Brooklyn Lounge

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We came here on a Friday night to take advantage of the brilliant oyster special. Hard not to love fresh oysters at $1 a pop, when they cost anything from $3 to $4.50 each everywhere else. Our group of 6 must have gone through hundreds of the little lovelies, some au natural, and some with lime and tequila dressing. Bottles of Tabasco sauce are provided to sprinkle on your oysters if you need a wow factor. We sat outside on the side street terrace as it was a beautiful evening, and enjoyed our feast, accompanied by cocktails and wine.

We came here a few months ago for the same Friday night special, and our experience was just as good. The wait staff are happy to take individual drink orders at the table, and allowed us to pay for them as we went, so no haggling over the bill at the end of the night. Not always easy in a group when people forget they ordered an extra dozen oysters or that lil ole glass of prosecco.

We’ve had several other menu items here – the bread with maple butter is yummy and goes down a treat with the oysters if you need a carb fix. The salads are gargantuan affairs and therefore great for sharing.

Brooklyns has a cosy corner inside with large chesterfield sofas where we’ve settled in  when we’ve had a bigger group. It’s so much easier to sit around low tables and chat rather than shouting down the long tables outside.

I’ve found the staff to be pleasant and on the ball, and service is always prompt. I’ve only been here on oyster nights, but there are other special nights – featuring sliders and hot dogs – during the week, and it’s a fab spot for a relaxing post-work drink any time.

It’s worth noting that Koko Black is just across the road in the Claremont shopping centre, and perfect for a post-oyster dessert/coffee fix.

Brooklyn Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stix Bar

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Stix looks like a bit like a shiny diamond amid the burgeoning apartment complexes on the Swan River in Burswood. Replete with a burnished wooden bar, gleaming copper fittings, views of the city and glimpses of the nearby Swan River, it’s a welcoming chill out spot away from the bustling Crown Casino complex a few minutes away.

We took advantage of a Groupon offer of 4 courses for $60, and thoroughly enjoyed our Stix evening of good food and attentive service. With 2 choices for each course, the menu wouldn’t work if you were a fussy diner, but for our group it was perfect.  Starting with an amuse bouche of a scallop with roe atop pea puree, the courses were well paced and the perfect size. The entree of chicken ballotine was beautifully flavoured and was served on a bed of something cool and creamy (I didn’t make a note of the details at the time; all I can remember is how much I enjoyed it!).

Our mains of Mt Barker roasted chicken breast with tarragon jus were accompanied by the most delicious little potato morsels I’ve ever had. Creamy soft inside and baked to a slightly crisp finish, they were simply amazing. The chicken was tender and moist, and although this was a simple dish, it was satisfying and perfectly cooked.

A course of Yallingup camembert topped with rocket was served with a basket of bread, although crackers would probably have been better suited after our substantial mains.

Dessert consisted of a selection of ice-cream and sorbet served on a crispy shortbread biscuit. The coffee ice-cream was sensational, with a close favourite being the zingy lime and mint sorbet. An unusual-looking dessert because of the way it was served on the curved biscuit, it was a light and refreshing finale to our meal.

Stix is an impressive newcomer to the bar and dining scene in Perth, and no doubt a boon to the residents of the nearby apartments. It’s elegant, the food is good, and the service professional and friendly. There is a modest selection of wines by the glass, including one dessert and 2 sparkling options. With many plates designed to share, or an 8 course degustation available for $80 pp, it’s an accessible spot with easy parking – perfect for languid summer Perth evenings.

Stix Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Must Winebar

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Unlike the “Pass the asparagus” scene in American Beauty where Kevin Spacey hurls the plate of delicate green stems against the wall, there was no such uncivilised behaviour at Must during our recent asparagus dining experience. Our band of foodies was invited to a Taste of Must evening, courtesy of Zomato, and Must Winebar head chef and partner, Russell Blaikie.

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On one special evening every month, Must hosts a four course degustation dinner with wine pairings, showcasing a different food on each occasion. Fortunately asparagus, high on my list of fave foods, was the guest of honour the evening we were invited.

Much as I enjoy the occasional gin and tonic, I’d never imagined a world where gin would be infused with asparagus. But the creative brains in the Must kitchen certainly did, and so the nifty little gin sour topped with a yellow nasturtium was our segue into the asparagus evening ahead.

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Our appetisers of satin smooth blue manna crab custard decorated with tiny green asparagus tips, were complemented by crostadas topped with prosciutto and white asparagus. Seafood custards are staples in several Asian cuisines, but Must’s version was lighter and more delicate than any I have tried before.

