Some of you may think I’m a bit insane throwing myself head first into the Mushroom Mania celebrations every year but I can assure you I am not the only one. In addition to a number of bloggers from around the country, there are many local chefs and food producers that join in the mushroomy celebrations. Last week I introduced you to Cris from Perth City Farm who is totally mad for his mushrooms, nurturing them carefully from spores to fruit with tenderness and loving care. And it shows; his mushrooms are packed full of flavour and were so meaty I swear they nearly tasted like chicken. For the second post in my Mushroom Mania series this year, I wanted to take it beyond just eating one or two mushrooms dishes. I wanted to find a talented chef who was willing to make me a whole mushroom themed degustation. I approached Chef Scott O’Sullivan from the award-winning Red Cabbage Food and Wine in South Perth to see if he was keen. It turns out that he and his wife are big mushroom fans and he jumped at the opportunity to join in the fun!
On arrival we were greeted warmly by Hazel O’Sullivan and shown to our table where our own personal mushroom menus were laid out ready for us. As my eyes gazed over each delicious looking course I knew we were in for a special treat. To start us off for the night, thickly sliced and toasted gluten free sour dough with olives and truffled honey were brought to the table. There was also some fresh brioche for the boy to eat that wasn’t gluten free. The sour dough was soft with a lovely slightly sour after taste and it soaked up the truffled honey thirstily.
The truffle honey was, as I’m sure any of you who have tried it before, totally exquisite and was further enhanced by the addition of some fragrant fresh thyme. I was glad I brought my glucose tablets to counter act the fructose content in the honey so I could enjoy it liberally with minimal consequences. To be honest…even if I had forgotten those glucose tablets, I would have happily endured the suffering anyway. The honey was THAT good.
Our second course arrived under a large glass dome filled with smoke. I love theatrics when I’m out dining; it makes the whole experience so much more of a show and brings some of the magic that happens in the kitchen out to us at the table.
The richly earthy flavours of fresh smoked shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms were the ideal amuse bouche for the commencement of this mushroom journey. The gluten free croutons were crunchy without being overly hard and left a sumptuous lingering buttery flavour in my mouth.
Our next course of duck lasagne and seared scallops were a creative play on textures. Pig’s ear mushrooms were dehydrated to dry them out and then deep fried so that they had the consistency of potato crisps. Combined with the velvety soft scallops and duck this was truly a wondrous dish. Being truffle season here in Western Australia, I was so pleased to see these fabulous fungi made a recurrent feature across our evening meal with some truffle jus drizzled romantically over this dish. Sorry you don’t get a visual on this one folks!
I love it when food is synonymous with art and as our evening progressed I began to understand that Chef Scott shares a similar passion. Each dish was presented in a precise and methodical manner with every component so carefully planned and prepared. The marron and salmon pastrami matched well with the stronger flavours of the shimeji and shiitake mushrooms. There were crisp fried nuggets of sunchoke, dollops of carrot purée and mushroom ketchup along with lashings of sticky sweet soy caramel.
Most excitingly, my truffle obsession was fuelled furthermore with generous shavings of fresh Manjimup truffle falling across my plate like millionaire’s snowflakes.
Like many, I am a macaron addict. These little morsels are as good a pick-me-up for me as a block of chocolate and the very thought of eating them always makes me all girlie and excitable. Over the years I have tried all sorts of macaron flavours as they are such a versatile little treat with the incredible capacity to contain a wide variety of flavours. However I have never eaten a MUSHROOM macaron before so I was so impressed with this course. A gorgeous little cep mushroom macaron sat perched on a parsnip stalk laying on bed of olive and white chocolate snow with a scoop of parsnip ice cream. Too cute!
For our final main course those distinctly flavoured little chanterelle mushrooms featured alongside succulent venison and creamy cubes of foie gras. On a bed of celeriac puree and scattered with pistachios and fresh cherries, the sweet and sour aspects of this dish complemented the venison magically. Buried in amongst all the treasure was a cherry “bomb”. Cherry puree and cherry vinegar encased in a thin film made from a seaweed gelling agent exploded with a POW in my mouth releasing so much flavour my eyes nearly watered. Incredible!
