Posts Tagged ‘cbd’

12
Sep
2011

Bench Espresso

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Posted in Cafe, Coffee, Espresso
Bench Espresso

Rejoice East side CBD workers, good coffee has arrived to your humble lunch bar existences. No longer do you need to “make your own” or frequent an awful chain for your morning coffee fix. Bench Espresso is the newest addition to the cafe scene on the East side of Hay St, and they’re doing a fantastic job.

Vanessa Moore is the owner and chief evangelist at Bench, who takes it name from the law courts across the road, and a desire to be the benchmark for coffee in Perth. Vanessa comes from excellent coffee pedigree, she started out her coffee journey at the infamous Core Espresso in the city (arguably the starting point for specialty coffee in Perth), and then moved to Epic Espresso in West Perth, where she helped manage the store and ran the barista school. After Epic changed hands Vanessa headed off to Melbourne and did stints at Market Lane and Three Bags Full before coming back to Perth to start the task of opening a place of her very own.

Bench Espresso Bench Espresso

The style of the cafe is very simple. Slotted into a narrow glass box at the front of an apartment block, with large glass walls and a high ceiling. The layout is minimal with a kind of modern Nordic feel. It’s surprisingly warm for a place where the predominant colour comes from the brush stone benches, but that’s because light just pours into the cafe from all around.

The coffee is great as you would expect from someone of Vanessa’s skill and determination. She’s running 3 different Mazzer Robur grinders each with different blends in them, one for milk, one for espresso, and a single origin. I’m assuming the blends will change regularly as they refine the flavours, and as new and interesting beans arrive at 5 Senses (the roaster). The shots are pulled as short doubles for the most part, rich in flavour and texture. Coffee is such a variable and subjective thing that I’m loath to give tasting notes for specific drinks, but suffice to say the blends are designed to give the customer the best possible experience in each cup. I’d strongly suggest trying the milk blend with a cappucino and the espresso blend as an espresso or long black. There is quite a bit of difference to the body and acidity of different coffees that will lend themselves to certain drinks better than others.

They also have filter coffee on offer via the Clever Coffee Dripper, basically a device with a paper filter inside it that your use for pour over coffee, a method of preparation that retains much more origin characteristics of the beans than espresso does.

One of the other things that has survived the passage of time from previous incarnations in other cafes is the hot chocolate made using Belgian couverture chocolate incorporated in molten form from a bain marie. It’s a decadent way for chocoholics to get their fix.

Whilst it’s still early days for Bench, they are already having a great impact in the area, and along with the guys at Cafe 54, they’re finally giving workers on the east some good alternatives for CDB coffee without compromises. I’m looking forward to seeing where Vanessa’s coffee journey goes from here.

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Bench Espresso
471 hay street, Perth
08 9221 1131
Mon – Fri (7am – 3pm)

17
Jan
2011

Lowdown Espresso

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 FlatwhiteLowdown Espresso cupLowdown Espresso CheckedLowdown Espresso David BrentLowdown Espresso latteLowdown Espresso cardsLowdown Espresso menuLowdown Espresso AdamLowdown Espresso double shotLowdown EspressoLowdown Espresso Adam grindingLowdown Espresso MarkLowdown Espresso flat whiteLowdown Espresso Adam tampingLowdown Espresso reflectedLowdown Espresso sugarLowdown Espresso lemons

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

10
Apr
2010

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.

*Jar SaladThe tasting plateEmilyGreenStrawberry fields forever**Menu @ Greenhouse Perth***Pour @ GreenhouseAndy Mac with the gun show99 bottles of booze on a string...Man loveMatt Stone plates up at GreenhouseEscabeche of Fremantle SardinesSkirt steak, green papaya saladSlow cooked lamb neck, chickpeasWood oven @ GreenhouseFrehs limes at GreenhouseMatt surveys the passMullet on flatbread with avocadoHouse baked breadWinelist @ GreenhouseInterior @ GreenhouseQuealy Pobblebonk

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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17
Apr
2008

1907

1907

Meanwhile, back in Perth, life still goes on. It’s more than a couple of weeks before the now larger than life sized trip to Melbourne, and there’s plenty of serious eating to be done til then. As well as concerts, my Dad’s 60th birthday, and possibly some actual work.

So the latest place to get noticed on my food radar, came by an interesting set of circumstances. I was at home busily preparing dinner for guests when Sharon called. “Have you heard of 1907 ?” she asked while I busily shelled beans and tried to work out if my dates were sticky enough. “The year ?” I respond… “Only vaguely and in black and white”… (Aren’t you glad you’re not her :) ).

“No… (exasperated pause) I just got some spam email about a new restaurant called 1907… look it up.”

“Sounds dodgy” I reply, before getting ensconced in making sure my lamb shoulder and haricot stew wasn’t too tomatoey.

Surely enough though, that ever present need to know what is happening first crept back in, and I took a moment while the stew was simmering away (on a medium low heat for 90 minutes) to peruse this curious new venture who had decided that mass email marketing was the way to do a soft launch.

Turns out the restaurant is:

…a world class restaurant and bar housed in a 100 year old rag trade factory, situated in the hub of Perth’s former fashion district. 1907 is the result of an idea to evolve Perth’s inner city, maintaining its old charms and incorporating cutting edge design to match a world class dining experience provided by our enthusiastic team of hospitality professionals.

Well fair enough then. The photos on the website look nice, and the menu sounds interesting, and despite the fact that head chef Graeme Shapiro once appeared on an Ainsley Harriot show, I figure it’s worth checking the place out.

