This week is the final week for Eat Drink Perth festivities and for my last official EDP hurrah I attended the “South of France” dinner at Blackbird Restaurant in East Perth. Blackbird is a quaint little place tucked away in the corner nook of Claisebrook Cove facing out onto the water. Their focus is on serving traditional rustic European dishes and they have an interesting wine list with a collection of both local and International wines.
The South of France Dinner includes a three course meal accompanied by a bottle of French wine to share for the very reasonable price of $55 per person. I notified the kitchen staff in advance of my gluten free dietary needs and found then to be more than happy to accommodate.
Our entrée consisted of a share plate with three traditional Southern French dishes; a mushroom truffle dip with fresh baguette, pissaladière and salad Nicoise. I am always so grateful that there are many restaurants in Perth that now offer gluten free bread. I accept that these offerings will often be stodgy and, well, gluten free-ish but beggars can’t be choosers they say! I’m just happy to be considered. However for this evening, to my delight, our waiter served our entrée plate accompanied with some gluten free baguette!
Crunchy on the outside, and soft and light on the inside, it actually tasted like real baguette! With Perth’s truffle season creeping up close, I am getting to desperate levels of anticipation for a three month truffle binge. Just a single smear of truffilicious dip on my gluten free baguette was enough to make my eyes beam wide and I started to bounce up and down in my seat with excitement like a child.
Pissaladière is a bit like a French alternative to pizza that is often served in bakeries in Nice on the southern coast of France. It consists of a thick dough topped with caramelised onions, olives, garlic and anchovies. My pissaladiere was adapted by replacing the base with gluten free baguette. Containing caramelised onion meant that this wasn’t exactly a fructose friendly morsel, but sometimes I find it hard to say no to such deliciousness. Although I knew I was going to suffer a bit from onion bloating later on, I temporarily cast aside my worries and got lost in the moment enjoying my gluten free treat.
The final dish on the share plate was a salad Nicoise with green beans, cherry tomatoes, boiled egg, chat potatoes and tuna aioli. The tuna aioli was creamy, rich and packed a powerful flavour kick to the more gentle fresh ingredients.
For the main course there was a choice of two dishes which were also designed to share. The options were either Coq au vin Blanc with Provençale rice, or, Bouillabaisse. My stepmum makes a killer version of both these dishes so it was a hard call to pick which one to order. After some careful deliberation we chose the bouillabaisse.
It was a wise choice. Chunky fillets of Red Emperor were cooked to a flaky perfection and joined cockles and prawns to bath in a bright and heart-warming broth. There was a slight chill in the night air and each mouthful of soup helped warm my bones.
Our dessert required only a slight adaptation to be gluten free with the standard dish consisting of little bite size tart aux pomme, or apple tarts with some fresh stone fruits and brandy cream. The chef made me a gluten free tart by fashioning a shell using a chunk of walnut cake.
Our midweek South of France dinner was one that we arrived with no expectations and walked away more than contented and satisfied.
Growing up with a patriotic French-born father resulted in French cuisine forming a considerable part of my childhood. My Dad grew up in the south of France and so food from this region is something I was taught to know well from a young age. Getting to enjoy some of these classic dishes at Blackbird brought back fond memories of my younger years and it was definitely a weeknight worth leaving the house for.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp’s meal was paid for by the City of Perth as part of her official blogging duties for Eat Drink Perth 2015.
10 Eastbrook Terrace, overlooking Claisebrook Lake, East Perth, WA 6004 | (08) 9225 7880 | blackbirdrestaurant.com.au
East Drink Perth Offer South of France Dinner: $55 per person for two people, three course with a bottle of French wine
Being a Mushroom Mania blogger, I feel like a proud ambassador for the mighty mushroom and consequently it was no surprise to me when I received an invitation to attend the Australian Mushroom Grower Association’s Celebration Dinner as part of their “Mushrooms Support Pink” campaign. This campaign is aimed at helping raise awareness for breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
We were treated to a four course meal with mushrooms featuring in every dish to show off what a versatile and flavoursome food they are.
Over the course of the evening, we were encouraged to enter a raffle to help raise money for cancer research with a number of small pink prizes to go around. The Boy managed to win himself a pink whisk!
None of starters were gluten free and for the first ten minutes of the evening I watched enviously as everyone crooned over the delicious nibbles. After what felt like hours but was really was only minutes, the chef brought me an adapted plate of goodies to eat.
For entrée, we received a wild mushroom consommé with gluten free gnocchi, pickled shimeji mushrooms and tomatoes. It was an unusual mix of flavours and light on the palate.
One of our speakers for the evening was Glenn Cardwell, an accredited dietician who has worked for the National Heart Foundation and has made frequent TV and radio appearances. He talked to us about some interesting research that has shown a potential reduced incidence of breast cancer in women who eat mushrooms regularly. He was advocating eating just three mushrooms a day to gain these lifesaving anti-cancer benefits.
The main course was a slow cooked fillet of West Australian butterflied beef. The beef was very tender and cut like butter. I would have preferred mine to be slightly rarer however I did noticed the Boy’s serve was cooked more to my liking.
The beef was served with a medley of vegetables including fondant potato, white asparagus, baby carrot, cherry tomato and the cutest little nameko mushrooms. A rich Madeira jus was drizzled on top.
Our second speaker for the evening was the General Manager of the AMGA. He talked about his travels in the States where he appreciated how severe the USA is afflicted with obesity and poor nutrition. The need to improve the average American’s diet has led to the of the concept of “blendability”. This is where mushrooms are used to transform meals by chopping them finely to the texture of mince meat and adding them to popular, meat based products like burgers, tacos, meatballs and pasta sauces. When used in this way, not only are mushrooms a natural flavour enhancer but they also help significantly lower the total caloric and fat content of the meal in addition to adding a lot of excellent nutritional value.
As the evening drew to a close, our desserts arrived and we were all curious to see how they could incorporate mushrooms into this course. The non-gluten free option included a chocolate tart and mushroom meringue served on mushroom Anglaise, and raspberry sorbet with candied dried mushrooms.
My gluten free adapted plate was sorely lacking in any mushroomy goodness with a moist Eve’s pudding with warm custard sauce and a wibbly wobbly yoghurt Pannacotta.
Noelene, our MC for the night felt so bad that I didn’t get to try any of the mushroom desserts. Without me even needing to ask, she kindly chased up the chef to find out if any of the components could be assembled gluten free. Within a few minutes I was served some of the mushroom Anglaise with a few candied mushrooms on top. The candied mushrooms were chewy like a firm toffee and I would have loved to have taken a jar home with me!
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Pavilion Restaurant West Coast Institute, Joondalup Campus, E Block, 35 Kendrew Crescent, Joondalup WA 6027 | (08) 9233 1770
You don’t have to be a regular reader of this blog to know that I love my mushrooms. Back in 2012, my passion for this versatile fungi led to me being selected as one of the two official Mushroom Mania bloggers for WA alongside Cynthia from The Food Pornographer. I was only just a newbie blogger at the time and it was one of my first sponsored gigs. I threw my heart and soul into it to ensure that it was worthwhile for both me and the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Since then I have continued to participate in Mushroom Mania on an annual basis with this year being my third year. For 2014, the AGMA went with a much less structured format than in previous years simply giving me a wad of prepaid VISA cards to use at my leisure provided that I ordered and photographed food with mushrooms.
In my usual extravagant style, I poo-pooed the idea of just going to a restaurant and eating one or two mushroom dishes and approached a couple of Perth’s top chefs to hit me up with a specifically designed Mushroom Mania degustation. I started off my journey at the new Highgate restaurant St Michael 6003 where we were taken on a journey of crackles and pops with a few surprises.
For my second part of this journey, I contacted Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amuse to see if he was keen to participate. Amusé is by far and by large the best fine dining restaurant in Perth and this is proven by their succession of accolades won year after year. There is a significant waiting list to get a table but believe me it is worth the wait. We have visited Amuse several times over the years however this was to be the first time since I started blogging. Despite there being many years between visits, I can always be assured that my dietary requirements are not only just catered for, but that they remember them without me having to remind them. The level of attention to detail and customer service is quite out of this world and every visit we have been made to feel like we are special, even when I wasn’t wielding a heavy camera.
Our evening began as is always the custom at Amusé with a few rounds of “snacks”; the first of which were paper thin crackers made from quinoa and some gluten free choux filled with ooey gooey Gruyère cheese fondue. I literally squealed with delight as the liquid cheese dribbled down my fingers.
The second snack looked very innocent but was a powerhouse of flavour; a slice of pickled radish topped with smoked crème fraiche and finished with salmon roe. A faint dusting of leek ash deepened the smoky flavours.
For our last round of snacks we received a bowl of tomato consommé. This little cup of goodness balanced flavours together precisely, with sago and pickled crab meat for texture and a couple of carefully added drops of toasted shell fish oil.
The consomme was finished with fresh lovage, chervil and wild garlic. Lovage has a mild bitter flavour similar to celery and coupled well with the gentle aniseed taste of the chervil.
Both the Boy and I come from families with big appetites. This is in part why the two of us first fell in love. Although I am a small framed person, I can knock back a surprisingly large amount of food and it takes a fair amount of eating to fill me up. I actually think I lack the fullness switch in my brain.
I can always be guaranteed to receive freshly baked gluten free bread at Amusé but even better still, unlike many degustations, it never stops at a single serve. The Bannister Downs house churned butter was whipped to a foamy light texture and I could have nearly eaten it on its own without any bread. Despite knowing we had another eight courses ahead of us, neither of us could turn down the offer for more bread and butter.
For the main courses, Hadleigh chose a different type of mushroom to be the hero ingredient for each dish. The first mushroom to star on the menu were ceps, or porcini mushrooms. These mushrooms are considered by some to be the king of mushrooms and are highly regarded for their meaty texture and nutty, creamy flavour.
A perfect spear of white asparagus from Bickley Valley was paired with crispy house made guanciale, an Italian cured meat made from pork jowl or cheek.
Swirled across the plate were added contrasting flavours from salty bottarga mayonnaise, creamy buttermilk dressing and a nutty flaxseed gomasio. The dish was finished with wafer thin cep milk skins.
Our second course brought more chirrups of delight from me as the enoki mushroom took centre stage. There is something about these adorable mushrooms that never fails to excite me and I have been known to add them at random to a variety of my dishes at home, sometimes inappropriately. Under a blanket of precisely positioned enoki heads was a smooth squid congee made with local Busselton squid. Luscious umami flavours from a mushroom dashi added in sumptuous depth to the dish.
We moved onto a more richly flavour mushroom for the next course using shiitake with chicken rice. I do love my chicken rice but this was a very cultured masterpiece quite unlike any chicken rice I have ever relished in Singapore and beyond. It was a structurally wonderful version with many elements to it to provide that level of wow factor that you can always expect at Amuse.
Roast vinegar chicken and a purée of shiitake were cooked over coals giving a slightly charred taste and served on a bed of traditional Japanese sushi rice. Our waiter served the dish with a chicken broth that was poured tableside.
