Last night in Perth, and colleagues take me out of town (a little) to Mount Lawley. Three or so kilometres north-west of the CBD, it’s a little too far to walk but definitely worth exploring given the lack of decent food in town.

Actually, when I think on it, this is about as far out of town as the Brunswick Street haunts are in Melbourne, so maybe I have to be a little more charitable towards poor Perth.

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Cnr James and Lake Streets, Northbridge, Perth

Another night in Perth, another half hour trawling the internet looking for decent pizza in the CBD. Perth is not a great place for food – not in the CBD without a car. If you can get out to Fremantle or even Leederville it’s not so bad, but central Perth is not spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out.

Northbridge is a good option for cheap and cheerful, and I picked Valentino’s at random because of their “woodfired pizza” sign outside. It was a lovely late-summer evening and the restaurant had all the bay windows open. Plenty of diners were eating outside but I opted for a quiet table inside.

Not sure what this place is like at the weekends – the website indicates it might be a bit of a party place – but on a Tuesday evening it was pretty tame. My vegetarian pizza was nice and thin with just the right amount of topping – not as well-cooked as I had asked for though. Service was pleasant but a little absent-minded: I think the manager was breaking a number of new staff in.

Total for a large pizza and two glasses of Barossa red was just under $38. Not bad value for Perth. Nothing life-changing but decent enough.

Valentino Cafe on Urbanspoon

globe food | wine | coffee

14 Mill St, Perth

I had a hankering for Thai food but here in Perth the better Thai places are a long walk or a taxi ride away. And so I found myself in Globe with an interesting menu in front of me: part modern Australian, part Asian fusion, part Italian.

Many of the dishes had an Asian element to them: coriander in what would otherwise be known as gazpacho; prawns encrusted with a coconut crumble. Others were more straightforward like an Angus sirloin or Wagyu beefburger, pan-fried gnocchi, lamb cutlets.

I chose the seared scallops to start, four of them served with a single buttered baby scampi, stringy cucumber salad, crispy shallots, salmon roe and a Thai dressing with a decent kick.  My main was one of those Asia-infused dishes: prawn and scallop risotto served with leek oil,  a side of Asian greens and some crispy fried curry leaves on top. The curry leaves really gave it a unique flavour. My dish came out piping hot, just the way I like it.

Service was understated, efficient and friendly, and my request for a quiet cosy table was not too much trouble.

Total for the evening, including a couple of glasses of a beautiful McLaren Vale/Clare Valley shiraz, was a hair under $90. Not cheap by any means, but that’s what you get dining in a mining town.

 Definitely worth a repeat visit. 

Globe Food | Wine | Coffee on Urbanspoon

>Shun Fung re-visited

>Shun Fung
Barrack Square, Perth

Turns out I visit this place about once a year, and it never disappoints.

This evening I visit with Sally the Gluten Free Person. A G&T each beforehand at the fabulously-named Lucky Shag and we are ravenous. Excellent news: we agree on Singapore noodles being on the order list.

It’s before 6.30pm – in this time zone. In Sally’s Brisbane mind it’s 8.30pm and in my Melbourne head it’s 9.30pm; almost bedtime. We order quickly.

Who knew cumin lamb could be this tasty? Slow-cooked with leeks, it goes just perfectly with the Singapore noodles. The stir-fried squid with mange tout (snowpeas to southern hemisphere types) is similarly delicious.

We sit contentedly on the balcony overlooking the mighty Swan River, sheltered from most of the brisk southerly breeze, eat our fill, put the world to rights, then retire righteously to bed.

I love nights like this.

Shun Fung on the River on Urbanspoon

>Balti, Perth

>Balti Restaurant
3/2 St. George’s Terrace, Perth 6000

A chilly evening in Perth, and I am three hours jet lagged. In search of sustenance close to my hotel, I try Balti Restaurant nearby, which I have walked past a dozen times.

It’s early Monday evening, in Perth CBD, and all I am hoping for a place with at least some fellow diners. This is the place – even before 7pm it is nicely buzzing. The walls are decorated with candid portraits of beautiful Indian people, a few desultory Christmas decorations, and anonymous but pleasant modern Indian music on the sound system.

