Wild Poppy, Fremantle – review


Wild Poppy
2 Wray Avenue, Fremantle
Tel: 08 9430 8555
Open: Breakfast and lunch every day, dinner Friday and Saturday

Wild Poppy on Urbanspoon

I have been on what I thought was a fruitless hunt for a cafe which ticked all of the following boxes: child friendly, serves good food and coffee, is reasonably priced, and has a comfortable ambience.

Today my search has ended.

Wild Poppy is centrally located in Fremantle but is a safe enough distance away from the craziness which is Marine Terrace.  It is a large-ish and spacious venue eclectically fitted out with funky furniture, old prints and old-lady-esque lace doily lampshades. I liken it to eating at your cool grandmother’s house, minus the mothballs.

At the far end of the restaurant is the more child-friendly area with a few lounges and armchairs for added comfort, and a few highchairs available for use.

I grabbed one of the Ikea highchairs for Little Monkey and sat down to peruse the menu which I had picked up at the counter on the way through.  The menu isn’t large (see below), but it is does cover all bases and offers a couple of twists on old favourites.

Back up to the counter to order and I was sorely tempted by the baked goods on display, including some cute mini breakfast rolls containing bacon, eggs and sauce ($5.00) of which I grabbed one for Little Monkey, and stuck with my own choice of the Full Meaty Breakfast ($18), cappuccino, and an OJ.

As we waited for our food and drinks, I enjoyed the mellow music playing in the background as I gazed out of our window seat doing a spot of Fremantle people-watching (spot the hippie!), and pointing out cars to my car-obsessed toddler.

Our food and drinks arrived together in a pleasingly prompt fashion.  The coffee was spot on, no complaints.  The orange juice didn’t taste super freshly squeezed, and was just adequate.

Before I began, I grabbed a couple of bites of Little Monkey’s breakfast roll (see below, couldn’t help myself, had to make sure it wasn’t poisonous you see!) and it was super fresh and simplistically tasty.  My full breakfast, on the other hand, had a lot going on that’s for sure!  Pleasingly crisp bacon, sausage (which Little Monkey devoured), rosemary mushies, balsamic tomatoes, three slices of toasted turkish bread each with a unique spread, seductively fluffy scrambled eggs, gosh have I left anything out?

Whilst individually each of the components within the Full Meaty Breakfast were perfectly cooked and seasoned, I can see how some people might find the above combination of flavours on one plate to be somewhat overwhelming.  I, on the other hand, love a naughty mixture of flavours and consequently loved it all!  I felt like my tastebuds were being taken on an enjoyable morning tango.

The waitstaff within Wild Poppy were collectively friendly and efficient, even engaging Little Monkey in a bit of banter which kept him happy for just that little bit longer.

I noticed that Wild Poppy also serves alcoholic beverages, and being that it is such a comfortable venue, I can imagine whiling away quite a few hours having a relaxed weekend lunch over a few wines.  Next time!

In Summary
I found Wild Poppy to be the answer to my breakfasty prayers.  The food was solid, the coffee great, the ambience super comfortable coupled with funky decor, and they were welcoming of children – tickety tickety boo!

Food: 8.5/10 (generous serves, interesting twists on old favourites, but the bold mix of flavours may be off-putting for some.
Service: 9/10 (waitstaff were genuinely friendly and efficient.  Implementation of table service would see me giving a 10/10).
Ambience: 9/10 (spacious, inviting and comfortable, Wild Poppy would be somewhere you’d happy waste away a few hours, however the alfresco at the front of the cafe is a little uninspiring)

Overall: 9/10 – my new favourite cafe yeehaw!

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Crumpet, Victoria Park – Review


Crumpet
8/885 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park
Tel: 08 9355 0901
Open: for breakfast and lunch Tuesday to Sunday

Crumpet on Urbanspoon

The world as I knew it has now altered.  I am forever changed.

The humble crumpet.  A breakfast food so fantastical that it has always sat high on its own pedestal of morning comfort food.   But that pedestal has now been toppled over in spectacular fashion.

What I believed was a crumpet in this life, is now nothing more than an imposter.  A try hard. A breakfasty has been.  For I have sampled the new world crumpet and it, my breakfast-loving friends, is something to behold.

Ahem.

So, yeah, the home made crumpets at ‘Crumpet’ (Victoria Park) maaaaaaay have impressed me a wee bit.  But what else does Crumpet have to offer? A café can not rely on one heavenly breakfast food alone.  Well where do I begin……..

It was a Saturday. It was early.  It was (surprisingly) busy.  But the breakfast gods were mildly shining on my good friend and I as we nabbed the last table (outside), complete with a delightful view of Albany Highway traffic.  Ahh, nothing like the smell of carbon monoxide in the morning.
Inside, Crumpet is small.  Crumpet also lacks ambience or much in the way of style.  In ways, it resembles an old neighbourhood deli (the previous incarnation perhaps?).

