Cecchi’s

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Cecchi’s in Inglewood has been on my bucket list for several years, and I finally made it there for brunch a few weeks ago. This cosy Italian restaurant inhabits a converted house on Beaufort St, and has the perfect courtyard setting for brunch.  Inside those courtyard walls you could easily imagine for a moment that you are in a little trattoria in Tuscany, far removed from the busy thoroughfare it lies on.

With my son Alex for company, we asked for advice from our charming and personable waiter, and ordered our meals along with a 5 Senses coffee for me. Alex was slightly disappointed that the slow eggs were unavailable as they were still cooking, but instead accepted the recommendation of the Pugliese sausage, fried egg, marinated kale and crispy chick pea polenta. This was a well executed dish with good contrasts of colours, flavours and textures. The sausage wasn’t the usual version, but a mix of lamb and pork with fennel and herbs that had been pan fried.

The hot weather convinced me to try something different; the yoghurt sorbet with berries and muesli praline. This refreshing dish was delightfully cool and zingy on the palate, and I loved the accent of the crunchy muesli and the freshness of the berries. I had to eat quickly though as it didn’t take long for the sorbet to start melting.

We were ready to try one of Cecchi’s special morning desserts, but sadly their much touted brioche croissants with salted caramel ice-cream were no longer on offer. Cecchi’s has decided to take them off the menu during the hot summer months, and will be offering ricotta doughnuts instead. However as neither were available for us to try, we opted for the apple pie panacotta. This beautifully presented dish came with a crumbly scattered “crust”, apple sauce and little velvety cubes of apple jelly. Although the panacotta was not as wobbly as was expected (and I suspect this was deliberate because of the hot weather), this was truly scrumptious. All of the elements worked very well together in this dish; it was the perfect light morning treat and perfect for sharing.

Our charming waiter informed us that an Italian bar will be opening next door later this year, and that although this will complement the existing restaurant, it will serve its own tapas-style dishes. This is something that is needed in the Inglewood area, and I am sure will be a huge success. I’m sold on the quality of Cecchi’s food, and look forward to returning and trying the evening menu. Overall this was a very pleasant experience, with food, service and ambience all top notch.

http://cecchis.com.au

Cecchi's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Betty and Dave’s

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I was keen to try this new spot in Inglewood, having watch it transition over many months from its tired antique shop incarnation to a light, bright cafe.

There is an outdoor terrace area – though very hot in the afternoon – and a few separate zones inside, starting with the main counter area at the front, complete with stools, fluro pink coffee machine and a takeaway coffee window. The last zone inside near the kitchen has a large table and would be suitable for a group. I loved the collection of ceramic ducks on the wall in the middle zone – I’ve never seen this many flying ducks (on a wall) before!

I ordered the Summer Beans dish comprising poached eggs with peas, beans, mint, sugar snap peas and sprouts, on sour dough toast with goats cheese. This was a beautiful dish with fresh ingredients and I loved the way the flavours worked together. The dish comes with pancetta but I asked for this to be omitted, and I think the dish works better as a vegetarian dish anyway. I felt they could have been a bit more generous with the goats cheese as this was just a thin spread on the toast, enough to tantalise you but not enough to really satisfy. That aside, I enjoyed the way the dish was put together and loved the mix of flavours.

My long mac was good, strong enough but without any bitterness, and nice and hot. The front counter has a small range of cakes, slices and muffins, as well as some ready made salads and sandwiches. The sandwiches looked good, though they all came with meat fillings. It would be nice to see an option without red meat, as even the chicken version came with bacon. These days a lot of folks prefer either vegetarian or options without red meat, and there were very few choices on the menu.

I bought a brownie to take home and wow, it was amazing. If you love squidgy, moist brownies then these are perfect. With a few pieces of white chocolate nestled inside, the brownie was scrumptious – one of the best I’ve had in fact.

It would be nice to see a few vegetarian and non-red meat options on the menu, and bottles of cold water provided. The water was tepid and so not at all refreshing on a hot day without the air con on.  I’m not vegetarian but I don’t always feel like eating meat. Apart from the salads and a few brunch items, it was a very meaty menu. There’s limited parking outside, so you’ll likely have to park behind the nearby Inglewood Hotel. The service was prompt, the wait staff super friendly, and overall Betty and Dave’s was a positive experience.

