Layup, Northbridge

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On the site of what was once the Dizzy Witch Cafe, the new owners have transformed a tired old space into an light, industrial, modern cafe with a pleasing menu. When I met Egg and her son there shortly after Easter, there were only a few tables occupied and we wondered why. Our food dispelled any doubts we may have had, and the coffees were superb too.

The display cabinet and pie warmer were bereft of any offerings that looked appealing. This was a bit disappointing as the butter chicken pie on the menu sounded like just the ticket, and I could see the potential there in the slightly dry version left over from yesterday. Well it was early and they hadn’t had a chance to cook fresh ones and re-stock, so I reassured myself that the pie would keep for my next visit.

The brioche doughnut balls with salted caramel, pistachios, chantilly cream and sauce sounded amazing, but I wasn’t in the mood for sweets so went for an old fave, scrambled eggs on toast. This was a huge serving of eggs, soft and somewhat sloppy as you can see in the photo. As someone who’s not keen on runny eggs, I was a bit trepidatious about my breakfast, but the eggs continued to cook through in their own heat, and they were delicious with their smattering of chopped chives and sprinkling of cracked pepper.

Egg went for a simple plate of poached eggs on sourdough toast, and was rewarded with eggs that were soft and runny as she preferred them.

Fortunately Egg’s son saved the day by ordering the brioche doughnut balls which I managed to sample. When you blog about food, you really do need accommodating friends who are happy to give up part of their meals for your benefit 🙂  Anyhoo, the flavour combo of the doughnuts and the sweet sauce, citrus, luscious cream and crunchy nuts, was a good one, though I do think this would be a rich dish to eat on your own at 7.30am!

Layup boasts a range of toasties, wraps and burgers with some non-traditional fillings, as well as their tempting house-made pies and sausage rolls. It’s easy to see why it has become one of Perth’s new favourite breakfast spots in recent months, and it’s roomier and  easier to get into than Sayers Sister just around the corner which is always freakishly busy.

 

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

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Shanghai Tea Garden

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This little restaurant in Northbridge has an inviting Oriental entrance. You step through an ornate red door into a courtyard before going into the restaurant. It’s a pity they don’t make the courtyard more inviting as it has the potential to be a really cool little spot for al fresco dining. A tall aquarium greets you smack in the eye as you walk into the restaurant.

My small group was there for dinner, and we ordered a variety of dishes to share. We had several plates of the Shanghai dumplings to start with. These were flavourful little things, though I can’t recall exactly what the fillings were.

I was interested in trying a Szechuan dish, and the combination Szechuan hotpot seemed to fit the bill. It was a mild Szechuan pepper spicing in this dish; not that smack-you-in-the-mouth-and-numb-your-tongue-and-lips sensation you get from a genuine assault of Szechuan peppers. Still in all it was flavourful and full of vegetables and seafood.

The fragrant crispy skin duck was a generous-sized dish, served with a bowl of that special salt that adds so much flavour to chicken and duck. Parts of it could have been a little more succulent but the skin was crispy and overall this dish was fine as the shared meaty dish.

The combination veggies were crisp and fresh, with none of those limp, ageing veggies you sometimes get in suburban Chinese restaurants. I always love a good dish of stir fried veggies, and this one was about as good as it gets in my book.

The service was attentive and fairly prompt, and the atmosphere more congenial and warm than many other Chinese restaurants in Northbridge. It was a relatively cheap evening with BYO booze; always a bonus in my book.

 

Shanghai Tea Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nine Fine Food

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The Japanese food scene is burgeoning in Perth, with the likes of Marumo, Ha-Lu and Bonsai setting the bar high without charging inflated prices. Nine Fine Food adds its name to the list, serving up beautiful food in an intimate atmosphere without a hefty price tag.

I dined recently with a group of five friends; a first time experience for me but not for a few of my friends who had selected their courses before we even got there. Nine Fine Food offers different set menus depending on the number of courses you want. We chose the Osusume menu with four courses, which gave us a feast of exquisite food for the not-so princely sum of $69.

We opted for sashimi for the first course. This platter of fresh seafood was beautifully plated, and featured salmon and tuna as well as melt-in-your-mouth soft octopus pieces in a creamy sauce. You can elect to have all salmon and tuna sashimi for an extra $2, though I doubt you’d want to forego the octopus once you’ve tried it.