The menu really impressed us, we both struggled to order based on how delicious it all read (see below). Orders are placed at the counter, as is the frustratingly slack norm in Perth.


We were overly hungry and ordered ’Peaches and Cream’ (brioche French toast with marscapone, fresh peaches and strawberry sauce $13.50) with a side of Potato Hash ($3.00) for my friend and Sweet Corn Fritters with Avocado Tomato Salsa and Bacon for me ($14.00, with a side of fried eggs, over easy $4.00).  We split a serving of the famous crumpets ($4.00) and each ordered a coffee ($2.90 – a steal!), with an OJ ($6.00)  just for me.  All of this for just over $50.00, very reasonable indeed!

The coffees arrived quickly and were brilliant.  Smooth, creamy and a drinkable temperature – just the way I like it.


But this is where things started to go a little pear shaped.

After a substantial wait we were given another table’s meals which, although hungrily salivating, we declined.

And then we waited some more.

The weirdos, drunks, and weirdo drunks stumbling by kept us entertained as we waited (and waited) for our food.    It was a good thing the company was enjoyable.

Our crumpets arrived and, even now more than a week later, my dreams are punctuated by these delicious pillows of perfection racing around in my head tormenting me.

The crumpets before me resembled no crumpet which had ever passed my lips, they were a cross between a traditional crumpet, a scone and an English muffin.  I was mesmerised, so much so that I forgot to take a photo of them!  They were hot, fresh and served with butter and honey.  The humble ‘Golden’ crumpet is forever ruined for me. Ruined you hear me?!

And then we waited some more.

Finally our meals arrived and I must say mine was worth the wait.  A few months ago I had tried the corn fritters at Bills in Surry Hills NSW, and I hate to say it but these were better.  The serving size was decent, and the corn fritters were so fresh and went perfectly well with the tomato and avocado salsa.  This could easily have also passed for lunchtime fare, but the bacon brought it back in to breakfast territory and gave the dish the saltiness it required.  I absolutely loved this dish.



My mate’s French toast was thoroughly enjoyed, and I even managed to pilfer a few bites when she declared herself beaten.  Given the menu description of this dish I was anticipating inordinate sweetness, but the sweetness was surprisingly subtle which balanced well with the eggy-ness of the thick cut brioche toast.


The side dish of Potato Hash gave us the food-sweats we were so full, but we soldiered on. Expecting a hash-brown like dish, I was surprised that these were more like a croquette which made a nice change.

So as the heat of the day’s sun started to beat down on us, and the traffic noise began to drown out our conversation, we rolled our full-to-bursting bellies home in a quiet daze, each of us lost in our own crumpety thoughts.

In Summary
The food and coffee is well worth going back for even if the ambience and service is just OK.  It’s pretty poky inside so those with children, prams etc may not be comfortable here.
Service: 6.5 / 10 (self serve, wrong meals brought to table, crumpets arrived way before rest of the meal.  Bloke running the till was nice though).
Ambience: 5/10  (I give it 5 because it had somewhere to sit, and roof and four walls and that’s it really, it may not even deserve 5).
Food: 9/10  (Crumpets!  Enough said.)
Overall: 7/10 (saved by the food)


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The Quarter – Review


The Quarter
www.thequarter.net.au
Shop 10/93-95 William Street (Corner William + Hay Streets)
Tel: 08 9322 2424
Open: Monday 7am to 3pm, Tuesday to Friday 7am to late, Saturday 6pm to late, Sunday closed
TheQuarter-AlaCarteMenu-Jan111

The Quarter on Urbanspoon

It was a Tuesday night when my family ventured in to the Perth CBD to celebrate my brother’s 29th birthday.  Choosing a restaurant was left up to me and, once perusing the Entertainment Book (my Dad is reluctant to dine out full price) I decided on The Quarter as it has been residing on my wish list since its opening not too long ago.

The restaurant is situated behind the Wesley church on the corner of William and Hay Streets, forming part of the newly revamped ‘Wesley Quarter’.

We rolled into the restaurant in festive spirits and were shown to our ‘booth’ which, whilst very comfortable and stylish, was situated at the rear of the restaurant near the kitchen and bar.  Not the most ideal of placements but, if it had been a full house it would have been much worse.  The addition of a funky candle centrepiece was a nice mood-enhancing touch.

For a Tuesday night the restaurant was moderately busy, warming the cockles of my heart that a Perth CBD restaurant could be doing decent trade on a week night.  Times they are perhaps a-changing!

The interior of The Quarter is sleek, modern and seductively stylish, reflecting the style of the food on offer and your general dining experience. The restaurant has no view to speak of, but does have a pleasant enough alfresco area.