Our next course is one of my favourite parts of a degustation; the cheese course. This cheese course was like no other I have tried before. Expecting some slivers of cheese, crackers and slices of fruit I fascinated to see that Chef Scott put just as much creative thought into this course as he had the rest of the meal. A smear of subtly sweet pumpkin puree was sprinkled with crumbled Irish Cashel Blue cheese and Lancashire cheddar. Instead of some comparatively boring slices of pear there was a scoop of soft pear sorbet.
As our degustation started to draw to a close I reflected back on what we had eaten so far and was surprised with the modest size of dishes. This is a degustation for the hungry; they are quite generous with portion sizes considering we had nine courses to get through yet I wasn’t feeling excessively overindulged. I was chuffed to see that two of the nine courses were desserts and I recall the desserts at Red Cabbage being very memorable. Our first dessert course was called apple, quince and rhubarb. This relatively messy looking dish interestingly gave a different sensation with each mouthful by alternating with textures, temperatures, sweetness, creaminess and tarty sourness.
You cannot go wrong serving me a dessert that is based on chocolate. It is (one) of my true Achilles heels and I struggle to avoid binging on it if it is in the cupboard at home. For our final course in this evening of excellence we were served a soft cube of chocolate mousse surrounded by chocolate and coffee “rocks” and accompanied a velvety scoop of brown butter ice cream. This was such a wonderful way to end our evening.
The service to our table for the whole night was absolutely seamless with Hazel providing me with some excellent wine matching recommendations. Having visited Red Cabbage a number of times some year ago, I was impressed to see how this restaurant has grown and matured to have their own signature style of artistic food that I expect from other top venues in Perth such as Restaurant Amuse. Their passion for quality and service shines through and we both look forward to returning again in the near future.This restaurant was reviewed as part of Mushroom Mania month which is happening all across Australia during July 2013. Head to the Power of Mushrooms website for loads of mouth-watering mushroom recipes plus if you write your own review on a mushroom dish you could win one of 40 $100 restaurant vouchers! Disclosure: Chompchomp dined at Perth City Farm with compliments of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Red Cabbage Food + Wine 49/15 Labouchere Road, South Perth WA 6151 | (08) 9367 5744 | http://redcabbagefoodandwine.com.au/
Things are definitely on the onwards and upwards for foodies living here in Perth. This past year has seen a plethora of high quality dining establishments open their doors and it is certainly something to be proud of. We are fortunate enough to live only five minutes’ drive away from the Crown Metropol (formerly known as the Burswood Casino) where internationally famous chefs Neil Perry, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and Guillaume Brahimi all have flagship restaurants residing there. Now it is never too hard to have a fancy meal out.
I made an initial reservation for the two of us at Bistro Guillaume during their opening week however this had to be postponed as I had forgotten we had already made plans to go out with some friends to Duende. After managing to secure a table on another weekend, the Boy informed me that I had booked on the same night as his High School Reunion and would have to cancel once again. By this point I am sure the reservation desk had red flagged me as an annoying customer! Third time lucky, we successfully synced our busy schedules and locked in date night.
It was the first time we had been back to the Casino since their massive renovations and its fresh new face lift has successfully dragged it out of the eighties into current times! We walked past Linneys on our way to The Merrywell for some pre-dinner drinks and like an insect attracted to bright light I couldn’t help but feel the powerful drag towards their sparkling boutique. Linneys designed my engagement ring and seeing as we needed to start looking at wedding rings soon I figured now was as good a time as any to begin.
As we browsed all their beautiful pieces, the store assistant kindly offered to clean my ring for me as this is a complimentary service offered to all owners of Linneys jewellery. Only minutes later “my precious” returned to me all glimmering and twinkling like it had never been worn! I was left torn between amazement at its shining beauty and shame on how dirty it had become! I need to visit Linneys more often!
Upon arrival to Bistro Guillaume we were shown to our booth which was perfectly located right in front of the kitchen. It was like having a television with an action movie playing for us to watch while we chatted away and ate our meal. I was further impressed when some complimentary gluten free bread was brought to our table. For once I wasn’t going to have to sit and watch the Boy eat his bread as I was too busy enjoying my own!