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The next course featured  Nine Fine Food’s signature dish of caviar pasta. This Japanese-meets-Italian dish of angel hair pasta in a creamy rice wine sauce with mushrooms and Tobico caviar, was exquisite and unlike anything else I’ve eaten. The taste sensations of creaminess and saltiness combined with the soft texture of the pasta and the juicy crunchy pop of the caviar, was a revelation.

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The main course featured non-typical Japanese dishes, but cooked and presented in the inimitable Japanese style. My duck leg confit  had been slow cooked to succulent perfection, and finished with wickedly crispy skin. Duck jus and silky mashed potato complemented the meltingly tender duck meat, while two lightly seared scallops dotted with caviar added to the sense of east-meets-west. A drift of pumpkin puree topped with a smatter of delicate little vegetables and fruit pieces, completed this superb dish.

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As much as I was tempted by the matcha brûlée, my stomach told me I should finish on a lighter note. And so I ordered the blood orange sorbet and coconut gelato; the superb fruitiness of the sorbet was the ideal foil for the creaminess of the coconut gelato. A dusting of crushed nuts and popcorn provided a textural contrast. A pleasingly light end to a meal that was deceptively substantial.

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Small wonder that we had a four week wait to book into Nine Fine Food on a Saturday night. I’m always amazed when restaurants of this ilk offer the BYO option, which means you can enjoy a fine dining experience without the premium wine prices.  We loved that the meal was spread out and we weren’t rushed, or kept waiting too long between courses.  The service was pleasant, efficient and unobtrusive. Surprisingly the noise level was high; given the soft furnishings this is unusual, but it is a small space and this tends to be the norm these days. The food was exquisite though really we could all have done with one less course. Which course would you leave out though?  In the words of Steve Tyler, “I don’t want to miss a thing”.  Certainly not at Nine Fine Food.

 

http://www.ninefinefood.com.au/9/NINE_FINE_FOOD-ABOUT.html

 

Nine Fine Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sauma

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My intro into the world of Indian cuisine and people at the age of 17 opened a whole new world for me – this uneducated Australian palate screamed “where have you been all my life??!!” I sat for hours at the kitchen table, transfixed, as my future mother-in-law showed me how to make flaky parathas the traditional spiral way, how to hang salted lemon pieces in muslin in the sun to cure them for pickles, how to throw a spoonful of panch phora and coconut into a dish of cabbage and beans and transform it into a fragrant treat, how to soak tamarind in water and strain it to make pepper water, and how to mix various spices together to make masalas for different curries. A heady world of tastes and smells that introduced my palate to things that I had never heard of, much less eaten. Spices in Australia then comprised the standard cloves for apple pies, mixed herbs for meatballs, and Keen’s curry powder for curried mince and for egg sandwiches. Chillies? No-one had heard of them, much less eaten them. I still eat my egg sandwiches that old way, but this initiation into Indian cuisine opened my mind and my taste buds to so many new food experiences. I still get a thrill over trying a new recipe or being introduced to a new flavour or texture or cooking method.

Sauma, the new, hip Indian restaurant in town – how would that measure up? Hip isn’t a word generally used to describe Indian restaurants but it’s been bandied around in the same sentence as Sauma, so I was excited at the prospect of  exploring Indian street food, and dishes with a modern twist. Hell, you can twist Indian food any way you like really; there are so many possible flavour combinations, that this cuisine is ripe for innovation and experimentation. Sauma presents Indian feasts for groups, so for $55 each you can sample a cross section of starters and mains. Perfect way to sample a range of what’s on offer.

I have tried countless versions of onion bhaji over the years, but this is the best I have tried. Ever. Anywhere.  The beer batter is probably the killer secret, as the bhajis were crunchy and light with just the right amount of onion, deep fried in good oil, and with perfect spicing and seasoning. I could happily return, order a beer,  munch on a plate of these lovelies, and think I was the luckiest person in the world.

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The bang bang chicken is Sauma’s spin on the traditional Tandoori chicken. More subtly flavoured than tandoori, the bang bang was bang on. Succulent oven-cooked chicken pieces with hints of cumin and garlic; this was another dish that had me wanting more.

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The lamb ribs were scoffed with gusto by my fellow diners, amid messy fingers and the satisfied smacking of lips. As a non-lamb lover I didn’t try these, but the sweet tamarind and chilli marinade rib dish was a winner for the rest of the table.

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Our final starter of roast mushrooms was a fabulous example of India-meets-modern.  The field mushrooms had been tandoor oven-roasted and served with roasted cashews, pomegranate seeds and garlic on a golden saffron sauce. Another dish I’d be happy to polish off by myself. The mere mouthful we each got was only a teasing little snippet of this glorious dish.

