Eating in Northbridge can sometimes be a bit of hit and miss. With lots to choose from, and wait staff standing outside some of these establishments beckoning you to come in, it could be a difficult choice which could lead to pleasant surprises or pretty average meals. Northbridge itself is known for a huge variety of cuisines on offer, but these generally range from your cheap eateries to good cafes and mid-ranged restaurants.
Situated near the Russell Square side of James Street, a new player turned up some years ago called Oliver's on James Street. Being a bit off the busiest parts of James Street, a casual walk from the other end of James Street could see you miss this place completely but a while back I had heard one of my trusted 'foodie' friends commented that they had been there for a work Christmas function and for a Christmas function serving multiple meals they were pretty impressed. These days, Oliver's seems to be doing quite well with a steady amount of patrons on a normal night.
Oliver's is of a moderate size but has a decent amount of seating. There is both an indoor and an al fresco area overlooking James Street. The interior is neat and clean, and has quite a cosy feeling with warm halogen lighting. The decor shows some European influences, and is quite modern and stylish compared to other restaurants in Northbridge.
The menu is reasonably extensive with that European base and caters for vegetarian with a number of vegetarian friendly options. On the menu is a varied selection of items including various entrees (from bread to pizzas to soups and risottos), 12 inch wood-fired pizzas, meat/seafood and pasta/risotto based mains, salads, and desserts. The prices average about $6-15 for entrees, and $25 to $40 for mains (or even less for most pizzas) depending on what you pick. The drinks menu is also quite extensive for a restaurant in this area with a decent wine list of mainly Australian and New Zealand wines, beer and some cocktails.
Char-grilled Black Angus rib eye served on a parsley mash and topped with ratatouille - $39.50
This meal was a special for the day, written up on the specials blackboard and advised by the wait staff before they took the order. It sits above many of the other dishes in terms of pricing, no doubt due to the Black Angus cut used.
The dish came out pretty much as described in the menu description. The steak was thick and of a decent size, cooked right to the requested medium rare, and seared on two angles to form black patterns on the steak. Upon cutting and eating the steak, it was juicy and tender. Even though the steak was char-grilled, it didn't have much of the bitter taste you often get when steaks are char-grilled.
The ratatouille was made with tomatoes, green and red capsicum, zucchini, large slices of garlic, and onion. The large amount of ratatouille topping the steak gave a different taste combination than you get with your usual steak sauces. All the vegetables were quite soft (presumably having been cooked through together), and the taste was a nice tomato based sauce without being too salty or sweet.
The mashed potato base was of a reasonable amount, making the whole dish a decent sized main. The mash was creamy and buttery and also reasonably smooth.
Side serve of vegetables (served with many main courses)
The main course is served with a side serve of vegetables that were steamed and tossed in a bit of oil. The dish included broccoli, cabbage, carrot, zucchini, sugar snap peas, and spinach. The vegetables seemed fresh, and were lightly cooked to retain a slight crunchy texture and strong colours, but the zucchini was nicely soft and the carrot was cooked enough to ensure it was not too crunchy.
Wedges with sour cream and aioli - $8.50
The wedges were served hot, tasty and crunchy. The wedges were good, but otherwise quite normal. The serving size was also pretty normal for wedges and the price.
Raspberry mascarpone and sherry trifle - $10
The menu states that the desserts are all made in-house. Along with the dessert menu, there is a selection of dessert wines. The desserts on offer ranged from your heavier chocolate dessert cakes, fudges, and sticky date puddings, to lighter crème brulees, pavlovas, and lemon tarts. All desserts are priced at $10.
The trifle was served in a clear glass so you could see the various layers that made up the trifle. It consisted of a mix of refreshing raspberries that had been combined with the sherry, topped with something that tasted like custard, cream, chocolate sprinkles, and half a strawberry. The dessert was reasonably sweet but not too sweet or heavy. The sherry added a nice touch to the dessert and seemed like just the right amount to give the taste without going overboard. There was no strong mascarpone taste in the dessert, and the cream worked well with the dessert and didn't feel like it was too much that you had to remove some of it from the dessert.
The trifle was also served with a couple of pieces of shortbread. The shortbread was a well made shortbread, though was not a standout over other normal shortbreads. However, the shortbread did not seem too buttery nor too crumbly.
In summary, Oliver's offers some good food for Northbridge standards. It's set above your simple offerings, and has better food than your standard cafe without being posh. The restaurant is largely European influenced, having a selection of pizzas, pastas, risottos as well as your meat based mains and seems to do a good job of it.
Points to note: Well made, hearty food in a stylish but casual atmosphere. Prices are pretty normal for a semi-fine dining restaurant.
Go for: Good European influenced food compared to what is on offer in Northbridge. The made in-house desserts, whilst not ground-breaking, are a plus.
Oliver's on James Street
160 James Street
Northbridge, WA 6003
(08) 9228 8725
Monday to Thursday: 4:30pm to 10pm
Friday and Saturday: 11:00am to 10:30pm