Betty and Dave's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jolly Good Indian

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Indian restaurants in Perth appear to multiply at a rapid rate in the past few years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – competition encourages excellence and variety apparently is the spice of life. Inglewood isn’t a large suburb but it has three Indian restaurants within a few kilometres of each other on Beaufort St; none of which I had tried. I set out with a group of friends to change that and to see if Jolly Good Indian lived up to its name.

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The restaurant is in a converted house, and this in itself is high on the charm scale. Dining in different rooms as opposed to one large area can reduce the noise level, and give you a bit of privacy if that’s what you want. Decorated throughout with Indian knickknacks, the restaurant retains some of its beautiful old windows and even has a display cabinet with Indian jewellery and accessories for sale.

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We started with a few entrees of curried chicken spring rolls, and potato and onion bhaji. The spring rolls were scant on filling, and dry and overcooked.

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Whilst the bhaji were crisp, they were somewhat bland and I’ve had far better. I may have been spoiled by sampling Sauma’s bhaji a few weeks ago, so comparisons will be inevitable. I prefer a higher ratio of onion to chick pea flour batter – I think the potato watered down the flavour and the crunch factor. A mint chutney or sweet tamarind based dipping sauce would have been better than the one provided.

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Whenever I dine out with friends, it’s inevitable that butter chicken will be ordered. Although I like this dish, the quality varies enormously between restaurants and I’ve had some really bog standard versions of this in the past. I’d much prefer trying a different chicken dish than going for something I suspect may be humdrum. However group dining is all about going with the flow and accommodating crowd favourites, so butter chicken it was. Jolly Good’s dish comprised the usual boneless chicken pieces in a creamy sauce, but with no depth of flavour. I’m puzzled as to why they would use chicken breast pieces rather than thighs – this inevitably means less flavour and less succulence in the meat.

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My friends enjoyed the lamb rogan josh but I didn’t sample this dish as I’m not fond of lamb and there were several other dishes ordered that I much preferred. I never feel deprived when my friends order lamb or beef dishes, as long as there are other options on offer. Occasionally I will nibble at a meat dish at a shared table but it’s not something I would order for myself.

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There were a few prawn and fish dishes on the menu, and we settled on the tiger prawn tikka masala. This was another mild curry so I had to settle for a bowl of cut up chillies on the side to add some heat/interest to my food.

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We’d read some enthused comments about the palak paneer so we naturally had to order this and see what the fuss was about. It was a pleasant dish, but again, not memorable or special. I guess that summed up the experience overall – nothing was a stand out, though it was all acceptable food.

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Mixed veggies shabji was our final dish, and this was a typical Indian vegetable curry of potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and peas in a mild sauce.

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The best thing about Jolly Good Indian is the setting. Although everyone enjoyed their meal, we all agreed that there wasn’t much difference in taste between our dishes, with the exception of the palak paneer, but this was likely because it was spinach and not tomato based. I guess it didn’t help that every curry was mild, and I much prefer the added depth that chillies bring to a curry. With different curries you expect to find the hint of sourness in tamarind, the pungency of curry leaves, the smoothness of coconut cream or yoghurt, the bite of chillies or the intensity of a variety of fried spices. We didn’t experience the range of flavours that should come with a range of curries.

Some people will likely be quite happy with this food, and I can understand why. It’s palatable and acceptable and certainly won’t offend you. However as a lover of Indian food I appreciate and expect the differences, subtleties and the complexities that make this cuisine so special. Jolly Good Indian failed to deliver on that level. All much of a muchness really, and more of the dumbing down of food to cater to the Western palate.
Surely Western palates in the 21st century have evolved enough for us to not only appreciate, but to demand authenticity in international cuisines?

http://jollygoodindian.com.au

Jolly Good Indian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mia Cafe

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Mia Cafe combined the concept of cafe dining alongside garden nurseries long before it became trendy. In fact Mia Cafe has been around as long as I can remember, and that’s a while.