We commenced with the escargot en persillade, served the classic way my father used to make for us when we were young. Melted butter, herbs especially parsley and loads and loads of garlic formed a little pool in which each slippery morsel sat submerged. Beneath the overwhelming garlickyness I could still detect their subtle earthy flavour. Like calamari, if overcooked escargot becomes rubbery and inedible, these were cooked perfectly.
I love all oysters and have been known to make a complete glutton of myself if allowed. Following in the footsteps of my father, I could easily eat several dozen au natural in one sitting provided they are fresh. One of my favourite types of oyster is the Sydney Rock; this species of oyster are smaller, have a more intense and distinct flavour than Pacific Oysters and apparently take 2-3 times longer to reach maturity. Knowing that I have a tendency to order too much food, the boy managed to intercept me attempting to order a full dozen in addition to our two entrees and convinced me of a compromise of a half dozen to share. Each mouthful was as fresh as the sea leaving that lingering sweet, creamy aftertaste.
The recent heartbreaking news earlier this year on the horrific treatment of our cows in Bali slaughterhouses has struck very deep to both of our hearts. As a result our red meat intake has reduced dramatically and now I try to source our produce only from organic farms that are passionate about animal welfare. However seeing steak tartar on the menu, neither of us could resist, it’s up there with Sydney Rock oysters in awesomeness. I took some consolation that it was made with Dandaragan organic beef. For those not convinced about raw, finely diced beef you seriously have to give this a try. The meat was exceedingly fresh and literally dissolved in your mouth leaving no unpleasant meaty aftertaste. The serve was particularly huge and I would have preferred a few more of the crunchy potato crisps to scoop up all the deliciousness.
The venison tenderloin was out of this world. The rich nearly berry-like flavours of the venison melted beautifully into the beetroot sauce and this really was a match made in heaven. In my eagerness to devour it I accidentally splashed ruby red sauce about in a very unladylike fashion and was thankful to be wearing a dark coloured dress! I want to return to Bistro just to order this again.
The boy ordered the veal sweetbreads with a fricassee of mushroom and truffle. The soft creamy pillows of glands were a little too fatty for him but this was circumvented somewhat by the hearty and flavoursome sauce. There was a wide variety of mushrooms in his dish and you could clearly see the fairly generous servings of truffle buried in there.
Although I realise I am supposed to be limiting my calorie intake with our wedding day looming close, this is very difficult to achieve when you are approached by a handsome man with a thick French accent bearing a plate of cheeses. I confess I got a little lost on his cheese journey and may have accidentally ordered more than we really needed. Are you that surprised? I ordered Mont D’or, a soft but rich, washed rind cows cheese that just glooped onto the board; Roquefort, a well-loved blue sheep cheese; Sainte Maure, a classic raw soft goat cheese that we recently had at Duende; Caprin, a hard goat cheese with a distinct nutty taste that I often enjoy when visiting my dad; and Pyengana, an aged Tasmania cheddar.
As you can see, we had no trouble finding room for any of these cheese masterpieces. They were served at the perfect temperature and were even accompanied by toasted gluten free bread.
I have heard many great things about Bistro Guillaume’s desserts however unfortunately for me the majority of them are not gluten free. My only option other than the sorbet was the very un-French mini Pavlova with passionfruit cream and mango sorbet. I am a little on the pedantic side when it comes to my Pavlova’s texture; in a similar vein to a macaron, there needs to be an external crunch, and spongy middle and a gooey centre. This version exhibited a little too much crunch and not enough moist bounciness inside.
Bearing in mind the Boy is not a big desserts person, I was super jealous to hear he thought the profiteroles were the bomb. As our waiter poured thick molten chocolate sauce over the perfectly formed balls I figured if there was ever the temptation to poison myself with gluten then this was it. He took no hesitation informing me the pastry was crackling crisp on the outside and flaky light on the inside. Despite wanting a taste so desperately I resisted and was very thankful the following day.