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The curries arrived in quick succession, starting with Shark Bay prawns. Redolent with tamarind, curry leaves and cumin, this was my favourite curry. The prawns were chunky and squeaky fresh, and the pieces of eggplant really soaked up the flavours of the curry sauce. The problem with eating a dish like this in a group of eight though, means you get a mere one prawn each. One prawn! Hardly enough to whet your whistle, let alone your appetite.

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The mountain-style goat curry naturally enough was a big hit with the men at the table. Give the men meat, and they are happy little Vegemites. Another non-event for me, as goat isn’t on my list of things-I-like-to-eat.

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Winter vegetable curry was the least exciting dish of the evening. Much as I love veggie curry, it’s really just an everyday sort of dish for me and in a sea of other curries in gravy, it became somewhat lost. I would have preferred a punchy dry potato dish with mustard and cumin seeds, some okra, or some Keralan-style cabbage, if only to provide some contrast to the other curries with gravy. Even though the fried sweet potato added textural interest to the dish, it wasn’t enough to excite me.

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Butter chicken here, butter chicken there, butter chicken everywhere. Everyone loves this dish and it’s easy to see why. Cooked properly, you have your tender pieces of marinated tandoori-style chicken, served in a mild but rich, creamy gravy.
I’ve mentioned before that this is the one dish I prefer not to order when I dine at Indian restaurants as the quality varies so much, and because I find it to be one of the least interesting Indian dishes. I’d much rather try a chicken dish with different flavouring – a vindaloo, a dhansak, or a methi curry. Sauma’s version was pleasant and everyone else was satisfied with it. For me, it was missing that overnight-marinated smoky flavour, but then I’m hard to please when it comes to this dish.

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Sauma was an interesting culinary adventure and I enjoyed the innovation shown in some of the dishes. I much preferred the starters to the curries, because this was where the creativity of the chefs really shone. Dining in a group of eight probably wasn’t the best introduction because it meant having only a small sample of each dish; but then that has simply encouraged me to return with just a friend or two. Although the dishes are tapas style and designed to be shared, I think it would work better in a small group.  Sauma’s service is top notch, the atmosphere congenial, and the concept welcome.  I suggest you forego the standard Indian curries, and try some of the more unusual and exotic creations, along with a street food favourite like the outstanding onion bhaji.  With a beer to two to wash it down 🙂

 

http://www.sauma.com.au

 

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

Source Foods

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Egg’s office in Northbridge is just around the corner from Source Foods so she often pops in for a coffee or lunch. She loves the fresh, sustainable produce used and urged me to have lunch with her and check it out for myself.

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Source offers a range of salads, wraps, burgers and all day breakfast food. Two blackboards list the regular items and daily specials. They also makes smoothies and fresh juices, and serve a range of loose leaf teas.

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Egg went for a Haloumi, herbed couscous, roasted sweet potato, pomegranate, walnuts and harissa yoghurt at $17. The colours were beautiful and the flavours fresh. After a taste test, I wished I had chosen this.

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My smoked salmon, cream cheese and salad bagel was also fresh and it hit the spot, but I really should have chosen the salad. Ah, food envy….

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The coffee is made from single origin beans, and sourced from small local roasters.

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Source’s prices may be a bit higher than your typical lunch cafe, but the cafe’s ethos and commitment to sourcing sustainable and local produce, means that your food miles are low and you are dining ethically.  The beef, chicken, eggs and tempeh used are either organic, free range or biodynamic, and the bread used in the sandwiches is organic. It’s sadly not always possible to dine with a conscience, but Source Foods is doing its darndest to give us that opportunity. The staff are passionate about what they are serving up, and are happy to be there.  You’d be hard pressed to not love this place.

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Tarts Cafe

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The name Tarts may be short and sharp, but the cafe itself is quite the opposite. From breakfast fare to lunches, to special degustation nights with jazz singers, this little haven in Northbridge is nothing if not versatile. They even have jewellery, scarves, homewares and food for sale, a boardroom you can use for small group meetings, and a rustic courtyard out the back where a French speaking group meet most Saturdays.