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I visit Mia Cafe every few months, usually for a coffee and a quick lunch. It’s popular with locals, especially in the warmer months when the verandah section looks out on the colourful plants in the Mia Flora nursery. There’s also a quaint little gift shop on site, so if the owners would only slap on a lick of paint to clean up the unattractive bore water stains, the place would look a lot more enticing.

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I’ve noticed that since the uber popular Finlay & Sons opened a few metres down the road in Inglewood, that Mia Cafe isn’t as busy as it once was. I guess in summer time though the families will flock back, as the cute little garden courtyard out the back with its complement of kiddie toys will always be enticing for parents of young kids.

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There’s always a collection of oldies in the community who patronise Mia – it’s a comfortable and welcoming cafe, so you can see why.

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Whilst I can’t say that the fare on offer at Mia’s is revolutionary or particularly creative, it nevertheless provides a few meals that are reasonably priced and enjoyable to eat. We don’t always need a sandwich to be cutting edge filled with a pantry of exotic ingredients. On my latest visit to Mia last week, my toasted chicken and sun-dried tomato wrap was tasty and delicious, and for $12.50, a lot cheaper than some other hip joints around town. There are always salads, wraps, toasties, fish and chips, cakes and muffins on offer, with a blackboard that offers daily specials of soups in winter, salads in summer, and freshly squeezed juices.

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My friend opted for the house-made spinach and feta muffin, toasted and served with butter. We shared each others food, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty the muffin was. Very moist, cheesy and well flavoured, it was a large serve and something I’d order on my next visit.

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My long mac was pretty good – I have to say that over time the quality of coffees has improved at Mia, so this is another big plus from me.

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The staff here are friendly and greet some of their regular customers by name. It’s a nice relaxing little spot on Beaufort St where you can sit and read the paper and not part with a fortune for a casual lunch.

 

Mia Cafe 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 🙂

http://www.misskittyssaloon.com.au

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

IlPasto Italian Trattoria, Inglewood

Some months back, strolling around Inglewood on a mild Autumn evening, Scotty and I peered in the beckoning window of ilPasto and determined that we would visit some time soon for a slap-up Italian dinner. We held true to that and dined there last week, once more marvelling at the growing number of good foodie outlets up the top end of Beaufort St.

We’re a bit spoiled for choice in this area when it comes to Italian – with Threecoins a few kilometres up the road and Cecchi’s a stone’s throw in the other direction, you wouldn’t be deprived of a good pasta dish any time soon. Add Our Table to the mix, the new Italian on Grand Prom, and the choice becomes tricky.

This older sister of ilPasto in Mount Hawthorn has a lot going for it: authentic Italian food, charming wait staff, and a cosy ambience complete with white linen tablecloths and a wall of black and white photos chronicling the journey of the family who started the business.

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Scotty and I had already decided that dessert was a given, so with that in mind we opted to share an entree. The quattro bruschette ($14) featured four pieces of bruschetta with different toppings: tomato and fresh basil, roasted marinated artichoke, pulled duck meat and Swiss brown mushrooms, and soft marinated goats feta with herbs and EVOO. Presented on organic sourdough, each type of bruschetta was fresh, light and delicious.  We cut each piece in half so we we could both sample everything. It was the perfect starter. Simplicity and fresh ingredients – the key elements of a satisfying dish.

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As so often happens when Scotty and I dine together, we had our eyes on the same main. In this case it was the pescatore ($38), a melange of seafood cooked in a white wine and tomato sauce. The tiger prawns, mussels, baby squid were sea salty fresh, and the snapper fillet was garnished with a zingy basil salsa. The slowly simmered sauce was perfect for dunking chunks of crusty bread. For some strange reason however, this dish is served with crunchy crostino which definitely isn’t dunking material. Our waiter obligingly provided us with a plate of crusty bread to mop up all the tomatoey juices.

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Scotty and I managed to scoff every mouthful, just stopping short of surreptitiously licking the plate. We could have managed that, stuck as we were down the back of the restaurant. Poor Scotty had a view of my face and a white wall all evening; not the most enticing of sights. It didn’t affect her appetite though; it takes a helluva lot more than that to turn a Scotswoman off her food.