A pic from their website which demonstrates the interior better than my shots

We all opted to order pre-dinner drinks which were taken without delay by our French waitress.  My Dad’s girlfriend and I ordered a glass of Bollinger ($twenty-ish dollars a glass – forgot to make note) which was unfortunately served flat. This was not picked up at pouring (I would have thought the lack of bubbles would have given it away).  However when I brought this to their attention they were very apologetic and replaced the glass with a fresh one immediately.

Our entree, main and wine orders were taken quickly and we were left to sit back and enjoy each other’s company.

The wine list is interesting and varied, however if you’re not looking to spend much on booze, this may not be the establishment for you.  The cheapest bottles were hovering around the $45 mark and jumped significantly from there.

As we were waiting for our food, an amuse bouche of Black Pudding Croquettes was presented to our table.  The croquettes were piping hot and rich, but the flavour was a bit too intense for my liking, however the rest of the table enjoyed them.

On the subject of croquettes, I ordered the Crab and Sweet Potato Croquettes ($19) to start. These four plump fried delights were served laying on a bed of spinach topped complimented by a moreish sauce and micro-greens.  They were hot, fresh and contained a pleasing amount of sweet crab meat.

Unfortunately my hunger rendered me slightly catatonic and I forgot to photograph any of the entrees.  A schoolboy error indeed!

The time between entree and main went by unnoticed.  Each of our mains was placed correctly in front of the corresponding diner (a pet hate of mine is when the wrong dish is placed in front of you, or even worse the waiter asks ‘who ordered xyz?’).

I ordered the FOD which consisted of a Red Emperor fillet complimented by three prawn and lemongrass dumplings served atop asian greens, swimming in a light broth.  My piece of Red Emperor was large, cooked impeccably, and was happily falling apart as my fork touched it – the way it should be.  The dumplings added a pungent flavour kick with the lemongrass and prawn flesh, whilst the broth was a refreshing way to end the dish (they provided a soup spoon so you could finish every last drop of the sweet liquid).

My Dad and his girlfriend both ordered the Lamb Assiette (lamb rack, slow cooked shoulder, shepherds pie, spinach purée, roasted garlic, white wine & rosemary jus @ $39).  My Dad’s GF announced that the lamb shoulder portion of the meal to be the best meat she had ever (yes, ever!) tasted. Word!

My brother’s adequately portioned sirloin (Black Angus sirloin, mushroom and thyme salardaise, onion purée,cafe de paris butter, port jus @ $42) was cooked to his liking (medium well gah!), which he was immensely pleased with.

Overall each of the mains were executed well without complaints, were well timed showing a good level of skill both in cooking technique and presentation.

The side of potatoes was probably the low-light of the mains round.  Three steamed baby potatoes with some kind of herb butter for $8.50 was, to me, a bit of a piss take.  Even though they were well cooked, there were still just three lonely baby potatoes on a plate with some butter. It’s rare that a potato lets me down, it was a dark day indeed.

Ahh by this point we had hit a deeply merry level of celebratory inebriation and when offered the dessert menu by our friendly waitress, decided that ordering dessert was a must, if only to give us something to do as we polished off yet another bottle of wine.

The Quarter really had me up until this point, it really did.  But come dessert, and not one of us were impressed, we were more underwhelmed (and given our level of said inebriation we were pretty easy to please by this point). The desserts were all pre-prepared (as mosts desserts are) but were just plonked on a plate without any attention paid to the visual presentation (see below).  The words ‘after thought’ were bandied about.

My chocolate tart (Valrhona chocolate tart, passionfruit cream @ $14)would have been a lot nicer had it not been straight out of the fridge, and both myself and my Dad who partook in the tart, declared that the passionfruit cream on the side was acerbic and detracted from the dish.

My brother’s Strawberry champagne jelly, vanilla bavarois ($13) was pleasant yet forgettable, also looking a little lost on the plate.

By this point we were the lone diners in the restaurant and, even though we weren’t hurried out, we’d run out of wine and decided to call it a night.  My head the next day is particularly glad that we left when we did.

In Summary

The ambience of the restaurant is upmarket, modern and stylish.  The service is polished and mostly attentive without being intrusive.

The food is ‘modern Australian’ – it is fresh, flavourful and presented well, however the desserts are obviously an afterthought and unfortunately drag down an otherwise wonderful culinary experience.

I noticed that there are some lunchtime specials which would appeal to the business clientele which looked to be good value.

It’s great to see more of these calibre of restaurants opening up in the Perth CBD giving those who appreciate good food more options, particularly when wanting to dine on a week night, and I’m sure this won’t be my only visit to The Quarter.

