Habitue, North Fremantle

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Set in a converted house on Harvest Rd, Habitue was the perfect lunch spot on a sunny afternoon. Underneath the leafy canopy shading the front courtyard, Scotty and I enjoyed the casual atmosphere and excellent food on offer. Another courtyard out the back looked very inviting, and I could picture the different rooms inside coming alive in the evening.

Habitue’s menu is perfect for sharing, so we selected several dishes that were so darn good that we wished we could have fit in several more. The zucchini flowers with fromage blanc and basil was a no-brainer choice for us. For some reason you rarely see these on menus here and we were excited to try them. I wonder what happens to all those lovely flowers on zucchini plants; do they just get tossed out? Seems a damn shame as you could play around with the fillings and batters and they’d be great starters for dinner parties. I digress…. This version with light batter was creamy with the soft, warm fromage blanc filling, crunchy with the light batter and perfectly complemented by the subtle basil dressing.

Chargrilled tiger prawns were served with creamy Israeli couscous and shavings of fresh fennel.  We loved the crunchy, smokey WA prawns and the contrasting fresh flavours of the fennel and fresh dill.

Everyone seems to have their own version of cauliflower these days, and Habitue’s was a revelation. Served with smashed dates, chick peas and pureed almond paste, the cauli was redolent with cumin, and served a lovely toasty roasted brown colour. Dee-Licious.

Hand-cut chips was our final choice – a pedestrian choice perhaps, but still scrumptious served fat and crispy, and accompanied by celery salt and aioli. All in all, a very satisfying luncheon .

Naturally we had to sample one of the sweet treats on offer, so we shared the chocolate marquis with malted milk and salted caramel macadamias. The chocolate marquis was rich but light in texture, and well matched with the salted caramel macadamias. Whilst we appreciated the flavour of malted milk, we felt it might have been improved if it was a bit thicker, rather than being served as frothy but runny milk. A minor quibble, as the dessert itself was delicious and beautifully presented.

Habitue was a delight. The setting, the cheerful service, and the food; all were brilliant. Our only grumble was with the price of wine – the cheapest glass was $12 and the cheapest bottle $56 ,which seems outrageous for a casual, non-five star restaurant. I don’t understand why we are forced to pay so much for wine in a country that produces so much good stuff at reasonable prices.

Habitue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dolce & Salato, Fremantle

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My south of the river bestie Lauren, loves D & S. Unlike me, she is super fit and slim and can blithely ignore a counter full of tempting cakes and delicacies. So when she suggests meeting there for coffee, I am instantly mesmerised by the cannoli, the profiteroles, the tartlets and rum-soaked babas, while her focus is on the healthy vego salad rolls on display. She assures me she regularly drops in for a container of their in-house gelato, but I’m somewhat skeptical that in her house of ever-ravenous teens, she actually eats any of it.

For the moment I settle on a large arancini filled with veggies and mozzarella, and enjoy this dish served warm, while Lauren chows down on her healthy roll – it does look pretty damn good with that generous slab of silky avo wedged inside.  There’s also a range of pizza slices that smell and look tempting, but as it’s only 10am I doubt my stomach would readily accept such an offering.

Lauren assures me that the coffees here are always good, and my latte certainly is hot,  robust and satisfying to the last drop.

There is a small range of savoury food here, but the focus is on the “Dolce” part of the name. The cakes and pastries look insanely good, and you can take home a tray of 12 little lovelies for only $18.  It would be seriously greedy of me to buy 12, so I settle on a few cannoli and profiteroles to share with AB later.

D & S also does a range of large cheesecakes and slices fit for a small crowd, and I was pretty excited by the look of their baked ricotta cheesecake. I’ve eaten various versions of this (and I’ve even made one), and I’ve never tried one I didn’t love. However, there’s no small crowd to feed so I content myself with my little bag of goodies, which later prove to be as good as they look.

D & S is a no-frills patisserie where you order and pay at the counter. It’s constantly busy with tables filling up inside and out as quick as you can blink. I get the impression there’s a loyal local following who pop in for coffee and cake in the mornings,  and there’s a table of older men sipping coffee and speaking Italian, who look like they are part of the furniture. The lady serving us is a delight, and we end up having a chin wag during the quieter moments, about life and the weather in Singapore where she tells us she hails from. Sometimes finding a good wait person really makes the occasion for me; I just love it when wait staff show enthusiasm for their products, and take the time to engage and connect with customers.