We were nigh on stuffed at this point, having downed a bottle of Veuve with our meal. Nothing short of a tsunami however was going to stop us ordering dolce, and I had eyes only for the chocolate rum and raisin brownie ($12). This delectable squidgy chocolate brownie wallowed in a pool of rum and raisin syrup, with plump rum-soaked raisins on top and vanilla bean ice cream and double cream on the side. Oh my. Alcohol chocolate cream heaven. I had to admit defeat half way through, despite giving it my best shot.

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Scotty opted for the seasonal fruit pudding ($12) of warm apple and cinnamon sponge with flaked almonds and double cream. Finally defeated by the dessert monster, Scotty reluctantly left a good portion of her pudding to the rubbish gods. Such a crying shame.

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Apart from being seated at our back wall hidey-hole table, our ilPasto experience was a delight.  It was a pleasant change to find a range of top notch desserts for $12, and to enjoy a fine Italian meal with the bonus of being able to BYO. There’s a pleasant al fresco area at the front which would be ideal in the warmer weather. The wait staff were fabulous and if you have time to peruse the old photos at the front, you’ll get a kick out of seeing the original family members back in the day, fresh off the boat. They’ve come a long way since then.

http://www.ilpasto.com.au

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A Fish Called Inglewood

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This family run fish cafe in Inglewood is a fairly casual friendly affair. Sitting at a long table right next to the bustling open kitchen, my friends and I had a birds eye perspective on the goings on, and the takeaways were flying out the door on this Friday night.

The menu changes daily according to produce availability, with a few staples such as fish and chips being a permanent feature. Having eyed off a few plates of fish and chips coming out, I had eyes for nothing else. My cider battered fish, reasonably priced at $25, was a fresh piece of WA snapper served with hand-cut chips and aioli. This generous serve of fish featured a crispy gluten-free batter, and beautifully crunchy chips. It’s the basic things that matter in simple dishes like this: good quality oil, salt and potatoes.

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The Prof opted for the seafood plate for one; at $39 this featured grilled prawns, calamari, scallops, snapper, chips and salad. She couldn’t quite manage to eat everything on her plate so being the considerate friends we are, we helped her polish it off. Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices to help a friend in need 🙂
The Prof was impressed with her plate of seafood – with almost everything grilled, it was a light meal that allowed the freshness and the flavours of the seafood to shine. The calamari I sampled was beautifully tender, and The Prof was satisfied with all of the elements of her dish.

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Whilst three of us were happy customers, our friend Rob suffered from food envy. He’d chosen the $29 Barramundi with candied prosciutto, cauliflower and pesto, and was underwhelmed by his serving size.  “This is hardly a man’s serve” he spluttered when his plate arrived. He promptly ordered a side of chips ($6.50) and a bowl of brussel sprout salad with bacon and maple dressing ($7.50). His meal certainly won the award for best plating of the night, but that didn’t appease him. He did concede that his fish was beautifully cooked, but he was miffed. The Prof and I would have been happy with this serve – quality over quantity – but for some guys the only thing that satisfies them is a massive plate of something…… anything…..as long as it’s big. It may have helped if the wait staff had told him to expect a smallish serve.

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The brussel sprout salad was surprisingly delicious. This is the only veggie from my childhood days that used to make me gag, but then my mother’s treatment of it was hardly kind. Eaten this way in a salad with fresh herbs and a sweet dressing, it was crisp and fresh and nothing like the spongey greyish blobs I remembered.

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The house-made ice creams at this eatery have become legendary. During the summer months of the Beaufort St markets, the restaurant sets up a huge freezer outside and does a roaring trade selling these gourmet treats on sticks.  A restaurant wall now showcases the flavours on offer and as you can see, they are seriously tempting. For those who prefer something warmer on these cold winter nights, there are also Limoncello dumplings – with ice cream of course.

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The Prof and I ordered the chocolate with caramel and macadamia ($8), a creamy, delicious, albeit cold finish to our meal.

