Napier Quarter (and Bar Liberty) – Fitzroy – Saturday 16 December 2017 – Dinner

Charcuterie and heirloom tomatoes

Fitzroy continues to be one of the most exciting areas in the country. The impossible-to-keep-up-with openings have softened a touch, but the mainstays of recent years are going from strength to strength. If you add the places in Collingwood, many across the road along Smith Street, you have a vibrancy that is difficult to equal.

2010 Domaine de Roqueforte Petit Salle Clairette from Provence, France and 2015 Alice & Olivier de Moor Chitry Chardonnay from Burgundy, France

Early this evening we start on Johnston Street at Bar Liberty. This wine obsessed bar and restaurant has the versatility we have come to love in modern times. The wine list introduces you to wines that are not common, whether due to the variety, the maker, or the region. Throw in a delicious, but slightly over-peppered cacio e pepe bucatini pasta as a snack to graze on and we are very comfortable indeed.

Bucatini cacio e pepe

I was back at Bar Liberty in early February trying some new wines, and tried out Drinkwell, the new aptly named outdoor bar behind, which is a bit more casual. Tonight however there was more wine drinking to be done over at Napier Quarter.

On a beautiful warm early summer evening, Napier Quarter’s tiny outdoor tables are worth the compromise. A more traditional, but still creative, wine list allowed us to go back to our favoured varieties. We had whiled away the early evening and were approaching sundown, so it was time to order more substantially.

We chose the heirloom tomatoes, the Cuca Spanish anchovies and the charcuterie board. The latter was good value considering its reasonable price, displaying three meats that were a combination of local and overseas cured. The heirloom tomatoes showed off several varieties, textured by chorizo pangrattato. The quality of tomatoes around Australia just continues to grow, and these, drizzled with plenty of quality olive oil, are no exception. I would have been as happy with them on their own.

Cuca Spanish anchovy

The anchovies were the biggest hit though. Simply served on bread with plenty of parsley, a chopped boiled egg, and a mayonnaise style sauce, this is a classic wine bar offering. It’s the kind of dish that you are eating and thinking “we need to make this at home” but we never seem to getting around to it! If only Napier Quarter was around the corner.

Napier Quarter Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



Bawa – Hawthorn – Numerous Occasions – Lunch

I love free parking. Being used to paying for parking is something that has taken a long time to come to grips with. Luckily these days the car parking apps make it feel like you are not actually paying, and at least you don’t need to stress about constantly having change. I mean my wallet doesn’t even have a pocket for change in the first place!

The free parking at Bunnings is not the only reason I go to Bawa Cafe a fair bit. It helps, but the high standard of food and coffee, and easy nature of the service, are the main reasons.

Most times I go to Bawa with work friends, the superfood salad being a huge hit, through to the counter sandwiches and everything in between. B2 even used to enthusiastically tuck in to some of the larger breakfast dishes on offer. On one of the more recent occasions I ordered the Vietnamese chicken salad and it is one of the tastier, fresh and lively lunch dishes I’ve ordered lately on a work break.

Vietnamese chicken salad, pickled carrot, wombok, glass noodles, nam jim, fried tofu, herbs, roast peanuts

Today is the first time Catherine has come along and I have decided to indulge in the soft tacos with pork belly. As you can imagine, the combination makes for an uppercut punch of rich flavours that are mildly softened by the slaw and avocado. This is yet another dish I “would go back for” but it is a special and I always seem to order new things here.

Soft tacos, twice cooked pork belly, slaw, green chili salsa, fried eggs, avocado

Catherine tries another of the specials. This one is the marinated heirloom tomatoes with a host of accompaniments. The poached eggs play their part by oozing yolk to provide an additional sauce; jamon and mozzarella figure prominently, and ricotta and basil finish it off. The natural question is why haven’t we been here together earlier?

Marinated heirloom tomatoes, whipped ricotta, basil, mozzarella, toast, crispy jamon, poached egg

Bawa punches above its weight given the location backing on to Bunnings on a nondescript part of Burwood Road. What is assured is that these days a trip there doesn’t need to feature a detour through Bunnings, and the sausage sizzle out front is a far poorer cousin!

