29 May 2009

Veritas Restaurant

It is hard for the Bloggers to imagine there even was a time before the BSB – it feels like we have been tramping up and down this bloody road for decades, much like Kane from Kung Fu. Or the Littlest Hobo. Or Michael Landon from Highway to Heaven.

However, many years ago in the pre-BSB dreamtime, the Bloggers (then just 3 friends and the Deliberator) dined at Veritas and were gravely disappointed. The food was a standout, however lingering delays (ie. dining at 10:30pm after an 8pm booking) and woeful service marred the occasion. Not to be dissuaded, the Bloggers visited Veritas last week in their professional capacity. (The real Bloggers that is – see comments under the Beaufort Street Merchant review.)

This time, it was our turn to keep Veritas waiting - our 8pm booking turned into 8:45pm by the time the Deliberator had got his pants on. We had phoned ahead to warn of our impending tardiness, but were still a little ticked off when the waitress on our arrival told us that the kitchen was closing so we’d better hurry up and order. We were also told not to expect any specials whatsoever, as they’d sold out of everything due to demand (which demand was not then evident, there being only 3 other occupied tables).

Unperturbed, we assumed our places. And immediately noticed that Veritas is a very stylish joint – great décor and art, with the wine menu occupying an entire wall a standout. We were also quite fond of the couch-like seats we occupied. (Alanah McTiernan, sitting next table, appeared to be enjoying hers too.) Our orders were taken (quickly), at which point the waiter (owner?) gave us a very knowing rundown of the ingredients and method of preparation of each dish we’d ordered. This rundown did became a little overbearing as it unfolded. And unfolded. Still we were glad for the attention. The waitress too showed an intimate knowledge of both food and wine when quizzed, and answered our dumb-ass questions with aplomb.

On to the food: starters consisted of shared plates of squid, anchovies in tomato sauce and bread. And were f*cking good. The squid was perfectly weighted, and we’ve had to open a new category of "Best Anchovies on Beaufort St" just so that we could anoint this batch as the winner.

Mains were a marinated chicken dish with a "special kind of salad" (Booto), lamb served with "a delicious pumpkin stack which I really enjoyed" (Brains), very nicely done steak portions (Sponge) and little dainty goat cutlets (Deliberator). Actually, the Deliberator was a little disappointed with his, only on the basis that every goat he has eaten previously still has a bell hanging around its neck, but we thought it looked amazing. In any event, the obligatory "pattatini for the table" were "some of the best chips [the Deliberator has] eaten".

All this was washed down with a very nice temperanillo and a chardonnay (both recommended by our waitress), however we did feel that the wine list could have contained a couple more reasonably priced options (both reds and whites tending to start at around $45-$50).
We declined coffee and desert (in favour of a small nightcap at Must, which boded well for our impending visit there), and were left to mop up at our leisure.

Price came in at around $75 a head for shared starters, mains and wine. We would certainly say the food and ambience warranted the price, however think that there were still sufficient rough edges to not quite justify Veritas charging at the top end of the market (eg. the sometimes hit-and-miss service, the unwashed hair and old cargo pants sported by the front of house guy – please take this as constructive criticism!)

Mind you, with the food and layout as good as it was, something is very wrong in the world when Martino is only charging $20 less per head (without taking into account that we’d also BYO’ed there) - wake up Martino!

In summary:

Service: After a shaky beginning, service was good. And while the informative, but lengthy, interruptions weren’t always the most well-timed, we appreciated the effort and preferred them to the alternative of being ignored (as happened on our last visit).

Food: Top notch. Current holder of "Best Anchovies on Beaufort Street" title.

Ambience: Small and intimate, and immaculately decked out. (Toilets could do with a little polish though.)

Highlight: The starters – the squid and anchovy combo were exceptional.

Lowlight: The top-heavy wine list. And the cargo pants.

Rating: 3.8 succulent anchovies out of 5.

Will we be back: Possibly, however with Must just across the road, and (appearing to) offer the same thing for the same price, but done slightly better, it will be tough.

Details: Veritas is located at 484 Beaufort St, and can be contacted by phone on 9227 9745.