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Enter the entrees of asparagus and shallot tart tatins, mushroom foam and white wine gastrique. These subtly flavoured pastries, with sweet shallots and tender white and green asparagus stems, were perfectly paired with a Right Reverend V Industria chardonnay from Margaret River. The mushroom foam added visual interest and a creamy texture to the tart.

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Mains were a choice of Middle eastern spiced lamb rump, or a chicken thigh for the non-red meaters. The thigh was succulent and soft; with the flesh melting in my mouth and the skin buttery rich and crisp. Served with a mousse-like walnut tahini, ‘risotto’ and a raw salad shanklish, this combo of ingredients made my palate dance. The shanklish was an homage to feta, more subtly flavoured but ideally suited to the fresh flavour of the asparagus risotto, which had been laboriously cut into tiny pieces by the junior chef that day. Such attention to the finer details is what makes Must stand out amongst a sea of gourmet rivals.  A glass of Great Southern Rockcliffe Third Reef shiraz was the paired wine with this course.

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My fellow Zomatoes who chose the lamb were in foodie nirvana, proclaiming this their favourite course of the evening.

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No meal is complete without some sweet treat, and Must excelled itself again with its choice of dessert. Chocolate aero, salted caramel ice cream and samphire came together in a melange of flavours and textures. Samphire in a dessert?? Known as the “asparagus of the sea”, though it seemed an unusual choice it looked a treat, coated in sugar crystals atop a mound of chocolate and cream colours. The tiny samphire strands carried the asparagus theme through to its rightful conclusion. The texture of the chocolate aero changed as soon as it hit my mouth, with the sweetness tempered by the salted caramel ice cream. Our final tipple of Rockford Cane Cut Semillon from the Barossa Valley was a fitting end to a sublime meal.

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Must Winebar has long been a favourite of mine, but I rarely order anything except the angel hair pasta with blue manna crab meat. That’s simply because it’s so damn good that I’m oblivious to anything else on the menu. It was a revelation to sample a range of dishes that illustrate the creative chops of Russell Blaikie and his team.

I’ve attended cooking classes, dined a la carte, and dropped in solely for a glass of wine in the evenings, but this was my first degustation experience at Must. Small wonder that since this establishment opened in 2001 it has won a slew of awards for its food and wine, and continues to dazzle the people of Perth with memorable dining experiences.

Despite these plaudits, what I love most about Must is that it isn’t pretentious or beyond the reach of Joe and Jill Average. Whether it’s for a four course meal, for a Sunday afternoon soul session, for a champagne oyster lunch, for the superlative service, for the superb complimentary baguette and butter served with meals, or simply for a glass of wine – just come. I defy you to try the angel hair pasta with crab meat and not fall instantly in love.

Must Winebar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Low Key Chow House

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Dining at Low Key Chow House in a group means you can opt for the fixed price menu for $55 pp and have food coming at you from every direction. I’m not exaggerating when I say that once the food train started it never let up, and our group of 10 was completely stuffed to the gills with a range of amazing food.

This trendy Leederville bar and restaurant is always busy and the noise levels can be uncomfortable at times, although the crowds tend to thin out as the evening wears on and people move on to the nearby pubs.

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The selection of wine by the glass is quite limited but I was happy enough with a few glasses of the Saint Clair SB. A bowl of spiced peanuts is served once you order drinks. Shortly thereafter the appetisers start their onslaught and before you know it, the table is groaning with food….and that’s just for starters.

Pok Pok wings, an Asian version of buffalo wings, was suitably spicy and disappeared within seconds. Who doesn’t love buffalo wings?

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Mantou buns, a modern twist on steamed pork buns, were filled with candied caramel pork belly and peanuts. A fluffy white pancake with delicious pork belly; a definite crowd pleaser.

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The pork dumplings of the day were done gyoza style; crispy pan fried on one side.

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Vietnamese style beef patties were served with herbs, pickled cucumber and black bean sauce in lettuce. Remember we’re still at appetiser stage here – and I would have been content to quietly sip my wine and call it a night as far as food goes. But one soldiers on….

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Enter the big guns, accompanied by a plate of various pickles and accompaniments.

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And a Thai som tum salad.

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Beef with a black pepper sauce. The menu seems to change quite often, and what will be a beef dish one day will be pork  the next time.