Bawa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canteen Pizza – Cottesloe – Sunday 24 December 2017 – Dinner

Idyllic sums up the scene at Canteen Pizza. Across the road from my favourite beach in the world, this addition to the Cottesloe strip is exactly what the doctor ordered.


Tonight is Christmas Eve and the Freo Doctor is only lightly wafting through the expansive open windows of this corner block. Transformed into a vibrant restaurant in an enviable position, the lessons learned from Il Lido down the road are everywhere.

There is the excellent translation of beachside casual comfort, a natural link between the feel across the road into the restaurant. You can be quite comfortable in boardies and thongs, but won’t feel out of place in jeans and a shirt too. There is the focus on the product offered, and plenty of well trained staff enjoying being part of something new and a little bit different.


Before sunset it can be very bright in the restaurant, meaning there are lots of people in sunglasses looking like they might just as well be poolside in Italy. Not many meals offer sunset as a complimentary side and we are pleased to accept, along with a couple of pizzas, a baby cos salad, and a few choice summer beverages.

Both the Bufala and Salame pizzas are excellent. That traditional Italian thin crust that wasn’t heard of during my childhood, provides a crisp base that has been pulled from the oven just at the right time, before crispiness turns into charcoal. The San Marzano tomato base is fresh and properly seasoned, and all the various ingredients on both pizzas are classically combined. The only improvement would be a bit more topping near the crust.

Baby cos salad

The baby cos salad is simply served in collections of full leaves, dressed with vino cotto (sweet and balsamic like) with parmesan scattered in between. To wash it all down I try both the WA brewed Gage Roads Single Fin, and the Victorian craft Stomping Ground Pale Ale from Collingwood, with the latter my preference. Really I should have done the Italian thing with an Aperol Spritz like Catherine did!

As we walk out of Canteen Pizza packing a couple of delicious Sicilian cannoli for later, the night sky is taking over. This is a fabulous addition to the dining scene in Cottesloe, with reasonable prices making it a regular proposition for locals, and large gatherings.

Canteen Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wildflower – Perth – Thursday 28 December 2017 – Lunch

Whipped Bahen & Co chocolate, river mint, wattle seed cream

It was the best of food, it was the worst of service. Sitting four floors above St Georges Terrace, the main question I have is how does this happen? That, and “can we please leave now?”

Normally in situations like this I would describe how brilliant each dish tasted, and looked, to begin. This is one time where the level of uninspiring service cannot be tolerated when you are in one of the best restaurants in the country, Wildflower. The reason we want to leave isn’t because of the food, which was outstanding.

The reason is our friendly, but inexperienced, and ill-hired, waitperson, has taken all of ten minutes to correct the bill. It must have been a big problem; now he has then brought it back and I’ve found another mistake. He has disappeared for another ten minutes in a restaurant with two tables left. When he comes back he comps our tea and coffee due to the second mistake, which is a nice touch so I still leave a small tip hoping it gets split amongst the staff (including the kitchen) evenly. We say thank you and begin to leave.

Artisanal Western Australian cheeses with pink lady gelee, oat cakes & lavosh

However, the restaurant manager cannot work out how to use our Australian Gourmet Traveller vouchers (not the plastic card, but paper vouchers that we paid hard currency for through my work benefits program), so she asks a bar person to make us complimentary kir royales while we wait. At this stage of proceedings this was not an off-moment; it was a theme.

Wood grilled Arkady lamb, Jerusalem artichoke, salt bush, dripping emulsion, peppermint tree leaf dressing

Mistakes happen. It was the demeanor of the restaurant manager that was the issue, not her ability to try to smooth the matter by providing a drink while we waited, or the fact Mum saw her visit most other tables during our three hour sitting (but not ours or any of the other tables further to the west of the restaurant). And once she rectified the problem and used the vouchers to pay the remaining $550 of our bill, she didn’t come over and apologise and say “it worked now, thank you”. No, I had to come to her fifteen minutes later to see how it was going.