The chicken was velvety smooth which markedly contrasted the added surprise of crunchy puffed buckwheat and amaranth, crispy nori wafers and a luscious creamy egg emulsion. It was challenge for the senses but in totally good way; with silky, crunchy, meaty and smooth textures all in one mouthful. As one of my colleagues at work loves to say; it was a “party in my mouth!”
It was going to be hard to impress me more than the chicken rice did and while the next dish was divine, it didn’t manage to take away the highlight of its incredible predecessor. Going for something a bit more leftfield, Hadleigh created a dish using lamb sweetbreads and braised morels mushrooms.
Morel mushrooms have a very rich, earthy flavour which went perfectly with the milder tasting, tender sweet breads. It was served on a parsley gremolata and topped with crunchy shoestring fries and crispy salt bush.
With the subdued lighting in the restaurant, the final main course was the hardest to photograph and tested the boundaries of my camera’s capabilities. A Butterfield beef short rib was served with a medley of roasted oyster, pickled shimeji and raw button mushrooms.
Dollops of broad bean puree and black garlic “BBQ” sauce decorated around the plate looking deceptively innocent. The subtle flavours of the bean purée made the polarised sensations of syrupy sweet black garlic BBQ sauce take the Boy’s tastebuds by surprise.
Our pre-dessert was titled cumquat, walnut and apricot. It was one of the few dishes in our degustation without mushrooms as an ingredient and took on the resemblance of one in appearance instead. A very cute gesture. Using cumquat curd and cumquat meringue with smooth walnut ice cream and apricot sorbet, this was the perfect pre-dessert to cleanse our tantalised palate ready for the finale.
Upon reading our menu earlier in the night, I cannot deny I was thoroughly impressed with the addition of mushrooms into the dessert. I was also a teeny bit sceptical. However, if anyone could pull off using mushrooms in a sweet dish, I knew it would be Hadleigh!
A smoked mushroom and chocolate mousse covered in ginger and Geraldton Wax granita was served with whipped blood orange and a ball of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate sorbet wrapped in thin layer of crisp white chocolate.
To add a final bit of zing to the dish some blood orange sherbet tumbled over the top like a cascade of snow. Neither of us uttered a single word as we devoured each mouthful in a blissful state of rare silence.
To end our night of wonderment, we were given hot cups of fresh mint tea infused with native pepper berries. After all the colours of overindulgence, the tea helped kick start our digestion and we both drifted off into the beginnings of a food coma. The tea was paired with some vanilla infused West Australian desert limes and a couple of passion fruit and white chocolate drops for a kick of sweetness.
I cannot believe we left it this long between visits to Amusé, this being our fourth visit since they opened eight years ago. After each and every visit the two of us have walked away from a faultless evening. The service is exquisitely polished with every dish unique and equally incredible. If you haven’t been yet, you are seriously missing out.Disclaimer: This amazing degustation was funded by the Australian Mushroom Growers Association as part of Mushroom Mania 2014. Full of fibre, flavour and containing many scientifically proven health properties, the mushroom is a food that should be on everyone’s weekly shopping list. We are fortunate enough in Australia to be able to source a wide variety of mushrooms to eat with each variety having its own individual flavour and texture. For more information head to the Power of Mushrooms website. Restaurant Amusé 64 Bronte Street, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9325 4900 | www.restaurantamuse.com.au
Being the only food blogger in the family means the decision on where to go for dinner is invariably left up to me. I am by no means complaining about this allocated role however it does mean that my choices are often somewhat biased towards what I want to eat. For the Boy’s birthday this year, I wanted to make sure it was somewhere HE wanted to go. Upon his request I gave him a short list of choices and left him to do his own research. His first choice was Chefz Table however at the last minute they called to inform us that the restaurant was unexpectantly closing for the weekend. With only two days to find somewhere to book, I was worried we would be stuck with nowhere to go but fortunately managed to grab a table at the Boy’s second choice the Wild Duck in Nedlands.
We have visited the Wild Duck a couple of times when they were located in Albany. On our most recent visit we even managed to wow my stepdad by giving him his first experience of a degustation meal complete with fancy foams and gels. The Boy has very fond memories of Albany and was happy to see how this creative restaurant has managed moving up to the big smoke.
Our evening began with the chef’s amuse bouche, a Thai influenced fish cake with a herb aioli. This tasty morsel wasn’t gluten free. My gluten free replacement was a single but super fresh oyster from Franklin Harbour.
These South Australian oysters are always so plump and creamy and never fail to excite me. I also chose to have the matched wines with our degustation however I couldn’t help myself from starting the meal with an additional glass of bubbles. In hindsight, I should remember that when doing a degustation with matched wines, I don’t NEED that extra glass of bubbles.
Our first course was a cute little mug of broccoli soup. It was wintry cold and rainy outside and the warming soup was a perfect choice to ease us into an evening of eating and birthday celebrations. The thick creamy soup had a hint of sweet from the swirl of balsamic reduction and ended with a familiar tang from the crumbled Meredith Dairy goats cheese.
Our second entrée was the beef carpaccio. The paper thin slices of brilliant, ruby red beef dissolved on my tongue in a second. Textural contrasts with some shaved fennel and watercress added layers of flavours which were accentuated by fresh horseradish and beetroot. The dish was finished with a sumptuous drizzle of slow cooked egg yolk. We had barely been there an hour and already we had enjoyed some of my favourites of all time; fresh oysters, champagne and slow cooked egg.
Next up was the confit salmon. A perfect bite of salmon slow cooked at 42 degrees proved to be just as outstanding as our previous dishes. I loved how each dish contained elements of contrasting textures and flavours. Served with the salmon were pickled and charred cucumber and fresh samphire which added both crunchy and salty aspects to the palate. This was all smoothed out beautifully by some dollops of crème fraiche and drizzles of a dill infusion oil.
Unlike many of my fellow pork-obsessive bloggers, I don’t eat a lot of pork and I would rarely choose it unless it was part of a tasting menu. Consequently when I do eat it, it has to be pretty damn good for me to enjoy it. Wild Duck’s confit pork belly is prepared using slow cooking techniques over 16 hours resulting in a buttery soft texture and no greasy porky aftertaste. The crispy skin cracked exuberantly in my mouth making me giggle too loudly thanks my increasingly intoxicated state.
The pork belly was served with a steamed pork bun which for me was adapted to be gluten free by leaving out the dumpling skin and serving me just the stuffing. Some grilled polenta, smooth sweetcorn purée, cubes of warm apple jellies and a crunchy apple and micro herb salad completed the dish.
Wild Duck offer a couple of optional extras with their degustation and in our usual state of gluttony we agreed to order both. The first optional course was a rabbit roulade with dates and pistachio alongside a red wine braised rabbit croquette. This dish was unable to be changed to be gluten free so the chef offered to make me something different.
My replacement dish was a duo of beef. Winter really is the time to get slow cooking and one of the best cuts of beef to slow cook is the cheek. My first time I tried cheek was moons ago prior to my blogging days at the Loose Box in Mundaring and I will never forget this memorable meal. Wild Duck’s dish was similarly heart-warming with wondrous soft shreds of beef cheek accompanying a charred nub of Black Angus fillet. It was served with a fondant potato, beetroot and cauliflower crumble, sousvide honey thyme carrots and a cauliflower purée.
I had restrained from eating for most of the day to save room for dinner and it was becoming progressively obvious to the Boy that I was quite drunk. My voice volume was slowly increasing and my attention to detail to my photography had all but expired. The Boy reached across the table to grab my camera and flipped quickly through some of my shots whilst raising his eyebrows at me. I slurped up my sorbet noisily and returned his gaze with a coy smile.
Consequently details of our final main dish is a little foggier than I would prefer and the angling of my photo is somewhat clumsy. A fillet of crispy skinned duck breast was paired with cubes of grilled speck bacon, aniseed poached pears and braised honey carrots. Coloured smears of carrot purée and creamed peas made this dish quite a substantial one, this wasn’t a degustation where we went home hungry.
Our second optional course was the pre-dessert; a picture perfect lemon soufflé with coconut ice cream. It was powder puff light and I could nearly hear the “poof” as I plunged my spoon in the ramekin. In fact I vaguely recall mimicking that “poof” noise as I tucked into it.
Our evening ended with the Wild Duck’s chocolate delice; a decadent mousse made from cream, eggs and chocolate. Scattered across my plate like Willy Wonka’s garden were wibbly-wobbly strawberry jellies, strawberry sponge and crunchy meringue kisses adorned with blobs of yoghurt parfait, fresh strawberries and bright pink strawberry powder. A bright and cheerful way to end a joyful evening together.
Happy Birthday to my best friend and my one true love. I love you and I love my life with you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Chompchomp paid for this meal out of her own pocket however at the end of the night the Boy reminded her to use their digital version of the Entertainment card to receive a $40 discount of the total bill. Wild Duck 35 Hampden Road, Nedlands WA 6009 | http://www.wildduckrestaurant.com/ $$$$ (Seven course degustation $105, nine course degustation $130, $50 extra for matched wines)
Being gluten free and having a mostly vegetarian husband, Korean restaurants are not usually our type of thing. From my experience it is a type of cuisine that tends to use marinades containing gluten and will also have a lot of meat based dishes. At the beginning of the year I was invited to visit The Gaya in Applecross where I was amazed at the number of gluten free options on their menu. I got so excited I nearly ordered everything and struggled to sleep that night as I had eaten way too much. It was a fabulous night out with the food exceeding our expectations in both its presentation and taste. We both agreed we should make plans to return but never actually got around to doing it. Six months later Gaya’s Head Chef Leo invited me to return back to his restaurant to try a few of his new dishes.
In contrast to our previous visit, the restaurant was much busier with most tables booked and the lights dimmed to create a more ambient atmosphere. I scanned over the menu and noted there were still a reasonable number of gluten free dishes available however a few that were previously gluten free were no longer so including the arancini. I enquired to Leo the reason for this and he informed me that he has had difficulty obtaining gluten free panko crumbs. Such a shame as his arancini were really good! Never mind, we were here to try the new dishes and not stuff our faces with favourites of the past!
Our first dish was the grilled tofu with homemade kimchi. The tofu was silken soft with the texture of egg custard. The kimchi was mild without too much kick in it much to the relief of the Boy who can get quite grumpy if I order spicy food that he cannot eat.
Our second starter was yook jijimi, a type of beef pancake. Thin slices of beef coated in glutinous rice flour and egg were fried and served with Korean garlic chives, crispy fried enoki mushrooms and roasted pine nut salt. In traditional Korean herbal medicine garlic chives are commonly used for a variety of benefits. Chef Leo loves adding them to many of his dishes to help give his customers “good health”.
For this visit to Gaya I managed to show much greater self-control and only ordered us three starters instead of the five that we ate last time. Our third starter was the beef brisket salad. Leo informed me that brisket is a popular cut of meat used in Korea however he has discovered it isn’t one commonly sold in Perth. He has managed to source his brisket from a specialised local Korean butcher. The brisket was sliced and lightly grilled to give a strangely buttery texture due to its high fat content. It was served with a mixed salad of mesclun leaves, tomato and cucumber. As the Boy doesn’t really eat much meat he left this one for me to enjoy.
