy said this addition made it even more sumptuous. This course was served with home-baked bread to lash smatterings of duck liver onto.
Unfortunately for me, despite making our dinner reservation no less than five months in advance there was no gluten-free bread option to offer me. I think this would probably have to be one of the first fine dining establishments that this has happened to me since my diagnosis 3 years ago. I couldn’t hide my disappointment watching the Boy eagerly smear his liver onto his own hot steaming bread.
I had not tried Brunet before and given I love goat’s cheese I was excited to try it. Similar to many goats cheese, it was quite tangy and lemony, with sour cream notes, but also with some earthy depth to it. It was topped with tiny slivers of raw velvety mushroom.
The first dessert course was right up my alley of dessert styles; there is something about combining sweet yet piquant berry flavours with contrasting tangy yoghurt tastes that really hits the spot for me.
The second dessert course was different for us both and unfortunately I was only given a menu for the courses served to the whole restaurant not with my variations (unlike at Amber in Hong Kong where we each got our own copy ready printed in an embossed folder…..). The Boy doesn’t recall much about his as by this point understandably, all the courses start to blur together a little for him.
The night ended on Mark Best’s Signature Sauternes custard. I had read a number of amazing recounts of this dessert and was keen to see if it lived up to the hype. Despite all the food in our bellies we both struggled to hold ourselves back from gobbling this down greedily. It was served in an egg-shell with the top precisely cut off at a neat and sharp angle. I almost thought it was a fake egg-shell until I saw the Boy accidentally crack his as he eagerly spooned out the delicious silky custard. Before I could even giggle and comment I broke mine too!
Unfortunately for Mark, visitors to his restaurant are going to continue walk away underwhelmed if he is unable to obtain staff with the right attitude to serve his customers in the front of house. Despite most of the dishes being quite outstanding certainly not all were so, and when coupled with the lack of personalised service and cold attitudes Marque would not be somewhere I would be keen to return to in a hurry. I have since spoken to two of my relatives who live in Sydney and after dining at Marque twice have formed similar impressions to me each time. Sadly, I walked away disappointed especially as I thought it would be the highlight of my time in Sydney. On a much brighter note, it turns out hanging out with my pal in the Respiratory ward of RPA took first place as the most wonderful experience in a long time. By several miles. (Totes smoop, love ya Garnet Girl xx….)
Check out my other Sydney postsMarque 355 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 2010 | (02) 9332 2225 | www.marquerestaurant.com.au Price: $$$$ (Degustation $150 excluding cheese course, extra $85 for matched wine) Food: 4/5 (definitely some winners here but some that were just ok) Service: 2/5 (for this calibre of restaurant I expect much more) Ambience: 2.5/5 (stark and uninviting) Drinks: 5/5 (my first 5 in some time – matched wines were exceptional – kudos to the sommellier) Total: 13.5/20
It is so exciting to have all my family over in Perth for our engagement party tonight. My Mum and Dad have been divorced since I was a young teenager and so my sister and I have grown accustomed to dividing our time during any major holiday events between each of our parents and their loved ones. Incredibly this party will not only be a first for us all to be together in Perth, but it also will be the first family event that both my parents have attended simultaneously since I was a little child. Understandably I am thrilled to have them all here!
Dad and his wife arrived late the night before so we planned to catch up on the morning of the party for a light brunch and chatter at the Greenhouse. The Greenhouse seems to be a restaurant you either love or you hate. I have eaten here a number of times and have never been disappointed with the food or the service. The bizarre interiors are all made from recycled materials which gives it a real bohemian greenie vibe. Even the light fittings – which look quite spectacular – are actually just made from wound up barbed wire fencing. The meals are served in quirky pieces such as old milk bottles and terracotta plant pots. It definitely is not for everyone, but I love it more and more with each visit.
Last time I came here for breakfast I had wild mushrooms with slow cooked eggs served on my own gluten free bread – it’s such a shame they do not have any gluten free bread available. The mushroom dish was very memorable and I was eager to see if something similar remained on their ever changing seasonal menu. To my exquisite excitement a new version of this dish was on the menu accompanied by their amazingly gooey slow cooked eggs and some grilled polenta. I wasn’t going to need my BYO gluten free bread after all. Everyone at the table except for Dad ordered the mushrooms and none of us were disappointed with our choices. The eggs were perfectly soft and I’m sure there must have been at least four different types of mushrooms in there. As we sat in the fabulous Perth sunshine basking in its therapeutic glow I felt proud to call this city my hometown.
My Dad is a fashion designer for his own shoe label and spends a lot of his time for work in and out of China. So when he saw there was crab congee on the menu it was no surprise to us all when he ordered it for himself. I am yet to decide how I feel about congee; I think it’s my love of eggs for breakfast that always sways me away from choosing to eat it and I always end up opting for ordering a dish with googs instead. I had a little taste of his congee and found the saltiness and texture of the crab gave it that perfect lift, turning it from a potential bland baby food into a filling and delicious meal. Despite this deliciousness, my mushroom addiction overrode any regrets as I quickly devoured my own amazing breakfast and was left wishing the serve was a touch bigger!
After breakfast, I walked back to the car hand in hand with the boy as we both enjoyed the glorious warmth of the sun I could feel it energise me and give me increasing bounce in my stride. We chatted animatedly about our wedding plans for Phuket. By the time we got back to the car I was feeling a little on the ditsy side and I ended up leaving our parking ticket on the boot of the car as we drove off towards the exit. Unable to find the ticket when at the exit, I started to wonder if this beautiful morning was too good to be true and that the party day was destined to be filled with mishaps. We drove back to our original location and the boy started scanning the ground while I rummage through my handbag hastily. But to my surprise and relief there was the paper ticket still sitting there innocently on top of the car boot! We exited the car park without any further drama and made our way back to my Dad’s hotel room where I was spoilt rotten with a whole suitcase of Robert Robert and Diavolina shoes!
Score: Service 7.9/10 Food 9/10 Venue 8.5/10Greenhouse 100 St Georges Terrace, Perth 6000 | (08) 9481 8333 | greenhouseperth.com