Food: 8.5/10 (desserts were a huge let down)
Service: 9/10 (the flat Champagne went by unnoticed, and the French waitress (although lovely) had trouble understanding us and we had to point to items on the menu)
Ambience: 9/10 (beautiful interior, comfortable booths however make sure you’re not seated near the toilet/kitchen (noisy and too much traffic!)

Final Score:  9/10

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Pickled Fig – review


Pickled Fig
www.thefig.com.au
21 Ocean Drive, South Fremantle
Tel: 08 9431 7333
Open:  every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner except Monday dinner.

Pickled Fig on Urbanspoon

I have turned over a mummy new leaf and have begun taking my son out for breakfast once a week.  This serves two purposes.  The first – I get out of the house and ingest a proper caffeine fix, the second – I am trying to get my son (Little Monkey) used to sitting still in restaurants hmm I may be fighting a losing battle.

There seems to be a lack of information regarding child friendly cafes in Perth outside of say McDonalds, Sizzler or Play Centres (all of which do not make anything resembling a proper coffee other than the fact that said dirty dishwater contains caffeine).  So I’m on a quest to find the best child friendly café with decent coffee and food.  Is it possible?

This is the fourth week of my child-friendly breakfast challenge, albeit the first review (the others are coming!).

So this week, after google maps (I won’t even dignify it with capitals) yet again sent me on a wild goose chase (this is the last time you hear me google maps!?!?) we descended upon Pickled Fig.

I have yet to sample the other two feathers in the Fig empire’s cap but I admit, after reading some less than stellar reviews on the sister cafes, I was somewhat wary.

The Pickled Fig sits below what appears to be a newish apartment block at the edge of the South Beach Parkland directly in front of the beach (albeit with a sand dune masking some of the view).  The setting is, pretty special for a city which refuses to make the most of its coastline and waterways.  But could this café deliver?  Isn’t the rule that if a restaurant has a water view, avoid it like the plague?  That such an establishment usually rests on its visual laurels?

crappy quality photo but you get the idea

So yeah, I was sceptical.

It was a Thursday morning and the café/restaurant was moderately busy, but there were a few free tables.  There was a real mix of yummy mummies (ahem technically yes I would fall into that category), people fresh from a swim enjoying a coffee and leisurely reading the newspaper, families and everything in between.

The modern inside flows directly to the alfresco area which is shaded by umbrellas giving it relaxed vibe, allowing most to enjoy the wonderful sea view.  The wait staff were dressed relatively casually but hey, it is a beach-side location and well, it is Freo after all.

I chose an outside table, under an umbrella, and was given a menu fairly promptly. However, my request for a highchair for my little dynamo was forgotten but was soon rectified by a handsome waiter.

There is ample free space outside for those with children (be it for the kids to stretch their legs or for prams).  The beauty of the Pickled Fig for those of us with children is it is positioned right next to the South Beach Reserve and play ground, so if they behave themselves at breakfast you can reward them afterwards (or use the park as bribery for good behaviour… either way).

playground at South Beach Reserve

The menu is large and varied (vegetarians and those who are gluten intolerant will be happy here).  From what I can see on the website, it appears the menus are the same for all three Figs.  Considering the distance between the three establishments, they are probably not going to be in competition with each other, so this is not necessarily a negative.

My heart sang when I saw that the menu contained Canadian Pancakes which I swiftly ordered along with a cappuccino ($4), orange juice ($7.80) for me, and some toast ($6) and a breakfast sausage ($5) for Little Monkey.  The orders are all taken electronically on what looks like a palm pilot (for this reason I only gave my receipt a cursory glance but have since realised I was charged for an extra coffee!).   My coffee and freshly squeezed juice arrived without delay.  The coffee was the right temperature and pleasant, although slightly bitter.  No complaints.

The food arrived shortly after and, well, it’s safe to say I didn’t have lunch that day.  The servings were massive!

The Canadian Pancakes visually blew my mind (and possibly my arteries).  What are Canadian Pancakes you ask?  Now to the uninitiated this may seem a little off, but stay with me. Staring dreamily up at me from my plate were two huge fluffy pancakes sandwiching a hefty amount of (unfortunately slightly under crisp) bacon (yes like a burger!).  On top were my two fried eggs (over easy, just how I ordered them) with a hefty amount of maple syrup drizzled on top.  It’s a little like mixing breakfast and dessert right? But the salty bacon plays off the sweet pancake and maple syrup and it shouldn’t work, but IT DOES. If this was a piece of paper you would notice a little spot of drool right about……….. <here>.

excuse the toys on the table, I had to take the photos quickly as the lil monkey was trying to steal my iphone

I swear I must have been Canadian in a past life because, to digress for a moment, one of my other favourite guilty pleasures is Poutine.  Those Canadians sure know their disgustingly tasty, artery clogging food.