To accompany our main meals we once again each received the complimentary side dish. This dish changes most evenings so regular customers won’t get the same dish twice. This night we were served Korean meatball with chopped tofu and vegetable, white kimchi and radish kimchi.
The Boy got little choice with selecting his meals as it was my goal was to try to order anything on the menu that fitted my two criteria; one that it was gluten free, and two that it was a new, yet to be tried dish. For our first main I ordered the grilled salmon.
The thick salmon steak had been marinated in yuzu allowing the flavours to penetrate right through the fillet. I prefer my salmon to be served rare and it was cooked a little bit past this point however still remained quite soft and flaky.
It accompanied a warm stack of vegetables including zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant and enoki mushrooms with a polite sized ball of sticky coconut rice. The dish was an interesting balance of sweet and citrus ending with a spicy finish from the Korean chilli sauce drizzled over the top. The fusion of more Western styled vegetables with the remaining Korean components worked well to my relatively untrained palate.
Our second dish was the samgyetang; a type of ginseng chicken soup. Samgyetang is a dish commonly served in Korean during summer as it is claimed to help replenish the body with nutrients lost through sweating. A whole baby chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice and boiled in a broth of Korean ginseng, red dates, garlic and ginger. Traditionally a number of medicinal herbs are also added to the broth.
Whilst this appeared to be a simple bowl of chicken soup, once I sipped the broth I realised what care had been taken in its preparation as the flavours were very nourishing and heart-warming. Whilst I struggled to imagine drinking this soup in the heat of summertime, I could easily picture myself snuggled up to the cats, sick in bed with the flu whilst sipping on this delicious medicine to aid my recovery.
As an interlude whilst we made room for dessert, we were given the second complementary dish of the evening. It was a serve of small shortbread-like biscuits that I correctly presumed not to be gluten free and left them for the Boy to nibble on. He told me the biscuit was nothing particularly special but I thought it was a nice touch for customers to receive something extra for free.
For dessert I caved and ordered the Gaya Ho-tuck, one of my favourites from our previous visit. Ho-tuck is a type of Korean pancake that is served by street food vendors in Korea. They consist of small pancakes made with glutinous rice flour and stuffed with brown sugar, sunflower seeds, peanuts and pine nuts before being deep-fried. The ho-tuck are then dusted in cinnamon and sugar before being torched to caramelise before serving. Not something I would recommended if you have a heart problem or diabetes, but for the rest of us a delightful treat.
The new dessert on the menu is the Gaya’s homemade Gold Pave chocolates. Three different flavours of homemade chocolates topped with flamboyant gold flakes certainly made a sparking bright end to the night. The three flavours were cacao, matcha and mixed grain.
The cacao and matcha flavours were gluten free but the mixed grain contained barley along with rice, bean, sesame and adlay (a type of millet). Leo advised me that he is likely to remove the barley from this in the future to make this third chocolate gluten free like the others.
It was wonderful to return to the Gaya once again and see that Chef Leo and his team’s hard work is paying off with a fully booked restaurant, an interesting and changing menu and very affordable dishes.The Gaya Applecross Shop 3 & 4, 3 Kearns Crescent, Ardross WA | (08) 9364 8887 | www.the-gaya.com Chompchomp dined as a guest of The Gaya Applecross. As it is too hard to be 100% subjective with a complementary meal I will refrain from giving a review or score and will purely just document my experience.
Something many of you may not know about me is that I am a quarter Chinese. My grandfather Wun on Tong immigrated from the Canton province in China to New Zealand in the 1930’s to flee the changes in government. He met my Irish grandmother in Auckland; they married and had a family of three children with my mum being the youngest. As is sometimes the way, their marriage unfortunately wasn’t meant to be and she left the children to be raised by their loving but hard working father. Sadly I never got to meet my grandfather as he passed away before I was born but my mum has very fond memories of him and has shown me some gorgeous photos of him. He was quite a handsome man!
My Chinese ancestry is one I know little about and I wish I had more knowledge of this side of my family. I love traditional Chinese food culture and I am not averse to trying unusual dishes however I am often heavily restricted with what I can actually eat because of gluten. Soy sauce is used ubiquitously in Asian cuisine however I am yet to see a bottle of gluten free soy sauce on supermarket shelves in any of the Asian countries I have visited.
Recently on our return from our Thailand wedding we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore. One evening we dined at their Cantonese restaurant Cherry Garden and I was blown away how capable they were at accommodating my gluten free requirements.
I don’t usually like eating at the hotel we stay in excluding breakfast but with our post-wedding exhaustion kicking in we were both happy to be able to dine out without having to go very far. On arrival at Cherry Garden we were warmly greeted and taken to our table. We were offered some crispy fish as a complementary starter. They were like prawn crackers; crunchy, quite salty and very tasty. Fish pretzels!
One of my favourite Cantonese starters is chilled jelly fish. This is considered a delicacy and is usually prepared with oil, vinegar, chilli, sesame seeds and soy sauce. The chef was happy to make this dish gluten free for me. The jelly fish had the perfect texture and was resilient without any excessive chewiness. It wasn’t too spicy either meaning both the Boy and I could enjoy it together. We have mismatched chilli tolerances; he can barely tolerate any whilst I enjoy a bit of kick. Our polarised taste buds can run us into trouble sometimes when we share spicy meals.
Our next dish was a “trilogy of hand-picked mushrooms “. There were shiitake mushrooms in a spicy garlic vinegar emulsion and some Monkey head mushrooms in a tangy sweet and sour sauce.
The third and best part of this dish was the deep fried enoki mushrooms. Frying these tiny little things turned them into semi-translucent crisps that almost reminded me of whitebait. Being such a mushroom addict I was in seventh heaven, the combination of these three morsels made it a truly delectable dish. As we gobbled up the portions we were glad we didn’t choose the set menu as we would have never got this dish.
After walking past a number of bird’s nest stores earlier in the day, we were intrigued enough to try this delicacy for ourselves. Edible bird’s nests are among one of the most expensive animal products in the world with an average nest selling for about $US 2500 per kilo. When added to a soup, the bird’s nest forms a gelatinous substance. I was surprised at how mild its flavour was and it had quite a firm texture. The addition of crab and egg white gave the soup a lovely sweet after taste however I went bit nuts with adding the chilli oil to my soup, added too much and ended up nearly coughing up a lung.
Our next dish wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I ordered chilli crab anticipating it to be whole pieces of crab however out came a creamy crab soup. The Boy’s soup was served in a Mantou which is a type of Chinese bun and for mine they replaced this with some gluten free bread on the side. Considering how many fine dining Western restaurants don’t bother sourcing gluten free bread I was very impressed to be served some here. The soup was so velvety smooth and despite not being what I wanted I was not left disappointed.
Our final main dish was braised homemade tofu with monkey head mushrooms and green vegetables. The tofu was set with seaweed on top and was incredibly silky. It makes such a difference in texture when the tofu is made in house.
At this point our attention was drawn away from our own table and over to the couple next to us. The waiter had just brought out a spectacular looking dessert complete with dry ice. The smoke was tumbling down off the edge of their table and was mesmerising. I hoped that we could order one too. I was in luck once more. The waiter said that it would be possible to do a similar dessert gluten free. This would have to be the first time I have eaten a gluten free meal in a Chinese restaurant and not felt like I miss out whatsoever.
Our dessert consisted of cherries marinated in two Chinese rice wines: Nui er hong and Kuei hua chen. It was served with refreshing lychee sorbet. After so many courses it was good to end on something light but sweet.
Our experience at Cherry Garden was a polished one from beginning to end. It was a little on the pricey end but we did eat a number of delicacies and receive impeccable service. Their ability to adapt their traditional dishes to be gluten free was done with a can-do attitude and at the end of the night our waiter came over and gave me a fresh long stemmed rose to keep. A sweet gesture that brightened up our hotel room for the duration of our stay.www.mandarinoriental.com Price: $$$ Food: 4.5/5 (totally adapted for GF, wonderful flavours) Service: 5/5 (very polished without stuffiness) Ambience: 3/5 (a little dark and not a lot of other diners) Drinks: 3.5/5 (inflated mark ups on wine prices as often in hotels) Total: 16/20
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
My first experience of Red Hot Spatula’s cooking was at the Clandestine Cake Club last year. Yvonne made these amazing gluten free Asian cakes called Kuihs that were steamed cakes made with rice flour, green bean flour and tapioca flour. I greedily ate a number of them that day before I physically had to stop myself from over eating my welcome. In fact I loved them so much that a few short weeks later I ordered a batch of my own to be delivered to work to share with my colleagues.
Since then Yvonne and I have crossed paths at many foodie events, markets and degustation evenings and I have grown to appreciate her passion and drive for success. Her business has grown from strength to strength and it is so inspiring to see someone reap the rewards from so much hard work.
She recently conducted a series of cooking classes themed on Asian and Exotic food at the Accento Home Kitchen in Claremont. I chose to attend the evening titled “Cambodia and Thailand – The art of balancing flavours from fresh herbs to chillies”. I invited one of my close friends Tara to join me knowing she would enjoy this style of girl’s night out as much as I would, especially as it included wine!
For the duration of the evening we all sat around the exquisite gourmet kitchen in a very relaxed manner laughing, giggling and sharing stories about food. Each course was carefully matched with wines from Swan Valley Wines, a boutique family winery that has produced wines in the valley for over twenty years.
We were all provided with detailed recipes for each dish including tips on where to obtain the freshest and cheapest ingredients around Perth. For someone who has very little spare time in the kitchen, I was impressed with how easy each dish was to prepare and felt confident I could take the recipes and new skills straight home with me and prepare something delicious for the Boy and I to enjoy together.
I offer a word of warning about these cooking classes; make sure you arrive with an empty belly! I was glad I had prepared for such a feast and eaten a very light lunch. By the time we got to the dessert we were all pleasantly full. Needless to say that didn’t stop Tara and I reaching for the bowl of sauce for the sweet sticky rice and scraping out the least dregs with our spoons grinning childishly.
The next round of Red Hot Spatula’s cooking classes kick off from October 2013 and will be held at their new facilities in Middle Swan. She will be covering a variety of popular topics including gluten free cooking, how to make healthy lunch boxes for fussy eaters, how to use super foods to promote better health and how to pull together the perfect High Tea.
For more information on their upcoming events and contact details head over to Red Hot Spatula’s Facebook page.
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
Part Two: Our Phuket Wedding Villa at Andara Resort
After a few short and very hectic days staying at the stunning Andara Resort in one of their Pool Residences we finished off our last-minute Phuket wedding planning just in time for our wedding guests to start to arrive. This moment signalled our “moving day” where we were to move into the villa of our dreams. This would be the place where we would say our vows, become husband and wife and spend our first days as Mr and Mrs together. Eeeeek! So exciting!
Andara’s villas are situated up high on the mountain side overlooking the Andaman Sea. Each villa has its own full-time staff including a private chef. The villas are kept in an immaculate state and no matter where I took photos from various points around our enormous lodgings; I could never completely capture its incredible emotion and beauty. After an initial scare where our original choice of villa was alleged to have water damage, we managed with some persuasion to negotiate getting a larger but just as beautiful villa replacement.
