30 September 2008

Da Bruno's

Everything was going very well for the Bloggers last Wednesday. The Brains and the Deliberator successfully settled on their purchase of a new home, or rather, new mortgage, Booto was able to hand over a grumbling Stinky to Mother of Sponge for the evening, and The Sponge spent the day with a powerful thirst that needed to be quenched. So, what better time to finally circle back and make Thursday night ‘Da Bruno Night’.

While the Brains and the Deliberator drank champagne in their empty new house, the Sponge was charged with the task of buying suitable drinks for the evening. By suitable, we mean wine with labels, something that the Sponge has never been too keen on. He did a sterling job though, and showed some incredible insight when he suggested that 4 bottles might not be enough. The Brains scoffed at this suggestion, but relented and she and Booto packed a couple more bottles of wine from home in their handbags in case of emergency. The Sponge was on the money. The 5th and 6th bottles of wine were removed from the handbags within what seemed like minutes of arriving.

We arrived late, as usual, but this was absolutely no problem to the accommodating wait staff at Da Brunos. We were shown to a cosy table next set right next to a bronze, naked torso of a fit-looking fellow. The Sponge and The Deliberator were unimpressed, and disappointed that our table was not closer to the complementary female torso with the pleasing breasts.

Da Brunos has a blackboard menu only, which changes every day. Soon after arrival, our very knowledgeable waitress came to the table and explained the menu which left the Deliberator in a state of flummox and bamboozlement for the next 10 to 15 minutes. Decisions were eventually made.

We started by sharing an antipasto platter. Thrillingly, there was not a spot of chorizo on the platter (we love chorizo, but boy do we eat a lot of it). Instead, the beautifully presented plate was filled with gourmet bits of complex deliciousness like scallop salad and thinly sliced veal with a cream and caper sauce. The entrees were also a delight, al-dente home made ravioli stuffed with prawn and scallop with a saffran sauce, beautiful pieces of gnocchi in a heart-busting cheese sauce and Booto’s Carpaccio with a rocket and parmesan salad was divine.

The mains were a bit more difficult. The Deliberator’s view was that the selection was not quite as tempting as it had been on previous visits, and he has a point. On other occasions it has been almost impossible choosing one of the 5 things on offer. This time, we did struggle a little to choose something that really appealed. The Deliberator and The Sponge chose capretto, the Brains had steak, which was perfectly cooked and came with an excellent chicken parfait and Booto’s duck in marsala sauce was excellent. Each of the dishes came with mashed potato, slightly overcooked snow peas and tomato. The mains were really very good, but for the price (the duck was the cheapest dish at $44) we were not blown away. We thought the sides could have been a bit more considered, and while a lot more effort and detail was put into the mash than the mash your mother used to make, it was still mash.

For dessert, The Brains and The Deliberator both had a crème brulee which perfectly crispy on the outside and super creamy on the inside. The Deliberator, treating dessert like breakfast, asked for a side of semifreddo and his wish was granted without a problem. The Sponge’s cheese plate had a great combination of blue, brie and reggiano cheeses. Booto was less excited about her semifreddo.

After 4 courses, nearly 6 bottles of wine and a few coffees, we were suitably stuffed.

There was one niggling issue we had throughout the evening, and that was with the bathrooms. The toilets are horrifically outdated, and while clean, for a swanky restaurant with swanky prices, getting rid of the 70s tiling in the dunnies would be really appreciated (and in case you were wondering, the tiles aren’t cool in a retro way, they’re just plain ugly). But that’s not the problem, the problem was that by Booto and The Brains’ second (and final) trip to the loo, there was no loo paper left. To continually check on the status of bog roll is a very easy and a terribly important job that someone should be responsible for. If our local Thai takeaway joint can get it right, Da Bruno’s sure can too.

In summary:

Service: Excellent. Both the people looking after us were very knowledgeable, very attentive and pretty damn groovy to boot.

Food: There’s no doubt that Bruno is a bloody fine chef, but we thought the mains menu was not particularly imaginative when compared with previous visits. However, everything else was exceptional, particularly the pastas – easily the best pasta in Perth.

Ambience: We love a restaurant that exists in a house, it makes for a cosy, fun and personal atmosphere. The décor is tasteful and not at all bland - there’s plenty to look at without it being over the top. The front alfresco area is fabulous also, sitting in the Mediterranean styled courtyard on a balmy summer’s night would be unbeatable.

Highlight: The ravioli and the porn statues.

Lowlight: $110 per person. Without drinks, or even sparkling water. That’s pretty pricey in anyone’s book. And the lack of loo paper.

Rating: 3.8 milk fed baby goats out of 5.

Will we be back: Yes, for sure. It’s a great place for a special occasion. And while it was not perfect this visit, it has been much closer to perfect in previous visits.

Details: Da Brunos is easy to miss – if you’re heading north on Beaufort and you get to Charco’s, you’ve gone too far. It's at 965a Beaufort. The restaurant is unlicensed which we love. As mentioned earlier, the bill came to about $110 per head.