But back to breakfast.  The serving of toast was huge and was presented on a wooden board with butter and what looked like chutney (a nice touch).  The breakfast sausage (two of them in fact – a bargain at $5) was also of a hefty girth and were of the more gourmet vs. coles snag variety. Little Monkey certainly enjoyed them.  But yes, it would appear I had ordered way too much food and must admit I was given a few curious looks as it was delivered to my table.

After our gorging, the bill was conveniently fixed at the table by a wireless eftpos machine, then we were on our way over to the park to reward Little Monkey for his good behaviour.

In Summary
The Pickled Fig is a relaxed and child-friendly beach-side café/restaurant serving up large servings of solid breakfast comfort food by attentive yet casual wait staff.  The food lilts somewhere between home-cooked and say Sayers (i.e. there are a few twists but it won’t blow your mind), and the coffee is certainly worthy.  For the quality of food and servings I felt the pricing was spot on, and you just can’t beat the location.

Based on my experience at breakfast, I’m hoping to convince my husband to take me to Pickled Fig for dinner <watch this space>

Food: 7/10
Service: 7/10 (attentive yet casual, bordering on blasé at times)
Ambience: 8.5/10 (the flies buzzing around were an annoyance, although technically not their fault)
Final Score: 22.5/30

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Il Cibo – Review


Il Cibo
http://www.facebook.com/pages/il-cibo-cafe/193223433181
2 Market Street, Fremantle WA
Tel: 08 9433 4900
Open: Mon – Sat: 6.30am – 4.00pm / Sun:  6.30am – 4.00pm

Il Cibo on Urbanspoon

After a fairly big weekend my husband and I woke up on Sunday morning in desperate need of a little pick me up in the way of a cooked breakfast and some good quality coffee. Being too lazy to attempt the task ourselves, we packed our 17 month old son into the car and  headed in the direction of Fremantle as I also needed to pick up some fresh prawns from Kailis for the Bill’s Basics Singapore Noodles I was set to try my hand at that evening.

We stumbled upon a bustling Il Cibo which we had sampled a few months ago for coffee and cake, and I remember it contained a lounge room-like area which would be perfect to sit down with our son (who currently has a broken leg and can’t fit in to high chairs with his cumbersome plaster cast).

Il Cibo is handily located across from the Fremantle train station, with ample parking next door.  There is a pleasant shaded grassed area out the front, standard café seating inside, and a funky little ‘lounge-room’ tucked away at the rear of the building complete with boxes of toys to keep any kids amused (these got a thrashing whilst we were there).

There is no table service at Il Cibo, so once you’ve decided what you would like to order from the ample menu, or from the enticing array of home-made cakes and salads on display, it’s up to the counter to order, pay and receive your table number.

I ordered the breakfast roll which housed bacon, fried eggs, spinach, and Il Cibo’s ‘special sauce’.  When the breakfast roll landed in front of me my eyes widened with disbelief, this was the biggest breakfast roll I had ever encountered, and I‘ve consumed my fair share over the years.  However, the bread roll was so light and fresh that I managed to work my way through the whole vessel, much to my husband‘s surprise (the eyebrow lift he gave me as I finished the last mouthful said it all).   The bacon was cooked to crispy (but not too crispy) perfection, the eggs, cheese and spinach were pretty much just along for the ride, but the special sauce was deserving of it’s special title and tipped the breakfast roll over into the realms of greatness.

My husband ordered the open breakfast sandwich which consisted of sourdough toast, poached eggs (poached perfectly), salsa and spinach leaves which was a flavourful twist on standard breakfast fare.

The only downside to our morning was that our orange juice and coffee arrived while we were halfway through our food.  I will overlook this blight on our otherwise pleasant meal as the orange juice was freshly squeezed and served in cute little individual carafes (I am a sucker for a gimmick) and the Fiori cappuccino was pretty decent.

Il Cibo is also open for lunch, and I noticed that they serve wine (and possibly beer) if you feel so inclined.  I would imagine a pretty enjoyable time to be had sitting out the front in the shade eating a fresh salad topped off with a glass (or bottle!) of wine whilst partaking in a spot of people-watching (which is always a fun pastime in quirky ol‘ Freo).

In Summary
Il Cibo has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, with fresh and tasty food (not to mention the home-baked goods) which we found to be good value ($50 for two breakfasts, a serve of sourdough toast, two fresh OJs and one coffee).   Staff were efficient and friendly, clearing our plates promptly and having a chat to our little boy.

Depending on your mood there is a variety of places to sit whether it be enjoying the fresh air and sunshine outside, relishing in the hubub inside, or relaxing on a vintage lounge out the back.

The fact that this café is licensed also gives it an edge over other establishments of a similar calibre.

We look forward to returning and sampling their lunch (and wine!) menu.  Thanks to Il Cibo for a thoroughly enjoyable lazy Sunday breakfast.

