Restaurant and food reviews from Perth, Australia

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stewart's at Brookleigh, Upper Swan

One great thing we have in Perth is the ability to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and take a short drive and feel like you're somewhere else.  Such is the drive eastwards to the Swan Valley region where almost a plethora of wineries await you.  Most of them have daily wine tasting, and many of those have the bonus of a restaurant attached.  With the general flavour of winery food being modern Australian, we have a great opportunity to sit back and relax to some good food and wine.

So if you find yourself one day headed to that region, and you keep driving past the first wineries you see, you'll come across Brookleigh which amongst its vineyard and equestrian has the award winning restaurant Stewart's or sometimes known as Stewart's at Brookleigh.

As you arrive at Stewart's at Brookleigh, you get the feel that the restaurant is like a large house-turned-restaurant with indoor as well as semi-alfresco seating.  With lots of wood grain, and views of trees and vineyards the overall feel is casual and relaxing.  There is ample seating throughout, though on the busy weekends it is advisable to book ahead.

Upon perusal of Stewart's at Brookleigh's menu, you notice the range of varied offerings with international influences created by head chef Dean Williams that make up its modern Australian cuisine.  With mains in the $30-40 region and a host of starters, entrees, desserts to match you can if you so desire see yourself spending a nice relaxing time there with or without some wine (with an emphasis on the local drop).

Pistachio crusted hot roast camembert - $20

This dish was accompanied by poached pear, apricot, green olive and cranberry.

The camembert was lightly melted and oozed out without being too runny.  The pistachio crust gave the camembert an attractive variation to your standard crumbed camembert and the combined taste enhanced the flavours of each other (cheese, nut and fruit perhaps?).

The pistachio encrusted camembert up close

The addition of the sweetened poached pear and apricot gave good levels of sweetness to contrast and add a welcome level of palate refreshment to the cheese.  The poached pear in particular held its form well and was soft, retained its pear texture, and nicely sweetened.  The green olive was not of your highly salted variety and thus the texture and more “pure” olive taste was served to match the apricot well.  The cranberry sauce was sweet yet light to also blend in with the overall feel of the dish and also added a bit of colour.

Honey duck breast - $34

This dish was accompanied by shiitake spring roll, and surrounded by a mustard seed sauce.

The duck breast was meaty and quite thick without a large layer of fat common in duck dishes.  It was cooked through giving it a very slight rubbery texture, but not overcooked to the extent it would be tough.  The honey wasn’t very prominent in the taste of the duck but for an otherwise “simple to emphasise the duck flavours” dish it was served fine.

The shiitake spring roll up close

The shiitake (a type of Japanese mushroom) spring roll had shredded shiitake along with other vegetables such as carrot and onion, and was cut into three portions.  The spring roll was packed tightly so as to have a uniform and well-held filling, and the tastes were light and not greasy so as to allow the shiitake mushroom taste to stand out.

Black angus - $35

This dish came with potato, spinach and beef cheek pie, and topped with a chimchurri sauce.

The black angus was ordered medium well done and was cooked correctly at that.  Even with the longer cooking associated with medium-well versus my customary medium-rare preference, the black angus remained tender and relatively melt-in-your-mouth.  The black angus was served with a chunk of fat intact which no doubt aided the tender and relatively juicy nature of the steak.  The chimchurri sauce was strong in a cumin taste and added a pronounced mild spicy flavour.

The pie was nicely prepared with a soft and flaky pastry, softened long-cooked beef cheek and the mashed potato and small amount of spinach creating an overall nice warm home made pie feeling.

Even with the medium-well steak, I quite liked the way this dish was composed, cooked, and tasted.

Sticky date and fig pudding $12.50

This dish came with vanilla bean ice cream and butterscotch sauce.

The pudding itself was served warm, moist and dense; and had a good taste of the date and fig throughout it which also only marginally changed the otherwise cake-like texture.

The butterscotch sauce was rich and very sweet – a bit too sweet for me to handle in large amounts but that was fixed by adjusting each spoonful and not consuming the entire serving of butterscotch sauce (with my seemingly voracious appetite, I did fail at not spooning too much at times).  The smooth vanilla bean ice cream accompanied the pudding by adding its cold and creamy texture though the warm temperature of the pudding, butterscotch sauce and plate caused the ice cream to melt fast.