If I didn’t live in Dianella and if I didn’t have access to good coffee and cake nearby, I’d be tempted to venture to D & S more often. I hear they have a counterpart in Morley, so I might have to mosey on over there and check it out for myself. Purely for research purposes of course 🙂

Dolce & Salato Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maya Indian Restaurant & Bar

 

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The trouble with Tribbles is that they keep multiplying. If you’re a Trekkie fan from way back, you’ll recognise this reference illustrating the proliferation of Indian restaurants in Perth. Am I just imagining it or are they multiplying like Tribbles in every suburb at an alarming rate? I say alarming because the quality of some of these establishments is questionable. I’ve tried one too many with underwhelming experiences. I’ve become much more discerning these days and won’t dine Indian unless I’m fairly confident of getting a good meal. My two friends on this occasion are also lovers of Indian cuisine, and we were hopeful of a good experience based on word-of-mouth and online reviews.

Our mid-week dining night was quiet, but then there’s plenty of competition in Freo and restaurants usually fill out later in the week.  Maya has plenty of tables, including an upstairs room that serves as a bar area.  Some interesting art work, a dark wooden staircase, and sparkling chandeliers added some character to the decor.

Our starters were Chowk Ki Tikki – scrumptious potato patties with chick peas, chilli, cumin and 3 sauces (including my favourite tamarind sauce); and Tiger Prawns – Shark Bay tiger prawns with pineapple and tomato chutney. Although the tandoor-cooked prawns sounded promising, they were a bit on the dry side.

Our Fish Qmin curry with saltwater barramundi fillets was spicy and creamy at the same time. Flavoured with cumin, chilli and fenugreek and cooked in coconut milk, this was a noteworthy dish, and as good as some of the better fish curries I’ve had before.

The Chicken Mumtaz, commonly known as butter chicken, was the standout dish of the evening. With chicken pieces that had the desired marinated smoky tandoor flavour with a rich creamy tomatoey sauce, this is the best version I have had in Perth. I’ve had so many appalling versions of this dish that I rarely order it, but I’m so glad we did. It’s heartening to know that while there are a plethora of mediocre Indian restaurants around the traps, there is thankfully a handful of top notch establishments that don’t cheat on the preparations, and don’t dumb down the ingredients.

The garlic naan was the perfect accompaniment to our meal, along with a bowl of Basmati rice. We were too full to contemplate dessert, but we did manage to down a few glasses of reasonably priced SSB during our meal.

The wait staff at Maya were cheerful and friendly, and the wait time for food was brief. Most of our dishes were beautifully flavoured and well presented, and I’m eagerly anticipating a return in the colder months to sample one of their degustation menus. Recommended for lovers of good Indian food.

http://www.mayarestaurant.com.au/food

Maya Indian Restaurant and Lounge Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Theobroma Chocolate Lounge in Fremantle

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The world is a better place with chocolate. The older I’ve become, the more I like it and the less justification I need to eat it. In fact there’s barely a day goes by when I don’t enjoy it in some form. So after our  disappointing lunch at Tabella in Fremantle, you can imagine my delight when Rena pointed out the Theobroma Chocolate Lounge across the way. A ho-hum lunch date salvaged by chocolate.

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Hot and cold chocolate drinks, chocolate cakes, chocolate fondue, chocolate waffles and hand made chocolates. Chocolate everything at Theobroma.

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It was difficult choosing a cake when everything in the display cabinet looked so inviting, but I eventually decided on the Chocolate Trio Cake. This three layered cake was pleasant and filled the need for something sweet, without being over the top.  Rena opted for the Cherry Ripe Slice, and true to its name it really did taste like a Cherry Ripe.

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Carol’s massive slice of Malteser Cake proved too much for her. Too big, too rich and too cold. Yup, too cold. One of those cakes that tastes much better when it’s served at room temperature.

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We ordered coffees as we’d had our fill of chocolate. My long mac was strong, hot and very good. The beans are a seven blend mix sourced from a Melbourne roasting house.  I loved the little touch of the heat band around the glass.

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Theobroma is the brain child of two Melbourne guys who astutely reckoned the world had enough coffee houses but not enough chocolate shops. Their shops are franchised throughout Australia and several other countries, with more on the way. Business is booming. We enjoyed our first Theobroma experience, and appreciated the comfy seats and the super friendly service. Long live chocolate!

http://www.chocolatelounge.com.au/index.html

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Tabella in Fremantle

2015-06-11 13.25.36It was an outstanding winter’s day and I had fortuitously arranged a ladies lunch in Fremantle at Tabella.  Dimmi had extended another generous offer of 50% off the price of food, so what better excuse was needed than to try a place a bit further afield?  This eatery has an open feel and an inviting atmosphere, and we had a perfect sunny spot near the window.