Food: 8/10 (this was a notch above your standard breakfast, but felt that more care could have been taken with the overall presentation)
Service: 7/10 (no table service, and food arrived before drinks, but staff were pleasant and efficient in clearing the table)
Ambience: 8/10 (bustling yet with a relaxed vibe, ample seating, and quirky decor make this a very comfortable venue)
Final Score:  7.5/10

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Making Fresh Gnocchi and Sticky Date Pudding: the TSA Challenge!


My friend The Smiling Assassin (TSA) fellow foodie and all-round top chick) has recently been having a stab at making fresh gnocchi.  Hearing her tout the ease at which such a dish is supposedly made inspired me to have a crack at it myself.  For me it is one of those dishes that always sounded too hard, or too much work, especially now that I don’t have as much time in the kitchen as I’d like what with running around after a devilish toddler.

So one Sunday afternoon, with my husband toddler wrangling, and me armed with a Jamie Oliver recipe for gnocchi (from his ‘Cook with Jamie’ book) and a glass of wine in hand to steel my nerves, I was ready to tackle the gnocchi beast.

First step was to rub six medium potatoes with olive oil, price them with a fork, and send them off to a 220 degrees Celsius oven for 1 hour or so.

Once cooked and looking like an old woman’s bottom, I held the potatoes in my hand with a tea towel (as the potatoes need to still be hot/warm), sliced them in half and scooped out the seductively soft contents into my food mill.

The food mill was a long overdue purchase that I bought purely for this gnocchi making experiment as I’m too lazy to push it manually through a sieve.  The food mill ensures that there are no lumps within the potato and that it is at the right consistency.

Next step add 1 egg yolk and a couple of handfuls of flour and knead says the recipe, however I found I needed a bit more flour to ensure that my gnocchi ‘dough’ was not a sticky mess.

Once at the right consistency I needed it, I cut it in to thirds, and rolled it out into a sausage-like log. Once rolled out, I cut the log in to 2.5cm-ish pieces.  I didn’t bother rolling them around or pricking them with a fork to look fancy but I suppose you could.

In to the fridge they went for a couple of hours.  The recipe says to chill for 10 to 20 minutes but they were fine after a couple of hours, however I left some in the fridge overnight and they turned in to a gooey mess.

Whilst making the gnocchi I had a simple pot of ragu on the go – basically it was just some gravy steak cut in to chunks with a bunch of pumpkin, carrot and onion with a couple of bay leaves and a bit of rosemary simmering for approximately two hours in a pot of crushed tinned tomatoes with some beef stock…….. this was to be the sauce for my gnocchi.

Taking the gnocchi from the fridge I placed them carefully into a pot of salted boiling water until they happily floated to the service (approximately 4 minutes), then in to a colander to drain.

I heated some butter in a frying pan and then tossed the gnocchi until they developed a nice golden crust on each side – then in to the ragu and serve – delicious!

Here’s the finished product…… visually I think next time I will place the gnocchi on top of the sauce as it looks like a hot mess below (tasted great though!)…

Now that wasn’t so hard was it?!

Actually, it really wasn’t, it was just a little time consuming but I think I’m going to add this to my repertoire.  Ommidy nommidy nom.

But that’s not all………..

One of The Smiling Assassin’s signature dishes is her Sticky Date Pudding which I have had the pleasure of consuming, so thought it would be a most fitting follow-up to the gnocchi.  Sticky Date Pudding is the ultimate comfort dessert but I’ve never made it (I know, I can hardly believe it myself!). So once again inspired I decided I would have a crack.  The day was officially known as the TSA Masterclass Challenge!

The sticky date was also a fairly simple dish – the only fiddly bit is chopping up the dates (I used my KitchenAid food processor), soaking them in boiling water, adding some baking soda (ooh fizzy like a high school science experiment!) and then whizzing them again in the food processor.  Then it’s simply a matter of creaming the butter and sugar (thank you KitchenAid mixer!), and adding the flour and sticky date mixture.

Pour in to a greased and lined tin and bake 40 minutes (recipe said 50 minutes but my oven tends to run hotter than most).

As a result of my misbehaving oven the outside got a little dark, but since you cut this dish up in to portions anyway you can just avoid those sections.

Once baked and cooled it is a matter of heating up cake portions in the microwave and making the toffee sauce which consists of cream, sugar and butter in a pot to boil. So bad yet so good!

This is a great dessert to take to a dinner party as it can be made prior and stored with only the toffee sauce needing to be made on site.  I also strongly recommend serving with some vanilla ice cream.   Hey in for a penny, in for a pound!

TSA Challenge completed successfully!  Thanks to TSA for the recipes and tips!