Olive Farm Cabernet Sauvignon - $7 by the glass

In summary, Stewart's at Brookleigh is a nice casual restaurant close to Perth that shows what winery restaurant food is capable of.  With a combination of modern Australian food and local wines, it's a great place to enjoy the Swan Valley.

Points to note: Award winning winery restaurant fine dining food with a selection of wines from local wineries as well as some other Australian wines on offer.  Whilst the food does live up to expectations, it does come at a matched fine dining price.  Stewart's Restaurant also caters for functions.

Go for: A nice relaxing meal of modern Australian food with some local wines in the Swan Valley.

Stewart's at Brookleigh
1235 Great Northern Highway
Upper Swan WA 6069
(08) 9296 6966

Trading Hours
Wednesday to Saturday - 12 noon to 3pm (lunch); from 6pm (dinner)
Sunday - from 8am (breakfast); 12 noon to 3pm (lunch); from 6pm (dinner)

Stewart's at Brookleigh on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Good Food?

It's nearly that time of year.  What time I hear someone say?  The cold, grey and dreary winter months?  Well yes, but in winter we've also got the Good Food and Wine Show!  So if you're like me and want to warm up your winter with some mouth-watering and hearty food, and further satiate your belly with some good white or red, the Good Food and Wine Show is coming to town.  It does come with an entry fee, though one of my friends points out that they have a standard ticket and a ticket that includes wine tasting (hmm, difficult one!).

The Good Food and Wine Show is running in all capital cities, with Perth's show scheduled from the 2nd to 4th of July.  Reading their website, the show will have a whole host of food and food related attractions including celebrity shows (with guests such as Matt Moran, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris), cooking school, wine tasting, and exhibits to try or learn about new food.  Personally, I'm looking forward to learning and trying new food and furthering my need to go to the gym but alas you only live once!  Maybe I'll take a few photos too and hopefully it'll be exciting and the exhibits will offer some level of interest.  Fingers crossed, hope they don't disappoint.

If you're wanting to go on down to get yourself a piece of the food and wine action, you can learn more at their website at:

As a suggestion, you might like to get your tickets early if you want to get a good Celebrity Theatre seat.

In the meantime, I'm going to get myself some nice, healthy home cooked food. Au revoir!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zekka, Perth

In Perth's CBD there are many outlets that cater for coffee, or coffee with coffee shop style food. From tiny takeaway coffee outlets, to cafes, to big name franchises, to funky or cozy coffee shops - the choices are abundant. But within these choices the cream of the crop for the coffee aficionado seems far less simple.

Zekka is one of those true to its form funky and trendy coffee shops/cafes that has made a name for itself on the coffee scene offering coffee shop style food to go along with some good coffee. Being attached to a stylish and trendy male clothing store, the owners of Zekka have created a similarly designed and décor fitted coffee shop. Zekka's cafe or coffee shop food offerings include cooked breakfasts, to simple coffee shop style lunches including a modest selection of quiches and pies.

Zekka is located away from the main eating hot spots of the Perth CBD, near the Wellington Street side of King Street in Perth. Whilst this seems to keep it not as hectic as some other more centrally located coffee shops, Zekka has definitely created a name for itself on the Perth coffee scene for the discerning coffee drinker (not to forget to mention that Zekka has a range of teas and nice interesting herbal teas on offer too).

Upon entering Zekka, apart from the bold sign, you are greeted by some huge human figurines, a long hall and then a seemingly petit but fashionable coffee shop that is attached to Zekka's clothing store. Over the counter there is a breakfast menu with the various breakfast offerings; along the counter itself there is a display fridge containing quiches and tarts and some side salads; and of course there is the all important for every coffee drinker's barista and comforting coffee machine.

Zucchini and bacon quiche served with salad (feta salad in this instance) - $11.50

This quiche was pre-made and put on display in the counter fridge. The quiche looked like it had been made as part of a big slab and cut into servable pieces. Upon ordering, the quiche was heated and served with a side salad.

The bacon was diced and the zucchini finely chopped up and mixed into the quiche, giving the quiche a light flavour that was pleasantly not salty but still had a nice light egg quiche taste that wasn’t bland either. The quiche had a good smooth consistency and felt solid and substantial for a quiche though the overall serving size made for a light-ish lunch.

