Mary’s in Highgate

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After an ordinary experience at the Mary Street Bakery some time ago, I was intrigued by the glowing reports of Mary’s and wanted to see if this place truly morphed from its day time bakery cafe persona into something special, come the witching hour. I’m happy to say that just like Cinderella, the transformation is impressive and my dining experience was nothing short of brilliant.

I’m impressed by the group shared dining options available at reasonable prices in Perth these days. Mary’s $45 offer is exceptional value and just when your stomachs are starting to groan, the food just seems to keep on coming.

Plates of olives and pickles, crispy chicken skin and trailer trash mix were the first of the snacks and small plates to arrive, followed by a heaped board of crusty bread.

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Crunchy fried eggplant with miso mayo quickly followed.

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Raw fish with ginger and sesame was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The only problem with this dish was that my dining companions loved it as much as me and I could have eaten a plate of this by myself. The zing of the ginger and the crunch of the spring onion added interest and texture to a simple dish.

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Fried chicken wings with kewpie and roe were a big crowd pleaser. To see eight women happily munching away on wings using fingers only is not a common sight on the restaurant scene but sometimes it’s the only way to eat. Surprise pockets of kewpie mayo and roe were hidden inside the delightfully crunchy and moist wings – homage to the stuffed Asian chicken wings, but with a modern twist.

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Lasagne with mushroom, black garlic, burnt butter and curd is guaranteed to please vegetarians and carnivores alike. As a mad mushroom fan, this deconstructed dish was another highlight for me.

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Much as my fellow diners oohed and aahed about the aged rump tartare with smoked oyster, I couldn’t bring myself to eat this. As you may know I’m not a red meat devotee and will indulge in a spot of meat eating occasionally, but raw holds a special place for meat die hards.  Not my cup of cow, but then there were so many other dishes on offer that I didn’t feel deprived 🙂

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The Maltagliati, braised beef and spiced black vinegar brought howls of delight from the table. The silky sheets of pasta and the sharpish hint of the black vinegar joined to bring balance to the richness of the slow-cooked beef cheeks. Italian marries Chinese. Innovative and satisfying.

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Mary’s twist on kimchi combined caramelised bacon, sticks of apple and pieces of iceberg lettuce dressed with kimchi vinaigrette. Much less potent that the traditional Korean staple, this effervescent salad was a good foil for the richness of the previous dishes.

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The rabbit food continued with a peppered leaf, onion, avocado, black rice and Thai basil salad. I loved the different flavours in this dish – the pungency of the Thai basil contrasting with the avocado and the mild peppered green leaves. Again, simple execution but exceptional combination of tastes and textures.

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Like the well-oiled machine that Mary’s is, the plates were cleared and desserts presented.  No creme brûlées or churros or tiramisus here. Sweet dark chocolate mousse and ginger nut brownie was served on a bed of fruity, tart passionfruit, and flamboyantly shaved with fresh coconut by the wait staff.  The mouthfuls featuring the different flavours were delightful and satisfying. Of course, two plates between eight women = not enough, but I guess Mary’s mantra is to leave them wanting more. That works.

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Our second dessert was a delicious blend of home-made ice cream with ……. ok, I confess I have forgotten and I didn’t make notes about it. All I can say was that like everything else, it was satisfying and scrumptious. I do remember a decadent sauce and a crunchy topping and the flavour of peanut butter. You just know that combo has to be good, right?

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My Mary’s experience was positive and satisfying. Our two hour booking was a well-executed session with drinks ordered and presented quickly, food well paced and staff consistently on the ball. The food was creative, inventive and made with love. All in all, a superlative dining experience. When eight women leave with smiles and full bellies and nothing but praise, you just know that this humdinger of a place has something special going for it. Hail Mary.



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