The Painted Bird

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Tucked away in Wesley Arcade in the CBD, the Painted Bird has a modern, relaxed vibe and it was pleasant sitting out in the front courtyard for some pre-dinner drinks under the warmth of a heater.

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Inside the cool vibe continued, and our group of eight gals anticipated an evening of excellent food, wine and conversation.There was a good selection of wine by the glass, but unfortunately one of those glasses of red ended up being poured down the back of one of my friends when the waitress stumbled with her tray of drinks. It had to be red wine didn’t it? Murphy’s Law. The restaurant did agree to pay the dry cleaning bill, so fingers crossed her clothes survive.

The menu at The Painted Bird is modern Australian, and we ordered house baked sourdough with smoked eggplant and tahini dip for the table to share. This  light start to the meal was pleasant, and filled the gap while waiting for the mains to arrive.

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We skipped starters as we wanted to leave room for dessert later. The list of mains covered most bases with chicken, duck, lamb, fish and beef included. The restaurant’s signature dish of The Painted Bird confit duck leg painted with mustard & orange, wrapped in pastry served with potato puree & duck jus at $37 sounded tempting. Mandy enjoyed her choice although the richness of the dish beat her in the end and she couldn’t finish it. The duck leg was moist and encased in a light pastry, nestled on a bed of creamy potato puree. Although the duck itself wasn’t strongly flavoured, the jus was rich and this added to the intensity of the dish. She would have liked a few veggies to offset the richness of the dish.

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I’ll move on to the disappointment of the night: Saffron risotto with asparagus, parmesan & truffle oil. This dish at $33 lacked the starchy creaminess expected of a good risotto, and was bland and insipid. There was no evidence of a punchy stock being used, and it’s basically what you’d expect from a food court. Luckily I didn’t order this dish but my friend urged me to taste it to confirm her opinion. Yup, that was one very ordinary plate of food.

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Two of our girls ordered one of the daily specials; lamb cutlets with gremolata and potato puree, but I forgot to note the price or what the sauce was. I can tell you that they both enjoyed this dish with tender lamb, although due to a muck-up with the orders, JS was initially presented with a plate of something not remotely resembling lamb chops, and had to wait another 20 minutes for hers to arrive. Although the staff did their best to rectify their mistake quickly, it’s no fun when everyone else has their food and one person has to sit and wait while everyone else is chowing down.

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Free range chicken & sweet potato tagine with dates, green olives, Israeli couscous, preserved lemon and harissa at $34 was my choice for main. I was so delighted that I continued eating it well past my tummy’s full mark.  The dish had all the right elements: the sweetness of the sweet potato and dates, the sourness and saltiness of the preserved lemon, the heat of the harissa, and the succulence of slow-cooked chicken thighs. Yum.
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The slow cooked skirt steak, Paris butter, potato rosti, and roasted field mushroom at $36 was a modern take on an old stew stalwart. I’ve never associated skirt steak as something you’d actually eat as a steak, but as my pal Lynn put fork and knife to plate, she assured me it was tender and delicious. Slow cooked and then pan-seared on top of the stove.

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I was beaten by my main course, but a few of our table wanted to try desserts, all of which were $15. Two of the girls loved the chocolate and hazelnut pudding with peanut butter ice cream. The pudding had the delightful oozy centre and the ice cream was creamy and delicious.

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At the other end of table, the choice of nougat gelato, rhubarb compote, brioche doughnuts was popular. I love seeing rhubarb feature in desserts; it reminds me of a childhood where rhubarb being picked from our back yard and made into warming crumbles and fruity pies. This version was a modern take, and beautifully presented in a cocktail glass. I did manage to scoff one of the brioche doughnuts; they looked inviting but weren’t as light as I expected.

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The Painted Bird has some good ingredients. The food for the most part was excellent, and the atmosphere and ambience is great. Our experience however was tainted by a few factors. The spilled wine – well, accidents happen and we accept this and move on. One major mix up with a main course. One sub-standard main course. Yes, this happens everywhere, but for $33 for a rice dish, we expect something special. Hit and miss service. After our initial settling in, wait staff seemed to ignore us and for most of the evening we had to get someone’s attention when we needed drinks topped up. You should not have to do this, nor should you have to request the dessert menu or go up to the bar several times because you’ve been ignored for long periods. These issues detract from the overall experience and that becomes an important factor. In Perth we have such a plethora of quality eateries these days, that you simply don’t return to a place where several things are off-key.  In saying that though, I do think it’s the perfect little spot for a few drinks in the evening in the courtyard. Just don’t order red wine.

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