Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

31
Jan
2012

Monogram Caffe

Tags: , ,
Posted in Cafe, Coffee, Eating Out, Review

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I first met Thomas Greene at Boucla in Subiaco. As a newish blogger back then I was rather delighted when he told me he’d been reading my blog and really enjoyed my photos. “I like this man!” Was my immediate and rather cheap response to essentially any form of flattery (seriously, it’s not hard at all people). After chatting to Tom for a while I realised we shared a few things in common. He was a photographer too, and a very fine one at that, having taken trips abroad to places like Egypt to embed himself in life there and explore photojournalism. He also made a damn fine coffee.

After that I saw him at many of the usual suspects, Cantina in Mt Lawley, Mini Espresso in the CBD. It was always comforting seeing Tom behind the coffee machine because I knew whatever the reputation of coffee from that venue, his would be good.

He’s not a geek mind you (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the kind of thoughtful person who puts a lot more effort into his craft than he lets on. I have no doubt his primary school report cards would have been full of such words as diligent, conscientious, and considerate.

Such is the approach he’s taken to his latest venture at Monogram Caffe @ The Grove Library in Peppermint Grove. It’s essentially a pop up coffee stand given a permanent place to live inside the library that Tom has given his own unique style.
An elegant wooden bench which conjures both art deco and Nordic stylings, Tom wheels it out at the start of the day, and back in at the end. It’s a one man show as he goes about his craft making fine coffees for extremely lucky library visitors and those in the know.

The coffee is a special blend of Fiori beans, worked out in collaboration with the fine gentlemen at Lowdown Espresso, and with Tom’s delicate touch it really sings. He has fresh cakes and home made sweet things to go along with the coffee and I can think of few things more pleasant than sitting down with a good book, a lemon tart, and a perfectly made flat white, and then returning the book afterwards because I’m too cheap to buy it…

Monogram Caffe
Inside The Grove Library
1 Leake St, Peppermint Grove, at the Cnr of Stirling Hwy.
Sundays to Fridays

09
Dec
2011

Five Bar


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There’s nothing like heading to a bar where you know you’re going to get looked after, where the drinks are quality, the food nourishing, and the vibe relaxed. Such are the experiences I’ve always had at Five Bar in Mt Lawley.

So it was really no surprise that when asked where I’d like to be interviewed for the food blogging story on 730 ABC recently, Five Bar was the spot I chose.

I love the place because the menu is simple and well thought out, featuring all the kinds of things I like to eat. Steak tartare, rare roast beef sandwiches, marinated octopus, and some consistently well made (and fat) hand cut chips. The selection of craft beers and ciders is impressive, and the light filtering in through the big louvered windows up the back makes it feel like you’re outside while you’re still indoors.

I am slightly biased towards this place because bar manager Macca is a lovely (and very huggable) chap who has very good taste in booze, as I was introduced to at 399. The staff on the floor led by Pia and Emma are welcoming and professional, and if you’re smart you’ll head there on a week night where there’s just a little bit more breathing room to spread out on the lounges and benches.

The great thing about Five is that it’s a constantly evolving venue. With new beers, wines, and ciders being added to the list on a regular basis. Recently they’ve had another of my favourite people, Jerry Fraser – Oyster shucker extraordinaire, doing Sunday afternoons there. Cool drinks and fresh oysters are about the perfect proposition to me.

Five Bar
560 Beaufort Street
Mount Lawley

19
Jul
2011

Nahm Thai


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Perhaps Perthís closest equivalent to the fine dining Thai restaurants of Sydney. Nahm Thai is one of the few places that tries to take style and atmosphere seriously in it’s quest to elevate the understanding of Thai food away from Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry. Chef Kevin Pham takes influence from the likes of David Thompson in his recreation of classic Thai dishes.

Firstly I should point out that I like the place. The food is rich and vibrant, there is clear cheffyness to the presentation, and the produce is a world apart from your average Thai place. It’s also nice not to eat Thai food off a plastic tablecloth occasionally, and having 3 different curries that have been made ahead of time and had the <insert meat here> treatment is not something I’ll ever miss either.

Service is a bit of a let down though. The wait staff are dressed in uniforms vaguely reminiscent of bell boys, and usher you to tables in hushed tones, but most give off a clumsy backpacker-waiters-on-holiday feel. Very eager young types struggling in vain for descriptions of dishes and wine, and then sending the food to the wrong table. The menu is barely readable in the dim lighting, and I really wish someone would clean the large overhead lights of dead bugs on a more regular basis.

The food ultimately shines however. Red duck curry with lychees, crispy pork hock with chilli, and crispy egg net with shredded duck are all fantastic, so are the galloping horses (pineapple, duck, scallop) and the sticky rice dessert with mango and sago pudding give me hope that a decent dessert is able to be had in an Asian restaurant that doesn’t involve frying ice cream.