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Beef rump seared on coals, served with kimchi and hot sauce.

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Blue spotted emperor – my favourite dish of the evening – beautifully cooked with soft flesh that just melted in your mouth. I haven’t had fish like this since I travelled through Vietnam.

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Hmmm. I honestly can’t remember what this dish was and I didn’t make note of it. Obviously another dish to make the hearts of carnivores soar! The men in our group were very content, needless to say.

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Rich Nonya style chicken curry with potatoes, served with roti.

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Another chicken dish – lemongrass chicken – cooked with coconut and chilli – light and flavourful.

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At this point we thought we couldn’t possibly stuff another morsel of food in our mouths. Someone had bagged the leftovers of huge amounts of meat, so at least the food wasn’t going to waste. But we had no idea that we’d be served three different desserts. I love desserts and always try to leave room for it, but all I could manage was a few mouthfuls. Sad to say that my friends were pretty much the same. I forgot to photograph one dessert that comprised deep fried ice-cream parcels with caramel sauce.

The sticky date pudding with ice-cream and butterscotch sauce looked tempting and tasted beautiful. I love it when desserts come with rivers of butterscotch sauce.

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The sago pudding with gula melaka was a delightful concoction of smooth balls of sago with the dark richness of palm sugar syrup and the lushness of coconut cream. Simple but delicious, and I’d order this on its own next time.

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Other things I forgot to photograph – rice, roti, wok fried greens and tofu with mixed vegetables. As you can tell it was a huge amount of food and in most cases, there were two plates of each provided, one at each end of the table. I’ve never seen a table so full of food. Too much food actually. Whilst you feel satisfied that you are getting your money’s worth, it does encourage over-eating, and no-one wants to leave a restaurant feeling gorged. Well, I don’t anyway.

I’m not complaining however. It was a night of brilliant Asian cuisine, good cheerful service and bonhomie. If you visit in a group, the set menu is definitely the way to go. The sheer variety of food cooked street style, wok fried or on the coals, is amazing and solves the dilemma of having to choose multiple dishes to please everyone. This really takes the hard work out of group dining. Come with empty stomachs and don’t eat so much of the mains that you miss out on dessert, as they are worth waiting for too.

Low Key Chow House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Miss Kitty’s Saloon

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Scotty accompanied me to Miss Kitty’s to help me take advantage of a $50 Dimmi voucher. I’d been to this eclectic saloon before for a post-dinner drink, but never for food. The thought of Canadian poutine had been on my mind for days, and that was my raison d’etre for choosing this venue to cash in the voucher.

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Imagine if you will, a bit of wild west meets boudoir meets industrial meets kitsch meets art deco meets barnyard. And that is probably the best way I can describe this cat’s decor. The photos speak the descriptions my words fail to capture. Homage to the good ole USA with a few other countries in the mix for good measure.

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Straight up, I want to say that our service was the best I’ve had in Perth in a very long while, and as you’ve probably guessed, I dine out often. From the guy who greeted us to the guy behind the bar to the delightful waitress attending to us, it was a beautiful thing. Imagine that – staff who know how to really make their patrons feel welcome, who are happy to chat (well it was a quiet night), to give helpful suggestions based on our food likes – and who leave no doubt that THEY LOVE THEIR WORK! Heavens to Murgatroyd – now there’s a turn up for the books!  Yes indeed there are many wonderful hospitality staff around town, but Miss Kitty’s is in a league of its own.

Scotty and I got in the mood for some food by ordering a glass of wine each. Wines by the glass are slim pickings here – the emphasis is more on beers and hard liquors. No quibble on our part; we were here for the food and were happy enough with the wine choices available.

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The food – well poutine was a given, although Scotty baulked when I told here that the chips came with gravy. “I don’t like gravy with chips” was her comment. I countered with “but these are not ordinary chips and gravy”, a fact that the canny waitress affirmed. She was on my side. We managed to persuade Scotty that she really would like this dish, and to be honest I was going to dig my heels in until she relented. Relent she did. And like it she did. Gloriously squidgy chips smothered in tasty gravy, sprinkled with fresh parsley and dotted with curds. I normally prefer my chips crunchy but in this case that wouldn’t have worked. Soft and  yummy and really comforting.

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Chicken with waffles piqued our interest, as it sounded unlike anything we’d tried before. Fried chicken served with sweetish waffles and a corn and onion salsa with a hint of chilli. The contrast of the fried chicken with the sweet waffles was a bit strange at first, but it grew on me and I wished there’d been a bit more chicken. Just loved that fried chicken.