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A Fish Called Inglewood is the love child of chef Paul Zammit, and is another welcome addition to the small but growing number of quality eateries in Inglewood. Our service was exemplary, with friendly, hospitable staff and short wait times for food. If you love fresh fish and seafood, you will enjoy the reasonably priced food on offer. The menu is small but showcases an eclectic range of quality fish, and you could treat the family to a feed of fish (NZ dory) and chips for only $15 each.  I love that this little suburban restaurant offers a quality dining experience without the exorbitant price tags. I’m looking forward to a return visit to sample more of the superb seafood on offer.

http://www.afishcalledinglewood.com.au

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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.

 

http://swallowbar.com.au/

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Himalayan Nepalese

2015-05-15 22.30.26 What do you get when you have 12 migration agents dining together? A lot of noise, shop talk, drinking, laughter and proffering of advice. So we have to ensure we find a relaxed venue that caters for our unruly mob and where our noise level won’t be that noticeable. 2015-05-15 22.28.01 Enter the Himalayan Nepalese restaurant. Always busy on the weekends, our large table smack bang in the middle of the room morphed seamlessly into the melee and all was good. I’ve dined at the Himalayan Nepalese in Inglewoood several times and always enjoyed the meals and the BYOB policy, and its central location for my pals living both north and south of the river made it accessible to all.

We were kindly presented with a complimentary plate of momo chicken dumplings to get things underway while we waited for the last few stragglers. There’s always one or two. With bottles of red and Prosecco flowing, we decided we’d pace things a bit and order some entrees. Instead of doing a group share thing, we paired off with our selections and shared with the person next to us. Easy peasy. It’s impossible to share everything with 12 at the table.

And so Jess and I decided on the Jhinghe Machha Poleko to startprawns marinated in Nepalese spices and cooked in a tandoori oven. This $15 dish was a mildly flavoured but tasty entree; the prawns were firm textured and juicy and served with a dish of mint chutney.  The prawns proved a popular choice with two other plates ordered on our table, along with plates of the mixed entrees featuring five different items to taste.

2015-05-15 22.26.45 For mains we decided on Chara ko Sekuwa, an oven-cooked chicken dish at $23 that tasted slightly similar to tandoori chicken, but not as strong flavoured. The chicken thighs, albeit a bit salty, were succulent with a pleasant chargrilled flavour and were served with a mint chutney.

2015-05-15 22.32.50 Our second main dish of Saag ra Paneer at $18, was a creamy mix of paneer and spinach and a good foil for the chicken dish with all that gravy, but we managed to eat only about half of our generous serving.

2015-05-15 22.35.49 Further up the table, happy people were relishing their Chef’s Special Goat Curry  for $22.50.  Cooked on the bone, this tender curry was well received by a few of our diners but as a non-goat eater, I can’t personally vouch for it. 2015-05-15 22.40.30 But the big hit of the evening proved to be the lamb chops, or Khashi Sekeko for $25.50.  Three plates of these tender marinated little babies cooked in the tandoor oven were devoured around the table.

2015-05-15 22.34.18 Bowls of yellow rice and baskets of roti were placed along the table for everyone to share.

2015-05-15 22.39.29 For the uninitiated, Nepalese cuisine is milder than Indian, with spices and chillies used more sparingly. This cuisine is the result of a blending of Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and Burmese cultures, and its food reflects this. If you come here expecting robust and strident Indian-style curries, you will be disappointed.  You won’t get the extensive range of vegetarian dishes, but you will get a good selection of meat and chicken curries, naan breads and rice. Dishes like butter chicken that you may order in an Indian restaurant, may not be the best choice here as the taste won’t be as full flavoured as you expect.

The Himalayan Nepalese is a busy spot on weekends and whilst you may jag a table for two without a booking, I’d recommend you book for any groups large than that.  Our service was good with friendly staff, water topped up regularly and food presented without long wait times. Large groups are well catered for, but I’ve also dined here with just one friend and the experience has been equally positive.  This venue is in the Entertainment Book, so it’s a good excuse to use a voucher and enjoy some warming Nepalese food in the upcoming colder months.

http://www.himalayanrestaurant.com.au/#menus

Himalayan Nepalese Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Mille Cafe

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Mille cafe has had its fair share of detractors, but I’ve been several times over the years and haven’t had a negative experience. Mille has been around for years, and in its heyday was popular and always packed. When several friends suggested a last-minute brunch date there as they wanted to use an Entertainment Book voucher about to expire, I was happy to oblige. I’ve never breakfasted at Mille, so I was curious to see how it stacked up against the trendy competition further along Beaufort St.