Strawberry gum cheesecake, candied outback lime, raspberry, coconut charcoal & bottle brush

This sounds like a rant, but anyone who has read my reviews more than a few times would realise I value food far more than service, and rarely have significant critiques. There were so many mistakes at this beautiful, expensive restaurant, that it really needs to be discussed. So many that only a list can be used without going to another page.

1. Sher’s water glass had lipstick on it. The sommelier didn’t apologise, left the water glass on the waitstaff table for most of the meal, and didn’t offer a new bottle of sparkling water (since the first glass of the Cape Grim bottle had to be removed).

2. Our waitperson was new to the restaurant (and we think to hospitality, which is not his fault, but is a mistake of the restaurant’s hiring policies). He was very nice and friendly, but just not up to scratch. Simple things that you take for granted in fine dining restaurants (like grabbing the menus as people ordered for example) were not done. Harder aspects were mismanaged as a result.

3. When my Mum asked him what jelly came with our first dish he had to be asked again an hour later, and still didn’t come back immediately to reveal it, but did eventually come back. It was the only ingredient we asked about the entire meal (we were not asking constantly in other words about everything, or being annoying customers in any way).

4. I asked for a 2015 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay and got presented with a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, which was a fine error. But then the sommelier came back with the chardonnary and explained that only 2016 was available (fine again). Then we were charged $10 more for the Curly Flat 2014 Pinot Noir on the bill and it was blamed on the wine list changing (so check your bill). It took ten minutes for the wine list to be checked to confirm it was an error, in an empty restaurant at 4.30pm.

5. Three courses was $88. Because you order dessert after mains, the first two courses were correctly shown as $68 on the bill. However, underneath this item showed “4 @ $20” for dessert, but then had below it “$30… $120”. We were the last to leave the restaurant so it is quite possible that everyone who had the three courses got charged $10 extra per head because the error was automatic.

6. Catherine’s tea cup had pronounced coffee stains on it, which were blamed on “the finely made cups are difficult to clean” which would be fine at a dinner party, but seemed odd at a fine diner.

7. The sommelier seemingly refused to fill our wine glasses after the initial pour. This meant we had to ask our waitperson (the bottle is not on the table), which meant he was a bit torn (knowing he shouldn’t be pouring, but realising it had been forever since sommelier even batted an eyelid at our table).

8. It wasn’t until the end of our meal that we realised the restaurant manager was not the person who greeted us. The restaurant manager was not the person who led us to the table, and the person who greeted us walked to the opposite end of the restaurant at a brisk walk, leaving my aunty Sher and Mum literally 15 metres behind. It didn’t dawn on me until later that it was not the best way to open proceedings, but the issues across the board brought it out.

There’s no justification for these issues in totality. It has simply not happened at a Gourmet Traveller top 100 restaurant that I’ve ever visited. So, besides company, what saved our experience?

Shark Bay Blue Swimmer Crab, avocado, kohlrabi, sea blight (blite), native basil dashi, finger lime

The food was inventive, beautifully presented, exquisitely executed, and absolutely delicious. Shark Bay blue swimmer crab is generously served under thinly sliced kohlrabi, in a gazpacho style of native basil dashi, and given zing with finger lime, and mild sweetness with a limey tomato jelly. Sea blite adds bite, and the avocado pairs with the gorgeous texture of the crab, which shows off as the star of the dish against the backdrop of competing, but balanced elements. It is absolutely superb.

Berkshire pork is incredibly tender considering the perfectly executed crackling, that somehow balances its salt content. While a little more jus could have been warranted, the soft sweet white onion, scattering of quandongs, and sides of bitter greens, and Paris style mashed potato, were all excellent.

Berkshire pork, sweet white onion, sour quandong and mustard

As if the savoury courses being perfect was not enough, the kitchen’s take on an after-dinner mint includes the best mint gelato imaginable. Sitting next to whipped Bahen & Co chocolate, and atop wattle seed cream, the combination is unashamedly classic, but still innovative, without breaking the modern movement in plating desserts.