I am placed at a table right by the bar where the restaurant manager is keeping the engine-room going. The wait staff buzz by, kept busy by the diners. I choose a glass of local Ringbolt cabernet sauvignon and a few poppadums to get me started, don my old-lady reading glasses and settle down with my book. Just as well. My main course took an hour to arrive.

My Goan fish curry is delicious, although not as coconutty or as sharp-tasting as it could be, but it is good. I wonder if the listed Redsport Emperor fish is really salmon, the colour is so pink, but it is indeed a white fish nicely marinated.

My relaxing evening is punctuated occasionally by the raised voice of the restaurant manager yelling (I am not exaggerating) down the phone at a member of staff or a contractor, I am not sure, and again later by the same person standing right by my table and threatening to fire a waitress if she didn’t raise her professional game. All very admirable, in that he was on both occasions trying to keep standards of customer service high. Ironic, then, that my experience is being diminished slightly by having to witness this carry-on as I eat.

I finish my meal, and my book, and head to the bar to pay my bill. I try to pay for my wine separately, and the manager tells me quickly that they do not split bills under any circumstances, “madam”. I wonder who he thought I was splitting the bill with, as the sole occupant of a table for one. I try again, explaining that I would like to pay $26 (the price of my wine) in cash, and the remainder by card. This time he accepts quickly: cash is king, it seems.

I compliment the manager on the food and the service, but suggest very gently that perhaps my experience could have been better if I’d not heard staff being threatened with the sack right at my table. He asks very politely: “Have you ever worked in hospitality, madam?”. I answer yes. He asks whether I’d ever managed a restaurant that busy. I answer no. I hadn’t thought it was that busy, to be honest.

And there you have it. Apparently in Balti Restaurant, the customer’s opinion counts for nothing. Pity. If the attitude had been different, this could have been a regular haunt. As things stand, I can’t say I can recommend the place.

Balti on Urbanspoon


>Busselton Highway, Margaret River, WA

Saturday night in one of the best wine-producing regions in Australia. We had a reservation in Waves, a well-known seafood restaurant on the main strip in the town. We’d been out all day marvelling at the amazing scenery of the Southern and Indian Oceans, and vainly looking for whales. I was ready for dinner and more than ready for a glass of wine.

The restaurant was almost full when we arrived: we were glad we’d booked. The restaurant appeared to be run by a husband and wife team, the husband cooking and the wife running front of house. We got a table away from the windswept door and settled in to read the menu.

The first thing that I noticed was that the menu had no alcoholic drinks on it, and no other wine list was offered. To my horror I realised that when the man had said earlier on that they were BYO, he meant BYO only. Shit. I would never drink a bottle of wine on my own, Orlando doesn’t drink red and we were leaving the next morning on a plane to Melbourne. There was no point in heading to the off-licence for a bottle now.

I was sitting in the middle of a wine region with only sparkling water to drink.

Orlando sensibly tried to take my mind off things while we read the menu. It was late by Australian small-town standards: 8.30pm meant a few things were off the menu. Spookily we both chose the same things – seafood chowder to start, followed by swordfish.

We are both huge fans of chowder. I have never been able to find a decent recipe to make at home, so we always order it when we see it. It is difficult to better some decent Boston chowder or the legendary Moran’s of the Weir chowder served with real Irish brown bread.

This was not half bad. Laden with white fish, king prawns, mussels and crayfish, it had no cream in the base but it was full of flavour. We made it last by dunking our bread into the broth, and savouring every mouthful. It was sensational.

I go on and off swordfish, so I haven’t had it for a long time. This was beautiful: served with roasted tomatoes, green beans and creamy mash, everything was drizzled with basil oil and the fish was perfectly cooked. Again, we ate slowly to make it last.

Around us the tables slowly emptied. A local couple, well-known to the owners, came in late and were treated like royalty. I could hear the chef talking to the sous-chef, telling him quietly that these were very special customers and he should take special care preparing their food.

There was no chance of dessert: we were stuffed. Despite the disastrous no-wine situation (and those of you who know me understand) it was a great meal. I would have no hesitation recommending Waves as a good place to dine in Margaret River – but don’t forget to pick up a bottle of the local stuff before heading in.