The feta salad was pre-made and also on display in the counter fridge on a big plate. It contained various leafy greens, corn, and had a light vinaigrette. The salad seemed fresh and light and even with the feta, salt or strong tastes didn’t overpower it. The overall meal felt light yet not insubstantial.

Pumpkin and caramelised onion tart served with a salad (garden salad in this instance) - $11.50

This dish was also pre-made and on display in the counter fridge. The pumpkin taste was very prominent in this dish, with bits of caramelised onion throughout the pie adding to the taste of the overall dish keeping it nice tasting for a café style lunch. The filling was also of a smooth, dense consistency and once again the taste was not overpowering apart from the pumpkin.

Similar to the feta salad, the garden salad was pre-made, contained leafy greens and tomato, and had a creamed balsamic sauce. Being a fan of creamed balsamic, this salad was also a nice side to the pumpkin pie.

Cappuccino - $3.50

Whilst I note it is important for any coffee shop or café to make a good coffee, and not being an expert coffee drinker myself, Zekka already has a reputation for excellent coffee. This cappuccino was very smooth and not grainy, the mix was silky strong yet quite neutral in bitter and sourness, and the milk is frothed to a thick and firm foam at a good temperature consistent with the smooth texture.

Though even the most reputable coffee shop is heavily dependent on the individual skill of the barista preparing the particular coffee, and without turning this into a coffee review, my experience in sampling their consistency, texture, and taste of the coffee puts it amongst one of the better coffees available in the Perth CBD.

In summary, Zekka is a cool place to have a coffee or tea, some food, chill out, or go shop for some men’s clothing. Though there are a few places in the Perth CBD that make excellent coffee in the city, Zekka would be amongst those renown coffee shops of which have their own individual style that attracts their own devout followers.

Points to note: This is one of the more reputable coffee shops around the Perth CBD. It is attached to a men’s clothing store King Street style.

Go for: Good coffee, cooked breakfasts, and light lunches.

74-76 King Street
Perth WA 6000
(08) 9481 1772

Trading Hours
Breakfast and lunch – 7 days

Zekka on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ha-Lu, Mount Hawthorn

Ha-Lu means "spring flower" in Japanese and whilst it's currently autumn, Ha-lu's reputation around Perth lives up to its name as being a nice standout amongst the many Japanese offerings.  Back from years ago, I remember Ha-lu as being one of the more interesting Japanese restaurants around, offering seemingly classy Japanese Izakaya style food which is common in Japan.  Since then, much to my tastebuds' joy, I have to say that the number of decent Japanese restaurants around has risen setting themselves apart as offering everything from very authentic Japanese food through to exciting modern Japanese creations.

Ha-lu (or Halu) is a long, narrow restaurant situated on the ground floor of a residential complex on the quiet end of Oxford Street in Mount Hawthorn.  The decor is modern, its serving dishes include plates and bowls that almost seem like pottery pieces of art, and the atmosphere is casual yet somewhat gives a nice refined feeling without being upmarket.  The staff are also friendly and polite in the usual Japanese way, and the head waiter is very helpful and always smiling.

As stated earlier, Ha-lu offers Izakaya style dining which in short means Ha-lu specialises in Japanese food served in small servings with the idea of trying and sharing different food whilst having drinks and socialising.  The menu is filled with a variety of dishes (including a few bento boxes) served in different ways, and the food seems like a subtle modern fusion of Japanese food.

To top the food menu, Ha-lu also has some desserts including fusion desserts, a small selection of wines, and Japanese alcohol including a range of sake.

Wagyu Beef Tataki - $17

This dish was described as "Seared local Wagyu beef, thinly sliced and served with seasoned root vegetables".

The beef was very lightly seared, sliced very thinly, and topped with sesame seeds and finely chopped spring onion.  On the side were some lightly flavoured vegetables including lotus root which was reasonably soft after cooking.  The beef tataki was served with a light vinegary ponzu sauce.

Nigiri - 5 pieces - $15

This dish consisted of two salmon, two tuna, and one prawn nigiri sushi.