With a short menu featuring several appealing options, the prices seemed a few dollars cheaper than many similar establishments. Four of us had eyes only for the buttermilk pancakes with berry compote, vanilla mascarpone and maple syrup for $14.50, while the lone ranger in our group would not be swayed by peer pressure and ordered the classic eggs Benedict at $16.50.

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The lone ranger enjoyed her perfectly cooked eggs with ham and a good Hollandaise sauce. She lives a few streets away, has breakfasted at Mille many times and has always been happy with her dining experiences.

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As for our buttermilk pancakes – I can honestly say that they were the best pancakes I have eaten for a long, long time. Two light and fluffy pancake rounds topped with a fruity berry compote, a generous dollop of vanilla mascarpone and drizzled with maple syrup – they were simply delicious. So many places serve up a pancake high rise where there is NEVER enough syrup or topping, where you eat around the edges and you end up with a stack of drizabone pancakes left in the centre. These featured beautifully textured pancakes with the perfect ratio of topping to pancake. All four of us concurred, and left not a smidgeon of food on our plates.

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I had two long macs during my breakfast which were robust and perfectly made, but I forgot to ask about the beans or to take a photo.  All I can say is that all five of us relished our early morning feast with coffees.

I guess Mille Cafe is a bit of a dinosaur in some ways as it hasn’t changed its decor over the years, or tried to do anything special to attract the hipster crowd. It must be doing something right though, as it’s often full when I drive past on weekend nights. This large, sprawling cafe has space galore for prams, ample free parking,  is child and family friendly and has a voucher in the Entertainment Book. Worth a visit if you love pancakes……and who doesn’t?

http://www.millecafe.com.au

Mille Cafe on Urbanspoon

Estia Cafe Restaurant

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Scotty and I strolled along Beaufort St in Inglewood on a quiet Tuesday night, bottle of vino in hand from the excellent local De Vine wine store. We had no plan, and had decided we would settle for whatever appealed to us on the night. We reached Estia, and our search was over. We’ve been several times before and loved the food so we were confident we were in for a pleasant evening.

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Greek food is the name of the game at Estia, and its menu features dishes of calamari, octopus, roast lamb, moussaka and enormous mezze platters.

Scotty and I usually share an entree to ensure we have room for dessert. I may have mentioned before that dining with Scotty virtually guarantees we will order dessert unless we are absolutely stuffed. I love that. We weren’t ravenous on this night, so we settled for a light starter that would fill the gap before our mains arrived. The freshly baked bread rolls with herb oil were perfect. Light, warm from the oven and just the right amount.

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I’ve tried several dishes here but I find it hard to go past my favourite, Prawn Saganaki. It’s rare that Scotty and I order the same main, but on this night that was her choice too. This delicious tomatoey dish features prawns, vegetables, feta and haloumi, is baked in the oven and served with a generous side of pita bread. How can you not love a dish featuring feta AND haloumi? The pita breads are perfect for mopping up the tomato sauce, but there was far too much of it and neither of us managed more than a few pieces. The dish itself is filling; it’s chock full of prawns and comes out of the oven all bubbling and oozing with delicious cheesy haloumi, or saganaki as the Greeks call it.

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We were actually umming and aahing about whether dessert was called we. We were quite stuffed, but I did point out to Scotty that the Greek doughnuts – Loukoumathes – would be light and manageable. And she hadn’t tried them before so in the name of blogging, she out to, oughtn’t she?

Out they came, hot crispy doughnuts floating in a syrup of rosewater, honey and ouzo, and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Oh my. I undid the top button of my skirt and managed to eat two before admitting defeat. Scotty managed a few more than that but sadly, couldn’t finish. This really is the perfect dessert for sharing and it’s utterly delicious.