Veritas on Urbanspoon

27 May 2009

Caffe Martino

With Stinks in tow on this particular Thursday night, the Bloggers decided to avail themselves of a family orientated cheap pasta night at Caffe Martino.

It must be said we held no lofty expectations as we departed home with our usual 12 bottles of BYO wine. The night was a little breezy and the prospect of some good solid Italian food to warm the cockles was sitting well with the Bloggers.

Martino’s was relatively empty for a Thursday night on Beaufort Street and the Bloggers were seated with a minimum of fuss, complete with high chair for Stinks, who was more than a little excited at being allowed to stay up later than usual.

The menus presented by Martino were typical, with nothing terribly exciting or new catching the eye of any of the Bloggers (and we do know the Deliberator does peruse a menu at least three times over per visit). Starters ordered included squid, Italian sausage and garlic bread. Boring perhaps, yet in the Bloggers’ opinion, the simplicity of such dishes can be a great yardstick when measuring the worth of any Italian restaurant.

It was at this stage that the cracks began to show. There was no lemon served with either the Italian sausage or the squid. The garlic bread was dry and overcooked, although BOOTO was able to salvage small pieces to feed to Stinks, who it must be said is not fussy about what he eats (having come nightmarishly close to eating a cockroach recently).

Mains ordered included 2 x chicken parmagianas (the Sponge and Deliberator of course), Gnocchi (Brains), the fish of the day (BOOTO) and of course, the obligatory bowl of chips for the table.

Brains’ gnocchi was well presented and although she’s had fresher pasta, all in all the dish was bland, but satisfactory. The Sponge and Deliberator could also make no certain complaints with regards the chicken parma, although given it is a dish they regular partake of, they were well able to declare that it “okay”. Breaths were held in anticipation of BOOTO’s fish of the day (salmon), however this was soon replaced with disappointment. The term “home made” can conjure up images of a real Italian experience, but in this instance, home made came in the form of a plate of grilled salmon and slightly wilted salad (minus any dressing). Being someone who keeps on top of her omega 3 intake, BOOTO was, to say the least, quite disappointed with the lack of flair shown in this dish – with a price tag of $37.00, one does expect a little of evidence of effort.

Now as you read this review, you may be excused for thinking the Bloggers had set their expectations too high prior to dining at Caffe Martino, but indeed we had not. We were quite ready for the Sienna style no frills cheap pasta night and although we do think a little lemon with the entrees ordered together with a drizzle of dressing on one’s salad or even the offer of cracked pepper and parmesan cheese is not too much to ask of a restaurant (particularly when you consider this restaurant was more than half empty on this given Thursday night), it was upon presentation of the bill that we realised Caffe Martino has a very high opinion of itself.

For the night’s decidedly average food, we were met with the sort of figure you come to expect when having dined on tasty, inventive food in ambient surrounds that appear to have been redecorated in the last 15 – 20 years. Alas, the Bloggers had dined at Caffe Martino and paid the princely sum of $50.00 a head for shared starters and pretty basic mains.

In summary

Service: Not bad, but then again the place was half empty. Points off however for not offering either cracked pepper or parmesan. We must note however that despite being the last patrons in the restaurant, we were not hurried along.

Food: Just “okay”. Nothing set the world on fire and old favourites were not done exceptionally well either. The Bloggers could probably forgive this if the prices were reflective of the quality of the food.

Ambience: Outdated décor with a very family feel to it (i.e. you wouldn’t get worried about Stinks spilling food on the floor or making too much noise).

Highlight: The bowl of chips were much to the liking of both the Deliberator and Stinky. But even they came in at a princely sum of $8 for McCains quality. No hand cut chips here.

Lowlight: The prices.

Rating: 2.5 not so cheap fish of the day out of 5

Will we be back: Probably not. There are many family friendly, reasonably priced Italian restaurants in the area with much better food than that offered at Caffe Martino.

Details: Caffe Martino is situate at 550 Beaufort St Mt Lawley WA 6050 and is open from Monday to Saturday for dinner from 6pm to 11pm. Bookings can be made on (08) 9328 4400.

Caffe Martino on Urbanspoon