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Scotty ordered a pulled pork taco with pickled red cabbage which she loved. I passed on this, but at $4.90 this is the perfect little dish for one. As you can see it’s a generous serve of pork.

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Our final and healthiest dish was the black bean salad (may be what’s called the succotash salad on the menu but I forgot to make a note of it). Just as well we’d picked something virtuous as dessert was yet to come. Compared to our other exciting dishes, the salad was a bit tame but nonetheless it filled in that last little savoury gap in our stomachs. It certainly looked very pretty with its red cabbage, yellow corn, green rocket and black beans.

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Last but not least – dessert. Who doesn’t love a giant ice cream sandwich? Especially when the sandwich is brioche, the ice cream is made from creamy peanut butter, and the whole thing is smeared with a sweet berry jam?

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Let me tell you – when the slices of ice cream began melting and soaking into the fat slices of brioche, the enjoyment factor jumped up several notches.  I’m glad we shared this massive dessert on the sage advice of our waitress – it was  way too much for one person. Did I mention it was delicious? Not something i’d ordinarily choose, but sometimes you’ve just gotta go with your instincts……and the advice of staff who know the food.

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Since I dined at Miss Kitty’s a few weeks ago, I’ve noticed that the menu has changed. I think they like to ratchet things up a bit and keep the chefs’ creative juices flowing. There’s an open kitchen and we amused ourselves by keeping an eye on the goodies that were being produced. Scotty and I really enjoyed our foodie experience here, and decided we’d be back to work our way through the menu. Even if it does change regularly, it all sounds pretty interesting. This food won’t win awards, but it’s fun. There’s nothing wrong with fun foods once in a while, and as long as you leave your kilojoule counter at home, you’re bound to enjoy yourselves. I’d suggest visiting mid-week when it’s quiet, as the weekends get to be pretty rowdy and conversations become shouting matches.
For my money, Miss Kitty’s is the cat’s miaow 🙂

Miss Kitty's Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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Morries Anytime

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Morries Anytime looked so inviting as we drove past in the evening, that we booked in for dinner the following night. The place was fairly jumping when we arrived, but it was a Saturday night in Margaret River and as we know, this place is not so sleepy these days, even in the winter months.  Morries serves a range of tapas, but also offers traditional main courses for those not partial to sharing.  There is a wide range of wines from the region on offer, and we managed to sample a few during the course of the evening.

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The Prof ordered a Pedro’s Daiquiri  and despite it being served in a cool retro glass, wasn’t impressed with the flavours of the Ximenez sherry, rum and cinnamon.  She complained it tasted medicinal, and promptly ordered a glass of red to compensate.  We ordered some grilled haloumi with pickled zucchini and charred ciabatta to munch on while we deliberated over our main courses. This dish wasn’t much to sing about, but kept the pangs at bay.

The Prof is a carnivore at heart and often orders big slabs of meat. Her dish was a locally sourced Angus steak of (I think) porterhouse, served with broccolini and potato cake. It sure looks all caramelised and juicy, but apparently it was on the tough side and she rated it only a 6 out of 10. Well, you can’t win ’em all, but that’s the lucky dip that goes hand-in-hand with ordering steak.  Me; I’m a chicken and fish kind of gal so I rarely have issues with tenderness, ages, drying times and all that stuff.

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My main choice was hot off the special’s board – crispy skin chicken breast with mustard cream sauce, pan fried polenta, peas and baby carrots.  The plump breast was succulent, the sauce gloriously lush and perfect for the soft polenta. All in all, a fabulous dish with every element complementing each other.

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True to its name, Morries Anytime is open just about anytime – well, from 7.30am till late seven days a week. Whilst I enjoyed all aspects of my dining experience, The Prof wasn’t enamoured with hers though we both enjoyed the ambience, and gave the friendly service a thumbs up. I think it’s a cool venue for a few quiet drinks in the evening, especially out front on the verandah in the warmer months.

