Greenhouse Perth

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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The Stanley

The Stanley Cape Goose GSM

In a city where it’s all too easy to lose your faith in good service, who would have thought that a couple of lapsed Catholics would restore mine ? Such is the quality of character of the men behind the bar at The Stanley, Wembley’s best and brightest small bar.

The Stanley is the brainchild of Paul Fowler and his partner in crime Gerry Shields, Stanley being the namesake of the bar and the name Paul’s alter ego when he was a rowdy youngster out hitting the turps a little too hard at Uni. None of that in this establishment however. The Stanley is all about quiet sophisticated charm in relaxed surroundings.

The main room gives a doff of it’s cap towards a British era that I can never actually identify, but likely ends with “ian” (Victorian, Edwardian, Elizabethian… you get the drift), it features an eclectic collection of leather and suede bound furniture that all cry out to be lounged on… and would be the perfect place to smoke a cigar if such things were permitted. Of course they’re not, but you can do so in a little courtyard at the back with tardis like proportions that stretches down and around the building.

Paul Fowler the bar @ The Stanley

The front room features a long wooden bar and sturdy bar stools with a row of lights slung casually above, and quirky touches around the place point to Paul and Gerry’s sacrilegious sense of humour. The thing I like about The Stanley though, is that it’s not complicated. It isn’t staffed by a team of young hipsters mixing the latest trend in cocktails, and it doesn’t necessarily attract the in crowd. It’s a great suburban bar that everyone can feel welcome in without worrying about pomp or pretence.

The wine list is short but done very well. There’s some excellent choices to suit very discerning palates (Cherubino Riesling, Cape Goose GSM, Millbrook Viognier) and Paul has made an effort not to take the piss over bottle prices, with what I’d call some of the lowest markups around on full bottle prices.
There’s also a decent list of international beers and Becks on tap for the diehard pint lovers.

The other great thing about The Stanley is it’s symbiotic relationship with Flipside burgers next door. Order your burger and ask them to deliver it next door, then go in and relax with a drink and wait for the burger to arrive. It’s a partnership that just makes sense and an irresistible option when thinking about a quick weeknight meal. Just wait for McDonalds to cotton onto it…

Millbrook ViognierJesus reminds youThe Stanley menuPaul poursOpen Hours of The StanleyStanley himselfFurniture @ The Stanleyoutdoors @ The StanleyJesus and/or MaryMenu @ The StanleyFlying ducksTasting plate @ The StanleyPaul Fowlerthe bar @ The StanleyElbows love barsCape Goose GSMBulmers CiderThe Stanley

So the next time you’re wandering the suburbs of Perth thinking about heading out for a quiet drink (or 5), you now have somewhere to go.

The Stanley
294 Cambridge St
Wembley
Phone: (08) 9387 4481

The Stanley on Urbanspoon

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Bar 399

The bar at 399 Bloody Mary @ 399

Small bars, small bars, small bars.

Perth is awash with them of late. You’d almost think they’d sprung up overnight in a flurry of activity caused by the state government lovingly embracing the community and doling out liquor licenses like they were sewing corn into a big fertile paddock.

Of course the reality of the situation is pretty different. Most of the small bars that have opened in Perth recently have been a long time in the making. Legislation changes that were supposed to make it easier to apply for and be granted a small bar license, and thus be able stay open til midnight during the week and to serve drinks without food, have not exactly come to fruition the way the general public would have expected.

It’s been a long and often arduous road for the majority of these venues to get off the ground, jumping through hoops like training monkeys hoping not to have their bananas confiscated. Only to be rewarded with yet more trials and ordeals. I for one, however, am glad that those people persist in the face of inexplicable bureaucracy, or we wouldn’t have such interesting new venues like Bar 399 to tickle our collective fancies.

It’s situated at the top end of William Street next to one of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, in a fairly nondescript location, that’s slowly building in potential for educated winers and diners out for a good time. The concept is simple, a small space with a bar down one side, booths down the other. A regularly changing wine list that isn’t based on any one distributor, bespoke cocktails from a group of experienced bar tenders, and a nightly meal of just one selection.

ECM ReflectionsNat serving at 399Havana Club at 399The bar at 399399 manager NatEspresso at 399Cheshire AlexNorthbridge styleratiHavana, where jazz musicans congregateBen n Jen at 399Bloody Mary @ 399Bloody Mary @ 399

The hook that got me in however was the master stroke of bacon and egg rolls and Bloody Marys served on a Sunday morning. $15 for a thick roll filled with lashings of bacon and a fried egg or two, and a peppery but piquant Bloody Mary is as fine a way to start a day as I can think of… A classy hair of the dog that even temporarily took the place of my dim sum ritual, which is a formidable opponent to almost everything.

I think it’s time to start rediscovering your city through the eyes of some of these venues. Perth is not, and will probably never be… Melbourne, but the more venues like this that open up, and the more people who start to build a following behind them, the better off we’ll all be.

Bar 399
399 William St, Northbridge

www.399bar.com

399 Bar on Urbanspoon

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The Bars of Melbourne

There are many. We made it to a few.