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Tabella vies for customers with a myriad of other eateries on South Terrace. When the competition is this fierce, you’d better have something significant going for you.

We decided to skip entrees and order mains, along with a glass of bubbles or wine each.

2015-06-11 13.26.19We thought it appropriate to order fish; Fremantle seems the sort of place where you do that. On the coast, access to fresh fish and all that. Two of us ordered the pan fried salmon, two others the Barramundi, and another the steak sandwich, cooked medium. The waiter appeared again after five minutes to inform us that they’d run out of salmon. A bit odd at midday on a Wednesday unless there was a rush on before we arrived. Two other tables occupied; nope, not a rush on. Was there any fresh fish available? No, they don’t serve fresh fish; and that includes the Barramundi. OK then, a re-think on the orders.  I ordered the local prawns – Gamberi All’ Aglio at $29.50 – can’t go wrong with fresh WA prawns, right?

2015-06-11 13.31.16The prawns look enticing in the photo, but looks can be deceiving. The only thing fresh on this plate was the bread. Normally garlic prawns come out sizzling in good quality olive oil, but in this case they came out fizzling in a pond of yellow butter that I daresay had been mixed with oil. I could have forgiven Tabella for this had the prawns been fresh, but they were stale and chalky. None of that crunchy, salty, sweet sensation you get from fresh prawns.

2015-06-11 13.29.36JS didn’t fare much better with her plate of Linguine ai Frutti di Mare at $28.50. As you can see from this plate, there was a generous serve of seafood, but the huge serving of pasta was dry and with just olive oil as the sauce and little seasoning, the dish was insipid and unappetising. Sometimes with a dish, the fresh flavours speak for themselves, but the prawns and fish weren’t fresh and the calamari was rubbery, so the only speaking they were doing doesn’t bear repeating. Sadly JS didn’t make much of a dent in this dish apart from picking off the seafood pieces, and left almost a full plate of dry, inedible pasta.

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Rena faired better with her Whitebait at $16. The tiny fish were crunchy and fresh, and it was a huge serving that came with aioli and a side of leafy salad.

2015-06-11 13.27.24Then there was the Pesce al Forno at $33, or Barramundi  fillets with Mediterranean sauce.  The colours of the sauce look brilliant; all those bright greens and reds. The verdict was that the strongly-flavoured sauce overpowered the dish. Sometimes simple is best, and this is especially applicable to fish. Perhaps the sauce was designed to disguise the taste of frozen fish? Barramundi is being served in almost every restaurant in Perth at the moment. It’s not the best fish by a long shot if it’s been frozen and then it’s really not worth eating, especially at the price of $33.  I know we had the benefit of a discount, but other diners may not have.

I don’t have a photo of the final dish ordered by Kim. The steak sandwich at $16.50 was spoiled by an overcooked, tough piece of steak. She didn’t get the benefit of the 50% off the price of her food, as our surly waiter informed us that the lunch specials were not part of the deal.

It’s difficult coming up with a few positives to say about Tabella. Much as I don’t relish giving a place an absolute drubbing, this was not an enjoyable dining experience. Four out of five meals were below par. Our waiter looked and sounded like he really didn’t want to be there, and it wasn’t long before we felt like that too. It took 15 minutes before we were given a carafe of water. No excuse for that with only two other tables occupied. The music was loud and intrusive – Eminem and Nirvana playing at lunchtime – fine for a pub but not an Italian cafe. The corkage for BYO wine is a whopping $8.50 per bottle.  I know that many people have had positive experiences at Tabella and enjoyed their food, so maybe we picked the wrong day and ours was an isolated experience. In saying that though, when you are located on a cafe strip surrounded by reliable competition, you need to be consistently good. Mediocrity won’t get you far, and it certainly won’t get you return customers. On a positive note the bread was delicious, but that credit is due to Tabella’s supplier, Lawley’s Bakery.

http://www.tabella.com.au/lunch-dinner.html

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Zephyr Cafe Kiosk

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A home visit to my friend The Prof in North Freo morphed into an unexpected lunch at the Zephyr Cafe on Riverside Road. Situated on the river past the Leeuwin Barracks, it’s one of those places that escapes attention unless you’re a local in the know.

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Perfect for families with river frontage and a large adjacent playground, Zephyr is an idyllic little spot away from the bustle of central Freo. Our lazy Saturday afternoon was spent enjoying the mild late Autumn weather with a view you can’t put a price tag on.