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Toledo Lounge, Vic Park

2015-07-18 12.40.20 Friday evening and Toledo’s was suspiciously quiet. Where were the post-work crowds? Why after sitting for 10 minutes did we have to wave our arms at the wait staff to order a drink? Staff were super friendly, just otherwise occupied. Doing what? Good question.  The scene above was Toledo about an hour after we arrived, when the tables were filling. 2015-07-18 20.57.31 Our party of four was somewhat mollified after glasses of wine were duly presented. A few glugs of grape juice and everything  seems better.  On with the food then. Toledo is a tapas joint, and the dishes are designed around different regions of Spain as the rather funky menu illustrates. We began with the old favourite, patatas bravas. Fairly standard dish of fried potatoes with aioli and romesco sauce ($10).  It’s hard to go wrong with potatoes. 2015-07-18 12.35.58 Paella arancini balls with saffron aioli and rocket ($15) were regulation without being outstanding. The balls were crispy fried without being oily, and the rice filling was tasty enough. Nothing to knock your socks off though. 2015-07-18 12.33.23 The battered prawns with guacamole and aioli ($15) looked perky, and the prawns were fresh. There wasn’t anything citrusy or crunchy however to give this dish the lift it needed. And by this stage we were aioli’d out. Aioli here, aioli there, aioli everywhere. 2015-07-18 12.26.44 Our dish of fried goats cheese with glazed honey ($16) was deliciously creamy, and the one dish I really enjoyed. The honey and rocket were a good contrast to the battered cheese. 2015-07-18 12.31.45 Beef croquettes with rocket ($16) and – you guessed it – more aioli! This was our sole meat dish of the evening and my least favourite. The beef had been ground to a smooth paste, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. I concede I’m not much of a red meat fan anyway but this dish lacked inspiration and flavour, and the texture was strange – like a cow that wants to be a parfait but isn’t quite ready to forsake being mincemeat. 2015-07-18 12.28.59 Our final dish was the stuffed squid with saffron rice, romesco and cheese sauce ($16). I don’t quite know what to say about this except that it was a change from all the fried foods. The rice stuffing seemed a bit odd, and although the flavours weren’t terrible together, it just didn’t work for me. And what do you know – yet another bed of that sneaky ole rocket underneath – we wouldn’t want this dish to feel left out, would we? 2015-07-18 12.38.20 The group decided to share the dessert tasting plate ($16). You can forgive a restaurant serving ordinary food as long as its desserts are a bit special.  This dessert was special all right, but special in a different way. The profiteroles were “just like the frozen ones you buy at Coles” my friend remarked. The pannacotta didn’t wobble, and the chocolate sauce had mysteriously managed to escape from a Cottees bottle. The forlorn chocolate filling in the Portuguese chocolate tart laboured away under the weight of its gluggy frozen puff pastry shell. The crema catalana was a poor relation of the rich custard we expected. 2015-07-18 12.43.38 Toledo has a few things going for it, but food isn’t one of them. My recent visit to Jezebelle’s in Guildford was an example of how an eclectic and interesting tapas menu should work.  Our Toledo food experience was uninspiring and the menu could do with a major tweaking.  With aioli and rocket featuring on almost every dish, a bit of creativity would work a treat. How about some salsas, some crunch, some lemony twangs? One of my friends waited 15 minutes for her second glass of wine before telling the waiter to “forgetaboudit”.  The location is a plus with plenty of free parking out front, and the place has atmosphere once the punters start stumbling in. But unlike in real estate, in the food industry location isn’t everything.  While the wait staff were friendly and charming, if charming can’t serve me a drink in a reasonable time, it doesn’t pass muster.

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Jezebelle in Guildford

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Old Guildford town has undergone a transformation over recent years, and the places for foodies to explore continue to grow. Jezebelles has been created out of an old bank building and brings a touch of funkiness amid the cottages and heritage decor. Meeting up with a small group of friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to enjoy the Jezebelle offerings. With a jazz duo playing at the rear of the venue, sun streaming through the windows and comfy chairs to park yourselves in, you get to ruminating that life is pretty darn good. Add a $10 glass of sangria to the mix and all’s right with the world.

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The lunch menu comprises plates of Spanish themed tapas which enabled our party of five to sample a range of dishes. The quesadillas with Spanish cured ham, rocket and manchego cheese ($12.90) were everything quesadillas should be; generously filled, crispy outside, and oozing with warm cheese.

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Croquetas de setas ($16) were filled with mushroom and labneh and smeared with red pesto. These fried morsels nestling on a bed of pea puree were hot and crunchy and scrumptious.

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The service at Jezebelle was uniformly brilliant. Our Italian waiter was a beaming joy; happy to be there, knowledgeable about the menu, and eager to please. The tapas plates were presented at decent intervals so we had time to savour our food and enjoy the experience.