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I met Egg there one weekday morning for brunch, along with another agent pal, Stefano. Coffees and a mocha ordered immediately, because it was already 9.30 dammit, and we hadn’t had our caffeine hit. Coffees hit the spot but mea culpa, I forgot to ask about the beans. Another senior moment – what can I say – you’ll just have to excuse these minor slip ups occasionally 🙂

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Egg reverted to the Christos at $15.90 – a variation on her standby avocado dish  – but this one did also have salmon, sundried tomatoes and grilled asparagus. Egg loves having salad and greenery in her meal, and she enjoyed the Tarts’ version with ciabatta toast.

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Scrambled eggs with ciabatta toast ($10.90) was Stefano’s choice, and with a side of healthy rocket, he was one happy man.

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I continued with my recent pancake mania and ordered the stack of Pancakes at $17.90 with maple syrup, slivered almonds, mixed berry compote and a dob of cream. My fruity, sweet pancakes were a delicious indulgence, but as is often the case, I ended up eating around the syrupy edges, leaving an arid ring of pancakes in the middle with no syrup or compote left.

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I’ve eaten lunches and brunches and cakes and tarts at Tarts, and always enjoyed the surroundings in this welcoming cafe. Their range of cakes and muffins always looks delectable.

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Situated towards the north end of Lake Street, there is usually free street parking available, and I’ve never had to wait for a table. Might be a bit different on a rainy day though, when folks can’t use the rear courtyard. It’s a fab little spot, far removed from the busy central Northbridge area. In case you needed further incentive to visit, Tarts has a voucher in the Entertainment Book.

http://www.tartscafe.com.au/whats-on/

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Big El’s Latin American Fusion

2015-04-03 09.27.42 Large, loud and boisterous – and that’s just the wait staff. No seriously, Big El’s premises in Northbridge in a warehouse-type setting, replete with crazy coloured plastic milk crates suspended from the ceiling and paintings of spooky undead women decorating the walls, was booming and slightly chaotic as the place steadily filled to capacity.

2015-04-03 09.28.48 With the mega menu making food choices difficult, our group nonetheless weathered the storm and ordered large. Yes, so large in fact that we had several plates of half-eaten food that were later transported home. Portions are generous here, and you will not leave hungry. The joint filled rapidly on a Friday night amid a feeling of controlled mayhem. I say controlled, because the busy wait staff were totally on the ball, serving drinks at the bar and delivering plate after plate of tapas style food to the rowdy crowd. Surprisingly above the surrounding din, I could converse with my table of eight friends with no problem, unlike some noisy places I’ve visited lately where normal conversation was impossible. A large group attending a 21st birthday celebration was seated in the long room behind us, where they carried on having their own celebration without any impact on the rest of the patrons. What better way to begin a Big El’s Latino fusion feast than with some corn chips and oven roasted garlic and tomato salsa. Best to ease in gently to the big league courses following.

2015-04-03 09.31.32Hearty and well seasoned, the chicken taquitas were mighty sauce-smothered wraps, chock full of chunky chicken pieces and quite delicious. They came with our choice of sauce – the cheesy chilli con queso.  I’ve had better cheese sauces, but as the dishes were so rich in themselves, you really didn’t need the sauces to enhance them.

2015-04-15 23.30.36 The chicken enchiladas at the other end of the table were also yummy – I managed a sensible taste test, while making sure to leave room for my upcoming orders. They had a definite chilli kick, were sprinkled with tomato and red onion and generously covered with Jack cheese and sauce.  If I had my druthers, I’d choose the enchiladas over the taquitas – a bit more chilli kick and just a bit more flavourful.  Are you beginning to see how easy it is to fill up quickly here?

2015-04-03 09.34.55 Out came the funky Patron Tequila prawns – this was a welcome respite from the wrapped dishes, and featured prawns soaked in Tequila and presented with a smattering of salad and tostaditas.

2015-04-03 09.36.24 My favourite dish of the evening was the Coastal Baja fish tacos which you assemble yourself. Pieces of chunky, fresh, marinated fish arrived accompanied by fresh coriander, salad and soft wraps. Sadly I could only manage one, as I had to leave room for the chimichanga dessert.

2015-04-03 09.37.14 Big El’s does nothing in small doses, and the desserts are no exception. Their Chimichangas are a heart-stopping experience made with your choice of favourite chocolate bar – Bounty, Mars, Kit Kat, Cherry Ripe, Crunchie, Boost – encased in a wrapper and deep fried. Ice-cream and caramel sauce popcorn seal the deal. Hubba bubba. Death by fat/carbs/kilojoules.

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I don’t know that I’d rush back to try this again – all of this fat on top of an already massive dinner – well, it was overdoing it just a tad. And the caramel sauce with the popcorn had a seriously weird taste – all four Chimichanga eaters concurred on that point – something chemical and not quite right.