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Opus at the Richardson – degustation review


OPUS AT THE RICHARDSON
http://www.therichardson.com.au/
32 Richardson Street, West Perth WA
Tel: 08 9217 8888
Open for breakfast and dinner daily.

Opus at The Richardson on Urbanspoon

Recently I had the opportunity to dine at Opus at The Richardson for a celebratory dinner organised by my husband’s work (I had to go along and act like a good little wifey wife). Many moons ago my husband and I had partaken the culinary delights to be had at Opus soon after its opening so were keen to go back and see how it has fared.

On arrival at this fine dining establishment, located in West Perth, we were welcomed warmly and shown to the bar where we were to have a pre-dinner drink with our dining companions to be. Opus’ interior is dark and elegant, with the ambience sedate bordering on sombre – I was immediately overcome with the urge to speak in hushed tones and stand up a little straighter!

Sitting down on a comfy banquette in the stylish bar area our drink orders were taken post haste. I ordered a glass of Moet Imperial Brut Rose and my husband ordered a Corona with lime. It’s not very often that you see Moet Rose on offer by the glass and I had to refrain from clapping my hands with glee (I had to be on my best behaviour seeing as it was my husband’s work function). A glass of Moet Rose at Opus will set you back $42 (no that is not a typo!) and it is safe to say that I am very glad that we were not footing the bill that night!

After necking our aperitifs we were ushered to the private dining area which is positioned in a glass room at the rear of the restaurant. The discreet space and large square table was the perfect size for our dining party of 12. The table was set formally with more cutlery and glasses than I could get through in a week, complete with a floral centrepiece and printed personalised menus.

As I sat down and looked around me, something struck me as slightly unusual – the immaculately attired wait staff looked like they were all bordering on retirement age. I’m no ageist, but I am so used to seeing young university students or backpackers as wait staff (common for Perth eateries) that it drew my attention. To paint you a picture, our dedicated waitress bore a striking resemblance to “Von” from All Saints (if you don’t know who I’m talking about here is a link:  Von) But you know what, these gals really knew their role inside and out. “Von’s” only mistake of the night was forgetting my husband’s ordered pre-dinner drink (of which he snidely blamed on perhaps a case of Alzheimers, I thought maybe her hearing aid had been turned down). However, aside from that small blip Von was on her game, professional and efficient, but able to crack a few appropriately placed jokes here and there to keep the table at ease and on side.

Opus Degustation Menu with Matching Wines

Our degustation menu (pictured above) consisted of 6 courses complimented by an amuse bouche to start (turnip soup with bacon), a sorbet palate cleanser before the main dish, and hand made after dinner sweets (chocolate brownies and marshmallow).

Each course was paired with a wine to compliment, of which the general consensus was that it matched quite well. The lack of a Sommelier on hand to talk us through the wines and allow us to ask questions stood out as odd. As it was, Von poured and introduced the wines but I didn’t feel like she particularly knew much about what was on offer (but I could be wrong).

The courses arrived in front of each diner in unison, with wait times between courses spot on. The serving sizes were felicitous considering the amount of food one had to work through.

The food has a ‘modern Australian’ feel to it with a mostly French influence. Ingredients are fresh and the interesting food is cooked skilfully, with a certain level of flair given to the presentation.

I won’t bore you by dissecting each and every course, but I will touch on some highlights and lowlights.

Highlights

Terrine of Tomatoes, Morels, Goats Milk and Honey Pudding

A great way to start off the proceedings. This cold dish was flavourful, with the juiciness of the tomatoes exploding in your mouth. The pudding was silky smooth and had a pleasant light creamy flavour (although I didn’t detect much in the way of honey). My only criticism with this dish is that visually it was quite plain, and I think that serving it on a smaller plate may have assisted the dish to look less lonely and lost.

Roast Butternut Pumpkin Soup with Lemongrass and Blue Swimmer Crab

The pumpkin soup was deliciously creamy and hot with the lemongrass adding a welcome twist to an old favourite. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, your spoon reached the bottom of the bowl and plucked out some sweet juicy pieces of blue swimmer crab meat to send you in to raptures.

Lowlights

Crisp Smoked Pork Belly with Prawn and Scallop Sausage

This was the only real lowlight of the night for me, for three main reasons:

1. The Pork Belly was not ‘crisp’.
2. The smokiness was overpowering.
3. The pork was so tough that I struggled to cut through it so in the end just gave up.

The remaining dishes were well cooked and tasty, but I wouldn’t say they totally blew us away. I have to admit whenever I indulge in a degustation of this level, I can’t help but compare the food to that which we have experienced at Amuse (which is the ultimate Perth degustation), and whilst this food was exceedingly good, it still was not at the same level of Amuse.

I’ve displayed a few photos below of some more of the food we gorged ourselves on.