Coming from a French background I may be a little biased in stating French cuisine is one of the best in the world and Guillaume has managed to capture its simple elegance without overindulgence. Fresh local ingredients, traditional recipes and impeccable service…..Bravo!Bistro Guillaume Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood | (08) 9362 7551 | www.bistroguillaumeperth.com.au Price: $$$$ (Entrees $18-28, Mains $30-45) Food: 4.8/5 (would have given a five if it wasn’t for the pav) Service: 5/5 (highly attentive without being in your face) Ambience: 4.5/5 (relaxed, comfortable bistro vibe) Drinks: 4/5 (lots of French options!) Total: 18.3/20
The Boy had been given a corporate box ticket for the Western Derby game by some work mates and although he is not the hugest follower of AFL he was still pretty excited with his score. There was only one ticket on offer meaning I missed out and so off he headed into Subiaco solo. In order to try and compensate for leaving me home alone, he was kind enough to send me photos of all the delicious food on offer and update me regularly on the game progress. (Not that I’m any more of a footy fan than he is.) Presumably the beer was freely flowing because after the game had finished I receive yet another text message:
“How do I get home? :(“
Considering he was one amongst another 40,000 fans trying to get home, I didn’t like his chances of hailing a cab, nor did I like MY chances of getting through the traffic anytime soon either. After initially considering walking home (so the beer was definitely flowing fast) he offered to meet me over in Leederville where we could stop for a bite to eat before driving home.
At this point in time I was devoid of any makeup, in my track pants and snuggled on the couch with the boys (our two kitties Rollie and Eddie). Any normal person would probably decline an offer of a night out especially considering how cold and wet it was outside and how warm and cosy it was in. But I am never one to turn down a spontaneous night out to eat something other than hum-drum home-made bride food.
After a fairly pricey foodie month of July which included two nights of degustation at Clarke’s of North Beach and Darlington Estate Winery, we opted for a cheap dinner and headed into Justin Bell’s new(ish) venture Snags and Sons. I found out recently at the Mundaring Truffle Festival that they now stock gluten free buns and have a variety of gluten free sausage choices. Many of you are familiar with Justin Bell; several years ago he was one of the first to open up a gourmet burger bar here in Perth namely Jus Burgers. Promoting use of locally sourced produce he has now expanded to include restaurants in Subiaco, Fremantle, Northbridge and now on Chapel Street in South Yarra. S&S is the next chapter for his casual eating empire. As with Jus burgers, the menu is filled with WA produce right down to the desserts. (More on this later!)
Having trekked on foot in the rain from Subiaco, the Boy was keen to order more than just a sausage in a bun so we ordered some marinated olives and some grilled goat chorizo to start. The chorizo was juicy with a subtle hint of chilli heat. The olives were fairly standard and nothing too spectacular.
The Boy ordered the beef Boerwors with smoked Dutch cheese and peach chutney. Although tasty, he wasn’t wowed by his choice at all and felt after the succulent chorizo his sausage was a little dry and lacklustre.
My venison sausage was very succulent and the gamey taint of the meat matched well with the sweet beetroot. The horseradish was barely noticeable through these flavours and a more generous helping inside would have gone down treat. My gluten free bun looked similar to that you find in Jus Burgers, I have to presume the same supplier, and it held its shape well despite all the delicious juiciness contained inside.
A meal ended on a savoury note just doesn’t make any sense. At least that’s what I keep telling everyone. I shimmied out of my corner to wander over and investigate the sweets cabinet. There wasn’t any gluten free cake options however amongst the minitarts and brownies I did notice some vaguely familiar looking nougat chopped up into bite site pieces.
I enquired if it was gluten free upon which I was told they did not know as they buy it straight from Rochelle’s café. “Rochelle Adonis?” I ask. To which I received an affirmative reply. Having feasted on her nougat many times I know for certain that it is indeed gluten free and bought a piece for us both to share. It was perfection as all her creations usually are.
Leederville, 6007 | (08) 9228 3008 | www.snagsandsons.com.au/ Price: $ (Under $15 per meal) Food: 7/10 (may be gourmet, but they are just hot dogs! Keen to try a few more tho) Service: 2.5/5 (our waitress seemed a little distracted but still served us promptly) Ambience: 3.5/5 (funky, vibrant & fresh)
I was lucky enough to secure three tickets to the last of the series of the Largesse dinners. These fabulous degustation evenings have formed a near cult following in Perth and are known to sell out within minutes of going on sale. So what on Earth is Largesse you ask?