So on a casual Wednesday night after a gym session and realising that there was no food left in the house, the decision was made. Sharon decided to dress classy, and I went for something that could be described as post work chic (which in reality is all I can do to match up). Of course she ended up looking glamorous, and I looked like an over sized school boy.

It’s just as well we made an effort though, because this place is swish. A barely concealed frontage, with steps leading up to a set of large foreboding wooden doors immediately open into opulent surrounds. The designers have clearly spared no expense on the interior, and aside from some unfortunate choices in music (for mine), it did feel like we’d been transported somewhere very unPerth.

The wait staff were friendly without being being intrusive and come across as knowledgeable but not cocky. I thought I’d caught one of them out for a moment when I asked if the (complimentary) bread was made here, which he replied it was… small rye loaves and a slices of focaccia.

So we ordered a bottle of Bellarmine Chardonnay that I thought would go passably well with all of our dishes. There is a very limited list of by the glass selections, which the Maître d’ recited for us. Clearly quick meals and glasses of wine are not the desired way to dine here.

To start with we shared the manjimup marron and port lincoln mussels steamed in broth of
tamarind, lime leaves and coconut cream. Quite a mouthful on the menu, and equally so on a plate. Our waitress brought side plates so we could easily share the dish, which was thoughtful. The marron was personally a little chewy, perhaps it was undercooked. The broth was delicious though, the lime and tamarind create a lovely sour counterpoint to the sweetness of the marron.

For mains I ordered a seared duck breast and duck tortellini, while Sharon had the masala spiced gnocchi, braised fennel bulb and baby spinach. My duck came medium rare, as I like it, and in an oddly sweet sauce, which for the life of me I can’t remember (and it doesn’t seem to be on the menu on the website). Sharon’s gnocchi was actually good… As opposed to almost every gnocchi I’ve ever eaten. It was light and airy, and the masala worked really well with the fennel. Overall the food was good, though perhaps not heightened experience I was looking for. Though there is a “menu prestige” degustation which we could have opted for which may offer some added finesse.

The total bill came to $150 for two people. Which to be honest is not expensive if you compare it to what the vast majority of mediocre restaurants in Perth are charging at the moment. Add that to the effort that’s gone into the design and service, the private dining rooms, and the funky cocktail bar downstairs which is the latest place to be scene for inner city hipsters, and you’ve got quite a compelling package.

Now please email this post to all of your friends and let them know…

1907
26 Queen Street
Perth
Telephone: 08 9436 0233

1907 on Urbanspoon

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03
Apr
2008

Cafe Zekka

inside Zekka looking up

Sometimes I feel far too uncool to be a cafe reviewer. At Cafe Zekka, that isn’t particularly hard. The places oozes cool and style, and if hipness was a liquid it would be coursing through the very veins of this new King St cafe. It’s enough to make a geek like me run for cover and hide myself in the gadget section of GQ.

Though the stylishness is not surprising however, when you consider that the co-owners of Cafe Zekka also run the funktastic Test Tube in Mt Lawley, and a tres chic guys clothes shop next door (which I will have to get the name of, and perhaps try and buy some fashion sense from).

But whilst there is plenty of style to the place, the reassuring thing is that there’s also substance.

Managers Aaron and Bill have made sure that the food and coffee is a lot more than just an afterthought. The coffee is being supplied by Campos Coffee from Sydney. It’s a big undertaking to be shipping coffee from over East, and not something I’d be doing unless I had a product of Campos quality to rely on. Will Young of Campos is ultimately committed to his product however, making sure that each of his contracts are making espresso up to his standards, and refusing to supply those who don’t.

Aaron is formerly of Tarts in Northbridge, and also helped establish Lincolns in Highgate, and really loves his coffee. Will from Campos came over to make sure he was on the right track and was happy with what he saw, which is evident in the effort he puts in. Bill was formerly the man behind much of the good food that Lincolns made, and will be making all the lunches on the premises as of today (they were temporarily supplied by the good people at Sayers), now that the ovens have gone in.

Campos Superior Blendreflections in brownInside looking outCafe ZekkaMoroccan lamb pieinner city scapesOutside looking inZekka gets tropicalTart from ZekkaZonte's Footstep ViognierAntipodesArroz a la ValencianaMacchiatoJackson pretends to write stuffZekka cupsZekka Espresso

So what of the food and coffee then ? The espresso follows the Campos style (as it needs to), and displays a comfortable level of acidity that the Superior blend is famous for, but without going overboard, there’s some definite body and kick to it that finishes off nicely. Perhaps poured longer than I’m used to, but a lot of that comes down to personal preference and it’s good to be able to appreciate espresso in all it’s various permutation from cafe to cafe. A double shot flat white in a small tulip cup punched through the milk with ease.

The food we had was also fantastic. A moroccan lamb pie and a roast mushroom quiche, served with a fresh green salad with avocado and roast chicken. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of Bill’s creations, as he really has a flair for tasty lunches.

If you’re lucky enough to be a part of the CBD set, then make sure you take the time to wander a bit further down King St, and check these guys out.

** A little update with some new photos from Zekka, who have now changed to using local Crema coffee, roasted in Perth. They also have the power team of Jackson (formerly of Tiger, Tiger) and Ledeta running the cafe, and are open Friday’s for BYO lunches. Grab a bottle of wine and head in for specially cooked meals.

Cafe Zekka
74 King St, Perth
Phone: (08) 9481 1772
www.zekka.com

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