Once we eventually received the right bottle of chardonnay, the 2016 Cape Mentelle was outstanding with restrained use of new French oak, and a refined palate. Just as spectacular was the 2014 Curly Flat Pinot Noir; an expression of this variety that seems to find the right part of the spectrum between fruit and game.

Food first. It is the reason I go to restaurants instead of staying at home. But there are natural elements you expect when paying $610 for lunch. I wouldn’t normally mention the amount, but it brings into view the importance of providing service that is fit for the food. I haven’t read other reviews (I rarely do before going to a restaurant to keep my own perspective) but if there are any themes here they need to be rectified quickly at this flagship of Perth restaurants that is thankfully not at the all-too-dominant Crown. Go for the food and all the best with the service. Did I mention the view?

Wildflower Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burnley Brewing – Richmond – Sunday 3 December 2017 – Dinner

Pale Ale

There can never be enough breweries. This is one statement that all my beer loving friends would wholeheartedly agree with.

Craft brewing has been exploding for years and like an extended fireworks display I don’t think we’ve seen the best of it yet. In recent weeks I’ve been to Mountain Goat in Richmond, and both Temple Brewing and Foreigner Brewing out Brunswick way. A few days ago I had a Stomping Ground pale ale at Canteen Pizza in Cottesloe on the other side of the country from where it is made in small batches in Collingwood!

The latest brewery to land in Richmond (well, the Burnley part at least) is Burnley Brewing on Bridge Road down the Yarra end. After a reasonably extensive renovation of the old Romulus and Remus site, BB took over but kept the R&R kitchen, along with its focus on Italian.

Pea and haloumi fritters and arancini

I can see BB being very popular. While it lacks a large outdoor space like the Bridge Hotel two doors down, it makes up for it with large windows fronting the street, and a big airy space with high ceilings, as you would expect from a brewery. The renovated room is clean and restrained, with good mixed spaces, and a long bar for the many who will have a drinking preference.

Eggplant parmigiano and salad

Tonight we are checking it out with Catherine’s sister Stephanie, and their Mum, Sandra. While it is an early dinner, there are plenty of punters both having a drink, and getting a bite to eat. We decide to share some starters and a pizza between three of us, with Sandra opting for the eggplant parmigiano, which she loved.

Capricciosa, ham, olives, artichoke, anchovies, mushrooms and fior di latte

The pizza hasn’t changed here, and it was always good quality, without being amazing. Our capricciosa is a good size, with plenty of topping, and is cooked right. The arancini is great, with a good dose of gorgonzola adding to the saltiness. On the flipside, the pea and haloumi fritters are a little bit weird with not a great amount of flavour.

Mini donuts

With a little bit of room left, we shared the donuts with chocolate coated vanilla ice cream, which is simple but effective for a shared dessert. More importantly, at this stage I’d tried a couple of the beers, and they are good, with the IPA a little ahead of the pale ale in my opinion. The only disappointment was the double IPA running out, but it should be back early next year.

With enthusiastic and energetic service, a comfortable space, and some freshly brewed beers, backed up by a kitchen that has always done a nice job, Burnley Brewing should enjoy plenty of success.

Burnley Brewing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Di Stasio – St Kilda – 8 November 2017 – Dinner

Classic should never be interpreted as boring, though in our fast-paced world, it sometimes has a double meaning. Done well, the classics, and classic places, reveal some of our favourite experiences.

It is certainly not that I forgot about Cafe Di Stasio. It appears year after year on the list of restaurants I want to go back to. Unfortunately it is a very long list, such is the quality we enjoy in Melbourne.

The cliches come thick and fast for touristy St Kilda. It’s one of those places that I’ve always enjoyed, but rarely get to. There isn’t the edginess that Fitzroy has, or the dynamic nature of the city. Perhaps it feels too much like the places I grew up in – beachy, safe and friendly like Perth.

Somehow, in the busiest part of Fitzroy Street, as you walk through the doors of Di Stasio you are transported thousands of miles to an Italian oasis. Yes, there is a St Kilda vibe of calm, but there instead of laid back beach charm, there is the sophisticated charm that only profession and experience can create. If it sounds like I am bubbling with praise for this institution, I am!