Coming up: We are so close to finishing off the section north of Walcott – we just need to get through Chicken Treat, Globe and Diva Café before adventuring south of Walcott. Who would have thought there were so many restaurants on Beaufort Street? We’ve been at this for 9 months and still haven’t made it to the heart of the strip.

Da Bruno's on Urbanspoon

23 September 2008

Mt Lawley Fish and Chips

It being too late to eat out (due to the incompatability of Stinky’s sleep patterns with the Deliberator’s perpetual fannying about), the Bloggers found themselves housebound and feeling too healthy. The Sponge was complaining that his arteries felt too soft, Booto that her cholesterol was alarmingly low, the Brains that the kilos were simply dropping off her and the Deliberato .. well, he was just generally complaining about his lot in life. Some form of action was required – some call to arms to alleviate this disgusting feeling of fitness and well-being. Like Han Solo taking out Darth’s tie fighter, it was Mt Lawley Fish and Chips to the rescue.

We weren’t really sure what to expect from this establishment: Where was it? And what did they sell? And accompany it with?

All was revealed by our phone conversation with the very helpful proprietor. It’s a fish’n’chipper. In Mt Lawley. Selling the basics together with all manner of fried acountrements that one might expect from its ilk. With this in mind, we ordered the following:

4 x f’n’c (2 grilled, 2 fried)
2 chiko rolls
2 crab sticks
2 serves squid rings
1 crumbed sausage

The Deliberator, completely off his own bat and without a single complaint, offered to collect this feast (passing a flying pig on the way).

And here lies the Bloggers’ major issue: as instructed, the Deliberator arrived at the shop precisely 20 minutes after the order had been placed. And proceeded to wait there for an additional 40 minutes while the order was made ready. The problem lay not with the delay per se, but the misinformation: had we (well, the Deliberator – the rest of the bloggers were p*ssing it up at home) been accurately informed as to the preparation of our battered treasure trove, he could have whiled away the time on the couch. Instead he was made to pass that time alone in the car, phoning the rest of the bloggers every 4 minutes to remind them of the suffering he was going through and his imminent beatification.

Taking into account the fact that Mt L F’n’C does not pretend to be anything other than what it is, the food wasn’t bad. Not brilliant, but passable. Grilled fish and salad (for the ladies) was light and tasty (although they were ridiculously heavy handed with the iceberg), fish fairly well battered, squid rings did the trick and the crab sticks and chiko rolls were suitably greasy and disgusting.

In summary:

Service: Polite enough on the phone. Possibly trapped in an alternate time continuum though.

Food: Not worth driving across town for, but an OK local.

Ambience: With its chocolate walls, dazzling light feature and slick modern art, the restaurant is subtle and sophisticated, like the man himself. Crisp white linen laid tables and highly polished silverware provide an excellent canvas for the chef to reveal his artistic flair and innovativeness. The colour presents itself upon the plate of each diner, with meals being skillfully delivered by waiting staff clad in white gloves and silver grey monogrammed uniforms. The ambience of the restaurant, not unlike the warm shadows created from the slowly flickering glow of the table lamps, seeks to provide a comfortable and inviting haven for the patron to enjoy as they await the amazing creations that arrive before them. (Only joking – it’s just your standard fish’n’chipper.)

Highlight: The Sponge’s reintroduction to the chiko roll. (Tuesday night $6.90 fish and chips is not to be sniffed at either.)

Lowlight: The rest of the Bloggers having to put up with the Deliberator’s hysterical whining.

Rating: 2.9 battered savs out of 5.

Will we be back: Not unless our car breaks down out the front.

Details: Shop 7, 776 Beaufort St (next to Thai Orchid and Third Avenue). (Consume at least two additional beers before collecting order.)
NOTE: The Deliberator, having just proofed this entry, wishes to add some further comments, which are repeated verbatim below:
'Happy with the review with two exceptions:

1. not enough emphasis on the wait. Beaufort Street proprietors should be forewarned; and

2. 2.9 battered savs is an indictment to the battered Sav. Max of two battered Savs only. Beaufort Street Bloggers should not give battered Savs out willy nilly.'
Consider yourselves told.

02 September 2008

Cantina 663

For people who even have the vaguest of interests in new restaurants, shops, pubs or cafes that pop up in Perth, Cantina 663 needs no introduction. The lead up to its opening was splashed across STM like a 16 year old Perth model who is tipped to be ‘the next big thing’ in Milan. And no wonder, the guys running the ship have had success in some of Perth’s favourite ventures, like the wonderful Harvest in North Fremantle and the luxurious Mariposa store in Mount Lawley. This was enough for STM to refer to the fellas in their ‘Perth Confidential’ section every other week (to date, we think only Melanie Greensmith and Megan Gale have had more mentions).