2015-04-03 09.39.15 One of our group couldn’t resist the idea of deep fried Tequila shots with lemon sorbet. The Tequila shots were light and fluffy and you could really taste the Tequila.  I taste tested of course. We thought this would have been better with ice-cream, rather than sorbet, and although my friend asked for this, they wouldn’t accommodate her request. Seemed a bit pedantic, seeing ice-cream was served with other desserts.

2015-04-03 09.38.10 As you would expect here, Tequila features heavily on the drinks menu, along with several varieties of margaritas and a wide range of cocktails. Wine choices are very limited; only four by the glass. Big El’s was quite an experience – not the place for a quiet, romantic date, but definitely the place for a group that wants to share food, settle in for the night, and have a rollicking, noisy good time.

http://www.bigels.com.au

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Zambrero Northbridge

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As another chain in the mushrooming tex-mex food fad, Zambrero stands out somewhat because of its mission to alleviate hunger in the world. For every plate of food sold here, a plate of food is given to a person in need.  Fast and tasty, this franchise was the brainchild of young Melbourne entrepreneur, Dr Sam Prince. Since its humble beginnings in 2005, there are now more than 40 locations Australia-wide, including 11 in Perth.

Zambrero is a Quick Service Restaurant franchise that sells healthy Mexican food to support humanitarian projects in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Since being formed in 2005 by Dr Sam Prince, millions of meals have been provided to those living in poverty around the world through the Plate 4 Plate initiative.

Plate 4 Plate is Zambrero’s way of providing food to those in need. For every burrito or bowl purchased at Zambrero, a meal is donated through distribution partner Stop Hunger Now, which distributes food to those in the developing world. The menu is bold, modern Mexican, with burritos, tacos, nachos and quesadillas made with fresh ingredients and fresh ideas.”

The black rice powerbowl layered with black rice, refried beans and slow cooked chicken, and served with salsa and lettuce, was my choice and it went down a treat. A creamy chipotle sauce added some zest, but you can choose from six  herby or spicy sauces.

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The Prof tackled her giant burrito with gusto, but it was a bit tricky to eat and she had to resort to cutlery. I don’t know how you’d get mouth around this monster.

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The filling was the same as my rice bowl, and The Prof pronounced it a winner. Here’s a pic of the inside after The Prof had made some serious headway. The slow-cooked chicken was seriously good.

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This place give Guzman y Gomez a run for its money in the Tex-Mex stakes, but for me its mission statement gives Zambrero the edge. How can you not love something so altruistic? It’s cheap, fast and made with love for other human beings. Winner.

http://www.zambrero.com
Zambrero Northbridge on Urbanspoon

No Mafia

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No Mafia was quiet on Sunday afternoon when son AB and I ventured into Northbridge for a late lunch. Every time I’ve passed No Mafia in the evening, this little place has been jumping, but things were a bit subdued in Northbridge on this post-Fringe weekend. Not that we minded; it was great being able to get a table anywhere we wanted. We scored a booth seat at the back, woo hoo!

It was a perfect afternoon for an aperol and soda. Refreshing and light, this was my introduction to the traditional slightly bitter Italian aperitif.

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No Mafia’s menu is basically small plates designed for sharing. With a focus on modern Southern Italian, the dishes are made from quality ingredients and there are several options for vegetarians. As tempting as the plate of greens sounded, when you’re restricted to a few plates it’s inevitable that you will opt for the less ordinary dishes that you wouldn’t cook at home.

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AB was instantly drawn to the pork loin, as he rarely eats meat at home. The pork arrived as thin slices nestling on a pistachio paste and sprinkled with crunchy pink peppercorns and a smattering of sea salt. AB persuaded me to try it. “It doesn’t taste really porky” he proclaimed, “it’s a subtle flavour and it’s really good”.  I get the feeling AB is determined to coax me into eating meat at any opportunity and I have to confess, he was successful today. The verdict? Exactly what AB said. The mild flavour was enhanced by the sprinkles of pink peppercorns and sea salt, and paired exceptionally well with the pistachio paste.

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Triple cooked potatoes with garlic, rosemary and salt with creamy aioli was a satisfying, starchy, decadent choice.

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Our final choice was eggplant lasagne layered with sweet cherry tomatoes and basil. The fresh flavours of the lasagne were complemented by the  basil pesto and parmesan cream.  I thought the grilled eggplant slices were a bit chewy and would have preferred them softer, but overall the flavours of the dish worked well together.