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My long mac was fine – sorry, don’t know what beans were used – while The Prof enjoyed her Chai latte. I later went for a small pot of peppermint tea (with leaves) whilst The Prof reprised her Chai latte order.

Zephyr’s menu consists of fairly hearty dishes of pasta, salads, burgers, and full-on meat dishes such as pork belly and beef cheeks, but they also have sweet treats in the display counter and a few savoury pastries and tarts. As soon as I spotted the almond croissant (which The Prof assured me was brought in from a local bakery and was VERY good), I looked no further. Almond croissants are heaven in pastry; very indulgent I know but just the ticket with a coffee when you don’t have an enormous appetite and you hanker for something sweet. As it turns out it wasn’t an almond filling; it was custard. Not what I expected, but pretty damn good. Served warm, the croissant custard was sweet and rich, while the flaky, crispy pastry was a delight.

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The Prof went for more typical lunch fare; seafood chowder. It certainly looked inviting and as you can see, it was full of chunks of seafood. A bit pricey at $24 I thought, but The Prof said it was creamy and full flavoured. It came with a piece of grilled toast but they could have outdone themselves and served two. For a guy, this dish would be a bit light on with a lone slice of toast.

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Zephyr is an idyllic spot and the perfect place to sit and soak in the view of boats on the river. It caters well for kids and there is ample parking. If the trendy cafe strip isn’t your cup of tea, this place is a great alternative. I’ll be back not so much for the food, but for the location. That much is priceless.

http://www.zephyrcafe.com.au

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George St Bistro

2015-03-23 15.31.26 Meeting my bud Frenchy is always a great excuse to check out what’s happening in Freo. She lives in Coogee so I’m happy to head south and investigate foodie options in her territory. George St in East Freo is so cool with its cafes and wine bars in what is essentially a suburban street, and there’s plenty of parking.  I just love the vibe here.

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Meeting mid-afternoon on a Sunday means we’ve beaten the frantic morning brunch rush and have an excuse to drink a glass of bubbly. We’re not too hungry so choose a few items to share off the menu. We’ve scored a coveted booth seat  so we can get super comfy and  settle in for a few hours.  We need some carbs to soak up our glasses of Prosecco so the two types of bread with extra virgin olive oil is first up.

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You’ve got to love a place where the waiter fills our glasses to the absolute brim. Bless him. My glass minus a swig. No point mucking about is there?

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The tempura prawns with a pot of home-made sauce tartare sound enticing, and with their light batter and large juicy flesh, they hit the spot.

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Finally we decide on a bowl of olives, half stuffed with feta and half with sun-dried tomatoes. The olives are succulent and plump, and it’s a decent sized serve that keeps us nibbling for ages.

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George St Bistro is an airy, expansive cafe with a providore store adjoining it. There are cakes, slices, tarts and quiches available from the counter if you don’t want to order from the lunch menu.  The dinner menu choices sound interesting and varied. From Wednesday to Saturday dinner is an absolute  bargain at $55 for three courses, and on Wednesday nights the Bistro also offers three curries for $25 a head.  Our service was friendly and our food was simple but satisfying.  On a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon, this quiet suburban gem certainly beats the mayhem of bustling South Tce just a few kilometres away.

http://www.georgestbistro.com.au

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The Raw Kitchen

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The Raw Kitchen’s unassuming entrance on High St in Freo belies its massive industrial,  exposed brick interior. On a Saturday morning the place was buzzing with families, couples, and groups of friends, and the tables filled up rapidly.

As a newbie to raw food, I asked for some guidance in choosing a dish that wasn’t going to be too way out there. The friendly waitress suggested live pizza and I’m glad she did.

With a buckwheat base and topped with fresh tomato, basil, avocado and dotted with cashew macadamia cheese, my pizza slice was dee-licious. Crunchy, creamy and surprisingly filling, this pizza may be nothing like the cooked versions, but it was damned good. The fresh, raw flavours were zinging about in my mouth. Who knew raw food tasted this amazing?

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I thought I’d go the whole hog (pardon the pun) and order a latte made from almond milk. Rookie mistake. I couldn’t get past the strange texture of the almond milk, and could only manage a few furry mouthfuls. Perhaps some things aren’t meant to be experimented with.

I bought a raw chocolate slice to take home. Second rookie mistake. In the mad February heat the slice in its paper bag melted like the wax on Icarus’s wings, and the inside of my handbag acquired a permanent greasy, coconuty sheen and smell.

Tip: to avoid a liquid slice, eat in store or wait for the cooler weather to take one home.

http://www.therawkitchen.com.au/menu/

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