Nahm Thai
223 Bulwer St
Perth
Phone: (08) 9328 7500

19
Jul
2011

The Prophet


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The Prophet is a Victoria Park institution and one of the few notable Lebanese restaurants in the city that do something other than kebabs. Jihad Moussallem has been serving up free bread with his own secret recipe garlic sauce and pickled vegetables for longer than Iíve been around, and one day I’m going to find out how and make millions.

The only thing that changes on the menu are the prices, which are still stubbornly set in the 90s. Their hummus is some of the freshest and most beautifully presented I’ve seen, and what the menu lacks in excitement it makes up for in consistency. The shish tawook (garlic chicken skewer) is a staple and the loubiah beans rich and hearty. Traditional kibbeh (raw minced lamb and bulgur) may be an acquired taste, but the baklava and Lebanese coffee to finish will win anyone over.

Every time I drive past The Prophet I feel a little bad about not frequenting it more often, and then I get a glimpse inside and see the place heaving on a Tuesday night with happy diners making the most of the delicious and cheap food and those three all important letter B-Y-O. There’s always a buzz about the place, to the point where you can never guarantee you’re going to get a seat on any given night of the week.

If you haven’t been yet, go say hi soon.

The Prophet
907 Albany Highway
East Victoria Park, 6101
Tel: (08) 9361 1101

17
Jan
2011

Lowdown Espresso


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Lowdown Espresso Checked

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Lowdown Espresso for a long time now. They’ve recently captured my “Must visit cafe’s when in the CBD” vote, and I think the coffee they are making is some of the best in the city.

Lowdown is run by Mark and Adam Lowes, and two nicer gents you couldn’t meet, who take the flannel clad / bearded look and make it their own.

They took over the diminutive cafe in Cloisters Arcade from the previous owners and set about making it their own. Their Dad got involved used his carpentry skills to put the benches together and help get the place fitted out, and it is perfect in it’s simplicity. The guys use a customised Fiori blend for their espresso, and often have a single original filter available to try out as well. They’ve graduated from a 2 group Wega to a 3 group La Marzocco in the relatively short time they’ve been open and are pumping out more coffee’s than ever before.

I like it because they’re both down to earth guys who are obviously loving what they do and really seem to enjoy giving you a great coffee. The little chocolate button handed out with each coffee may go some way to explaining the chocolate notes I find in their espresso, but other than that it’s a rich and intense brew with a lot of body that a discerning coffee lover will appreciate.

The cafe is really too small to do any serious cooking, but there’s a few tasty sandwiches on offer every day, and on a recent visit some extremely commendable macarons.

If you love your coffee without pretense or attitude then pay these guys a visit. Be warned, it does get very popular during the morning “need caffeine before I can face the office” rush hour, but it’s worth the wait.

Lowdown Espresso
Inside Cloisters Arcade
16a/865 Hay St
Perth WA 6000
(08) 9226 3041

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Low Down Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

28
Sep
2010

Andaluz Bar & Tapas


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Scallops & Pork belly @ Andaluz Pouring Vouvray @ Andaluz

This post is a timely reminder that context is everything in dining.

So I’m just going to come out and say it. I really did not enjoy Andaluz the first time I went. It was a Friday night, it was busy, full of well suited business types and lawyer lookalikes. The people who no doubt keep most of the inner city bars afloat, but whose presence inevitably makes me cringe as their conversations turn to the share market, Bali, getting tickets to Pink for their missus, and whatever else it is that cashed up bogans and stockbrokers like to talk about.

I was squished into a small table and had to shout to be heard above the din. The waitress was sweet but clueless and felt like she needed to explain what jamon was to me. And here was me thinking my “I know what jamon is, where it comes from, and can quote you a thousand facts about it” face was so obvious. In short, I wrote it off as one of those places that people with too much money who work in the city would go to in the hope that some of its coolness will rub off on them.

Skip forward a few months and a friend was going out on a Thursday night and invited me along, “Sure I’ll give it a another shot” I thought. The crowd had suddenly changed into a group of people who looked like they could all have their own restaurant review blogs if they weren’t too busy being good-looking and having intellectual conversations with musicians and artists. Suddenly the menu had come to life as well. Looking at it in a new light, it was so much more interesting, the wine list extensive and thoughtful, the food more interesting. Clearly I still didn’t fit it, but we were heading in the right direction.

You see, I had thought Andaluz was yet another in a long line of places to join the awful tapas band wagon. So many places in Perth (and around the world) have popped up calling themselves tapas bars, when they are in actual fact nothing more than schlocky Spanglish joints with little to no creativity, some mention of chorizo on the menu, and prices through the roof for tiny plates of nothing special.

My general reaction to hearing about a new place serving tapas or tapas-like dishes is one of casual skepticism. I actually don’t mind eating that way if it’s done well. Being greedy and adventurous by nature, I love being able to try 8 things on the menu instead of just one. But so often the combination of those 8 dishes does not add up to the value of one very well made dish of the non-tapas variety.