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The service at No Mafia was exceptionally quick and very friendly. Prices are a bit steep for the amount of food, but this seems to be the standard in Perth these days.  No Mafia is not a place where you would linger  unless you were lucky enough to get one of the booths at the back.  Most of the seating is backless stools and you wouldn’t be too comfy sitting here for hours. If I’m paying high prices for a meal, I want all the comforts that go with that meal. I don’t know what it is with so many eateries these days where the only seating is stools. Rigor backtus anyone?

http://www.nomafia.com.au

No Mafia on Urbanspoon

Brika

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In its perfect corner location opposite Weld Square, Brika seems to be the happening place in town. It’s happening because it’s lively, it’s hip (without being aimed solely at the 20 something market), the food is good, and there’s plenty of parking. We weren’t feeling too hip the mid week night we went though, because Perth decided to present us with the steamiest night we’ve had for yonks.

With not a whiff of breeze blowing, the Brika patrons sat fanning themselves with their menus, sweltering on this hot summer night. With nary a fan in sight, we asked our waitress if those huge boxes behind us were air-con units and if they could be turned on. Yes as it turns out, they were air-con units but it took a ton of water to fill them and they hadn’t been filled. And “no, they are not going to be filled tonight”.  Packed to the rafters with diners by 7.30, the stifling heat intensified. It was reminiscent of al fresco dining in Bali, but without the benefit of the holiday.

Along with my three companions Teejay, Miss V and her husband Woody, I was a bit swoony with the lack of any circulating air, but we soldiered on, determined to enjoy this evening. Our waitress recommended we choose a few entrees to start with. Stuffed peppers, sardines with grilled toast and saganaki cheese were thus presented within about 15 minutes.

Stuffed with spiced ricotta, the peppers and the filling were a bit insipid. While this dish was ok, it wasn’t anything special.

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The saganaki is very similar to haloumi and the perfectly fried slab, presented in its pan, was salty, creamy and delightfully chewy. A big hit with everyone.

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The Fremantle sardines in oil were fresh and tasty, but it was a very small serving and probably better shared amongst just 2 or 3 people.

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We ordered wines and beers throughout the night, and wine is served in small glass tumblers. The pourings are small, probably about 120 mls. There is a reasonable selection of wines by the glass, and our waitress gave me a sampler of the Greek retsina to try. Retsina is strongly redolent of pine and nothing like our Australian whites, so it’s a good idea to taste test first.

Mains were ordered some time after we’d finished the entrees. We certainly weren’t rushed to order, which was a big plus. Brika staff are happy to let customers take their time over their courses, which isn’t the case everywhere these days. We opted for a variety of mains, accompanied by the suko salad with greens, fennel, orange and fresh figs.

The calamari was tender, lemony and nicely charred.

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The swordfish is normally a three skewer dish, but we upgraded this to four. Meltingly soft, the skewers layered with capsicum and red onion, lay on a bed of hummus. Delicious.

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My friends enjoyed their meaty keftedes –  lamb, pork and apple meatballs with a side of  tzatziki – but I can’t comment on these as I don’t normally eat red meat. They certainly looked appetising.
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We also opted for a plate of patates, the Greek version of fries. They came with a dipping sauce.
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Fortunately by the time we had allowed our mains to settle and decided to order dessert, an ever-so-slight night breeze was wafting our way. Blessed relief.

The Loukoumades arrived first and they tasted as good as they looked. Light, fluffy, sprinkled with crushed walnuts and dripping with honey syrup, this was fabulous dessert to share.

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The halva pistachio cheesecake with berry compote was just right; not too rich or heavy as some cheesecakes are, but light and smooth.

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Our final dessert was a piece of baklava with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream; nice but fairly standard fare.

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Brika has all of the ingredients for a successful bar and restaurant. I’d doubt you’d get a table on the weekend without a booking. Our dining experience cost $60 a head including drinks and coffees for everyone, so reasonably priced by Perth standards. I just wish they’d sort out the air-con situation; it’s just not acceptable in our summer climate to not have fans for the comfort of the diners. I wouldn’t return again until the weather has cooled down. April would probably be perfect.

http://brika.com.au

Brika on Urbanspoon

The Ellington Jazz Club

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When I imagine atmospheric jazz band places, I think New York. Not that I’ve been, but that’s how I imagine them anyway. Ellington’s makes me feel that way. It’s a jazz joint packed to the rafters with music lovers seated around small tables facing the stage, it’s dim lighting with small candles on the tables, and it’s damned amazing music. This place pulses with music that gets the crowd tapping their toes and singing along at times. It’s uber cool and it’s definitely hip to be over 40 here. Heck, it’s hip to be any age here.