Yes, this is a lazy post because I’m too slack to write anything at the moment. But I figure that whole picture is worth a thousand words thing must make up for something. Cheers to Ed for fuelling much of this exploration with the careful eye that only a bad uncle can :)

List of places in these photos, chronologically :

Seamstress
Supper Club
Misty
Croft Institute
Comme
Gin Palace

Adelaide – Day 4 : Barossa

a glass half there

Now to the final words on Adelaide, and what a time it was. This day sees us in that holy land of wine country… the Barossa valley. So often lauded as Australia’s greatest wine growing region, and I can now see why… Which is of course because everyone from the Barossa keeps telling you that so often, you eventually start to believe it :)

However, there is something about the Barossa and the people of the Barossa Valley area that is very unique. They are bound together in their love of food, wine, and the life gastronomic. Many times throughout the day of travelling through wineries, tasting delicious wines, did I hear stories about how people in the Barossa stick together. There was no bad mouthing of other wineries, and a helpful suggestion of other places in the area who we should definitely go and check out was often offered. Having been a fan of the tv show “The Cook and the Chef” for a while now, I’d been making stupid jokes about dropping in to have lunch with Maggie Beer (as well as how she can’t go 5 minutes without mentioning how much she loves the Barossa Valley), but I should probably have shut my mouth. Not only did I meet someone who sang in the local choir with her, but her daughter (who runs a catering company) was setting up for a cellar door managers dinner at one of our last stops of the day. It’s two degrees of separation in that neck of the woods. Cocky food bloggers beware, or there’ll be a Beer Lynching squad after you in no time… :)

So we whisked our way through Trevor Jones / Kellermeister wines, Charles Melton, Rockfords (managing to snag a tasting of the Basket Press Shiraz), Rolf Binder / Veritas (meeting Rolf the wine maker and purchasing a bottle of his Hanisch Shiraz), and finally Torbreck.

The lineup

My impression of the day and the wines can be summarised in one simple statement.

“Shiraz is not just shiraz”

The quality and depth of flavour from the different styles we tried was remarkably varied across all the wines we tried, which was barely a smattering of the wineries the Barossa has to offer. From spicey and peppery styles to smoother more fruit driven styles of the cooler Eden Valley, there really was something for everyone.

My only regret being that I didn’t have enough time or enough money to get all the wines I wanted. But with a few essentials under our belts (mainly the Charles Melton Nine Popes), it was a wonderful day. Very nearly surpassed by a great night to follow.

So following up on more website comments and suggestions, we’d given Melting Pot a call earlier in the day to try and get a reservation for Saturday night. Unfortunately they were completely booked that night, and so it looked like we were going to miss out. I figured I might try and put on my important / desperate voice for one last try though, and on calling back, found out there was a table for 2 available for that evening, Friday night. We booked it in, and hastily made our way back from the Barossa to be dropped ever so graciously by Serena (our chauffeur and future wine connoisseur) right out the front, and just in time.

Melting Pot

Melting Pot is hard to describe. I suppose you’d have to settle on Modern Australian (whatever that means) if you needed to find a label. The menu is centred around the degustation style that so many haute cuisine restaurants prefer these days, with matched wines for each course. We chose a 6 course tasting menu with wine, and a few extras thrown in for good measure.

Now while I’d love to write a glowing review about how every dish was a fantastic revelation of culinary amazement. The sad reality was that the majority of the courses were average at best, and just strange at worst. The popcorn quail in particular (which featured actual popcorn strewn across the plate, along with some “popcorn” quail pieces, reminiscent of KFC’s efforts at using up the left overs).

The wine matched with each course was mostly nice, though we’d been far too spoilt over the last three days of oenophilic
indulgence to get a lot of enjoyment out of run of the mill wines. Plus a day of tasting intense Shiraz had left my palate cleft of all love for subtle light wines that chefs like to serve with their dishes.

Still, by the end of the 4th course things were starting to pick up. The culmination of wines throughout the day and with each course started to work it’s magic, and as a light headed fuzzy feeling of mild intoxication came over me, everything started to taste a whole lot better.

By the end of the meal we were quite merry indeed, and can honestly say we enjoyed the experience. Though perhaps not as fully as I was hoping for.

The night still being young however, we decided to try our luck getting a taxi into the city and checking out the other “must go to” place on my list, Apothecary 1878.

Apothecary 1878

Now if you’re familiar with Adelaide, you’ll know all too well what Hindley Street is known for. It’s essentially the nightclub, late night, red light, anything goes district in the city centre. Bars, pubs, and clubs are full of people who have had too much to drink, and not enough clothes to wear.

So coming across a place like Apothecary, in the midst of the debauchery that is the rest of the street on a Friday night, was like a breath of fresh air. Walking in to what seemed like near silence, as the door closed behind us and our eyes adjusted to the subdued lighting and the relaxed mood that only truly cool places can so effortlessly attain.

The name comes from the fact that the place is fitted out to look like an 1800’s style chemist. All of the cabinets and bar had actually been bought and shipped over from the UK, so they do actually date back to 1878. No ikea style renovations for these guys.

The wine list was similarly impressive. Around 20 pages or so of every major style and region around the world. With plenty there to keep the wine geek in me flipping back and forth for a good 10 minutes before finally settling on something. If you live in Adelaide, you had better be making the most of this place, because it really deserves it.

Chorizo from Apothecary

But wait.. what’s that you said.. you serve food too ? Well, we have just had a 6 course meal with wine, and dessert… but what the hell, lets have a look. So after another couple of glasses of wine, some meatballs, chorizo, and olive tapas dishes, another chocolate pudding for Sharon, and a couple of glasses of sparkling wine, we concluded what was possibly the most gastronomically extravagant days of my life.

Before I could start thinking about whether it was possible or reasonable to have three dinners in one evening, fatigue start to set in. Still, it was a great day, and great night, and a wonderful trip all round to Adelaide, with some very memorable experiences with good wine, good food, and good friends.

Kara and Paul were married on Saturday to a wonderful reception. I didn’t cry once… but some dust may have got into my eye at one point. Anything is possible in Adelaide.