Andaluz Lamp The chaise @ Andaluz

Suffice to say however, I’ve changed my mind. Many subsequent visits to Andaluz have been excellent nights. Interesting seasonal changes abound with solid staples. The seared scallops on confit pork cheeks are outstanding and have been getting better every time I’ve been, and the duck albondigas (meatballs) are sublime. If you’re feeling rich you can splash on freshly shaved jamon by the gram (a dangerous road to go down because you’ll just want more).

The wine list is parochially Spanish without resorting to the same boring bottles you find all over town. You can still find the few odd Australian/French/Italian wines that fit into the style of the food they’re doing, but it’s pretty much Spain all the way. Thoughtfully chosen interesting expressions from a wide cross-section of Spain’s best wines.

So next time you find yourself in a place that doesn’t float your culinary boat on first glance, take a step back, think about the night, think about the crowd, think about the menu. Whilst you can’t always expect miraculous changes, it’s amazing what a difference a day can make.

Andaluz Bar and Tapas
Basement level
21 Howard Street, Perth
T: 08 9481 0092
www.andaluzbar.com.au

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Andaluz Bar & Tapas on Urbanspoon

10
Apr
2010

Greenhouse Perth


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Tasting plate @ Greenhouse

So if you’ve just finding out about Greenhouse for the first time via my website, you can consider yourself a little slow to the party.
Not that that’s a bad thing of course. I’ve always considered myself 80% tortoise and 20% hare. That you get there in the end is all the really matters, and any restaurant owner will tell you it’s the long term regulars that make the business worth being in, not us fly by nighters who swagger in on opening night, never to be seen again.

So Greenhouse is/was the most interesting place to hit Perth in quite a while. The concept first started in Melbourne as a temporary installation in Federation Square, constructed in 14 days primarily from recyclable materials. I could warble on about the idea of the place for a while, but I’d really only be restating what’s already been said, so here is something directly from the Greenhouse Perth website (which has lots of background info) about what they’re trying to achieve.

The Greenhouse is about designing and operating better places for people. Places that let us touch natural materials, understand where everyday things come from and taste fresh food straight from the garden

All the features of the Greenhouse are carefully considered first for their practicality, recyclability, life cycle and embodied energy and then for their aesthetics and cost. By putting each decision through this rigorous process, it is hoped that the Greenhouse can provide information and examples to builders, designers, restaurateurs and the public, regarding their daily choices of materials, ingredients, and practices.

What this means practically is that the insulation is straw, the flooring in places is former milk crates, the tables and chairs are recycled timber, and smart little touches have been made around the place to make the construction simpler, and the overall sustainability of the place high.

Now all of that is nice and interesting, and I think a great approach to take to designing spaces that are environmentally efficient and use less resources. But no matter the concept, if the food is bad, I’ll be leaving it to the hippies to enjoy on their own.

Fortunately for Greenhouse, the food is not bad. In fact it’s very good. The kitchen is headed up by Matt Stone, former sous chef at Star Anise, and briefly at Pata Negra before irreconcilable differences meant he looked elsewhere. The boy knows how to cook. The food at Greenhouse is considered without being pretentious and the back to basics produce driven approach is a lovely natural way to eat that definitely fits the Greenhouse agenda.

Skirt steak, papaya & herb salad

On previous visits I’ve tried the “bits and pieces” board featured cheeses, meat balls, salami, salads, and pickled vegetables, as well as an outstanding skirt steak with green papaya salad, and slow cooked lamb necks. The food is not overworked, it’s simply but beautifully plated and tastes great. Bread is house made using Eden Valley Biodynamic flour from Dumbleyung in the Wheatbelt (who are also members and supporters of Slow Food Perth. I love the focus they have on seasonal ingredients and I think it’s the kind of food more people should be cooking.

Greenhouse Perth is split into two levels, with a restaurant and bar downstairs and a separate bar overlooking St Georges Tce upstairs, surrounded by a fairly extensive garden growing all manner of herbs and vegetables, and the whole place trapped inside walls of strawberry plants. According to Matt, not all the herbs they use come from the garden (simply due to the quantity needed and timing) but where possible as much produce as they can grow themselves is used in the food they serve.

Greenhouse is part owned and managed by Paul Aron. He’s had a background in cocktail making and the wine trade, and that shows when you take a look at the booze selection and the wine list. It’s extensive, interesting, and whilst it’s not parochially West Australian, all the best we have to offer are represented.

For me, Greenhouse is a little view into the future of restaurants and the way things could go. The compromise to comfort and style is minimal and the food, service, and atmosphere are great. I hope it’s not just seen as a novelty venue, because the thing I like the most is that thought has gone into all levels of the design. Where conventional choices of bulding material and design are involved, much of the decisions are made already, but in places like Greenhouse, right down to how the toilets work, there is a considerable amount of time spent thinking about how the right balance of function and efficiency can be achieved.

If this considered approach to design and food can be continued in other venues then you can wrap me up in chicken wire and roll me on down to the next one.

Greenhouse Perth
100 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Phone: (08) 9481 8333
www.greenhouseperth.com

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