The delicious tiger prawn tacos ($20) were lightly beer battered and served with guacamole and pico de gallo. See those small soft tacos? They weren’t easy to pick up and eat, and looked more like a work of art to be admired. But troopers that we are, we somehow managed to polish them off.

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You can’t have too many fried foods; well certainly not when you’re eating a tapas meal. And as long as good quality olive oil is used, those old arteries won’t suffer too much. That’s what I tell myself and it seems to temporarily placate me. Enter the bola de paella ($16), chorizo and prawn paella balls; crispy golden rounds of rice mixed with nibbles of prawn and chorizo, accompanied by saffron aioli.

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Garden variety fish and chips is such a hit and miss affair that I am reluctant to order it unless I’m in a dedicated seafood eatery. I’m so glad we took the waiter’s advice and ordered Jezebelle’s version as it was a highlight amongst a slew of highlights. The fish of the day ($18) with patatas bravas, mesclun salad and house made tartare, featured two generous pieces of cod, beer battered and served on a board.  The serve of patatas was small but given the serious amount of carbs we’d devoured,  this wasn’t an issue. The fish was fresh and the batter crisp; better (and cheaper) than many I’ve sampled locally.

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Pork lovers are not forgotten. The pork and prawn cigars ($16) were fried in spring roll wrappers and served with sweet chilli mayo. I didn’t try these but JS and The Prof assured me they were the bees knees. I couldn’t possibly doubt that given the primo food we’d been scoffing.

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The ubiquitous salad. The thing we order because we think it will balance out the plates of fried/cheesy/decadent stuff we’ve scoffed. I do love salad actually so ordering it wasn’t a dilemma, but by the time it arrived I was almost at belt-loosening time. Still I had to find room for a few spoons of this colourful concoction, and I was glad I did. The warm salad of pumpkin, sweet potato and red onion ($12) was sensational. With a sprinkling of paprika pepitas, lashings of goats cheese and a tahini dressing, this was one gourmet surprise. I’m just sorry that we couldn’t finish it, but one has to squeeeezzzze in a dessert somewhere.

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And now for everybody’s favourite dessert these days – churros ($14). Served with a bowl of dulce de leche, this dessert allowed us to share without being greedy. Dusted in cinnamon and icing sugar, these churro fingers were marshmallow soft inside and crunchy outside. Just the way they should be.

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This was my second encounter with Jezebelles and it won’t be my last. The food was superb, the service impeccable and the ambience quirky and fun. Wednesday nights are cocktail nights where every one of their creations is a mere $10. Bargain by Perth standards. I can feel a midweek gathering a coming…

Did I mention this place is on the Entertainment gold card? Just another reason to visit if you’re not already convinced.


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The Precinct Restaurant

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Swallow Bar

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You know that scene in “A Christmas Carol” where Scrooge gazes  in the window at the people having such a jolly good time that he begins to realise what he is missing out on? That’s just how the Swallow Bar appeared to me whenever I strolled past in the evenings. Inviting, warm, a place where everybody knows your name. Well yes, I’m crossing the line between Dickens and the Cheers Bar but you can see the picture I’m trying to draw. Now that I’ve finally tasted Swallow’s hospitality, I wonder why I waited so long.

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Finally Scotty and I coordinated diaries and agreed on a date to visit. She’d been a few times before and raved about it, so I knew I was going to love it. The emergence of small bars in Perth over recent years has been a boon for us folks who enjoy a quiet tipple in a non-pub environment.

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This tiny bar packs in the people, and the staff really do know names. Obviously a lot of regulars. There’s not a lot of room in the front section where there are just four coveted booth seats, but out back in the courtyard there are more tables if you’re prepared to brave the cold. Yes, the courtyard is indeed open air, but there are blankets provided to ward off the chilly winter air. Scotty and I jagged a seat opposite the kitchen, so we were warm and toasty and were able to check out all the delicious items being turned out rapid fire, by the two chefs. The food list is short and simplicity seems to be the key. To keep things ticking along in a small kitchen you limit the options, but make those options good ones with nothing too fussy. We decided on four shared plates, and this was ample to satisfy us.

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As is the case all over Perth, wine by the glass is not cheap and as I like to imbibe a few, this bumps up the cost of the evening. YOLO, I say. I love having a few glasses with my meal and sometimes work my way through the colours; a white, a pink and a red. Scotty was driving, so I was free to indulge. My favourite wine of the night was actually the cheapest at $9: an Italian red; Mandoleto Nero D’Avola.

