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


The Worst of Perth said...

Glad it turned out fantastic rather than disappointing. Would have been absolute perfection if it had been Peter Matera being turned away.

Thommo said...

So did he try and pull a "don't you know who I am/was??"

They do a good breakfast too. The Kitchen Sink is a ripper

Beaufort Street Bloggers said...

Lazy Aussie - it was indeed fantastic, which we find makes it hard to do an entertaining review. Hopefully the next stop will provide us with some more material, although the Phil incident was brilliant.

thommo - he didn't pull any of that kind of stuff, disappointingly, he seemed very polite and understanding. And Kitchen Sink it is, sounds ideal for the Deliberator.

David Cohen said...

Come on! Give us some clues about the scandalous political gossip! Which party/sexual peccadillo/electorate/Brian Burke client was/were they??

"Grendel" said...

Awesome - only made it to 663 for a quick cup of coffee and a slice of came. Must drag the family their for a proper nosh-up.

grrlfrommars said...

This place sounds fabulous. And with all the carafes of wine it is no wonder they seated you it the high table with the high chairs.

It is refreshing to hear about pleasant service in the Perth dining scene, something which is currently rare to come across. Particularly on Beaufort Street which is riddled with sassy WAAPA students by night pulling the 'don't you know who I am?' stunt (that Phil Matera was probably entitled to) while you try to order your Garlic Bread.

Beaufort Street Bloggers said...

david cohen - sorry to disappoint, but there was no political gossip to share. It was just that the conversation was particularly vulgar that night.

thommo - the Brains and the Deliberator went back for brekky on Saturday and were well impressed once again. The Spanish Beans getting a big fat farting high five.

Grendel - it's a mint place for the family, a safe arcade to run around in and loads of room between tables.

grrlfrommars - we thought the service was terrific. However, we noticed that the STM (being, of course, the holy grail of trend predictions) listed Cantina in it's 'Going Up / Going Down' section as 'Going Down'. Something about it believing in its own hype. The comment made almost no sense to us - maybe one of those WAAPA students couldn't get a job there and then bribed the journalist to say something?

Jen@Palate said...

Cool, I'll be checking it out in a couple of weeks. Nice to hear it'll be worth the trip!


RedDog74 said...

Great food, but the staff (& at least one owner) now have 'tude. Be interesting to see where they are at in 18 months when the hype dies down and the pissed off many stopped going!

Anonymous said...

Great review. Even took the advice on the pork and dumplings. Though the pigs head pate caused some consternation on our table. Highlights - short menu so you don't have to Einstein to make a choice, fantastic service and - my god - wait staff that actually knew something about the food and wine. Haven't seen that in Perth for years. Where did they find those people. Amazing. Awards for that alone.

Beaufort Street Bloggers said...

hi reddog74 - thanks for your comment - we're sorry to hear about the 'tude, but having now been about 5 times between us, we haven't experienced it ourselves. We hope it's still going strong in 18 months, but time will tell.

anonymous - we've long been saying that there needs to be more pig head-based products available in Perth restaurants. Thank god someone's listening.

James said...

They do take bookings for tables > 10 we found out tonight, and on weekends will do a $50/head "family meal" with entree/main/dessert to share for the entire table.

chickwithguts said...

i ate breakfast there a couple of times while i was in perth - i blogged on it if you are interested at all :-)) hey grendel i checked out a few places down south too that you might be interested in checking out if you take the family that way again!

Anonymous said...

I have been to Cantina three times now. On each occasion I found the service and food to be very good.

I find Perth restaurants to be generally substandard but Cantina certainly does not fit that description. A great new edition to the Perth market.

Will definately make it a regular haunt.

monnie said...

Love Cantina.

Went there the other night and had this most amazing braised lamb and polenta dish. Totally gorgeous!

Have always found the waiting staff great but maybe it's luck of the draw.

Oh...you can book for dinner now!

And Monday and Tuesday nights are BYO.

Jonks said...

Well, I stumbled on this blog last night and after reading a variety of reviews decided to grab a colleague and head down to Cantinia 663.
Before I summaraise my experience at this venue, I must commend the bloggers for their entertaining reviews of Beaufort Street Eateries. I am a coastal boy now, but did enjoy this part of Perth for about 4 years pre-kids - its nice coming back!!
Cantina 663 - Well what can I say, it lived up to its review. The staff were very friendly and informed and the general atmosphere was relaxed with a steady stream of locals dropping in for lunch or coffee.
We each started with a glass of Castano Red which were very moorish as well as a shared entree of Chorizo and Caper berries - the chorizo was just devine, and the caper berries the perfect accompaniment. For mains we each had the Pork Ragu which sat on a bed of Polenta, this was superb and the flavours just got better every mouthful. After another glass of red each and a coffee we walked away feeling very satisfied with the experience. 8.25 out of 10. I'll be taking the wife for dinner!

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