>Wino’s

>85 Bussell Highway, Margeret River, WA

Our first Friday night in the town of Margaret River, the centre of the eponymous wine region, and I was ready to go. My appetite whetted by a bottle of Clairault cabernet sauvignon in my hotel room, and numerous other local wines by the glass, I was looking forward to a couple of evenings with good food and good local wine to enjoy. Wino’s did not disappoint.

A casual bar and restaurant, Wino’s boasts an excellent wine list and a good choice of wines by the glass, which is what I am always looking for. We arrived early for our table and settled into the bar with glass of Juniper Estate cabernet for me – served in my very own baby carafe. The bar food listing itself was tempting – fresh Coffin Bay oysters, raw or Kilpatrick; chorizo; duck pate and goose rillette. The clientele seemed to be a mix of locals and visitors, with plenty of people around us being welcomed back again or engaging in a bit of local gossip with the wait staff.

In the restaurant, the menu was not the longest, but there were plenty of specials on order and we struggled to choose. I went for a fresh ravioli with pumpkin which was divine: plump and bursting with flavour. Orlando’s calamari and chorizo was similarly appetising: it should have been served with mussels but he negotiated larger portions of the other two ingredients instead. I am not sure it would have worked with the giant mussells invariably served here in Aus.

Given we were not in a Chinese restaurant, it was no surprise that Orlando ordered pork belly for his main course. Beautifully presented on a rectangular platter, the portion size was not large but the flavours were good and the pork properly crispy.

My fillet of snapper was served on a bed of comfort-food mash and drizzled with the essence of the Mediterranean itself.

I can see why this place gets booked up for weekend dinners long in advance. I availed myself of a few postcards at the counter on the way out. I would not have been unhappy eating there two nights in a row.

Advertisements

>Shun Fung on the River

>Barrack Street Jetty, Perth, WA
www.shunfung.com.au

After flying all the way to Perth to keep me company for the week – a four-hour flight – the least I could do was take Orlando out to dinner to thank him. Naturally, Chinese was the only option. I had seen a place down at the river which I was told was good for seafood. On a Thursday night in early spring it was almost empty when we arrived, but the interior looked far posher than the exterior hinted at.

I ordered a glass of local Margaret River cabernet shiraz and settle down to inspect the menu. It was a fancy, shiny, carefully worded tome with plenty of pictures. This was a place to reckon with.

We shared crispy pork ribs and salt and chilli squid to start. Both were divine, with plenty of bite and perfectly lightly fried. Our main courses were also excellent. My black pepper steak (yes, I know it was a seafood restaurant) was spicy, delicious and a huge portion. Orlando’s more modestly-sized stir-fried squid was similarly tempting.

Genuine Chinese food it was not. But this place will be a place to return to on our nest trip west.

>Brisbane Hotel

>292 Beaufort Street, Northbridge, Perth WA
www.thebrisbanehotel.com.au

A night out with old colleague Johnno, his partner Chrissie and Orlando in Perth was a welcome change from eating alone. Johnno recommended the Brisbane Hotel, having heard good things about it.

As is fitting for a Perth bar, much of the Brisbane’s footprint is outdoor seating. I guess that is a selling point on those balmy Mediterranean nights. In August, however, although the day had been warm and sunny, the nights are still cold, so we chose an outdoor table close to a heater for our drinks, ready to wander indoors when we ordered food.

At the bar the wines by the glass were decent enough. The three rather large cockroaches scuttling along high on the wall above the bar were a little off-putting though.

We drank and chatted and ordered food. Three of us went for the fish and chips, reputed to be the best in town. Orlando ordered a salmon Caesar salad. We were not disappointed. The fish was impossibly fresh and perfectly cooked in the lightest of tempura batter. The chips were fresh and hot. Orlando’s Caesar salad certainly looked the part, with a huge lump of char grilled salmon atop a tower of salad (which in itself was impressive).

The inside area was certainly not as atmospheric as the outside: we sat at a high table on bar stools like most others, and the layout implied a focus on large groups drinking rather than a more intimate gathering. Nonetheless, not a bad place to spend the evening when the importance was firmly on catching up, chatting and putting the world to rights.

>Maya Masala

>Corner of Lake & Francis Streets, Northbridge, Perth, WA

Wandering the streets of Northbridge on a quiet Monday night, I was looking for somewhere with at least a few more diners in it: being the sole person in a restaurant never appeals. Maya Masala was bustling. Most of its front-room tables were already full, with a small family gathering in one of the back rooms too. A good sign.

I settle in at a table near the counter and was served by a hesitant but friendly guy assisted by another more experienced girl: maybe it was his first night. The girl assured me that the Amritsari fish was not too big an order for one person, so I ordered it with a non-veg thali to follow. I love Amritsari fish and this is the first time I have seen it on a menu in Australia.

It was delicious but enormous. Five or six pretty large lumps of red fish arrive on a bed of lettuce leaves, with a small dish of raita. I devoured it. The thali looked a bit small when it came out, although I know that was more my enormous appetite talking than the reality of the situation. It had the usual two non-veg curries, two veg curries, yoghurt, rice, roti and rice pudding for dessert. The only thing I can criticise is that it was not piping hot, and as a result everything was stone cold by the time I finished eating the last morsel. I can tell you that thali was not small. I was stuffed.

At another table I saw a dad and his daughter having supper together – his masala dosa was the biggest I have seen outside India and looked divine. Despite my food-laden table I was struck with a bit of order envy. Perhaps next time.

The flavours were great, the portions more than generous, the wait staff friendly and helpful if a bit unsure of themselves, and the vibe for a woman eating alone was perfect.

Sorrento Restaurant

>158 James Street, Northbridge, Perth WA
www.sorrentorestaurant.com.au

A week of work in Perth had me checking out the Northbridge area, recommended to me as the place to eat in central Perth. A craving for Thai food going unsatisfied, I wandered into Sorrento, a pleasant-looking and busy Italian place on the main drag. Decorated in the style of a stereotypical Italian trattoria (all burnished walls and wrought iron), it was a cosy place to dine alone.

The menu was Lygon Street typical: pizzas and standard pasta dishes, with a decent selection of primi piatti in the usual style. I ordered a glass of local cabernet sauvignon, a bowl of minestrone and a lasagne.

The minestrone was delicious, although without the cannelini beans and pasta absent it would have been more correctly described as a vegetable soup. Nonetheless I enjoyed it with plenty of parmesan cheese (freshly shaved for me) and a basket of strangely light bread.

Moments after my soup was served a second waiter arrived at my table with my lasagne. I’d hardly tasted my soup, and he didn’t seem to want to take it away, but I convinced him in the end. My original waitress wandered past a few minutes later to see how I was, and I mentioned my lasagne. I asked her to make sure that it wasn’t left in the kitchen sitting around, then reheated and tarted up again for me later: she assured me this would not happen.

After a decent interval, sure enough out came the lasagne again. It was the original one, left sitting the kitchen since its original appearance, then reheated and tarted up again. I could see the original parmesan shavings which had been melted and topped up with fresh; I could see the edges of the lasagne slightly curled up at the edges. Disappointing.

I couldn’t be bothered complaining again. It was tasty enough anyway, and piping hot, so I got on with my dinner and called for the bill. Just as I thought the disappointment could not get any worse, the lightweight bread which had been served with my soup was listed on the bill as a $4 item. How very 1980s, charging for bread. What decent Italian place does that anymore?