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Estia is a family-run enterprise established five years ago, and one of those true suburban gems run with love and dedication. You’d be unlikely to get a table here on the weekends without a booking. The food is robust and the ingredients fresh. The staff are friendly and attentive, and helpful with suggestions if you can’t decide. Street parking is available and you can byo wine. Seriously, what’s not to love about this place?

http://estiarestaurant.com.au

Estia Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Peninsula Tea Gardens

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I could wax lyrical about the setting of the Peninsula Tea Gardens, riverside in Maylands and next door to Tranby House. Sadly I can’t do the same about the fare on offer, but that’s not why I visited. I had a few hours to spare on a pleasant mid-week afternoon, and thought a spot of afternoon tea would be just the ticket. As soon as I spied the massive oak trees, white umbrellas and wicker furniture against the backdrop of the Swan River, I was sold.

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The scathing reviews of this delightful venue all relate to the food on offer, but I was hopeful of a different experience. I can say that my long macchiato was pretty darn good which is no small thing for a coffee lover.

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There is a menu of lunch items, and a ubiquitous cake counter featuring a bevy of try-hard cafe cakes of the kind that often fail to live up to their glossy appearances.

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Against my inner voice exhorting me not to choose one of the said cafe cakes, I threw caution to the wind and ordered this grand looking carrot cake. Well I hadn’t eaten lunch and I had to have something to go with my long mac, and the icing did look creamy and luscious.

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Well, I should have heeded my inner voice. Carrot cake, albeit with glorious cream cheese frosting, you were in a word, awful. Stodgy and uninspiring and I couldn’t get past a few mouthfuls. An ill-spent $6.95.

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High tea is a drawcard here, and there were a few tables featuring the tiered plates for $33 pp during the week and $38 pp on the weekend. As far as peaceful, scenic cafes go, Peninsula is right at the top of the list. It seems however, that there are valid reasons why it has such a poor rating on Urbanspoon, and it’s a shame that the owners haven’t taken the negative comments on board over the years and tried to improve the service and food on offer.

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I would happily return here to sit with a book for an hour or so on a sunny afternoon to just enjoy the beautiful setting. I would forego the food and order a coffee or one of the pots of quality teas on offer. Come and enjoy the experience, and as long as you don’t have any expectations about the food, you won’t be disappointed. You could combine your visit with a tour of the heritage-listed Tranby House, and learn a little of our local history at the same time.

http://www.peninsulateagardens.com

Peninsula Tea Gardens on Urbanspoon

Sugar and Nice

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I’d visited Sugar and Nice shortly after it opened last year, but paid a return visit last week after reading reviews about the amazing cakes and cronuts on offer.

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The display counter with its beguiling array of slices, cup cakes, blondies and brownies, was a temptation I could not resist.

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Dazzled as I was by the apple crumble cakes and the coffee salted caramel slice, my resolve wasn’t moved. I’d come for the cronut, and when I saw it in all its peanuty jammy gooey glory, I knew I wanted no other.

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This cronut was a glorious crispy, layered, sugary circle like nothing I had tasted before. Heaven is a cronut.

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My long macchiato was also very very good. Robust and flavourful without a hint of bitterness. Engaged as I was in cronut mania, I forgot to ask about the coffee beans.

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Now the white chocolate blondie below was a little something I sampled on my return visit. The next day. Because this little cake joint is seriously good.

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Son AB was visiting today and wanted to sample some cronut for himself. This nutella-topped version with its frosty pink filling was also delicious, but to me it didn’t quite match the heights of the peanut jam version.

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Guess I’ll just have to keep on sampling the different fillings on offer to find the perfect one.

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Sugar and Nice also sells a small range of gifts and decorator items. It’s a beautifully themed shop with limited seating, so it’s never too crowded and the noise level is always low. The perfect environment for a spot of cake in the afternoon.

