David Coomer is about as close as Perth gets to food royalty. His Star Anise restaurant in Shenton Park has been a mainstay at the top end of the dining scene for many years, and his reputation for sourcing great quality produce and making beautiful dishes out of them has placed him at the top of his game.
Which is why there’s been such interest in his latest venture, Pata Negra. When the announcement was made that David Coomer was going to be opening a Spanish restaurant in Nedlands, a great thrill ran through the collective stomachs of the greater dining community of Perth, hoping perhaps, that someone would come and pull us up from the quagmire of mediocre tapas restaurants.
Imagine my surprise then, to run into David at my favourite Spanish providore (article coming), buying much of the same ingredients as I do for said new restaurants launch party (though perhaps in slightly larger quantities than I ever have). I took some delight in the fact that he had to put up with as much, if not more hassle dealing with Rosa the feisty Spanish providore as I ever have. Who’s opinion on food and all things Spanish is undeniably parochial, and ultimately final. Regardless of whether she’s talking to a novice or an award winning chef.
After chatting for a while David kindly invited me along to the media launch the coming Sunday evening, a chance to explain the concept and demo some dishes before a full restaurant opening the following Tuesday. I wandered around chatting to wait staff and chefs Matt Stone (former sous chef from Star Anise) and Kurt Samson (previously of the Builders Arms and Momo in Melbourne), who will be heading up Pata Negra while David controls the reigns at Star Anise. It was a great night and a chance to sample some of the menu in it’s infancy, which had the immediate effect of whetting my appetite for the real deal.
Now I’m not prone to rhetoric as much as other writers in the food game in our fair city, but I will say that despite the build up, and all the hype, my first meal at Pata Negra was fantastic. So forgive me if I leave out details of the rustic mismatched furniture and glassware, and the warmly arcane lighting fixtures. I’ll also also brush over the unexpectedly icy dash to the bathrooms via the outdoors, and the unexplained mineral water that was poured into the next door tables glasses. Which are not all superfluous, but didn’t detract from the experience.
The review starts here
It was Friday night and the place was packed. Open since Tuesday, this was their 4th night of service. I’d booked for 8:30pm, ringing the day before to make sure I could get a seat, but was reassuringly told by the manager that tables would be set aside every night for walk in traffic. Lazy diners of Perth unite ! You should be able to stroll into Pata Negra at any given time with no forewarning and land yourself a table. The tables in question are a series of small communal spots at the front. The rest of the restaurant seems to run with two sittings, one at 6:30pm (the early bird special) and the later at 8:30pm.
A quick peruse of the wine list while we waited for the table to be ready showed an interesting mix of Spanish and Portuguese wines, and Australian wines in the same vein. New world Tempranillo blends mixing alongside Douro and Rioja. It was nice to see some decent cheaper options amongst the mix too. The cheapest bottle of wine being $35, which is not bad for a restaurant of this nature. Though it’s immediately apparent that the style of this place is meant to be warm, fun, and casually intimate. We settled on a bottle of Portuguese Douro that I know virtually nothing about. It was medium bodied and fruit driven and was a wonderful match to many of the dishes.
So the food.
The menu is split into sections. Tapas at the top, which are all small dishes. Working down through different sections based on the type of dish. If I recall correctly it was Sea (seafood things), Earth (vegetable dishes), Land (meats), Queso (cheeses). I know I’m forgetting or mislabeling them, but will clarify at some point when I go back. All the dishes are designed to share, thought not necessarily as individual pieces. But the concept of the shared table seems to be a central theme. The dishes are predominantly Spanish in feel, though there’s a strong Moorish / Middle Eastern influence coming from Kurt Samson’s background in running Momo with Greg Malouf and his own personal style of hearty tagines.
We started with some of the pork crackle. To call it pork crackle though is almost a misnomer. It’s essentially lighter than air pork rind fried to puffy crunchy perfection, served with a yoghurt dipping sauce and paprika. The joy of crunching into them is a must for any true lover of the pig.
Next up was some Jamon Serrano. At half the price of the restaurants namesake Jamon Iberico, it makes for a deliciously rich, salty indulgence. The fat is lovely and supple (though not as melt in your mouth as the pata negra), and it’s a generous portion of 40 grams for $15. A massive ham slicer sits atop the stairs in the entrance to the kitchen, which will no doubt get a considerable workout over the years as this place shaves many a leg of ham to it’s salty end.
A small anchovy fillet laid across a rich tomato salsa on a thin wafer was next. A wonderful combination of textures and flavours as it all came together in a satisfying bite.
Now a brief respite and a chance to collect thoughts, enjoy the wine, schmooze with other local food illumenati and choose some more dishes. The only problem so far is that there are far too many to choose from, that all look good.
So after some wrangling we settle on some wood roasted portobello mushrooms and the one dish it seems most food writers can’t go past… fabada. Fabada is a rich stew with confit duck, chorizo, ham hock, and beans (in this case lentils), quite similar to cassoulet… a lovingly rich rustic dish of epic proportions.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The wood oven at Pata Negra is a legacy of the pizza shop that used to be there a while ago. As a lazy university student I fondly remember walking past Sol Pizza on the way to somewhere else other than university. Hopefully my lack of patronage wasn’t why it closed in the first place… but regardless the wood oven works well, and is used to great effect by Pata Negra to create a number of their dishes.