So, after a series of reasonably uninspiring restaurant experiences along Beaufort Street, we were looking forward to something different, something a little controversial (as we have heard both positive and negative reviews) and something that we were pretty confident would be up our alley.

The Brains and The Deliberator’s old neighbours (‘old’ in the sense that are no longer their neighbours, and that they are both pretty old) joined the bloggers for an evening of even more wine than usual, and some conversation that made WA politics’ chair sniffing incident seem reasonably innocent. We’ll call them Fat Bastard and Double Skulls.

The Sponge, Booto and Stinky arrived first and requested a table for 6 (Cantina does not take bookings). The only 6 seater table was being occupied by a couple, while several 2 seaters remained empty. A confrontation was required. Our waiter professionally and elegantly dealt with the situation by asking the couple if they wouldn’t mind moving (they had not started eating yet) but it turned out they did mind. Firm, but polite, words were had and they eventually moved onto a smaller table. With much gratitude, the Stinky family secured a high table and 6 stools at the entrance of the restaurant. The table was in the Astor Arcade itself, so while we had a sense that we were eating alfresco, the heater and the protection of the arcade meant we were toasty warm. (Incidentally, the high table is great for families with babies – we were able to park young Stinky right next to us and easily peer down at him at regular intervals, without the pram getting knocked or bumped).

The Deliberator, the Brains, Fat Bastard and Double Skulls soon rolled in, already warm and loud from Thursday evening pre-dinner drinking. The wine list was quickly requested. We ordered an excellent bottle of pino gris and litre of red from the Swan Valley. The fact that you could buy a carafe of well-priced and very drinkable wine was something we took a huge amount of delight in. Especially when we were given stemless Reidel glasses from which to drink from. The novelty was so great that the white was soon dismissed as more and more carafes of wine were required. Drinking from a carafe gave us such a southern-Italian holiday feeling that we quickly forgot we had work tomorrow and smashed our way through several litres of this holiday happiness during the course of the night.

Finally we took a look at the menu. Half of the menu changes each week, so while it’s short you can be sure you’ll find something different on it. The menu is very well priced for the quality of the food and the location of the eatery – entrees between $14 and $16, and mains between $24 and $32 (the $32 item being the steak, most other things were considerably cheaper). The entrees are designed to be shared, so we ordered one of each offering – grilled chorizo, olives and bread; marinated garfish with blood orange fennel salad; roast potato, spiced carrot and onion salad; and beef cheek with baguette. Each was outstanding. The delicate flavour of the garfish was a nice contrast to the strong flavours of blood orange and fennel, the chorizo (which seems to fast becoming the yard stick the bloggers use to rate restaurants) was smoky flavoured and chilli-hot and we can’t even talk about the beef cheek without dribbling over the keyboard.

After such a successful entrée, we simply had to order a congratulatory litre of wine.

Our mains arrived. Booto and the Deliberator went the slow cooked lamb neck with capsicum and polenta. The meat was strongly flavoured and fell apart with the touch of a fork. The polenta was soft and creamy. Fat Bastard and the Sponge raved about their roasted free range chicken leg and lentils, beans and pork belly. And who wouldn’t, that sounds like the finest combination of foods man can prepare. The Brains and Double Skulls enjoyed the home made pappardelle with prosciutto, courgettes and ricotta stuffed blossoms. The pasta perfectly al dente, the proscuitto uncooked and plentiful and the ricotta blossoms so ridiculously delicious and Italian it further added to our holiday-feel.

A celebratory litre of wine was ordered and quickly consumed through a number of toasts (to the food! to the company! to Stinky! to that guy walking past in the red jumper! to Phil Matera trying but not being able to get a table!).

Our delightful and patient waiter (and part owner) Alex was insistent that we try the last remaining slice of lemon tart. We were grateful for the recommendation, and ordered the lemon tart and then a slice of everything that was left in the dessert fridge. A wonderful array of cakes and pies were presented to us that we enthusiastically shared. Each one was better than the next, and like the main menu, the desserts are ever-changing.

The evening was drawing to an end, but there was of course room for a few coffees and one more litre of wine.

When the time came to settle the bill, not just the restaurant but the entire Beaufort Strip precinct was completely empty. We had been sitting at our marble table for hours. We had no idea it was close to midnight as there was absolutely no hurry-along from the staff. Another massive tick to Cantina 663.

In summary

Service: Very professional, friendly, good humoured, patient and most knowledgeable.

Food: Outstanding all round.

Ambience: A relaxed European feeling with a funky vibe.

Highlight: Being able to buy wine by the litre.

Lowlight: The conversation.

Rating: 4.8 hangovers out of 5.

Will we be back: As soon as possible.

Details: While we thought the prices were very reasonable, the bill did come to around $75 a head. But when you consider that we practically had every item on the menu, and we drank nearly 5 litres of wine, this was pretty good value. Cantina does not take bookings and offers wines in a range of prices. We did not make enquiries about corkage, but you really needn’t bother taking your own.

Cantina 663 on Urbanspoon