Our first little share plate was the $10 French Onion and Gruyere croquettes. These three crispy, crumbed fried rounds were stuffed with hot, fragrant cheese and what we thought were caramelised onions. Simple and delicious.

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In quick succession other plates followed. Chicken & Pedro Ximinez pâté with garlic rubbed sourdough toasts at $15 went down very well with my glass of Spinifex Rosé Mataro from the Barossa. There was an ample serving of crunchy toast with the pâté which was appreciated. Don’t you hate it when you run out of dippers for your dips or spreads?

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The Spiced roasted cauliflower with toasted almonds and lemon yoghurt at $16 was impressive. The Swallow’s creation elevated this humble vegetable to magic foodie heights. The different textures of the smooth lemon yoghurt and the crunchy nuts, along with zing of the spices and fresh parsley, made this dish special.

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I’ve saved the best for last. It was the Artichoke & cheese gratin at $16. Yum. How can such a simple dish taste so darn good? Scotty and I tried to figure out what the ingredients were so we could duplicate it at home. We thought it was likely to be artichokes in jars, along with a good quality cheese. But what type of cheese? That’s the $64 question. We’ll just have to go back and ask the chefs. The dipping toasts were perfect but we ran out of them. This dish could take a leaf out of the pâté book. Less is not more.

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With a congenial atmosphere, staff who greet you like they are so very happy to see you, a short but fabulous list of food options and a decent range of drinks, the Swallow is a place you can become cosy and familiar with very quickly. With live jazz several times a week, this place is just the ticket for a few drinks after work, or a long lazy evening with a friend. Or go alone; I guarantee you won’t feel lonely.

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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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El Publico

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What’s loud, crowded, fun and smack bang in the middle of the busy Beaufort St strip? Well it could be one of a few places, but the hip place I’m referring to is El Publico. This place is so hip in fact, it only takes bookings of two hours duration so you’ve got to eat up and move on, just when the party’s getting started.

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That’s if you take the early booking of course – with the 8.30 booking you get to stay and drink tequila and party on till the midnight hour.

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Our group of 8 decided to go with the easy option of the $45 “Feed Me Menu”, a tapas-style meal with a mix of meat and vegetarian choices. Some nights when you’re getting stuck into the wine and cocktails, you’d rather not have to make important decisions about what you’re going to eat. Just put the food in front of us and we’ll hope for the best.
The starters of spiced chickpeas, and guacamole and salsa with corn chips disappeared in the blink of an eye.

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Dishes followed in quick succession. They don’t muck about at El Publico. Enamel dishes filled with Street Prawns complete with shells and heads appeared. Apparently you eat the whole thing. And much to our surprise, they were tasty little morsels once you got past the idea of eating prawn heads. Who would’ve thought?

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Street Corn consisted of corn kernels cooked in creamy sauce and spices and was unlike any corn I’ve eaten before. In a good way.

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“Bring on the meat” the men in our group were silently thinking, and before you could say “chipotle chilli”, out came our next dish of soft beef tacos with all the accompaniments.

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Mushroom Quesadillas followed, and this was a delicious wrap of fried and spiced mushrooms in toasted tortillas. I’m sure there was something else in those tortillas, but I was enjoying my tequila a bit too much to pay much attention at this point.

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The carnivores in our group were satisfied with our next dish of Carbon de Mercado San Juan. Replete with barbecued pork, chicken , beef and chorizo, there were two huge plates for our table and we couldn’t do them justice.

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To accompany the carnivores’ delight, several salads were served. The fresh beetroot, leafy greens and walnut salad was the perfect foil for the rich meat. There was also a  tomato salad and a weird tasting coleslaw. Well I guess they can’t all be winners.

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And, for the grand finale, the dessert board consisting of three different desserts. The peanut butter parfait was superb. Creamy, rich and gloriously peanutty, this was the highlight of the evening for me.

The fudge was sweet and rich, and our third dessert of the coconut cake with chocolate pistachio was an interesting mix of  flavours and  textures. They were spoiled of course, because I ate the peanut butter parfait first and everything else was second best after that.

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Despite having to hustle out the door at 8.30, our evening at El Publico was a fun experience. The wait staff were attentive, and our drinks waiter was entertaining and charming, recommending drinks and even giving us samples of wine to try. This place is really jumping on a Saturday night, and there was barely room to move near the bar by the time we left. Lucky us though – with Must Wine Bar a few steps down the road, we were able to continue on with our Saturday night for several more hours. That’s the beauty of the Beaufort St strip – there’s always somewhere else to go.