The wood roasted mushrooms then, were an explosion of earthy joy. Juicy, dense, perfectly cooked… I could have had just that one dish and been completely satisfied. Shavings of parmesan over the top only enhanced the depth of flavour. How good they were, yet how simple, was quite simply astounding.
The Fabada came served in a cazuela. The confit duck consisted of one large maryland piece split in half, that fell apart at the mere thought of a fork. The lentils mingled with Rosa’s intensely spicy chorizo and smokey ham hock. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Homely, hearty, soul restoring.
For dessert, we couldn’t go past some of the house made Pedro Ximenez ice cream. Served with a sweet doughnut made from brioche and deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. All I can say is thank God for a complete absence of churros, I miss you not. I also tried the poached persimmon, with yoghurt ice cream, sadly reaffirming the fact that I really don’t enjoy persimmon. The yoghurt ice cream rich and creamy, although I’ve been told I need to include in this review that my initial reaction was: “Wow, this yoghurt is really yoghurty”. Such is the brilliance of my observatory powers.
I finish the night with a glass of Pedro Ximenez and a smug expression on my face at a fantastic first meal in a new restaurant destined for great things. Is this Perth’s answer to Movida ? Only time will tell. But with what I’ve seen so far the sky is the limit. The team behind Pata Negra is committed to bringing great food to Perth. The service was quick and attentive, and you can tell they care about giving people the right kind of experience.
Get there soon and tell me what you think.
26 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands
Phone: 08 9389 5517
Fax: 08 9389 5519
26 thoughts on “Pata Negra”
Whoa, top pics as always! And, uh, great dessert-reviewing abilities, heh heh :)
Thanks Mark, my descriptive capacity can be overwhelming at times :)
Thanks for the review Matt, good to get someone else’s take on the restaurant. I’m interested that you raved about the pork crackle, for us it was the let down of the night. I’d read something about it elsewhere and had been thoroughly looking forward to it, but it reminded me of the bland packaging foam-esque stuff you get in packets. I guess I was expecting crackle like you’d get from a delicious roast. The smoked octopus was definitely the winner for me, but agree with your sentiments on the wood roasted portobellos :)
Hi Clare, perhaps having sampled the crackle at the launch I knew what to expect… But I really loved the crunch. They were like meat lovers popcorn for me.
Definitely agree with you on the octopus. Apparently it’s smoked with birch to start with and then slow cooked for 7 hours at 65C before being put into the escabeche. If as many restaurants went to as much trouble to do things from scratch and do them this well I think we’d all be a lot better off.
Cheers for your comments.
If I’m lucky enough to return to Perth soon, you are so taking me here for dinner!
Beautiful pics & write-up Matt. Sorry I missed seeing you again, & meeting Max. We were in & out like a dose of salts – gotta love family life.
everything looks delectable! I’m not a fan of pork crackle myself, but my family loves it – I, on the other hand, always go straight for the gold, el jamón ibérico :)
the ice cream looks wonderful, too! I’m curious, what made the donut coated in cinnamon and sugar different than churros? I imagine that since the dough is a brioche it would be fluffier, but was this the main difference? I also like the fact that it doesn’t look greasy… there aren’t many things worse than grease coated in thick clumps of sugar and cinnamon.
I love the name of your blog, btw!
Good report as always mate, though I do think you need to revise the definition of food illuminati. Cracking shots as always, that new 30mm looks like a pearler!
I’d like to say I’m going to put something together but work is just smash, smash, smashing me.
Glad to see abstractg is holding down the number one spot for Pata Negra reviews!
Yum – you lucky bastard, yum.
had a love hate…
love the ambiance, the wine list, a lot of the savouries, the staff were attentive, loved the bill – all the hates were forgotten when we got the bill, good value for money.
didnt like – the flat bread was awful and inappropriate for some dishes, the ducka nd lentil dish cried out for a thicker more absorbant bread to soak up the wonderfullness! the desserts were shocking, no doughnuts the night we went and as a persimmon lover, that persimmon dessert tasted more like it was strait fromt eh can than poached… the aniseed biscuit was stock standard and not a substantial alternative to poached fruit when the doughnuts were not on the menu.
Hated – finding a car park…
will i go again.. most certainly-however will have another savoury instead of a dessert!
Just booked for my birthday next month. I love David Coomer’s food – and Movida is my favourite restaurant – so my hopes are high!!
can’t wait to take the secret agent there when she gets back!
Had the Cherubino 2009 Riesling launch there on Tuesday. The food is amazing.
I’m jealous, wish I was dining with you!
Thank you, Matt, for another beautifully written review with impeccable imagery. You have inspired me to book at Pata Negra as soon as possible.
Manny and I had the pleasure of eating at this restaurant last Thursday on that very cold and rainy night. In the Iberian spirit, we arrived at 9:30pm in and were eventually shown to our table that was placed in the centre of the room. While we waited for someone to come to us with the menus we had plenty of time to take in the stylish interior with its orange glassware and inspired 60s furniture.