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Last night The Prof and I were lucky to have tickets for a Burt Bacharach tribute that had everyone singing along and re-living hits of the 60s and 70s. It was the proverbial walk down nostalgia lane. Ellington regulars Ali Bodycoat and Libby Hammer entertained the crowd in their usual grand style, and the crowd lapped it up.

The Prof and I ordered a bottle of the sparkling shiraz for $44, and a $29 three cheese platter to share. The food options are limited, but as this is a venue focusing on music and drinks and not on food, this isn’t surprising. I think some of the negative reviews on Urbanspoon about The Ellington may be from people who expected a night out with fine dining. That’s not what this place is about. Expect to be entertained, but don’t expect gourmet cuisine.

I’ve had the cheese platters here many times, and they’re perfect for nibbling on while sipping wine and watching the bands perform. There are also pizzas, an antipasto plate and various tapas dishes.
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The platters are generous and more than enough for two people. We couldn’t finish ours. There was a third cheese buried under the breadsticks somewhere. We had brie, what we think was gouda with cumin seeds, and a firm goats cheese. All were good. The dried apricots and apple cut through the fatty cheeses a bit, but a bit more of the quince paste would have been better.

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I love that this place welcomes music lovers and provides a wonderful venue for local and visiting musicians. Although the dominant music is jazz, there are many different performers here playing soul, swing, blues, groove, classics, and various tributes to ground-breaking artists. It’s a fabulous, fun night out and it’s right here in Perth, six nights a week.
Over 40s, come on in and make yourselves at home 🙂

The Ellington Jazz Club on Urbanspoon

Sayers Sister

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No matter what time I visit this Northbridge cafe, it’s always buzzing. On a Tuesday morning at 10.30, there was nary a spare table in sight. By the time we left at midday, the place had thinned out and there were tables galore, inside and out. I guess the breakfast menu trumps the lunch menu these days.

AB and I were happy to sit at the long counter in the middle of the cafe and deliberate over the brunch options. So many things sound interesting and different, that it takes ages to make a decision. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it, right?

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I’ve breakfasted here several times and love it as much as its counterpart, Sayers in Leederville. The thing I prefer at the Sister cafe is that it’s so much easier to park. Parking in Leederville is becoming more difficult by the day and it often deters me from visiting.
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Anyhoo, back to the food. The word “rosti” popped out at me and immediately I was dreaming of holidays in Switzerland, chowing down on hot, crispy rounds of this starchy potato delight. Accompanied by poached eggs, rocket, baby spinach and parmesan slivers, the rosti sat on a bed of apple and thyme chutney. I couldn’t taste either apple or thyme; I’m sure there was a hint of mustard seed, but nevertheless it was a pleasant, sweet foil to the other flavours.  The rosti itself was a monstrous portion. Two generous slices of bacon squatted on top, and AB was happy to take these off my hands as I usually don’t eat pork. He loved it.

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The dish overall was satisfying, but the rosti was disappointing. The massive triangular slice was simply too big and it probably would have worked better as two smaller slices. The thing that makes rosti special for me is the crispy coating, and this is easier to achieve with a flatter rosti. Last year on holiday in Switzerland, Scotty and I ordered our final rosti at the train station restaurant in Basel and it was simply sensational. Cooked to crispy perfection and served in a cast iron dish, it came with a fried egg on top and smothered with melted cheese. My oh my. We soldiered our way through the enormous dish, unwilling to leave a single bite. It was heaven in a skillet and we still wax lyrical about it. It’s a hard act to follow and I haven’t tried another that comes close to being as good. I’ve even tried making it myself, but I can never achieve the crunchy coating. There are some things the Swiss just do exceptionally well – chocolate springs to mind too!

A long macchiato accompanied my food but this was lacking in flavour. Sayers Sister does both chocolate and floral coffee blends, but I didn’t know about this when I ordered so I don’t know what I was served. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Di Bella coffee lately which is so darn good that it’s hard to find another blend as rich and flavourful.

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AB went for the crushed green pea and ricotta pikelets and was happy with his choice. Nestled on a bed of minted pea puree and crowned with a poached egg and wilted baby spinach, this dish looked a million dollars with its bright green colours offset by the fluffy white ricotta. Slivers of crispy pancetta were dotted throughout the stack. Of course I had to taste test (without the pancetta), and as AB asserted, it was fluffy and minty and delicious.