Our master bedroom opened out onto our private balcony with expansive views of the Andaman sea and angled to afford glimpses of the sun setting into the sea. Our bathroom was as big as our living room at home with a massive spa once again with those incredible sea views. Our bath was filled with rose petals both on our arrival and also for our wedding night. We each had our own separate walk in robes meaning all my wedding attire could be hidden away from prying groom’s eyes until our big day.
The villa was an enormous building set over three levels allowing each of our guests their own private areas. There are two separate indoor living areas; a living room with a ten seater dining table and a separate family room. Both are equipped with large flat screen TVs and entertainment systems.
Despite the opulence and spaciousness for indoor relaxing; most of us spent the week outdoors basking around the infinity pool and eating under the sala. I couldn’t understand why you would want to dine indoors when there was such a beautiful view to gaze upon outdoors.
Our villa’s chef Su proved to be one of the biggest assets to this breath-taking villa and we would have all loved for her to return home with us to Australia! Every time we chose to eat out in Phuket we were reminded how much better Su’s food was and we should have just stayed at the villa and let her look after us.
She would approach us each morning after we finished eating our cooked breakfast in order to plan our menu for the day so she could head down to the markets and buy all the produce fresh. Nothing was too much trouble for her and she never complained about all the “blow-in” guests we repeatedly invited up to the villa to join us.
For our first night we invited all wedding guests up to the villa for a “casual” BBQ to welcome them all to Thailand. Expecting something simple, we were in no way prepared for the half a dozen or so staff that came up hours in advance to set up for the party.
Tables were set with white linen, flower centrepieces placed on the tables, bamboo flame torches embedded in the garden around the pool and a bar was set up complete with a bartender. This was to be the standard of attention and care we received throughout the duration of our stay making us really feel like we were kings and queens. This could be a lifestyle I could easily get used to if I had the money for it to be sustainable!
The only downside of Andara’s villas is their price tag. This level of luxury and opulence doesn’t come cheap. In the lead up to our stay I cannot deny I was cringing at the cost, but in all honesty our week staying at our villa was truly the best week of my life and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
For all my Phuket Wedding related posts click hereAndara Resort and Villas 15 Moo 6, Kamala Beach, Kathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand
Although I would prefer to experience the summer heat over the winter chills any day there is one major highlight of the winter months: the truffle season. From the very beginning of the truffle season I start searching for events, dinners and menus that feature this delicacy and have been known to get a bit obsessed. We don’t often buy voucher meals as I rarely find them to be good value but I couldn’t resist when I spotted a Groupon for a five course truffle degustation for two for only $129 at Friends Restaurant at the Hyatt.
When I called up to make a booking I found that there were very few options available for voucher holders as we couldn’t book on weekends or book when there was any theatre playing. Despite calling to make our booking shortly after purchasing the voucher, I was informed rather abruptly that there were only a couple of nights available. I enquired if my meal could be adapted to be gluten free and was told there would be no problem with this it would just mean I received a different dessert.
The interior of the restaurant is in serious need of updating with the carpet reminiscent of the seventies and a dusty looking faux tree in the centre of the restaurant lit up with fairy lights. The walls were adorned with Awards from a similar yesteryear with most of them at least a decade old.
Within minutes of being seated, the Boy was offered a selection of breads and our waitress offered some gluten free bread for me. I thought this was a good start to the evening and didn’t expect somewhere old fashioned like this to have gluten free bread available. Our vegetable soup arrived promptly afterwards and although it was indeed creamy, there was not much grated truffle to be seen. I squinted at black specks at the bottom of my bowl and figured they must have been it. I nibbled on one and found there was no familiar truffle after taste.
Our entrée of citrus cured Tasmanian salmon was served with pickled black truffle and carrot, Dijonnaise and a blue swimmer crab and mascarpone salad. The Boy commented that the style of plating was a little on the old fashioned side but in defence the ingredients were all fresh. I struggled to taste any truffle flavour in this dish either.
This evening occurred shortly before the Boy’s recent conversion to vegetarianism and it may very well go down on record as one of the last beef dishes he ever ate. Buttery soft beef cheeks had been braised to a delicate tenderness and again the dish was plated with utmost nineties styled precision. The accompanying truffle mash had an obvious truffle aroma and as he started to tuck into his I was keen to see what my gluten free alternative was.
Alas I was soon to be disappointed. Bear in mind I had specifically chosen this meal as a truffle degustation and I didn’t think I would be expecting too much to want truffle with each course. Instead for my main I received a relatively overcooked piece of fish, I think it was snapper but I cannot recall precisely, which was served with pesto beans. I eyed off the Boy’s dish enviously as he savoured every mouthful.
Our cheese course was a wedge of truffled brie served with a fig terrine, crackers, caramelised nuts and a couple of celery sticks. Yes, you heard right. Celery sticks. Am I crazy for thinking this was a bit weird? I asked our waitress if she thought it was strange and she looked at me like I was the crazy one.
My cheese course came with a muffin of gluten free bread as a replacement for the crackers. Whilst the cheese was not served at room temperature and remained a little too firm, the truffle centre finally gave me the taste of truffle I had been waiting the whole meal for.
As if my envy for the Boy’s succulent beef cheeks wasn’t anguish enough for me, out came his dessert; a shining glossy chocolate and banana mousse cake with honey comb crumbles and strawberry coulis. Scooped at the end of his plate was a neat ball of truffle ice cream. More truffles. I knew I was going to miss out again. Sigh.
My crème brûlée was by no means anything to complain about. Except it had no truffle. The crispy top layer was millimetres thin and cracked rewardingly with gentle pressure from my spoon to reveal smooth creaminess beneath.
We found the service at Friends to be highly efficient border-lining on serious with each waitress whizzing around the dining room floor with exact precision. Each course with its matched wine was timed like a well-played Tetris game never leaving us hungry, waiting or thirsty. If you enjoy old school fine dining then this is the place for you.Friends Restaurant 20 Terrace Road, Hyatt Centre, East Perth WA 6004 | 08 9221 0885 | http://www.friendsrestaurant.com.au/ Price: $$$$ (Truffle Tasting menu normally $125 per person, 10 course degustation $155) Food: 3/5 (Highs: beef cheeks and chocolate mousse cake. Lows: overcooked fish) Service: 4.5/5 (faultless but serious) Ambience: 2/5 (dining room in desperate need of a zoozsh) Drinks: 3.5/5 (good selection of matches, I particularly enjoyed the Zema Estate Coonawarra Cab Sauv 2009) Total: 13/20
I am fortunate enough to work on the doorstep of the Swan Valley. This means that it is relatively easy to have some office meetings out and about and over the years we have developed a few favourites. Taylor’s Art and Coffee House has been one of those locations mainly due to their excellent coffee and interesting range of gluten free cakes. Their coffee is sourced from a small local company called Dark Star who roast their own imported beans on site in Northbridge. It is a full flavoured coffee that is perfect for an espresso or short mac, just how I like it.
Choosing a venue to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday was left up to me and with some winter sunshine on the forecast I suggested a trip to the valley. The Boy’s family appreciate eating big hearty meals in a casual relaxed dining atmosphere so I knew Taylor’s Art and Coffee House would fit the bill perfectly. No pretension or tiny plates of food.
Having never been here before on a weekend I was surprised to see the place was packed inside and out. Although the winter sun was shining brightly there was little warmth coming from its golden rays so we made ourselves comfortable inside under the heaters.
There were a few winter coughs and snuffles around the table so we all treated ourselves to a bowl of hot soup of the day to warm our bellies and sooth our throats. Unfortunately a few of the bowls that were brought to our table were lukewarm and had to be sent back to the kitchen to be reheated. The smooth and creamy corn soup provided excellent value at just $9 for a small bowl however I did think the one thin slice of accompanying gluten free bread was a bit on the stingy side. On previous occasions I have received a couple of slices with my soup, I’m not sure if they were on bread rations that day and were running out?
For my main I ordered the vegetarian frittata made with eggplant, fire roasted capsicum, basil, spinach and feta. It came with a massive side serve of salad containing sweet potato, pine nuts and fresh greens. The serving size was enormous and I starting wishing I didn’t order the soup as well. I guess I didn’t really need that extra piece of toast with my soup after all! The frittata could have done with a touch more seasoning and was very slightly burnt on the bottom. The huge salad was very filling even for my over-sized stomach and it was a struggle to finish it. Once again I felt this was value for money.
The Boy ordered the vegan burger. It contained a falafel patty with cashew cheese, beetroot relish and fire roasted capsicum. He was very disappointed with his choice and barely ate any of it. He said the bread was too hard and tasted almost stale; the burger patty was very soft and crumbled apart too easily and the relish was far too spicy for his liking. What a shame because it looked really tasty.
My mother in law ordered the mushroom tart with caramelised garlic, chevre and salmon. I didn’t really get a lot of adjectives from her describing its taste but I do know she enjoyed it and had no complaints.
My sister-in-law ordered the chermoula chicken salad. I have had this salad on a couple of occasions and once again the serving size is more than ample and will leave you contentedly full. Pieces of chermoula marinated chicken were served with a high mound of roasted sweet potato, beetroot, chickpeas, spinach, spiced yoghurt and a garlic walnut crumble. The flavours all work nicely together with a lovely balance of textures and a slight spicy kick.
One of the main reasons I came back to Taylor’s was that I knew they had a few gluten free options for dessert. However by the time I had eaten my soup, my huge plate of salad and my frittata I was bursting at the seams. When we were ordering our lunch earlier I spied a pile of rich cubes of gluten free chocolate brownies in the cake cabinet and was sure that between the Boy and I we could polish one off. Unbeknownst to me my young nephew had also decided that HE wanted a brownie too. When we returned back to the counter to order our coffee and cakes, the mound of brownies had been reduced to a mere single square! I figured that must be a signal to me to stop being greedy and let him order it for himself, not without stealing a few mouthfuls though! It was moist and very chocolatey, there would have been no way I could have eaten one to myself after all the food I had already chowed down.
I still haven’t quite made up my mind about Taylor’s Art and Coffee House; whilst their coffees and cakes are worth a visit the execution in the kitchen didn’t seem to handle the busyness of weekend brunch. I haven’t had such problems during my mid-week visits and I can assure you I will still return.Taylor’s Art and Coffee House 510 Great Northern Highway, Middle Swan 6056 | 0447 441 223 | http://www.taylorscafe.com.au/ Price: $$ Food: 2.5/5 (awesome coffee & cakes but lukewarm soup and inedible vegan burger) Service: 3/5 (slow service but friendly enough, the barista is a character who shows passion & enthusiasm) Ambience: 3/5 (quaint, relaxed country feel) Drinks: 4/5 (the coffee won me over) Total: 12.5/20
I have a tendency to brag about Perth’s balmy weather but the reality of it is that by having great weather for most of the year many of us Perthites are poorly acclimatised for any remote resemblance of winter. We are notorious for being winter whingers when the reality of it is our winters are comparatively short and mild and we really have nothing to complain about. The Boy and I have been sticking to our Raw Food Meatless Monday for over four weeks now and both of us are feeling vibrant and our skin is glowing. Or maybe that’s still some post wedding bliss?!