Imagine the Head Chefs from six award-winning restaurants from around Perth donating their talents and time to each create one dish to contribute toward a six course extravaganza. Better still each course is then matched with exquisite wines and most importantly all of the proceeds from the evening go toward a charity of the host chef’s choosing. This year the charity of choice was The Royal Flying Doctors Service.
The six chefs are Scott O’Sullivan from Red Cabbage Food and Wine, Kiren Mainwaring from Dear Friends, Jason Jujnovich from Divido, Stephen Clarke of Clarkes of North Beach, Todd Stuart from Petite Mort and last but most definitely not least Hadleigh Troy from Restaurant Amusé.
This year the night was hosted at Petit Mort which is located in Shenton Park where the popular Star Anise resided for many years. The evening had such a buzz of excitement about it and as I gazed around the room I wondered which faces belonged to other fellow Perth bloggers I knew were attending. I have only been a blogger for about nine months now and have been blown away by the sense of camaraderie and open friendship that exists in this small little community of foodies. My eyes have only really been opened to this supportive side of blogging since joining Twitter last month. Weirdly despite this short space of time, I feel like I already know these people without even having met them.
We were informed that the first two courses were to be swapped in order because Chef Scott needed some extra time to prepare his dish. We were told he apparently lost track of time due to watching a UFC final! This got a round of chuckles from the guests.
Our first dish was air dried ham with Swan Valley Yolk, ajo blancho and foraged herbs. This dish had a number of textural elements which all tied in magically with the fresh gooey yolk. Ajo blanco is a Spanish soup made with crushed almonds and garlic; it was delicately dolloped around the plate and added in a creamy nutty texture to the crunchy herbs and chewy ham.
Our next dish was house-smoked trout, chilli squid and saffron. I was dismayed to see my gluten free version had the squid completely omitted. This meant I only really got half the dish which was quite disappointing considering that with small degustation courses each component is an important element for the overall experience of the dish. I would have preferred if the chef could have perhaps prepared my version gluten free rather than just leaving the squid off completely. Nevertheless the smoked trout was exquisitely soft and buttery leaving no oily aftertaste on the palate. My dining companions who received the full version of the dish commented that the chilli was not a strong enough feature and was barely noticeable.
The next dish was a pasta dish which is obviously not gluten free so Chef Jason from Divido kindly went to the effort of creating a completely different alternate option for me. I received braised rabbit with lentils. The rabbit had obviously been nurtured and cared for in the cooking process because I have never had such tender rabbit before; it had the soft texture of high quality smoked ham. So simple yet so well executed.
The boys had Radicchio Tortellini served with melted Fontina drizzled over it. I was informed that although you could clearly taste that the tortellini was freshly made, it was slightly undercooked and too firm; there was no slippery oyster textures between the teeth here!
The braised venison shin was my second favourite dish of the evening. I simply could not fault it whatsoever. It was accompanied by “Foie gras espuma” where we were told that the chef combined the decadent foie gras with Anglais sauce and piped it out of a canister like whipped cream. The richly flavoured shin meat simply melted in my mouth and if I wasn’t seated at a communal table I might have been tempted to lick this plate clean.
There was a little interlude in the evening at this point allowing a few fellow foodies Perth Munchkin and Gastromony to pop over to our table to introduce themselves. It was awesome to finally put some faces to the blogs that I have been following and I look forward to reading their posts on this fabulous night.
The palate cleanser consisted of ginger and beetroot water. Although this could have been improved by serving at a colder temperature it was definitely uplifting and refreshing.
Pressed duck is a very traditional French dish where the whole entire duck organs and all is partially roasted then put through a special “duck press” to squeeze out the juices which are then used for the sauce. This duck was richly flavoured but in the aftermath of the delicate venison shin its texture felt a little chewy and dry by comparison. It was accompanied by two types of wild mushrooms: the funnel shaped chanterelle and the strong tasting cepe. These were the perfect accompaniment and gave more depth to the dish with their earthy tones.