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Samson’s Paddock

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Mosman Park is a bit further afield from my usual area, but I’m always interested in discovering new venues and adding to my list of favourites. Samson’s Paddock on Glyde Street is a newish addition to the area and looks chilled and inviting with its red brick and wood interior, and back courtyard complete with an acoustic musical duo playing on the night we visited.

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Our group settled into one of the front rooms and ordered drinks from the wine menu. With only a limited range of wines by the glass, they regrettably ran out of the Adelaide Hills pinot rose within our first hour there. Not great planning for a Saturday night, with the only other rose option being a whopping $14 a glass. I really do think restaurants that also promote themselves as bars should provide more options for reasonably priced wine by the glass.

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We were offered the set menu of two courses for $50 but this provided a limited range of options and didn’t appeal to any of us. I wasn’t enamoured with the main course options so decided to go with two entrees. My first selection was the truffled arancini with feta, spinach and mushrooms and they proved a good choice – crispy, not oily, and with a flavourful punch of truffle and feta.

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The Prof and I swapped one of our entree pieces so I got to sample her coconut-crusted tiger prawns with lime and chilli aoli. This fairly standard offering was perfectly fine, but nothing outside of the box.

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Sadly my choice of the Vegetarian Moussaka for the main course was a major disappointment. I was expecting bubbling, cheesy layers of vegetables, but the offering of layered zucchini, eggplant and peppers topped with a slice of haloumi was far from that. The vegetables had stewed in their own liquid, and minus any cheesy tomato sauce, this dish languished in mediocrity. The slice of haloumi only hinted at the flavours that could have been. Undoubtably the blandest moussaka I have ever eaten.

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The Prof didn’t fare much better with her meal of Copocabana Quesadillas with chilli con carne. Overcooked was how she described it, and this is obvious from the pic below.

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Two others in our group ordered the fish-of-the-day special of pan fried salmon with mash and broccolini. The verdict on the salmon was that it was passable, but “nothing to write home about”.

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The last of our group chose a daily special of risotto with peas and camembert. She enjoyed this dish, pronouncing it creamy and flavourful. Finally; someone satisfied with their main course!

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It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have a wonderful food experience here, but that doesn’t detract from the other delightful elements of this restaurant and bar. Samson’s Paddock has several positive things going for it; wonderful ambience and settings, attentive and pleasant service, and the fact that it’s open every day. I can see myself sitting in the courtyard with a few friends on a balmy Perth afternoon, sipping drinks and nibbling on some shared plates of food. It’s the perfect venue really; if only they could fine-tune the food situation and lower the drink prices, Saturday night would likely be a full-house.

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The Moat

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En route to what would prove to be a wacky music evening at Ruby’s, Craig, Prince and I wandered around the CBD in search of dinner and wine. The Moat looked promising and we loved its location under the State Library. The place was half empty but that changed rapidly over the next half hour and we were shuffled around like pawns on a chess board. Four table changes later and feeling peeved that it took 15 minutes to get a glass of goddamn wine, we could finally relax at our table. Amazing that we stayed actually, but the food looked interesting and we weren’t in a hurry after all.

While there were several meaty menu options that the boys drooled over, there were few main meal selections for non-meat eaters. I’m not vegetarian, but there are times when I’d rather just eat vegetarian dishes; something most restaurants these days willingly accommodate. The Moat’s options of dahl and roti (yawn) and the unrelenting salads (ho bloody hum) did not ring my bell. Perhaps fine for shared plates but not for a main. With few other options pour moi, I chose the cheese board from the dessert list. Good quality cheeses with a smear of pear jam and a nibble of pistachios made this dish acceptable, but I would have preferred some slices of bread in addition to the crackers provided.

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The boys couldn’t go past the lamb and eggplant ragu with polenta. It looked scrummy and of course I had to taste test the creamy polenta. Yum. The boys were silent for a while as they satisfied their manly meat urges. A resounding double thumbs up for this dish.

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The wine selection by the glass featured wines from all over Australia, and I enjoyed both a pinot gris and a pinot noir from Tasmania. Weekdays from 5 to 6pm is Happy Hour with $10 cocktails and $5 glasses of wine. Bargain.
If The Moat staff could just sort their seating and reservations out, and not spend time chatting and forgetting their customers need a drink re-fill, this cute dungeon would be an almost perfect venue.

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