However waking up in the morning when it is still dark outside and the temperature is in the single digits drinking a cold smoothie isn’t that enjoyable, no matter how tasty and nutritious it is. So prompted by this cold snap, I decided this week our Raw Food breakfast would be a raw vegan red pepper soup instead; warmed in just minutes by using my blender on high speed which then gently heats the soup with friction.
- 1 cup roughly chopped red bell capsicum (approx. 1 medium pepper)
- ½ cup of cashew cream
- ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
- ½ cup more diced red capsicum (reserve for garnish - do not blend)
- ½ tbsp. parsley
- Add ingredients (except for the garnish) into the blender on low speed until smooth, then blend on medium to high until warmed.
Adapted from www.therawtarian.com
Cucumber & Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Almond Sauce recipe has been moved. Click here for the recipe.
The Boy’s review of the Raw Vegan Red Pepper Soup & Cucumber & Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Almond Sauce:
With the “cold” of winter making its brief appearance in Perth these last couple of weeks Chomp decided that it was time to make a nice warm raw soup for breakfast rather than the usual cold smoothie. Her choice of a raw Red Capsicum Soup was spot on for a cold winter’s morning and was absolutely delicious without being too heavy or filling. Being only lightly warm it needs to be eaten quickly as it loses some of its appeal once it cools down to room temperature.
Our dinner that night was one of my favourite raw, vegan dishes – Raw Zucchini Noodles – which we first had at the Raw Kitchen in Fremantle last year. Chomp’s interpretation of the dish was a Cucumber & Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Almond Sauce and without a doubt it was a winner. There is something about Zucchini noodles that just really appeals to me and I actually prefer them over the real pasta. This dish was beautifully prepared with the almond sauce, pumpkin seeds and goji berries complementing the cucumber and zucchini perfectly.
Both of the dishes were fantastic this week and it is going to be a shame that it ends next week as I am quite enjoying having all these new, interesting meals cooked for me!
Over the next coming weeks I will be publishing some blender recipes that I have created with my OmniBlend. The concept is for each Monday to not only stick with Meatless Monday and eat only vegetarian but to take it to the next level and make it a Raw Food Meatless Monday. For the whole day we will only eat raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and fructose friendly.
They say it takes us on average around 21-28 days to form a habit. The Boy and I are only entering into the beginning of Week Three of our Raw and Meatless Mondays and I am finding that our vegetarianism stretches to encompass most of the week. Last night we ordered some take out from our local Thai restaurant Little Ying and the Boy insisted that I only order vegetarian dishes. He has embraced this new approach to eating with much more gusto than I anticipated. I ordered some Tom Yum Goong for us and I even saw him scoop out the prawns and plop them into my bowl.
With memories of Thailand still fresh in my mind I was inspired to create this highly addictive green smoothie for our Monday morning breakfast.
- 2 Cups Fresh Pineapple
- 2-3 Frozen Ripe Bananas
- 1 Cup LIght Coconut Milk (you may need a bit more if you want a thinner consistency)
- 2 Tbsp Shredded Coconut
- 1 Cup Kale
- Place all ingredients into the blender and blend on high for one minute or until smooth. Drink immediately.
Our soup for this evening requires a little extra time in the blender in order to slightly warm it before serving. You can only do this with the more durable makes of blender so check beforehand so you don’t burn your machine out. The OmniBlend is designed to be able to heat soups without damaging the motor. I used my meat thermometer to heat it to about 50 degrees.
- 1 stalk of celery (include the leaves)
- 1 cup of carrots
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- ½ red capsicum, chopped
- 5 cups water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Blend all ingredients in blender until warm.
- Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with chopped red bell peppers.
This recipe is adapted from www.rawfoodrecipes.com
The Boy’s review of the Pineapple Kale Smoothie & Creamy Garden Chowder:“Three weeks into this diet experiment and it is rapidly becoming second nature with all my routine meals now replaced by healthy vegetarian alternatives. The health benefits have already started to show as I have lost a few kilograms of weight and my energy levels are continuing to increase. This week’s smoothie was a rich blend of Banana, Pineapple and Kale blended with Coconut and it was difficult to tell that it wasn’t a standard dairy based smoothie. The Banana and Coconut are an excellent combination and made for a very delicious drink. While very refreshing it was quite heavy and I was left wondering how many calories it contained. The Creamy Garden Chowder was a nice enjoyable dish with a slightly unusual taste which grew on me as I ate it. While satisfying it was not overly filling and makes a good dish for a day when you don’t want a big meal. If you struggle eating cold soups perhaps this style of warmed soup offers a potential alternative to the standard cooked and very hot traditional soup.”
Over the next coming weeks I will be publishing some blender recipes that I have created with my OmniBlend. The concept is for each Monday to not only stick with Meatless Monday and eat only vegetarian but to take it to the next level and make it a Raw Food Meatless Monday. For the whole day we will only eat raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and fructose friendly.
Over the past few years, the Boy and I have made a natural progression to eating a more vegetarian based diet. Whilst not completely giving up eating meat all together, our intake has been dramatically reduced such that our initial goal of a Meatless Monday has now extended into several days a week.
Our reasons for vegetarianism are twofold.
Our first reason comes back to being compassionate human beings. Can we truly justify the way we farm production animals? Housed in completely unnatural environments with cramped stocking densities and fed highly processed foods such as pellets and other animal proteins? Worst still, how can we know that every animal that is slaughtered for our consumption didn’t suffer in the process? Many of you may have seen Animals Australia’s shocking footage of our live export cattle in Indonesia abattoirs last year. We were all left outraged and distraught at the horrific treatment of these innocent beasts. But these events are by no means isolated and happen all around the world every day. While I understand that sometimes brutal death is a part of life in the natural world, I am certain a lion hunting a gazelle in Africa doesn’t stop to consider her prey’s welfare before she kills it. But unlike these majestic big cats, we humans choose to slaughter animals to eat on a much larger scale than is necessary for our own survival.
Our second reason for changing our diet is purely selfish. It is a well-known fact that the more vegetables you include in your diet the healthier you will be. Eating a predominantly vegetarian diet has been proven to help prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, lower blood pressure and slow the aging process. In fact a study on a group of 70,000 participants recently published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine showed that vegetarians even live longer. And who doesn’t want to live a long and healthy life? These are all wins in my humble opinion.
A logical progression from vegetarianism has been to consider taking it one step further and going raw. Back in late 2011 the Boy and I shared a very enjoyable lunch at The Raw Kitchen in Fremantle. This was my first experience with raw food and I was fascinated to learn that you can make dairy-free cheese, cream and even cheese cake made purely from nuts.
Back in the week before our wedding I received a blender from OmniBlend to review and I thought this was a perfectly timed gift for me to start trying out some raw recipes. The Boy proposed that I try and create some more manly raw dishes for him so he could switch our regular Meatless Monday into a Raw Food Meatless Monday instead! We called it the Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge!
So here it is….Week One of the Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge!
- 1 cup of water
- ½ banana (frozen or fresh)
- ¼ cup pineapple pieces
- ¼ cup kale, chopped or minced
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Place all ingredients into the blender and blend on high for one minute or until smooth. Drink immediately.
- ½ butternut pumpkin chopped into small cubes
- ½ to 1 tbsp curry powder (to you preference)
- ½ tsp real cinnamon
- ⅓ tsp pink Himalayan salt
- One young coconut (for both the water and the meat)
- Black pepper, parsley, shredded dried coconut to garnish
- Gradually add pumpkin and coconut water into the blender on low speed until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and then blend on medium to high until a smooth consistency. Season with cracked black pepper and parsley and/or some grated dried coconut
The Boy’s review of the Tropical Green Smoothie and Curried Raw Butternut Pumpkin Soup:“While I have struggled with the idea of giving up meat I have come to realise over the last few years the catastrophic damage that the meat industry has had on the environment. Added to that is the fact I can no longer justify to myself the suffering of another animal purely for my selfish enjoyment of the taste of their flesh. Therefore over the last year in what has at times been a difficult process we have gradually removed animal flesh from our diet. With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the OmniBlend Whole Food Blender review that Chomp had been asked to do and get her to make some Raw Vegan dishes for us to try. The first of what will be five weeks of what will be known as Raw Food Meatless Monday was a dish of raw Curried Butternut Pumpkin Soup along with a Tropical Green Smoothie. Now I must say the idea of cold pumpkin soup doesn’t sound entirely appealing however the dish turned out to be a very satisfying meal with the coconut nicely accenting the pumpkin and curry flavours. The fact it was cold wasn’t even noticed as the meal was quickly devoured… this soup would make a great meal on a hot summer’s day. The Tropical Green Smoothie was very refreshing and is definitely best served fresh and cold. A very filling drink that could easily be a meal on it’s own… I wonder what it would be like with a little vodka and crushed ice on a hot day?”
Over the next coming weeks I will be publishing some blender recipes that I have created with my OmniBlend. The concept is for each Monday to not only stick with Meatless Monday and eat only vegetarian but to take it to the next level and make it a Raw Food Meatless Monday. For the whole day we will only eat raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and fructose friendly.
The Boy and I initially got into juicing back in late 2011 as a result of watching Joe Cross’s documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. This period marked the beginning of a long overdue quest for finding better health by dramatically increasing our vegetable and fruit intake. We have slowly gravitated away from eating meat as the predominant ingredient in our meals to it being a small component if at all. The Boy bought us the latest whizz-bang juicer and was so enthusiastic with his juicing that he managed to burn the first one out in just a week. He stuck to his guns however and returned to the shops to get a replacement juicer. Over the following nine months he lost over 20 kg in body weight. He was well on his way to become a picture of health and this was all just in time for our wedding.
With every batch of green smoothies we made, we would end up with massive amounts of fibrous pulp left over. A juicer only extracts juice and discards the pulp from the fruit and veggies into its waste jug. In the early days, I determinedly saved the pulp and would make it into a variety of different vegetable soups that looked more like swamp water than food. Some even tasted good. After a while I tired of this messy business and tossed the pulp onto the garden for compost instead. What a waste. I hate throwing food away!
Soon I realised that there is a much better way to make smoothies without having to eat swamp slime soup; with a blender not a juicer. Blending means you are eating the whole food, not just the juice and the fibre content is retained. Furthermore, high-powered blenders break down all the cell walls of the fruits and vegetables releasing all the phytonutrients locked inside the pulp, skin and seeds. This makes it easier to digest and allows the nutrients to absorb much more efficiently. After having this epiphany we discussed about getting a blender to replace our relatively new and fancy juicer. But talking was as far as we got because come mid-2012 we found ourselves knee deep in wedding planning and before we knew it time had flown away from us and we completely forgot about it.
So you can imagine my gratitude when earlier this year two weeks before our big day I received an email from the marketing director from a company called OmniBlend Australia who are manufacturers of heavy duty commercial blenders. He was keen to send me their popular blender; the OmniBlend V to review on the blog. In return for my review, the machine would be mine for keeps. No more pulp and swamp soup….woot!