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I really love the inventive recipes and food presentation at Sayers Sister. The chefs put their modern spin on traditional breakfast food and the results are usually amazing. I wasn’t amazed today but I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You can’t win ’em all as they say, but you can have a damn fine time trying.

Sayers Sister now has table service, and you can reserve a table for brunch during the week. Their selection of cakes look pretty darn good too, though I’m always too full to try them.

Sayers Sister on Urbanspoon

Guzman y Gomez

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The recently published “Australia’s 100 best eats” includes the Northbridge G y G franchise, extremely rare for what is essentially a fast food outlet. The menu consists of a limited range of tex-mex cuisine that you can mix and match according to your preferences. The usual suspects are on offer: burritos, enchiladas, nachos, tacos, fajitas and quesadillas.

You can choose spicy or mild versions of the chicken, pork or steak, and mild versions of fish or vegetables.
Sauces comprise guacamole, roasted tomato (mild), pico de gallo and tomatillo (spicy). My friend The Prof and I were on the hunt for food after a Fringe Festival event, and the popular bars and Northbridge eateries had queues out the door.

G y G is on James St a few steps from the frantically busy Papparich’s, so it was an easy choice really. Fast, cheap and plenty of seats for peeps like us who refuse to queue for food.

We both chose the spicy chicken enchilada and it was only later that I noticed the kilojoule content was a whopping 4620!
Whew! Damn those kilojoules. Well, it was a massive enchilada; not exactly diet food.

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The enchilada was packed with rice, black beans, delicious smoky char-grilled chicken, cheese and pico de gallo, and topped with guacamole cheese and salsa. Neither of us could finish, and you certainly don’t need any side dishes with this giant. We did however, wash it down with a Corona. I guess that’s another thing that separates G Y G from other fast food outlets – you can enjoy a cider or Mexican beer with your meal.

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You can dine in or eat at one of the long benches outside if you fancy a bit of people watching, and we all know that Northbridge is one of the best spots for that.

One of the staff members when clearing our table was genuinely interested to hear our thoughts on the food, and was keen to discuss the menu items with us.

Does G y G deserve to be on the “top 100” list? That I can’t say, but I can say that the food is delicious, the service friendly, and the price tag is reasonable. A winning combo, really.

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Guzman y Gomez on Urbanspoon

Tuck Shop Cafe

I’ve dined at the Tuck Shop 7 or 8 times, and would have been more often but for the dreaded queues on weekend mornings.

 I love the friendly service here, and the good quality coffees. When you add top notch food to the mix, it’s a definite winner.

I’ve had to restrain myself from ordering the smoked cod, leek and potato bake every time I go, because it’s so.damn.good. Not wanting to be too predicable and because I might miss out on another awesome taste sensation, I have forced myself to order things I wouldn’t normally order.

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Smoked cod, leek and potato bake
  Take my last visit for example. It was 10.30 on a Friday morning, and I was torn between the Nasi Goreng and the Blueberry Pancakes. I opted for the Chicken and Leek Pie instead. A pie at 10.30am? That’s something I never ordinarily do, but I threw caution to the wind and ordered a side of mashed potato too. I knew my eyes were going to be way too big for my belly, but with my son AB in tow I knew that whatever I couldn’t eat, wouldn’t be left languishing on my plate.

 I wasn’t disappointed. Said pie was full of chunky chicken and a yummy wine and leek sauce, and was just begging to be paired with the creamy mash. Needless to say I managed about half, but my son polished off the rest along with his massive pancake plate. I did manage to squeeze in a few luscious mouthfuls of the blueberry pancake stack with its silky marscapone on the side, and vowed I would order that next time.

I’m always torn between the sweet and the savoury at brunch – I love the variety of egg dishes and the various bruschettas on sourdough toasts, but I also love the pancakes and French toasts. I invariably choose the savoury dish and then experience massive plate envy when my dining pals are served their plates of oozing sweet fluffiness. And so it is with the Tuck Shop – it just makes me determined to return again asap.

There’s a daily blackboard special too which I tend to overlook as I get so excited by the usual menu. There are different daily smoothies too, so it’s worth checking them out.

I just wish this place was a little bigger so I could be guaranteed a table on the weekends, but I guess much of its charm lies in the coziness of the place.

Tuck Shop Cafe on Urbanspoon