Not sure if I can do a 10 course degustation these days I thought to myself, but I was prepared to give it my best shot. Didn’t eat anything all day; kept the tummy empty so I could cram as much in as possible. The last time I attempted such a meal was at Guillaume’s in the Opera House in Sydney several years ago, and as magnifique as it was, I could barely breathe for three days afterwards.
Fortunately as I soon discovered at Co-op Dining, the courses are small in size and are spread over a long period; in our case this was four hours. Co-op willingly accommodated a few adjustments to the menu, and swapped the pork and red meat options for me. All the wait staff were brilliant – friendly, amenable, professional and it was obvious that they really wanted us to enjoy the occasion. My first course was slow dried onion shells with different salts, herbs and fillings. Don’t ask me to name the salts and fillings – this is what comes of chatting away and drinking wine and forgetting to pay attention to detail! Such a simple idea, and tasty and inventive at the same time. There were cumin and smokey flavours, and I thought this was something you could easily try at home and experiment with. The other seven at my table had a charcuterie board with bresaola and another in-house cured meat. I wasn’t paying much attention to the meat starter to be honest. I had dried onion shells to focus on!
I may have blurred the order of some of the courses here, but the barramundi cheeks and skins were also in the entree category. The soft cheeks were lightly battered and fried, and served on a piece of crispy barramundi skin. You had to eat the skin in one go, as there was no way this chewy little sucker was going to be bitten in half. Interesting idea, and served with the Co-op version of a rollmop. See what I mean about the size of the courses? Nice and small for the ladies who don’t want to stuff down 10 massive sized courses. One cheek and one rollmop each. Perfect. The men were starting to get a bit antsy but that’s another story.
Fish appeared again in the form of dried Esperance sardines. Crunchy, tasty and complete with heads, these were enjoyed by all but one of us (who is fish-head-averse). They were served with a mild sauce and a salt which complimented the sardines well. Co-op work at introducing different textures and tastes, and only use fresh, seasonal, local produce.
Mild buttermilk curd with fruit and basil was next up, and its cool, mild flavours complimented the stronger taste of the dried, spiced chicken skins. Who would think to pair chicken skins with buttermilk curd? It was an offbeat but successful combination.
Delicate crab meat starred next, nestled with sea-salty samphire spears in a rye-bread roll, topped with a creamy garam-spiced sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Most of us felt that the lovely Shark Bay crab meat was overtaken by the strong-flavoured rye bread. Perhaps something a bit more understated would have showcased the crab to better effect. The samphire was a novelty – who knew that this glorious green stuff grows wild on our northern coastline?
When I conjure up images of fine dining, cornflakes and eggs don’t generally feature, so our next course came as some surprise.
On a bed of garlicky mashed potato sat a glistening egg yolk surrounded by….corn flakes. Well, certainly not Kelloggs, but the Co-op version of super-crunchy, savoury, hearty, house-made corn flakes. Yup. When polled about their favourite dishes of the evening, most people gave this dish the big thumbs up.
Our next course featured lightly seared duck breast on a bed of sauerkraut spiced with caraway seeds, and accompanied by a salted plum sauce. Whilst the contrasting textures of the cabbage with the duck worked very well, most of us felt the mild flavour of the duck was overpowered by the strong flavours of vinegar and caraway.
The men rejoiced when the next dish of hogget with coconut yoghurt and mild Indian spices was served. It was a generous slab of meat that seemed to fill the protein gap that the poor loves were suffering from. In lieu of the hogget, my course was a delicious potato and cauliflower version that was creamy, mildly spiced and sprinkled with crunchy fried garlic and onion slivers.
A welcome palate cleanser appeared next in the form of ginger kombucha popsicles. The strong flavour of the ginger was quite different to the expected mild flavours of lemon or orange, but it worked a treat.
Our first dessert course was a light-as-feather sponge served with poached apricot, some deliciously smooth yet slightly acidic cream, and orange rind that had been toasted and sweetened. You really will have to excuse my lack of detail here – after all these courses and three glasses of wine, my attention was waning. It had been a long, enjoyable evening but my motivation to record the minutiae seemed to evaporate at some point. At least I remembered to take photos!
And finally – drum roll please!! We all scream for ice-cream but who in their wildest imagination would have believed that ice-cream could taste so wonderful with baby carrots? But indeed it did as everyone in our group concurred. Sprinkled with liquorice dust and surrounded by pistachio crumbs, this exotic little creation was superbly finished off with ultra creamy ice-cream and little mounds of orangey apricoty sweetness. Oh my. Kudos to the chef for expanding our ways of thinking about what constitutes an amazing dessert.
This 10 course degustation at the princely sum of $125 is not your standard weekly dining out experience. For an extra $75 you can enjoy wine pairing with your meal, or you can simply buy by the glass which is on average, around the $15 mark. This intimate restaurant ticks all the boxes for me; it is staffed by passionate chefs and wait people who are proud of the food and wine they serve. There’s no rushing you through your meal, no obnoxious noise levels, no problem with people who need or want to change menu items. There is innovation, excellence and professionalism. What a brilliant way to sample all the fine WA produce we have on our doorstep.