Capisante Gratinate – scallops baked in their shell with bread crumbs, parmesan and parsley

I’ve been here with groups, and by myself, but tonight it is with Catherine to celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Several years later we really combine well for dinner, knowing each other’s dining habits intimately. By virtue of that understanding, it doesn’t take long for us to agree to share a starter, pasta, main, and dessert. This isn’t for everyone, but too many times people miss the balance between trying several courses and dishes, and feeling uncomfortable at the end of the meal.

The first dish we select is the scallops baked in their shell, with a simple parmesan crumb. Done well this can be an outstanding dish while on the other hand it can be a good way to ruin a great scallop. Here, it has been done thousands of times and the result is delicious. After a great start we next choose the fresh pasta of the day with a mushroom sauce.

Freshly made spaghetti with mushrooms and sage

Draped with sage, this is the ultimate of mushroom sauces over a spaghetti that doesn’t get much finer when made fresh, though I wouldn’t have described it as angel hair like the kitchen had. The depth of flavour, without going overboard on seasoning, is exceptional from the first bite to the last. Sharing is not an issue to presentation either; the chefs happy to plate separately without being asked.

Agnello alla Romana – lamb slow cooked with white wine, anchovies, rosemary and garlic bruschetta

Our love of pasta means our main was never going to top our previous course, but the slow cooked lamb is beautiful anyway. With a generous grilled garlic brushetta to mop up the white wine, anchovy and rosemary sauce, this was a perfect expression of rustic fine dining. Halving the serve (again being plated separately) meant our final tastes were not stretching our stomachs and there was plenty of room for dessert.

Torta di Vaniglia – White chocolate and mascarpone tart

Throughout our meal I enjoyed some well selected wines by the glass, which is expected given Di Stasio has a bar that is as frequented as much as the restaurant. Service had been excellent too. The only exceptions were later in the meal trying to get a red wine before my main arrived, and organising the bill. These are only minor, and had a bit to do with our awkward table position, but still probably shouldn’t happen.

There are some nice sounding desserts, and while none jumped right out at me, Catherine had her eye on the white chocolate and mascarpone tart. Simple, not “deconstructed”, and full of flavour, I was glad to have tried the tart. It’s a beautiful dessert, and while rich, it is an excellent way to finish a superb meal.

Café Di Stasio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Modern Eatery – House of Aburi Sushi – Richmond – Wednesday 16 August 2017 and 18 November 2017 – Lunch

Omakase Nigiri – including salmon, tuna, snapper, kingfish, omelette

After an unsuccessful attempt by a burger chain, a new Japanese restaurant has taken up residence on Swan Street in a part of the street that has almost completely changed in recent years. The Modern Eatery – House of Aburi Sushi is a sister to two restaurants in Perth, and that foundation might be part of the reason that a few months on it is already more successful than the previous tenant.

The aspects I like about TME speak volumes of what I don’t like in many casual Japanese restaurants and cafes around Australia. Those behind this place have put some thought into the menu, and the fitout. It doesn’t feel cheap, but it is still casual. The space isn’t plain, with some nice high tables to make it feel like a place to eat, and not a takeaway joint or foodhall.

Love Me Tender – deep fried chicken tempura, cucumber, sliced avocado with house made tartare sauce and seared panko on top

Most importantly, the couple of times I’ve been for lunch I have found some good quality food, that is reasonably priced. The omakase nigiri consists of fresh sashimi, that goes beyond the usual tuna and salmon to include some kingfish and snapper. The rice is good, and the wasabi is about right.

Chicken katsu bento

The handmade sushi is well constructed, although the size is a little too large in my opinion. It is a reasonably classic combination (in these parts), with the ingredients all well prepared. The chicken katsu bento is again good value, though the star of the bento is not far above average.

With so many average Japanese outlets across the city and the suburbs, any place that is marginally better will get some attention. The combination of nicely prepared food with some diversity, a comfortable and good looking space to eat, and some friendly service, should see this push from Perth over east see some degree of success.

The Modern Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato