“Are we in Kansas TJ?”
“Nope, not any more Dorothy”.
TJ and I love playing around with movie lines, and driving around East Vic Park on a Friday night, we wondered if we were still in Perth/Kansas. The streets were humming with people, cars cruised up and down Albany Hway trying to find parking spots, and there were queues out the door of some restaurants. We’d never seen the streets so alive, especially in winter. Families, couples, students; everyone seemed to be out and about in Vic Park that night. A street market was in full swing, and this old town looked and felt more like a Sydney or a Melbourne. We’re growing up, finally.
Lucky us; The Precinct still had a few empty tables and we were welcomed inside and seated promptly. Wine ordered, food menu perused, and we anticipated a mellow evening ahead.
The wait staff provided helpful suggestions about the food options, and we decided on four small shared plates so we could sample a range of dishes. Our first two plates arrived within 15 minutes of ordering which was impressive given how busy the place was. The humble mac and cheese took on a whole new dimension with The Precinct’s version. Their truffle mac and cheese with Parmesan gratin ($15) was a delight. Creamy, rich and truffle-infused, we were licking our chops and giving thanks to inventive chefs who infuse old standards with a new lease of life.
Green pepper meatballs, tomato sugo and coriander salsa ($18) arrived at the same time, and this dish was a good contrast to the richness of the mac and cheese. The raw green peppers and tomato sugo complemented the meatballs well, bringing a fresh crunch and a tomatoey tang to the dish.
The chicken rillettes with pickled shimeji mushroom, radish and herbs with sourdough ($17) was a surprise. A light and zingy dish with super thin slices of radish, this was a change from the usual rillette structure. I’m not sure that the chunky sourdough pieces were the best accompaniment; bread works well with rillettes in a pate or moulded form where they are spread on the bread, but here the chicken was free form on the plate. Although we enjoyed this simple but flavourful dish, it probably isn’t something I would order again.
Our final dish was roast cauliflower with quark and toasted almonds ($16.50), and this was another lip-smackingly tasty dish. I love how the humble cauli features on so many menus these days. It’s evolved for me since my long-past childhood when mum made her mashed cauliflower fritters. I loved those plain old fritters back then, and nowadays I find the sheer versatility of this vegetable amazing. The Precinct’s take featured a variety of tastes and textures; caramelised, crunchy and creamy, and together they worked wonders. This version was on a par with the one I recently tried at the Swallow Bar . Both different but equally delicious.
TJ and I loved our Precinct evening, although at one stage when every table was occupied we realised we were almost shouting at each other due to the rising noise level. Fortunately the peak time hubbub didn’t last too long, and when a few tables cleared we no longer had to lip read across the table. The wine list is smallish but apparently changes every week, and there are selections by the glass to accompany the different dishes. Superlatives to the wait staff who are really on point; they know their stuff, they are attentive and quietly efficient, and enhance the whole experience.
Pity we didn’t get to sample the desserts, but there’s always next time. Great for a few drinks, a few light snacks or a full-on meal, The Precinct’s large and welcoming interior is perfect for group events or family outings where you can share and sample a variety of dishes. I’d save the quiet date nights for later on in the evening, when the manic crush has passed. Every age and demographic could enter this space and feel welcome.