By the time the Manager took our orders we were feeling very hungry. While we waited for the food to arrive, we were fascinated by the group of young waiters in red plaid shirts who were very busy doing nothing around the till while the Manager took orders and delivered food throughout the whole restaurant.
Based on the Manager’s recommendations, we ordered a selection of tapas. First to come was a plate of smokey babaganoush with crispy bread. Next, we had shavings of delicious ham presented on a wooden plate. The most filling dish we ordered was the perfectly cooked lamb presented on a long metal skewer sitting on some spicy sauce. I can’t quite remember the order they came in, but we also had the tender calamari that had been cooked on a hot plate and those tasty lightly fried fish balls that just melted in your mouth. During the meal, we polished off a bottle of Spanish wine that went beautifully with the food. For desserts, we shared the icecream with warm raisins and cigarette-shaped doughnuts.
Our verdict? Apart from the inattentive service of the young staff and the brightly-lit kitchen, we loved this place. It felt like we were in another city with its unmatched and dark interior. The bar against the window looked particularly appealing against the rainy dark street outside. As for the food, it was up there with Movida’s in Melbourne (thanks for your recommendation, Matt!) with exciting and exotic taste sensations lingering in my mouth for days after.
Thanks for the review Greg, glad you liked the food too. I can’t say I thought about the brightness from the kitchen much… I kind of like being able to see in when you go up the stairs and didn’t think it impacted too much on the ambiance of the place, but your attention to detail is always appreciated :)
Thanks Matt for thanking me. Well the kitchen wasn’t a problem for me but it was for Manny as he could see straight into it. Personally, I quite like seeing the kitchen as it’s always interesting to see everyone busy at work, but I guess at Pata Negra there is too much contrast between the dim and elegant eating section of the restaurant and the brightly-lit kitchen. I also think that as the kitchen is at a higher elevation, you only see the legs and feet of the chefs and have a clear view of the floor. An attractive partial screen could easily solve this problem.
On the night, we had an excellent manager who spent time explaining and recommending things on the menu. She was very knowledgeable and industrious, but the other staff needed more direction as to what to do. While they were lovely to look at, I was feeling very neglected and frustrated by their poor service skills.
As I also mentioned, I loved the interior. I think if you group things together like those old-fashioned orange glass pendant lights above the bar and having sets of different styled chairs around the tables then you can get away by having unmatched things together. What could otherwise be seen as junk-shop kitsch has been confidently turned into cool urban elegance with a 60s twist. It is so refreshing to see this style in Perth where so many restaurants (that’s you, Amuse!) have everything blandly matching.
I still remember the wonderful bar in Melbourne, Madame Brussels, which is furnished with painted white wrought iron garden chairs and tables on that rooftop where the staff, all dressed like characters in an Agatha Christie movie, hand out hot water bottles and rugs when it gets at night. Such urban charm! Another one of your recommendations, dude!
Oh my god…Those desserts…That bowl of cream/ice cream..whatever is it, this little pig wants in…
Nice work Matt. Your review just made me hungry.
I think a visit to Pata Negra is in order now that I have reintroduced both ham and wine back into my life.
On the topic of persimmons – I also keep trying them with the thought that maybe I just haven’t had a good one yet. But I think the reality is that their flavour doesn’t do much for me either.
We went last night. The space is lovely and I love the view of the kitchen. Great service, fabulous wine and very good food – but ultimately I wasn’t wowed. I think Movida has spoiled me for ever – a planned trip to Spain next year will hopefully cure me of my affliction.
But back to the food. The ortiz anchovy with smoked tomato and cucumber relish was spoiled by the horrible bread it sat on. My husband loved his fried oysters – a special of the night – and said they were superb. Sadly, I can’t abide the little critters. Black rice with cuttlefish was the stand out dish for me, and had the lovely crusty bits you get in a good paella. Chicken livers were also very good, while the borlotti beans in the fabada had tough skins, which let down an otherwise lovely dish. We also had some new season asparagus with manchego cheese – lovely, and stuffed eggplant – ok.
We drank a couple of glasses of cava and had some excellent Spanish grenache (those Spaniards really know how to treat this grape variety). It was a good night, and if this restaurant was at the end of our street, we’d probably go there often, if for nothing else than the rice, oysters and wine!
Do you dislike churros, or are you just a bit sick of their ubiquity?
I dislike their omnipresence in every quasi Spanish / Latin restaurant I go to… and the inevitable boring pots of melted chocolate to dip them into. Of course if they’re good, then all the better, but for the most part they’re dry ,overcooked, and soaked in oil.
The ones I had at Pata Negra were much more rewarding.
I do like that Pata Negra are doing something a bit different. I’m a massive Ximenez fan too, so I expect that ice cream would be right up my alley. Still haven’t made it to Pata Negra, I’m trying to avoid temptation and save for a US holiday in November.
Went there last Friday night.
Loved the pork belly, the asparagus and walnuts, oh and the eggplant fritters were surprising and delicious.
Sounds like quite a few new things on the menu. I must head back and see what’s in season.