The sushi were quite well made with a reasonably well made rice base, and fresh and soft fish toppings.  They were served with pickled ginger, soy sauce and a strong wasabi to go with it.  For not being a sushi restaurant, the sushi were quite well made and (to be expected) above the standard of a kaiten sushi train restaurant but in my opinion not the best sushi around Perth (keeping in mind most sushi made in restaurants in Perth aren't expertly made).

Crispy Pork - $7

The crispy pork was described on the menu as "Crispy sliced pork belly served with Oroshi ponzu vinaigrette".

The pork was very thinly sliced, lightly coated and deep fried.  Given the pork was thin, the pork had a light pork belly taste which (due to it being the belly) crisps up very well when deep fried.  The sauce was a oroshi ponzu vinaigrette which was light in flavour and slightly thick in consistency so as not to cover or alter the crispy pork taste and texture.

Chicken Kara-age with Iwanori Sauce - $13

This dish was described on the menu as "Deep fried chicken served with soy simmered Iwanori seaweed sauce".

The chicken was tender and moist, and coated with a light slightly sweet coating and deep fried.  The combination of these elements made the chicken kara-age easy to eat and the subtle tastes made this more than your average chicken kara-age.

Lightly sweet and lightly crunchy chicken kara-age

The Iwanori sauce was only lightly spread across the kara-age and was very thick, yet light in the soy and seaweed flavours.  The subtlety complimented the kara-age and made the overall dish quite enjoyable.

Patagonian Toothfish Nitsuke - $18

This dish was described as "Lightly deep fried Patagonian Toothfish simmered in a soy-dashi broth".

The patagonian toothfish was cooked to the right amount making it soft and light.  The subsequent deep frying and simmering in a soy-dashi broth helped blend the flavours through the dish.  As a result, the overall cooking technique provided for a nicely textured and well matched flavour dish.

Miso Soup - $2.50

The miso soup was well made (as was expected) with a cloudy miso soup, bits of tofu, and finely sliced spring onion.

White Chocolate and Berry Pannacotta - $9.50

This dish came as layered panacotta with a small amount of mixed crushed berry juice throughout.  The panacotta had a creamy smooth texture, not being as set as a normal panacotta.  The white chocolate taste was light and overall the dessert seemed lightly refreshing whilst also having a creamy flavour.

Black Sesame Tiramisu - $8

The top layer was the "cheese" part of the tiramisu but was not as strong and textured as a normal tiramisu.  The black sesame was crushed and present in the middle layer but the black sesame taste was only a subtle flavour throughout the dessert.  The bottom layer had crushed ladyfinger biscuits throughout which remained crunchy.

Cocoa dusted ladyfinger biscuit

The tiramisu was then topped with a ladyfinger biscuit and dusted with cocoa.  This dessert was an example of a well made fusion dessert that wasn't quite what I have come to expect of a tiramisu nor a strong use of black sesame that is common in other black sesame desserts.

Kuromatsu Sake (medium soft)

Sake is served in either regular or small sizes.  This sake was the "regular" size and came in another interesting work of pottery that perfectly fitted in my right hand with a thumb indent and shaped spout for pouring.  Sake is served hot or cold, and my personal preference is always to have it heated.  This sake when heated was smooth and had a sweet flavour, that was reduced to some extent when cold.

In summary, Ha-lu offers well prepared Japanese food with a touch of fusion.  Whilst its prices are in line with its izakaya style, it allows diners to sample various dishes in a modern Japanese restaurant.

Points to note:  Izakaya style fusion Japanese dining with wine, beer, and sake available.  Book in advance if you want a prime time seat.

Go for: Japanese fine dining in a casual and modern environment, Izakaya style.

Shop 4/401 Oxford Street
Mount Hawthorn WA 6016
(08) 9444 0577

Trading Hours
Wednesday to Sunday - 6pm to late.

Ha-Lu on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lincoln's 102

There’s nothing quite like the quaint little suburban casual coffee shop or cafe.  They're great places for the casual tea or coffee to catch up with friends, a comforting breakfast lunch or brunch, a lazy morning or afternoon, or a nice relaxing place to read.

Lincoln's is one of those quaint suburban cafes in the middle of Highgate that is open for breakfast and lunch, as well as just for coffee (and cake).  Its location amidst residential housing makes it all the more special and it stands out on its own away from the other busy and cluttered café strips.