The dessert was by far and by large the highlight of the evening for me. It reaffirmed to me why Restaurant Amusé remains my most revered dining establishment in Perth. Chef Hadleigh always manages to create food art that is not only visually stunning, but does incredible things to your palate. His dish “chocolate, caramel and sorrel” spanned across a wide range of exquisite textures, temperatures and flavours. The dish started with crunchy, crisp sorrel meringue that completely dissolved on contact with your tongue, onto cool firm chocolate ice-cream that nearly had the chewy texture of a chocolate truffle, and finally ending of a bed of warmed gooey caramel. To finish off the decadence there were fine shavings of white chocolate crumbs over the top to introduce another layer of alternate texture and flavour.
The last of the Largesse evenings was an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss; a night of talented chefs showcasing their abilities in the name of a worthy charitable cause. Although I know the Chefs all said this is their last, surely they can start up something new and similar in concept? The evening has inspired me to visit those restaurants out of the six that I haven’t been to yet and more importantly I want to get back to Amusé for what will be the fourth time! Last time we were we spent nearly six glorious hours overindulging ourselves in a night I will never forget.Red Cabbage Food + Wine 49/15 Labouchere Rd, South Perth 6151 | (08) 9367 5744 | redcabbagefoodandwine.com.au Dear Friends 100 Benara Rd, Caversham 6055 | (08) 9279 2815 | www.dearfriends.com.au Divido 170 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mount Hawthorn 6016 | (08) 9443 7373 | www.divido.com.au Clarkes of North Beach 97 Flora Terrace, North Beach 6020 | (08) 9246 7621 | www.clarkesofnorthbeach.com.au Petite Mort 225 Onslow Rd, Shenton Park 6008 | (08) 9388 0331 | www.petitemort.com.au Restaurant Amusé 64 Bronte St, East Perth 6004 | (08) 9325 4900 | www.restaurantamuse.com.au
For those who follow Urbanspoon you may be familiar with the “wish list” feature on everyone’s profiles. This is a handy way to earmark interesting restaurants for later reference. Whenever I have the freedom to book a dinner outing wherever, I try to whittle away at this ever lengthening list of mine.
The Boy and I had just started our holidays and I needed a Bestie time instalment before the two of us headed off to Bali for the week. After seeing some delicious pictures of my sister’s meal at Nine Fine Foods, I was reminded that this restaurant has been on my wish list for quite some time. Previous attempts to eat there had been thwarted by a variety of reasons, but this time it looked like we were good to go with an available booking.
I was so delighted with the prospect of eating some interesting Japanese fare but as I eagerly told my Bestie where I had booked us for dinner, I was met with a distinctly grim and nearly nauseous expression on her face. She had recently visited an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant and the very thought of another slice of raw salmon was enough to turn her similar shade to our nephew on the way to Rottnest.
As I was yet to see her new residence in Perth, she suggested we enjoy some drinks at her house and then go to a local restaurant at a winery called Conti’s. Feeling a little guilty that our catch ups seem to always end up back at my house and not hers, we agreed this sounded like a good plan. On arrival to put us all in the mood, we drank some delicious Bombay Sapphire Gin accompanied by sparkling fruit juice and fresh lime. So refreshing and uplifting!
For a bit of a history lesson on Conti’s humble beginnings; Sicilian immigrant Carmelo Conti moved to Australia in the 1920’s where he grew veggies for the local market for just over a decade until he decided to diversify and planted vines in 1948. The Conti family have been making wines ever since and it has remained a family owned business which impressively is now entering its third generation of wine making.
The restaurant is housed in the original homestead built in 1927 where the family raised their eight children. The house is beautifully restored maintaining the stunning wide jarrah floorboards and high ornate ceilings that are typical of this era. I simply love old character homes, our own home was built in 1928 and shares many similar features.
The menu described itself as “a deliciously wholesome menu, commonly referred to as international French style combined with traditional Australian cuisine”. We all puzzled over this fact. Here we have a Sicilian family that are cooking French food with a traditional Australian twist? How does one cook such cuisine? My mind wandered with visions of steaming hot bouillabaisse, sumptuous foie gras, comical frogs leg’s and other French delights only to become perplexed how such distinct flavours could ever combine successfully with meat pies and lamingtons!