The OmniBlend V Low Down:
$280-390 AUD. Excellent value for money compared to similar machines on the market such as the Vitamix.
A powerful 3HP motor which can deliver a blade speed of 38,000 rpm. It is very energy efficient at only 950W (not bad considering it produces 3HP!). I am told that this blender is sturdy enough to withstand heavy duty commercial use in restaurants and juice bars.
The 6-blade cutting assembly is made from highest quality, Japanese precision stainless steel. Replacement blades are available for purchase. The blades and jug are designed for both wet and dry ingredients and can make a hot soup in minutes heating with just friction. I gave this method a try for some of my soup recipes for the Raw Meatless Monday Man Challenge, more on this in the weeks to come.
Without much effort or preparation this blender made light work of blending my soups and smoothies into creamy, smooth consistencies. It even coped with me churning harder raw vegetables into it like pumpkin. Because the Omniblend is a more heavy-duty machine, it has enough oomph to do more than just make smoothies. It can puree, mix, chop, grind and whip all sorts of foods including mill grains into flour, grind coffee, puree baby food, churn ice cream, make nut butters and nut milks, knead bread dough and it can even crush ice.
● Cleaning :
The OmniBlend is really easy to clean which is a big win in my books. One thing that used to annoy me about juicing (in addition to the pulp waste of course) was that every time I made a smoothie I would be left with a hundred and one parts to clean. If the Boy that made himself juice it was even worse. There would be bits of pulp everywhere.
With this blender there is only a lid and a jug to wash and because there is no pulp, the jug rinses clean in minutes.
I did notice that the black rubber feet on the body of the unit left little marks on my white laminate bench top but they wiped off easily with a damp cloth.
It has very quiet operation when compared to many of its competitors (e.g. Vitamix).
Noise level = 83.8 dB
It has timed, cycled and repeatable blending programs.
● The Jug:
The 2 litre jug is made of unbreakable food-grade polycarbonate jug and is heat resistant to over 120 degrees Celsius which means you can blend hot soups straight off the stove top. It is suitable for both wet and dry ingredients unlike some blenders like the Vitamix that need separate wet and dry jugs/blade. The jug has quite a wide base compared to other blenders I have used in the past. This ensures that food particles don’t seem to get stuck under the blades when in use. They also offer a BPA-free 1.5 litre jug.
● Intelligent Overload Protection:
A built in sensor automatically turns off the motor when it detects excess usage. This prolongs the motors operating life and pre-empts breakdowns.
OmniBlend are happy to send their customers a bunch of free recipes or better still stay tuned on the blog over the next six weeks for my Raw Food Meatless Monday Man Challenge!
The OmniBlend comes with a standard 5 year warranty on the motor and 3 years on parts, or alternatively you can pay extra for a 7 Year extended warranty on the full machine. They offer free shipping anywhere in Australia.
How does the OmniBlend size up to its competitors?
Froothie Optimum 9200:
● 3 HP motor delivering a blade speed of 44,000 rpm
● 6 stainless steel Japanese made blades
● Low noise level at around 80 dB
● High, Med, Low and Pulse functions
● Comes with a 2 L unbreakable polycarbonate wet/dry jug
● Intelligent overload protection
● 5 year warranty or optional 10 year warranty
Verdict: Very similar to OmniBlend in its specs yet it costs $120-150 more
Price: $700-1300 depending on model and options.
● 2-3 HP motor depending on model
● 4 stainless steel blades
● Noisy at around 110 dB (Vitamix 5200)
● Variable speed functions
● Separate wet and dry blades/jugs. Comes with 2L unbreakable jugs
● Thermal protection to prevent overload and burnout
● 7 year warranty or optional 10 year warranty
Verdict: Very expensive by comparison to OmniBlend, it’s only a smidge more powerful but twice the price!
Breville BJB840 Juice & Blend
● Dual purpose machine with a juicer & a blender, 1000W motor on the juicer and a 1200W motor on the blender, not very energy efficient
● Surgical grade stainless steel blades
● Variable speed functions
● 1.5 L jug
● 5 year warranty on motor/2 year repair warranty
Verdict: Couldn’t find many online reviews for this one but I don’t believe this is a high powered, durable machine. I don’t really see the point in a dual use machine either.
Thermomix TM 31
● 500W motor which revs its two blades at speeds of 10,200 rpm
Verdict: This kitchen dream machine does much more than a blender; it can also do chopping, beating, mixing, emulsifying, milling, kneading, cooking, stirring, steaming, weighing and melting. Although at nearly 10 times the price of the OmniBlend so it bloody well should!
Chompchomp received an Omniblend V blender complimentary in return for writing this review. For more information head to www.omniblendaustralia.com.au. Six months after the publishing of this review Omniblend Australia contacted me with an offer to provide my readers with a discount when purchasing their new Omniblend blender. Using the coupon code below you can buy the Omniblend at a discounted price.
The exciting event of the wedding of a close friend brought us back to the lovely city of Singapore for the first time in over ten years. It was to be my first experience of a Chinese wedding banquet and was to be held at Szechuan Court, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore. I felt so privileged to receive an invite and prepared myself right from the outset that for that one night I was just going to have to eat gluten. Avoiding gluten in a Chinese banquet of any occasion is literally impossible due to the ubiquitous use of soy sauce. I knew that if I was to eat the banquet regardless of the gluten I was going to suffer for it the next day however I figured it would be worth it.
As we were shown to our seats I noticed that both our table and the bridal table next to us was much more lavishly decorated than the rest of the tablets. Our table was covered in a bright red table-cloth and decorated with bigger bouquets of flowers. As the night progressed I also observed that our plates were filled with more food and served to us in larger bowls.
In eager anticipation for the feast I forced myself to only graze on a few small snacks over the day. As we headed to Szechuan Court I was so hungry I could have nearly eaten my own arm. If only I had known before that it is common custom at these important Chinese events for there to be quite a wait before food is brought out! By the time our starter combination arrived I was so utterly famished that I demolished it all far too quickly. There were beautifully plated slices of roast duck sandwiched around a fresh sliver of mango, there was a richly coloured chunk of Soya chicken, a thick wedge of succulent honey glazed pork and a cute little lettuce cup of chilled spicy jelly fish. This was one of my favourite dishes for the night and I really regretted my gluttony wishing I had savoured its flavours for more than a millisecond.
I love the deception of clear soups. Gazing into my reflection in the bowl I always wonder how something so watery looking can manage to pack such a powerful punch of flavour. This crab soup was no exception and the table went silent for a few minutes while everyone slurped away hungrily.
Bamboo fungus is a type of mushroom that is claimed to have many medicinal properties including antibacterial and anti-cancer effects. Another more unusual fact about this fungus is that the smell of the fresh fungus has been reported to trigger spontaneous orgasms in women!
The next course was some lightly steamed live Marble Goby served in a broth of superior soy sauce. Marble goby is a type of freshwater fish that considered something of a delicacy by many Chinese as for its flesh is delicately tender yet has a lingering sweet flavour.
With a number of gluten containing courses now under my belt, I accepted my fate that in a few hours I would start to feel the aftermath of my indiscretions therefore I really had nothing to lose and must press on. I had psyched myself up for this banquet for months and certainly wasn’t going to turn any of these sumptuous dishes away! The next two dishes steered away from the more traditional Chinese style infusing some modern fusion flavours. The wasabi prawns crunched loudly as I bit into their crispy exterior and I couldn’t help but feel liberated to cast off the shackles of my allergies for one night even if it made me unwell and covered in eczema!
I was informed earlier that evening by the dear mother of the bride that sea cucumbers are very laborious to prepare for eating. There is an extensive amount of work involved over several days which include slitting them open, turning them inside out and then repeatedly washing and boiling them over a few days.
The Boy and I first tried eating sea cucumber many years back at Shung Fung in Perth and we both really loved its slippery, nearly rubbery texture and subtle flavour. Sea cucumbers are a highly nutritious food and contain large amounts of protein in addition to many essential compounds including iodine, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium, manganese, chondroitin sulphate, saponins and vitamins like vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
The beauty of eating slowly is that you get full much more easily as your brain has time to actually register the food you are shovelling into it! The polite sized scoop of seafood fried rice was just enough to fill the last gaps in my stomach before dessert.
Many of my dear readers may recall my obsession with food shaped in tiny balls; tobiko, caviar, sago, tapioca, you name it I’m sure to squeak with delight if you serve them to me. I think this obsession is one of the main reasons I love Asian desserts so much! The chilled cream of mango was not overpoweringly sweet and the tang of the pomelo gave it more depth and flavour.
By this late stage of the night things had started to become quite rowdy, but in a good way. The bride’s father proudly led the bridal party in a procession to each table individually bearing a very elaborate looking bottle of whiskey. At each table he would stop, pour healthy size nips of whiskey to everyone before drinking some himself and then commenced to singing very loudly at the top of his lungs. No one required much encouragement to join in and before long dining room was filled with the booming voices of all the guests joyous for this wonderful marriage of two very beautiful people.Szechuan Court, Fairmont Hotel, Singapore 80 Bras Basah Road, Marina Bay, 189560 Singapore | www.fairmont.com/singapore Tripadvisor Price: $$$ Food: 8/10 (I am no expert on Chinese fine dining but my taste buds don’t lie!) Service: 3/5 (a little slow serving drinks) Ambience: 3.5/5 (the function room was filled to the brim with cheerful, noisy guests) Total: 16.5/20
After landing in Singapore on the overnight flight from Perth I was accompanied by the Boy and one of my business partners Woki to attend a friend’s wedding at the Fairmont Hotel. Not willing to be discouraged by our lack of sleep we refused to waste our free day and spent most of it exploring the city. We conveniently ended our self-guided tour at Ku De Ta which is situated on the 57th level of one of the three Marina Bay Sands (MBS) towers. Sipping our drinks we watched a blanket of dark ominous clouds slowly envelop the city from our viewpoint on high and by the time the tropical storm reached us we were all seriously hungry. We headed back downstairs in search of some food.
Back on the ground floor foyer, we were served by a small framed, elegant woman who kindly took great trouble to ring around a few restaurants in the complex in search of a table. She managed to secure us a booking at Guy Savoy, one of the “celebrity restaurants” at the Casino. The only time available was just an hour away yet there we stood all wind-swept, sweaty and in no way presentable for fine dining.
Jumping in a cab the Boy, Woki and I made a mad dash to return to our hotel but as we crawled inch by inch through peak hour traffic I started to feel the tension among us rising. By this point, the monsoonal downpour was in full force and I could barely see the road in front of us. Jumping out of the cab to proceed on foot was completely out of the question!
Upon our return to Fairmont Hotel we quickly raced upstairs dripping wet to our rooms. With my heart pounding in excitement I flurried about spraying my hair with a ton of hair products and my face with a lathering of makeup. After the finishing touch of a smear of bright red lipstick I prayed my transformation into something more elegant was successful.
However, our building anticipation was not to end there. It almost felt like fate was against us as we ended up taking the wrong train, got off on the wrong station and then took a full circle route on foot of the entire MBS complex before we could actually find the restaurant. Let me tell you, it is not well signposted and MBS is huge!