To go with its quiet suburban location, Lincoln's is a small coffee shop with small tables inside as well as out the front.  Inside, Lincoln's is quite a charming establishment - the colour scheme is rich and deep, and amongst the odd decorations there are lots of neatly packed items that seem like part of the décor along the wall including Lincoln's own blend of coffee beans.

Aside from tea, coffee and cake, Lincoln's offers cooked breakfasts, pre-made sandwiches and other items like pies and quiches, as well as daily specials such a lunch steak sandwich.  Lincoln's prides themselves on making their menu items in-house including the sandwiches, quiches, cakes, and a la carte cooked to order menu items.

On this occasion, I was out for lunch and Lincoln's seemed just right for the casual catch up, chat and a simple but good lunch.

Steak Sandwich (the day’s lunch special) - $19

The steak sandwich had two slices of buttered sourdough bread filled with a sirloin steak, onion jam, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

The steak was over a centimetre thick, cooked medium and noticeably the use of a tender sirloin steak made this a good base for a filling and gourmet style steak sandwich.  The thick sourdough bread also gave the steak sandwich a more gourmet and hearty taste.

A closer look at the simple but decent steak

To finish off the steak sandwich, the onion jam and drizzled creamy sauce added nice amounts of sweetness and flavour that made the steak sandwich more exciting and different than a normal steak sandwich.

Chocolate Truffle Cake - $7.50

The chocolate truffle cake was a rich cake that was lightly moist, but also not as dense as say a mud cake.  The chocolate was rich but the cake retained its truffle cake nature.  Overall, a nice chocolate cake that met the expectations of “home made”.

Soy Cappuccino - $4.30

In Summary, Lincoln's offers good coffee and decent home-made style food in a "suburban" style but charming coffee shop.  Being a small local coffee shop, it's a great place to catch up with a friend for coffee

Points to note: It's a small coffee shop that makes their own meals and food.  Frequented by a lot of locals for coffee and some coffee shop style food.

Go for: A popular coffee shop with good coffee in a reasonably quiet part of Highgate.

Lincoln's 102
102 Lincoln Street
(08) 9228 1759

Trading Hours
Tuesday to Sunday - 7:30am to 4pm

Lincolns on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Azure, Mount Hawthorn

Chic warm lines, cozy and casual furnishing... Modern Australian meal creations, select wines by the glass or bottle, cocktails and patisserie… These are but some of the features which make Azure stand out in the café strip of Mount Hawthorn.

Mount Hawthorn’s Scarborough beach road café strip has long been a casual place for coffee and mainly café style restaurants offering a variety of multi-cultural cuisine (as well as the Paddo’s boutique international beers, but that’s another story). Azure neatly fits into this culture but with a few subtle differences such as some lounge like seating, in-house patisserie, and sheek décor. Azure’s size and floor plan also ensures ample al fresco lounge sofa dining, sofa benches, abundant sofa cushions, and of course dinner table seating.

Part of the chic design of the walls

Azure's cuisine is based on their own interpretation of modern Australian fare, with a hint of Mediterranean influences. On top of that, Azure is also a patisserie offering a decent selection of cakes for both dine in and takeaway (with takeaway prices being about 40% cheaper).

Rosemary and Garlic Ciabatta Bread - $6.40

The ciabatta bread was light and thin and had a nice texture and flavour over commonly used white bread. The bread had light flavours of rosemary and garlic, and was grilled with a light crunch and charcoaled criss cross patterns.

Duo of Summer Duck - $32.50

This dish was described as duck and amarena cherry confit, and seared duck apple limoncello

The confit consisted of softened duck meat assembled into a presentable circular shape. The confit had a distinctive duck meat taste to it but was also seasoned to bring out the flavour. The sweetness from the amarena cherry was nice to mix into the duck, combining it with a sweet taste to lighten up the duck.

The seared duck was gently cooked with skin on, and the apple limoncello gave made it a bit refreshing with a slight sour and lesser sweet taste to it. When you look at the two duck offerings, they contrasted and complimented each other.

Pesto and Chorizo Pasta - $26.50

This dish was described as spaghettini, pesto, chorizo, cherry tomatoes, pancetta, lemon and shredded parmesan reggiano.