My Bestie and I are big lovers of oysters. One of our favourite ways to commence shopping expeditions together is to head into the City and make a beeline for the Oyster Bar in David Jones. Once we are fuelled with a few glasses of champagne and a dozen oysters we are both in the perfect frame of mind to shop. So on this evening, we were quick to decide that ordering a dozen to share was a must. Unfortunately, Conti’s oysters were definitely not freshly shucked nor were they actually fresh at all; in fact they tasted nearly off leaving an unpleasant aftertaste lingering on the palate.
Believe it or not. Under this bizarre mound of salmon pictured above lies a mushroom. You may just be able to see the dark earthy rim around the edge. Topped with a criss-cross made with Brie the visual presentation of this dish started to drag me back to the eighties. Despite the meal being a bit of an eye sore, it was actually fairly tasty in a hearty home cooking kind of way!
The Boy opted for garlic prawns. A simple dish that is easy to do well. In his rush to gobble them up he burnt his tongue. Doubtful he will learn a lesson, he is definitely the fastest eater I have ever met. He enjoyed his entree although he did feel the amount of onion was excessive. This is not one for the fructose malabsorbers!
The Bestie ordered the crumbed camembert. I didn’t get to try this as the crumb was not gluten free. I noticed each of us had the same styled side serves of salad that were similarly eighties themed.
I had never heard of a carpet bag steak until Bestie’s man Timmy started to describe it to me over NYE celebrations at the Greenhouse. Apparently it is an American dish that was very popular in Australia and NZ in the 70’s. Ah haa! The presentation of the meals is starting to make sense. This is where the traditional Australian comes into it all!
The other three all ordered this insane dish. It was met with mixed responses. The Boy initially said it was disgusting but on further questioning he said it was purely just the cooked slippery oysters that were embedded in the steak that he found gross. The rest of the dish was quite flavoursome. Unfortunately, the key component of the carpet bag steak is in fact the oysters, so I’m figuring overall this was a thumbs down. To be fair, the Boy hasn’t been the greatest advocate of oysters since an accidental ingestion of one that subsequently gave him food poisoning.
I ordered my venison rare. I struggle to eat beef or venison beyond rare as the meat loses its soft texture and delicateness. It was served medium rare and some of the medallions were heading towards medium and were fairly chewy. The meat was drowned in sauce which managed to inject some much needed moisture back into the neglected meat.
My meringue dessert comprised of an exploding volcano of strawberries tumbling out of a dry and stale meringue tartlet that tasted shop bought. Curiously balanced on top of this fruit eruption balanced a nearly phallic shaped cylinder of more meringue. Next to this a mint leaf was speared into the centre of a squirt of presumably canned cream. I was thankful that everyone was sharing their desserts as my choice was not enjoyable.
Timmy ordered the hazelnut gelato, once again there were some oddly positioned pieces of fruit decorating his plate, nearly resembling the elegant female form. The gelati was hard and icy, and tasted like it had spent a little too long in the freezer prior to serving.
The Bestie has the Brandy snap basket which I completely forgot to photograph as we had worked our way through a fair amount of Paul Conti’s crisp Unwooded Chardonnay. I did manage to sneak a couple of mouthfuls from her and it gave me definite dessert envy!
Overall for the price Conti’s desperately needs some shazam injected back into the kitchen. Their food appears tired and old fashioned, and some of the ingredients used were not fresh. Having the history behind them of being a self-sufficient farming family who grew everything for themselves, they even made their own cheese and milk; they should get back to their roots and carry this core value into their restaurant today?Conti’s Restaurant
529 Wanneroo Road, Woodvale 6026 | (08) 9409 1516 | www.paulcontiwines.com.au Price: $$$$ ($18-22 entrée, $31-38 Mains)
Food: 2.5/5 (need to update presentation and use fresh ingredients)
Service: 3/5 (pleasant and efficient)
Ambience: 3/5 (beautiful old homestead)
Drinks: 4/5 (definitely worth a try, maybe skip the food) Total: 12.5/20
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