A little flustered and nauseatingly hungry we were seated at our table ready for the fun to begin. Our meal was kick-started by a few adorable bite size canapés.
The gluten eaters received a pint-sized foie gras club sandwich and similarly Lilliputian cube of parmesan waffle.
My gluten free canapés included a spoonful of miniature cubes of beetroot sprinkled with black truffle on a herb purée and some finely grated apple with baby celery leaves on an almond crumble.
As we allowed these flavours to entertain our palate, our waiter wheels out an old polished wood trolley with a whole leg of Joselito’s Ibérico de Bellota Jamón. Ibérico jamón is a type of ham made from black Iberian pigs that are kept free range on pasture and oak groves where they feast on a diet of acorns, grass, herbs and roots. Joselito’s Ibérico jamón is world famous for being the best ham in world and wholesale prices start at around $600 for a small leg and can get well over $3000-4000 for an aged leg. They pride themselves on raising “happy pigs” and believe this is a major factor in their meat quality.
The waiter carved in front of us about a dozen slices straight off the bone. Dark purple in colour and with multiple thread-like veins of white fat coursing through the meat; the wafer thin slivers of ham nearly dissolved on contact with my tongue. Eating Joselito jamón is quite an unforgettable foodie’s experience and I highly recommend that you try it yourself if you ever have the chance.
The unusual pretzel shaped bread was unfortunately not gluten free and as there wasn’t any gluten free bread option I had to satisfy myself by just having a brief sniff of its fresh doughy aroma. I cannot deny it is always a little disappointing when I visit fine dining institutions such as this and a gluten free bread option is overlooked. Not that I really needed bread given the enormous meal we were about to enjoy!
Our Amuse Bouche was a chilled Vichyssoise-styled soup made from leek, potatoes and cream. The addition of fennel gave a slightly sweet and refreshing after-taste. Curiously hidden under the small mug of thick soup contained two little half spheres of fennel and leek “royale”, basically a smooth lime green custard topped with minuscule little micro herbs and pea sized blobs of herb purée. With the subtle sweetness of the fennel in the soup still lingering, this little dollop served to extend and enhance the ambrosial experience with utmost precision.
Both the Boy and Woki ordered the “crab with multi-coloured beetroot variations” for their entrée. The concept of this dish was to “marry land and sea”. The blood red and lemon yellow shavings of roasted beets were curled into cone like flowers. Each little beet “flower” was filled with a foamy light beetroot blancmange followed by delicate portions of the cooked Australian Spanner crab meat. Savoury shortbread crumble and flecks of beetroot crisps sprinkled over the dish to add more complexity.
Alongside the salad was served a warm golden beetroot tartlet containing hints of cardamom and orange. The pastry collapsed in the mouth like fairy floss. It lay on top of a wafer thin square of transparent paper that looked a bit like cellophane. We were informed this was salt paper and was entirely edible. Despite the tart being the accompaniment, both the boy and our companion agreed it was the star of the two components.
This photo of my entrée is not my own and is courtesy of the restaurant. My mosaic of poulard, foie gras and artichoke was by far and by large the highlight of the evening yet for some strange reason it completely bypassed me to take a photo. Like a bizarre form of savoury layer cake, thick door stop-sized slices of young fattened poulard, wedges of soft foie gras and similar textured artichoke sat relatively unimpressively on my plate. They were accompanied by two precisely equal sized blobs of black truffle vinaigrette. The appearance of this dish does in no way make one’s mouth water; which is perhaps why my photography was overlooked. However just one mouthful of these three simple ingredients with a conservative smear of the vinaigrette and you will change your mind forever. This dish was absolutely mind-blowing; the rich buttery elegance showed true respect for the ingredients with no need for embellishment.
As we waited for our mains to arrive out came a little prequel, some sort of intermission entertainment I guess; named the Chestnut Royale. Now I am quite partial to chestnuts, yet I rarely see them feature on the menus in Australia. They always conjure up memories of walking down the streets of Paris where street vendors roast them everywhere in the winter. This innocent looking dish was quite a taste sensation. A perfectly formed dome of smooth chestnut custard sat swimming in a light bed of chestnut milk. Carefully placed on top a milk glazed chestnut glistened under the dim lighting garnished with tiny little pygmy sized celery leaves and chestnut chips.
Woki thoroughly enjoyed his “Shoulder of Australian Wagyu in two preparations”. By using an oyster blade steak or “paleron” as it is called by the French, the meat contained wondrous marbling and flavour. The first portion was braised in a red wine jus topped with baby carrots and a black pepper mignonette. The second portion of beef was purely just seared and garnished with dollops of wasabi. Both portions of beef sliced like butter at room temperature as good Wagyu should.
The accompanying side dish of potato Maxim’s and bitter greens was comparatively lacklustre and did not wow Woki at all.
I ordered the pan seared duck breast with eggplant “gianduja” sauce and “au poivre”. I was informed by our waiter that in order to achieve the creamy pate-like texture of the meat the duck breast was seared, then cooked sous vide, and then finally seared again. On my plate balanced so carefully like a stack of cards were thin slivers of eggplant served with gianduja chocolate sauce. The sauce tasted a little reminiscent of Nutella due to its high hazelnut content. Tiny little purple delight flowers scattered amongst the eggplant giving a splash of colour and bitter flavour. The duck was richly flavoured and buttery tender and left me wanting more.
My side dish was potato tagliatelle; thin ribbon like curls of deep fried potato. This was the only dish I ate that I felt was a little lacking. Perhaps some seasoning would have improved this element however even if that were the case it felt a little mismatched to the fabulous duck dish.
The Boy ordered the “Saddle, rack and shoulder of lamb; Land and Sea”. Unfortunately for him, after being left relatively unimpressed with his entrée choice his main didn’t manage to suitably wow him either. The main part of his dish contained a roasted rack of lamb placed on an almond and hazelnut praline. The saddle of lamb was stuffed with bamboo clams and pan roasted. Next to the lamb I recognised some emerald-green samphire on his plate; something we were introduced to during our beautiful lunch at Millbrook Winery last year where the chef forages it from the banks of the Swan River.
The second part to his dish was his favourite. The shoulder of the lamb was braised and wrapped in thinly sliced potatoes and topped with sprinklings of purple potato crisps. I recall the waiter mentioned that this component contained melted onions so I didn’t get to taste it! This dish was apparently seasoned in the bamboo clam jus.
By this point in time in the night I was starting to receive a number of subtly concerned looks from the Boy and knew he was worried as to how much this meal was going to cost us. He is never been one to be a killjoy by any means and during our near fifteen years together we have shared some highly priced memorable meals together. But he is also a sensible man, and he knew all too well that just coming over to Singapore alone was breaking the budget so close to our wedding, so enjoying a four figure fine dining experience was definitely going to break the bank. A smart move from me at this would have been to proclaim total fullness and call it a night.
And then out came the cheese trolley. And all my sensibility went out the window. My thoughts of finances, savings and budgets temporarily felt incredibly less important. Our dinner companion Woki was no help either. Being a father to two little ones means he rarely gets to experience such incredible culinary excellence and wanted to make the most of our evening. After a long consideration we settled for three cheeses: the curious looking Mimolette, Fourme d’Ambert and most dear to my heart Saint Marcellin; a cheese produced by my late uncle Jeannot’s factory in the Alps of France.
The Fourme d’Ambert is a very mild blue cheese that is considered to be one of France’s oldest cheeses dating back to Roman times. It is a semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk and has a luscious creamy texture and leaves a slightly sweet earthy mushroom after-taste.
The Mimolette had such a curious appearance that it was our wild card choice for the evening. The cheese looked like a cross between a rock melon and a dusty cannonball. It was a hard round ball with a pocked dimpled surface. I later learnt that the dimpled appearance is actually due to the activity of surface mites that burrow their way through the surface rind which in turn allows the cheese to breathe and mature. From the heart of this bizarre rock, our waiter scooped out some bright orange brittle cheese. It tasted quite unexpectedly sweet and caramelised, and felt like you were eating a hybrid of fudge and cheese, but in a good way.
Our portion of the Saint Marcellin cheese regrettably wasn’t warmed to room temperature and thus failed to relax into that sexy goo I have enjoyed many times before. I was very disappointed because for a number of years I have been talking up about this cheese to Woki. It is not easy to come by in Australia and this was his first time trying it.
For some reason the next two following pre-dessert dishes managed once again to escape my camera. I think I was a little distracted by my growing concern as the impending bill. Our first pre-dessert was so delectable that Woki jokingly exclaimed to the waiter that it was “no good” and that we all requested another one. His sarcasm was lost on our waitress and with a worried look she scuttled away to get us another serve.
We were too full to order a dessert but were tempted by the trolley of “petit fours”-styled mini-serves of ice cream, sorbet and biscuits and each tried a little portion for ourselves.
Just when we thought the near theatrical dining experience was over, as I sipped on my peppermint tea an Earl Grey Sorbet was delivered to our table for a final palate cleanse. Served on top of a black pepper crème anglaise the subtle flavours of the bergamot from the tea left a very refreshing end to our wondrous meal. Suffice to say, the Boy was right; we are still paying back our share of the meal to Woki!Guy Savoy The Shoppes, Atrium 2 L2-01, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 | +65 6688 8513 | www.guysavoy.com Price: $$$$$ Food: 4.7/5 (my choices were nearly faultless but there were some hits & misses at my table) Service: 5/5 (very knowledgeable and attentive with a noticeable lack of any pretension) Ambience: 3.5/5 (a little formal and stuffy but some fabulous views) Drinks: 4/5 (very extensive wine list but a considerable mark up on bottle prices) Total: 17.2/20
It was our last night in Bali and although we had both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly we couldn’t help but feel that we had preferred our recent trips to Thailand. The over commercialised vibe along with the abundance of Australian tourists made our holiday in Bali feel a little bit like we hadn’t actually left Australia. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing, but I do love the experience of being in another country. I guess we shouldn’t really try to compare the two and regardless of their differences I am still looking forward to returning to Bali; perhaps next time we might get a bit off the beaten track.
We set out in a local cab once again and the Boy set my GPS on my phone to record our route. He was determined to prove to me that in order for the driver to justify a larger fare we were about to taken on a more extended journey to our destination. As we got into the cab we requested the driver to set the meter rather than barter with him over a fixed price. We discovered this can be a better way to obtain a more fair charge. On the slow drive south of the island to Rock Bar our driver continued to attempt to convince us of a package price deal where he would wait at the other end and be available to drive us home at the end of the evening. We politely declined his offer and explained we were happy to just hail another cab and use their metered fee also.
By the time we arrived at our destination an hour later he reproached us – obviously being very keen for the return fare and he offered to wait for us for 3000 Rupiah (which is about $3 dollars). At this point we realised we were being stingy mean tourists; the poor man was willing to wait for hours while we ate and drank the evening away for an extra three bucks. Feeling guilty for playing the hard arse we agreed as we pulled up at the busy hotel foyer.