The spaghettini was cooked right - al dente. The combination of the salty Mediterranean style ingredients gave the dish a fair amount of salt, whilst the other flavours were subtle. Overall, this dish was well made, contained gourmet like ingredients, but didn’t challenge the boundaries or offer up complex tastes for a Mediterranean pasta.

Mediterranean oven roasted vegetables $6.40

This oven roasted dish included eggplant, carrot and capsicum. The dish it was presented on was a large attractive dish, but the useable area did not hold a big serve even though the substance to these vegetables was greater than say a garden salad. Being oven roasted and containing olive oil, the vegetables were a welcome change to standard steamed vegetables with a softer and warmer roasted taste.

Black forest cake - $12.50

The black forest cake was made using mousse rather than layers of chocolate cake. The black forest cake had cherries, a small amount of nice warm alcohol, and bits of chocolate and a candied cherry on top. Though the dessert had chocolate throughout, it didn’t have an overpowering sense of chocolate and in fact possibly could have been more chocolatey if you were to compare it against other chocolate desserts.

Blackberry cheesecake - $11.50

The cheesecake was baked and had a nice light taste about it and felt a bit refreshing – it was not overly sweet and had a hint of lemon. The cheesecake had a light chocolate base, was topped with a light blackberry compote (which seemed to be the only real prominent berry in the cheesecake) and a couple of pieces of decorative white chocolate.

Tuesday menu
On Tuesdays, Azure has a different menu that has a large selection of $18 mains. I managed to make it to a Tuesday dinner to try out this cheaper menu as well.

Antipasto Piccolo - $24.50

This antipasto dish consisted of garlic prawns, lightly fried baby octopus, olives, chorizo, lightly crumbed squid, hummus, and Turkish bread. This is more of a share platter that is enough for two to three people to happily nibble on as an appetiser.

The various offerings were a bit of a change to your typical antipasto. The baby octopus was lightly coated in oil and not tough or too chewy, the chorizo was lightly pan fried to bring out the flavour, the crumbed squid was lightly coated and fried, and the garlic prawns were cooked with a garlic sauce that had a lot of flavour that I found myself dipping the Turkish bread into at times instead of the hummus.

Salad - $13.50

This salad was quite an interesting salad with avocado, cucumber, apple, rocket, grape tomato, red onion, feta, roast soft potato, cashew nuts, mustard citrus emulsion, sesame seeds, radish, string beans. The list of things I found in this salad was quite long indeed!

The taste… Well the blend of all these ingredients made it an interesting salad (for both the tastes and the various ingredients). The salad also had a light refreshing feel with a nice tangy mustard citrus emulsion to bring it all together.

Mediterranean chicken - $18

This dish had two pieces of chicken sandwiching roast capsicum and eggplant. The chicken was cooked, was pleasantly not dry, had a light seasoning, and was topped with a pureed tomato. Overall, this was a reasonable chicken dish with definite Mediterranean influences.

MSA Grain Fed Beef - $18

Though ordered medium rare, the beef was in between rare and medium rare. Though saying that, the beef was very tender, cooked well and had a faint taste of “char-grilled”. Otherwise for an $18 special, and served with salad at a place like Azure, this seemed like pretty good value.

Seafood Pasta - $18

The pasta consisted of spaghetti, prawns and pieces of fish with a tomato based sauce. Though the chef cooks pasta right and adds ingredients that work well together, this dish otherwise seemed like a pretty standard seafood pasta dish.

In summary, Azure is a nice chic place in Mount Hawthorn to sit back and relax to some modern Mediterranean/Australian cuisine. The food lives up to what it sets out to be, and the addition of the patisserie should spark an interest in the cake lover.

Points to note: Mediterranean influenced modern Australian cuisine in a casual modern and sheek café/restaurant environment. The patisserie serves up some house-made cakes.

Go for: Good food, drinks, and pastries in a more sheek and modern restaurant on the Mount Hawthorn café strip.


40/148 Scarborough Beach Road
(08) 9443 5433

Trading Hours
Lunch – Tuesday to Sunday: 12noon to 2pm
Dinner – Tuesday to Sunday: 6pm to 10pm

Azure on Urbanspoon