It had been a while since the bloggers had managed to get together for their Thursday night fix. Booto, Stinks and the Sponge had been gallivanting around the South-West, having every whim attended to by the staff at the Bunker Bay Resort. For Stinks, that meant somebody had to blow a raspberry on his stomach every minute on the minute. For Booto on the Sponge, it was a fresh bottle of wine every hour on the hour. Meanwhile, the Brains and the Deliberator went on a 5 day long eating challenge in the far east, where their fabulous hosts managed to stuff them with dim sum on a daily basis, plus all you can eat mussels, all you can drink gin and tonics and all you can watch amateur cricket.
When the bloggers read that one of their favourite businesses, the Beaufort Street Merchant, was opening for dinner, we soon decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to swap stories on how much squiz we had consumed, how many meals we’d had and how much weight we managed to put on throughout our respective vacations (which, on average, in the relevant units, per person per day was 14, 5 and 1).
The Merchant is a wonderful venture. The staff are friendly and fun, the produce excellent, the beer and wine plentiful and varied, the tunes always top notch and the furniture suitably eclectic. We've always known this so we were very keen to try it out for dinner.
On arrival, we were excited to be told that we could choose anything we wanted to drink from the bottle shop out the back, and the staff would open it and pour it on our request for a low low $5.00. The Deliberator and the Sponge put their hands up to do the all important boozy choosing, and ended up being away for around three quarters of an hour while they squabbled over the appropriate beer to purchase. They ended up buying one bottle of virtually every beer available, plus 1 bottle of French sparkling, and 2 bottles of Sav Blanc. Of course, this was never going to be enough, so they organised a second purchase of 3 bottles of clean skins to get us through the main course. And, as an aside, the cleanskin reserve chardonnay at $11 per bottle is some of the best value for money wine going around town. A blind taste of that stuff and you would swear you’re drinking Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay (almost).
Finally, after the Choosing Of The Booze and subsequent pouring, we sat at our lovely roomy table with our friendly flickering tea light and got down to the menu. It was a short but well put together menu with ‘something for everyone’. Gordon Ramsey would be proud. Of course, we had to start with the grazing platter which, for $22, was excellent value. The platter came beautifully presented on a large bread board and contained such delights as Danish feta, chorizo, catalan tomatoes and loads of crusty bread. We also had a cheeky serve of bread and balsamic and olive oil, which was a steal at $4 as the bread was perfect.
To the mains. The Sponge and the Brains wisely chose the meatballs ($17) – the meatballs were perfection – cooked in a thick, fresh tomato sauce and served with a mound of bread, they were some of the finest meatballs man could make. Booto went for the Thai chicken salad ($17.50). It was a generous serve of salad – spinach, tomatoes, cashes, avocado and snow peas, with an equally generous serve of beautifully marinated chicken breast. The chicken had a coconut flavour that was complemented very well by the salad dressing. It clearly demonstrated great attention to detail. The Deliberator had an equally appealing pie ($20) – 5 hour braised beef (amaaazing), mushroom and Guinness served with potato gratin, savoy cabbage and a little jug of gravy. Unfortunately, there was not enough gravy in that little jug for the Deliberator’s liking. Fortunately, our waiter immediately picked up on the distress on the Deliberator’s face and within seconds produced a second jug of gravy. The pie, after that, was perfection.
We finished of the night with a couple more glasses of wine (served in our favourite Riedel stemless wine glasses), a long macchiato, an espresso and the last four tiny cakes left in the store. The long mac was not quite right – it should have been a lot stronger – but this is a small issue in an otherwise seamless evening. An evening made even better by being able to pick up a cold bottle of tonic on the way out for some late night G&T’s on the veranda.
Service: Our waiter, Tyson, was wonderful. Everyone went out of their way to help us. And the best thing about the service? It’s very relaxed without the rules that piss us off so much about so many places. Extra sides? no problem. Another jug of gravy? on its way. More beer? here it is. You wanna stay for more wine? stay as long as you like.
Food: Tremendous. Fresh, simple, generous and home-style. Could not ask for more.
Ambience: While a Simply Red CD was playing at one stage, we realised it must have been played in irony, so it was perfectly acceptable. The atmosphere is friendly and casual and the décor is perfect.
Highlight: The bottleshop/corkage set up and the divine food. Oh, and on the corkage, the menu says it's $5, but we were only charged $3. And that's one flat charge, no matter how many bottles you buy.
Lowlight: The long mac.
Rating: 4.7 crusty loaves out of 5.
Will we be back? In a heartbeat.
Details: You know where the Merchant is. You can book on 9328 6833, and we suggest that pretty soon it will become very wise to book in advance. The Merchant is open 7 days til late (there’s no feeling of being rushed out here). Our total food bill came to around $100 (excellent value), and drinks is another story. But that was our fault for buying one of basically everything they had.