To get to Rock Bar you must walk through the large Ayana resort to the edge of the cliff face and then board a tiny cable car that takes you about 50 metres down the cliff to the bar. I recommend you arrive with plenty of time before sunset to avoid the queues to get in. We chose one of the lounges facing the water, kicked off our shoes and sunk back to soak up the sun.
Because there is no kitchen at Rock Bar all the food is pre-prepared and I was so disappointed to be told that there are absolutely no gluten free options on their menu at all. We were both hungry so you can imagine my food envy as I watched the Boy tuck into his wedges and curly fries. It was some consolation to me to hear that the wedges were dry, thin and flavourless, and the curly fries tasted like they came out of a frozen packet. To make matters worse, only tiny serves of sauce accompanied the dry potato meaning it didn’t sound like I missed out on much.
As I basked in the warmth of the sun like a cat I sipped on my “Rockito” and realised that even without some nibbles to eat life was pretty good. The Boy wasn’t enjoying the sun quite as much as I was and tried to hide behind what little shade he could find cast by my shadow. My first Rockito came out with mostly ice and only about an inch of drink in the bottom meaning it only took me minutes before I had guzzled it down. I ensured to give more explicit directions to our waiter how I wanted my subsequent drinks to be served and from then on they were made to perfection, with just enough of a hint of sugar without being too overpoweringly sweet.
After several rounds of drinks I was beginning to think my stomach had started to digest itself in protest of my hunger. We moved further down the cliff face to the restaurant on the beach called Kisik. A word of advice for the ladies: don’t wear your high heels here as the restaurant is literally on the beach and your stilettos won’t take kindly to sinking into the sand! The location and view are fantastic affording great photo opportunities as the sun slowly sinks into the sea as you are surrounded by glowing bamboo torches.
Kisik offers a variety of fresh seafood displayed on a bed of ice for you to pick and hand to the chef who cooks it for you just how you like it. Lobster, prawn, seasonal fish, oysters and clams you name it; if it’s caught locally it is likely to be available fresh off the boat and nearly moving. In fact the lobsters were still actually alive and I felt pangs of guilt for the poor creatures as we selected which one we were soon to devour.
As part of the meal you are served two entrees consisting of an Indonesian Gado gado salad followed by a Jimbaran styled Bouillabaisse. My Gado gado salad was altered slightly to accommodate for my allergies which by the way the chef found to be no problem.
Our soup tasted similar to a Tom Yum style hot and sour soup and was refreshing and light. Perfect to commence our seafood feast that we had selected as in true form we had gone overboard and ordered quite a lot!
Our first choice was some beautiful looking King prawns and although they were ridiculously priced, nearly more than what we paid at Rottnest last year, they looked so tempting that we just couldn’t resist. It was worth it! They were cooked simply with some garlic butter and lemongrass and were very fresh, crunchy and mouth-wateringly juicy.
For our next course we had selected some local clams which the chef made into a very tasty soup with fresh lime and coriander in a white wine reduction. It reminded me a little of the clam soup we had some time ago at Rockpool and was comparably delicious.
Our last course was the one I really was waiting for. Steamed rock lobster cooked Indonesia style with tofu, chilli and garlic. To my extreme disappointment the lobster was overcooked and rubbery tough. What a sad way to end an otherwise wonderful meal!
Upon our return to Seminyak we realised that our poor driver had spent a total of three hours waiting for us and a further two hours driving. Now we really felt like the mean stingy tourists so in order to both appease our guilt and show our appreciation we gave him a generous tip as we alighted at our hotel Villa Air Bali.
Overall both Rock Bar and Kisik are experiences not to be missed on a trip to Bali, expect to pay near Perth prices, but for the location, service and ambience it was totally worth it.
Travelling to Bali? Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet Bali and Lombok Travel Guide before you go!
Like Me on Facebook!Rock Bar and Kisik @ Ayana Resort Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran, Bali 80364, Indonesia | (+62) 361 702222 | Rock Bar | Kisik Price: $$$$$ (Live Rock Lobster AUD$185/kg, King Prawns AUD$145, Oysters AUD$4/piece!!) Includes tax, service charges and two entrees, using current $1=R9166 Food: 3/5 (Rock Bar – needs GF options, Kisik – amazing meal until our overcooked lobster arrived) Service: 5/5 (could not fault them – full of smiles) Ambience: 5/5 (waves lapping on the rocks below you, setting sun, fresh sea air = awesome) Drinks: 3.5/5 (great variety of cocktails) Total: 16.5/20
I simply love the concept of wine bars. Imagine a relaxing atmosphere without all the hype and pretention of a formal dining establishment, then add in a well thought out wine list plus some quality food and there you have it….the perfect relaxing quiet night out. Establishments such as Must Wine Bar have mastered this idea to perfection – providing awesome food and service in the best locations and venues. I know I can go to Must on any night of the week and be guaranteed a reliably fabulous night without disappointment. I really wanted to add Clarence’s Bar to my list of wine bar favourites in Perth, especially in light of the recent poor experience we had at Five Bar. In fact I really wanted to love it so much that at the start of our evening there I found myself almost starting to make excuses for all their shortcomings before the Chompchomp voice inside me screamed back “NO! Don’t do it!”
The night was a glut of mistakes and delays to the point that it became quite a comical conversation topic for the evening. As per usual I had notified the kitchen well in advance of my no gluten and no onion requirements. My sister also suffers from fructose malabsorption and I wanted to ensure that she could enjoy her time eating out in Perth as much as she does in her foodie hometown of Melbourne.
The night began with us being seated in one of their booths. The design of these booths was quite curious and I’m not sure what unusually proportioned people they had in mind to sit in them. They are meant to sit four people in them however realistically only four miniature people could successfully squeeze in and still be able to raise their arms up to eat their meals. I felt so sorry for the boy as he really struggled to actually fit into the booth at all – he is a strong, broad shouldered man and stands at 6 feet 3 inches tall – certainly not a small person by anyone’s definition. The poor love shuffled and wriggled in his failed attempts at getting comfortable. Fortunately my sister, Mum and I have all have quite small frames so we managed to crowd in tightly around him. But the bizarreness of the booths did not stop there. The table is set as an oddly high level and the seats are very low – giving one the impression the table is like a bib. It actually came up to the top of our chest. Coupled with being jammed in like sardines it did not make for easy eating.
Our waitress was very well prepared to go through their menu with us and she knew all the dishes on the menu thoroughly. She proceeded to read it out dish by dish, informing us that nearly every dish contained either gluten or onion. There were a small handful of dishes that she explained the onion (or gluten) could be omitted by leaving out particular key ingredients such as the accompanying sauce or base. I get frustrated when this happens – I feel like I’m punished because of my allergies with a more bland or tasteless version of a potentially great dish just because the chef won’t offer substitutions. It’s easy enough to leave an ingredient out – but a talented and creative chef can offer alternatives to ensure the dish flavours remain. This is why I always notify the venue in advance to give the chef time to think and plan.
For entree I ordered one of the few dishes that could be served unaltered which was the barbecued squid. Unfortunately it had been barbecued a tad too long and although I don’t mind a little chargrilled flavour, squid does not do well once it ventures into the well-done and chewy side. I felt the dish had so much potential if cooked correctly as the chermoula spices were uplifting however there is no coming back from tough tentacles.
My mum ordered the seared scallops served on a creative cauliflower brulee with shavings of pork crackle. The feeling of lost potential came through even more strongly with this dish as it was served meagrely lukewarm and on a cold plate. It left us with that sinking feeling of knowing we missed out of something amazing due to oversight and poor timing.
Following along the cold dish vibe, the boy’s soup was similarly served at a tepid temperature and I was unable to get any positive comment out of him about this dish. Unlike pasta, no matter how great a soup is, if it’s meant to be hot, it is rarely enjoyable cold. His bowl for the soup was also cold leaving us thinking someone must have forgotten to turn the heat lamps and plate warmers on.
Our dishes came out at haphazard times, so by the time I had finished my cold tough squid; my sister had only just received her order of the gnocchi. On inspection they looked like the familiar soft and fluffy pillows you would expect, however on tasting the dish my sister questioned to us whether the peas contained in the dish tasted frozen. Upon tasting a few of them I had to agree; there was no burst of flavour as I squeezed the pea between my teeth and they left a distinctive floury after-taste in my mouth. Thank goodness the company was great because the food was heading down a one way street to nowhere! To add to the errors of the evening, as we were sipping on our second glass of Chardonnay, I started wondering to myself why it tasted sweet. Had all this mishmash of tasting and scrutinising everyone’s meals confused my palate? Surely not! Then my sister piped up: “This doesn’t taste like the Chardonnay we ordered! I think they have given us the wrong wine!” We called our waitress over, informed her of our cold meals and asked about our strange tasting wine. Off she quickly went to go and check with the bar staff from which she returned promptly with fresh glasses of Chardonnay in hand.
It was at this point in time, we desperately started wishing that sight of me taking photos of our dishes coupled with our polite complaints would ensure that the remainder of night would proceed with minimal more mistakes. Our hopes were in vain as the next agglomeration of errors proceeded to pan out. Our next round of meals were brought out at staggered times and once again on stone cold plates. At the beginning of the night when she went through the menu in detail with us, she stipulated we couldn’t eat one of the side dishes of chickpeas because it had onion in it, so obviously we didn’t ordered this. Instead we chose the green beans and some parmesan fries for our side dishes plus we each ordered a second entrée for our main dish.
Despite having a whole discussion with her about the chickpeas unsuitability for us, lo and behold some chickpeas get placed on our table. We had to send these back only to have them replaced with a dish of undercooked, tough woody beans that were barely edible. After some considerable wait, some of our meals followed along with the serve of fries. All the fries were cold, yes cold fries. Now honestly, cold fries amount to nothing but grossness. There is no excuse for that surely.
Lucky for me for my second course I had ordered the house cured venison, a dish that was meant to be served cold! It was the only dish that deserved any praise for the night. The sweet beetroot sauce nearly got licked off my plate and softened the saltiness of the cured venison.
The boy ordered the risotto which was of course served on a cold plate. It was at this point we called the waitress over once again and questioned her whether they had heat lamps in the kitchen. She commented to us that they do. We then delved further to explain to her that unfortunately all of our meals were served to us lukewarm. She interjected this feedback by remarking to us that my dish was meant to be served cold, and then proceeded to gloss over the fact that the remainder of the table’s dishes were not. She appeared to only listen to what she wanted to hear. After my comment that the flavours of our dishes had so much potential if only they were served at the correct temperature, she latched onto this feedback as positive and as she cleared the table she nodded her head saying: “Oh well, that’s good, as long as the flavours were delicious!” Huh? It was hard to know if she was being serious with such a ridiculous response!
Over all it was a meal that could have been amazing. The thought that was put behind the creation of the menu was inspiring but the execution was a complete failure. Was the chef just having a bad day? I’m not sure I want to find out and next time I’ll just head over the road to Must where I know I will walk away content.Price: $$$ (Entrée $19-23, Mains $23-38) Food: 4/10 Service: 4/10 Venue: 2.5/5 (for the insane booths) Total = 10.5/25 Clarence’s Bar 566 Beaufort Street, Mount Lawley, WA 6050 | (08) 9228 9474 | clarences.com.au