Pan Fried Ocean Trout (there was a fish option for main course instead of the beef which I chose)
Adelaide Hills Camembert, French Toast and Glace Pears – the french toast was perfection.
Bitter Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Marshmallows, Raspberry Gel and Licorice – those two blueberries were just begging to be landed in the cream to make eyeballs!
Summary

A formal yet pleasant atmosphere with professional and adept wait staff . The food is fresh, interesting and mostly executed and presented well.  This restaurant ticks all of the fine dining boxes but found it lacking that elusive wow factor.

For a degustation menu it was certainly value for money considering that each course was of an ample size and cooked with care. The wines were also of good quality and they weren’t stingy with the pours (which could explain my raging hangover the next day).

The degustation menu will set you back $120pp food only, $190pp with wine pairing, or $305pp (eek!) with premium wine.

Food: 9/10 – the Pork Belly was the only major hiccup in what was otherwise a great meal
Service: 9.5/10 – service was professional, but the addition of a Sommelier would be welcome (maybe they do have one and it was their night off?)
Ambience: 9/10 – sleek, elegant and formal but could be a bit too ‘stuffy’ for some
Final Score: 9/10 – in the words of my husband “it was great, it just wasn’t perfect. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Barolo on Beaufort – review


BAROLO ON BEAUFORT
www.barolo.net.au
448 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA
Tel: 08 6162 9387
Open Monday to Saturday 6pm until late (open for lunch on Friday)

Barolo on Beaufort on Urbanspoon

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)

Forgive the quality of images....they were all haphazardly taken on my iphone!

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 SpecialBeef 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

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Curry and Mousse? Well I never!


Fragrant Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice

This weekend I tackled a fragrant chicken curry which I unearthed in an old Marie-Claire cook book.  It was a resounding success.  The sauce was a tomato, turmeric, ginger, garlic and coconut base with lime juice and coriander added at the end to give the sauce the lift it required.  Will definitely be adding this to my recipe book!

Simmering Fragrant Curry mmmmmm

Fragrant Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice

Nigella’s Instant Chocolate Mousse
I found some marshmallows and dark chocolate in the cupboard, and located a Nigella instant chocolate mousse recipe which I decided to have a bash at.  Curry followed by chocolate mousse isn’t the best of marriages but we’ll over look that.  The marshmallows are melted with the chocolate enabling the mousse to set quickly, quite a nifty trick.

Unfortunately I found the mousse was far too rich, almost uncomfortably rich, so next time I may try halving the amount of dark chocolate used and see what the result is.

Just looking at this makes my teeth fall out!

Just looking at this makes my teeth fall out!

The Finished Product

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Virgin Post


The first post is always the hardest…. pressure to perform and all that.  To overcome this hurdle I am going to cheat a little bit, I hope I will be forgiven.  I am simply just going to paste what is on my About page, then I can give a little sigh of released pressure and focus on post number two, not nearly as daunting!

I don’t expect anyone to read this blog or pay any attention to my ramblings.  It is for me.  I had a look at my life – completely consumed by this little person who is in my sole care (my son) and realised that I no longer had a clearly defined hobby, one that was just for me which which would give me a bit of extra motivation to my week, and that could help me define one day which now scarily blurs in to the next (such is the life of a SAHM).

So that’s how I found myself here.  Food and rambling – why not combine two of my great loves into one format.  A food blog isn’t unique, in fact it is somewhat nauseatingly common, but I’m not going to let that phase me.

So let’s see where this takes me.  Let’s see where it goes and what I can document along the way.  All I know at this point is that it will be my form of escapism in an edible fashion.

But first, a little bit about me………

I am a:

  • 30yo slave mother to toddler
  • sandgroper (name for someone from Western Australia)
  • blogging novice
  • food and wine enthusiast
  • cooking amateur
  • food reviewer wannabe

I like:

  • my kitchen.  I am not the world’s best cook but I am enthusiastic.  I prefer to cook with a glass of wine in hand.  Unfortunately my skill decreases at a rate proportionate to the amount of wine consumed.
  • eating out, preferably somewhere with well cooked food, amiable service and inviting ambience.  These qualities are somewhat hard to find in Perth amongst all of the shyster eateries which seem to be in the majority.
  • wine.  And copious amounts of it.  I don’t profess to be an aficionado, but I like to think that my knowledge spans wider than the difference between Stanley Fruity Lexia and Coolabah Fruity Lexia.
  • travelling.  I love to travel, eating and drinking my way through whichever destination I happen to find myself in.  I have traveled to Europe multiple times, USA, Maldives, Mauritius, Singapore, Bali.  I am slowly making my way through the wine regions of Australia, those I have visited are: Margaret River, Swan Valley, Great Southern WA, Barossa Valley, Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley – I’m well on my way!

There….. first post completed….that wasn’t so bad!

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