BAROLO ON BEAUFORT
448 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA
Tel: 08 6162 9387
Open Monday to Saturday 6pm until late (open for lunch on Friday)
It was a balmy summer evening when four old work colleagues descended upon Barolo on Beaufort for their quarterly catch-up. We were in good spirits, having been bolstered by a few pre-dinner tipples at Greenhouse prior to our arrival. On entering Barolo we were promptly greeted in a friendly manner and shown to our reserved table for four.
There are two aspects of the interior which strike me initially upon entry. The first is that the beautiful marble-topped tables are not crammed together like sardines, giving you and your dining party some privacy. This demonstrates to me that the owners are not greedy money-grabbers like some well known establishments (and don’t even get me started on ‘sittings’). The second is the interior – it is interesting with a dark and inviting ambience. The ‘Campari’ mural on the wall gives the space some intrigue while the wooden beams and exposed brick pay respect to the building‘s original features.
Once seated we were quickly given menus and offered water, of which we chose ‘tap’. Drinks-wise we chose the 2008 Pedestal Cabernet Merlot ($60) from the punchy wine list, keen to see if the red lived up to the promise that the Pedestal SSB (which we tasted at Greenhouse) had earlier laid down. We weren’t disappointed, the dark cherry flavours winning us over, so much so that by the end of the night we will have consumed four bottles (yes, that’s right, a bottle each!). I was not familiar with the Pedestal vineyard however thoroughly enjoyed the wine and vowed to investigate the possibility of a cellar door to visit on our next trip down South. I have since discovered that ’The Pedestal’ is one of the (many) vineyards/labels owned by Larry Cherubino (previously winemaker at Houghtons) http://www.larrycherubino.com.au/aboutus.htm and there appears to be no cellar door in operation currently much to my chagrin.
The wine list ranges from $45 – $90 per bottle with a nice mix of Australian and Italian drops, the only weakness being the too-small selection of sparkling/prosecco/champagne.
For entree we ordered the Pizza Bianca ($9) and Calamari Fritti ($15) to start. My gluten-intolerant dining compadre ‘The Smiling Assassin’ (TSA) was happy to see the calamari could be dusted in gluten free flour on request.
Entrees arrived without delay. The sizable Pizza Bianca was the perfect texture, simple, hot and flavourful. It is served with a pizza cutter – just be careful with the cutting if you’ve imbibed a few glasses of wine like I had. It was unanimously agreed however, that the calamari was rubbery. I am very particular with calamari, and on this occasion I took one bite and left the rest on my plate. To be fair it did taste fresh and was seasoned well.
The mains arrived just as I began to feel the first stirrings of impatience. We were happily chatting and drinking wine as friends whose drinks have been too long between are want to do, so the wait was not of real significance.
Pollo alla Locatelli ($28) ordered by The Spud (just Spud)
The grilled chicken breast was cooked as it should – juicy without any hint of dryness, and there was the nice criss-cross charring lending a pleasant smoky flavour. The chicken was accompanied by wilted spinach with a slice of lemon which added some freshness.
Coniglio ($30) ordered by The Critical Eye (TCE)
The dish consisted of a slow braise of rabbit with mixed Italian herbs, white wine, green olives, chilli & local new potatoes. Braising makes the most of game because the rabbit is first seared to enhance the flavour and then slow cooked, so the meat becomes tender.
Barolo’s Coniglio was both tasty and tender, but not to the point where the rabbit was falling off the bone. It still had enough bite to match the green olives which were fresh, firm and bitter. The new potatoes were waxy and cooked to match the rabbit’s firm but tender texture. Finishing off the dish were Italian herbs and chilli which were mild and didn’t distract from the lovely gamey flavour of the rabbit.
This dish was simple and sophisticated and a delicious experience of Barolo’s philosophy of ‘cucina povera’.
(Thankyou TCE for your review).
Mushroom and Gorgonzola Risotto – special ordered by TSA
TSA declares her risotto ‘rocked!’ The rice was cooked al dente with well balanced flavours – the gorgonzola adding subtle flavour without being overpowering as gorgonzola is sometimes known to do.
Beef Special – Beef Cheek and Tongue ordered by The Dusty Bottle (TDB)
TDB succinctly proclaims the beef special to be ‘tender, rich and beautifully cooked’. I was wary of eating ‘tongue’ but TDB assures me it was great.
The meat-based mains aren’t huge so if you are a big eater I would suggest ordering a side dish (potatoes!!). We ordered a side of Seasonal Vegetables ($6.50) and Roast Potatoes ($4.50). The potatoes were a highlight being crisp on the outside, creamy in the middle and having an all-round buttery flavour which was very addictive. So much so that the last stray potato fell on the ground and for one split inebriated moment I considered picking it up and popping it in my mouth. Eww.
It was as we were offered desserts that we realised we were one of the last tables left in the restaurant, but our waitress assured us that ordering desserts and lingering was not a problem hooray! So we ordered another bottle of wine and pondered the desserts on offer. TDB and TCE both ordered tiramisu, and TSA and I ordered the chocolate hazelnut crepe.
Both TSA and I had previously indulged in the pure pleasure that is the Chocolate Crepe ($11) served with mascarpone and it did not let us down on this occasion. The crepe was hot and thin without being rubbery, and as the knife broke through the crepe the almond and chocolate centre seductively oozed out with dangerous appeal. It was enough to make me almost weep chocolate tears with the perfection.
At the other end of the table TDB and TCE were pleased with their Tiramisu ($12) but not blown away, declaring it too creamy, with not enough sponge and lacking coffee punch.
At this point of the night we were most certainly the lone-diners in the restaurant, but the cheerful staff kept topping up our waters, not once making us feel like we had to get a hurry on even with the clock having struck pumpkin-o‘clock. How had we been dining for 4 hours?
After we had drunk Barolo dry we rolled out of the restaurant with a wave from our lovely waitress to see us on our merry way as we stumbled out through the night, past the drunken revellers on our quest for the elusive Perth taxi.
So in summary: Barolo isn’t a fine dining establishment, nor is it a spaghetti bolognaise and parmigiana eating-house. It falls somewhere in between. It offers honest, rustic and flavourful food with good cheer and some of the most enthusiastic wait staff I have encountered in recent days. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it pull the piss.
Barolo’s prices are very reasonable considering the care taken with the food and the portion sizes are average, although if you have a large appetite they may seem on the small side. It offers a space where you could feel comfortable dining with family, a special date, or even with ‘the girls‘.
Would we return to Barolo? A resoundingly wine-fueled YES from all.
Food: 8.5/10 (tiramisu, rabbit and calamari were not a resounding success – deduct 0.5 points each)
Service: 9/10 (great service, but we were left to pour our own water initially so deduct one point)
Ambience: 8/10 (can be loud due to wooden floors, and windy air-con conditions were uncomfortable at times – deduct one point each)
Final score: 8.5