Sugar & Nice on Urbanspoon

Chapels on Whatley

PhotoGrid_1420898980379I can’t think of many better places to spend a balmy summer Friday evening in Perth, than in the courtyard of Chapels on Whatley. Not only is this earthy red brick building a restaurant, it is also a stylish tea emporium and a homewares store. Add a funky cocktail menu and chanteuse Masina Miller to the mix with her smooth jazz repertoire, and you have an evening ahead guaranteed to please. 2015-01-07 16.29.54 With fairy lights, red lanterns, and tree fronds gently fluttering in the breeze, you feel as though you’re miles away from the busy little strip opposite the Maylands train station.

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Our group of 10 nestled into the courtyard and made a start on the Happy Hour cocktails; an absolute bargain at $9.95 each. Between us we managed to work our way through a cocktail menu of Angry Pandas, Melaka Margaritas, Chapel’s Emperors, Red & White Sangrias, Bangkok Bangers and Espresso Martinis.

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Chapels serves Eurasian food ranging from Singaporean chicken curry, dhal and parathas, chicken satay and beef noodles, to boards of food with a selection of tasty morsels. The food reflects the melange of cuisines in South-East Asia, and even includes homage to the French influence by way of a French charcuterie board of duck and plum rillettes, chicken terrine with Cumberland sauce, and chicken marsala pate.

A friend and I shared the charcuterie board and the Singaporean chicken curry; a deliciously mild and smooth curry and quite different to the spicy Indian curries I normally eat.2015-01-11 16.37.37We devoured everything on our charcuterie board – the pate, terrine and rillettes were simply delicious. I don’t eat pork, so the Lupchong sausages were left to my friend. We both agreed the board could have done without the sausage; it’s not identifiable as French unlike the other offerings, and didn’t add any wow factor.  Some other veggie or pickle could easily be substituted without any loss to the integrity of the dish. 2015-01-11 16.27.11Served with chargrilled olive bread, pickles, and drizzled with balsamic, everything else on the board was a taste sensation. Our eyes were definitely too big for our fat bellies as half of our chicken curry dish went begging, and no-one else was able to oblige us by finishing it. Room had to be made for dessert after all.

One of our group who adores satay, declared the generous chicken satay sticks on its bed of salad and potatoes, a winner. Different from the usual satay with rice, but Chapels likes to trick things up a bit and make food more interesting. And who doesn’t love potatoes?

2015-01-11 14.46.21The Oriental tasting plate with its fish cakes, steamed pork buns, spring rolls, dumplings and dipping sauces, was declared a success by a duo at the other end of the table.

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Not to be outdone by all the meat dishes, one of our group opted for the dhal with parathas, raita and relish. Judging by her empty plate, this hearty vegetarian meal was a tasty and healthy change from her usual carnivorous diet.2015-01-11 14.44.30Many cocktails, a jug of red Sangria and several glasses of wine later, while chilling out to the sounds of the smooth jazz duo playing inside, we decided it was time to bring on the pudding.  Show me a group of women who don’t secretly want to hoover up oozing plates of chocolatey, caramely, creamy gooey sweetness and I’ll give you a million bucks my friend. We all swoon at the prospect of a delicious dessert.

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Perfectly oozing chocolate fondant with vanilla ice-cream

A good dessert – no, a great dessert, is worth a week’s worth of main dishes. Seriously.  And I always try and leave room for a sweet treat if I’m out dining some place where love and attention is paid to the grand old pud. Chocolate fondant with vanilla ice-cream is the dish that bowls me over every time, so to avoid being greedy, my friend and I decided to share one…..and then to finish with a salted caramel macaron. Each.2015-01-11 14.54.49Friday nights at Chapels are enhanced with the sound of soft jazzy tunes coming from the main dining area. It’s hard to find fault with this establishment really. You’re surrounded by interesting and beautiful wall art and homewares everywhere you look. The food is delicious and if you weren’t greedy, you could get away with sharing a board between two people.

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Happy Hour cocktails are a big drawcard between 5 and 6pm , so get here early to take advantage of that. And, the big big plus – Chapels gets a major tick for taking separate billing.  For a group of 10 people that is no minor thing. I can think of very few places in Perth or anywhere else, that agree to separate billing but as owner Keith pointed out; it’s not hard to do at all. And that is something that will ensure my group of friends and I will return here time and time again.

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Chapels on Whatley on Urbanspoon