Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eating in Perth. Part III

My last post from Perth is definitely worth writing up, despite the events taking place so many weeks ago. The final instalment starts with S-bo and I tripping out to Rottnest Island for the obligatory bike ride and snorkel. Not long before our trip I’d read a travel write-up of Rottnest, depicting it as a place where life moves slowly and effortlessly ambling is the way to go. Well they got the slow bit right. However we moved slow because of the endless hills to be cycled up, not because we were absorbed by any external pace. Armed with only a few pieces of fruit we thought it best to stop in Settlement for a quick coffee before setting out. I was shocked to see amongst the tiny cluster of shops a Red Rooster and a Subway. Call me idealistic but it just didn’t sit well with my idea of a grassroots holiday village. Consequently S-bo and I were keen to leave the fast food, and half of our average $4 coffees, behind us.

Fast forward 5 hours and we limped back to Settlement, our sore butts barely supporting the body’s quest for food. Enter the Quokka Arms Hotel. Newly refurbished, this pub is part family friendly leisure and, I would imagine as the evening creeps in, part Frat Beach Party, especially during the infamous leavers’ week. Whatever’s going on, the broad beach frontage allows you to choose a group whose vibe you approve and sit near. S-bo and I kicked back with beer, chips and pizza. Rottnest heaven (and the pizza wasn’t bad either).

The following day was my chance to finally chase down some of the places recommended to me. S-bo was playing golf and I realised time was too short to put a dent in the essay Matt (Abstract Gourmet) had emailed. Still, I thought I’d treat myself to a great lunch, and from the email it seemed like Balthazar or Must Wine Bar were the places for me. It was a toss up but I chose Must Wine Bar for two reasons. First, I got the impression it was a little more laid back and that appealed to me. Secondly, I have a friend who used to live in Mt Lawley and I wanted to check it out. I took a cursory glance at the street directory and thought “surely it’s not that far to walk from the station”. I should’ve taken a bus, but all of a sudden I was alone and could’ve been overseas for all I knew. I’d got the trains, I’d figured them out and knew how to buy tickets, when to get off etc etc.

I did not know how to walk from the station to Beaufort st. Which side of the station should I exit? Do I go left or right? Am I heading in the right direction? Where the hell are the people that live in this suburb, I need to ask directions. Phew. All on my own I eventually limped onto Beaufort st, my smart little lunching attire not suited to neighbourhood walking in Perth humidity. And yet where was the wine bar? I had forgotten to record the street number so I just walked some more. I walked and walked and nearly gave up. Sadly, when I finally got there I did. It was quite a large venue and it was completely empty. Now I trust Matt’s judgement and I knew the food would be good, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat alone when I was outnumbered by the waiters. Every cloud has a silver lining however and my blistered feet headed back up to Cantina.

Cantina was recommended a few times and I was a little surprised when I first walked past it. Perched on the edge of a shopping arcade it looked nothing more than a suburban sandwich café. However, stepping inside I was greeted by warm timber and distressed walls, an effortless rustic feel that really worked. Limited menu choices typed onto plain white paper suggest, although I’m guessing here, the menu changes often, making use of whatever produce is best at the time.

Ham and cheese ciabatta seemed a little plain for my lunching expedition and whilst the three panini’s on offer sounded delicious I reasoned there were plenty of good sandwiches in Melbourne. Clearly a venue that relies heavily on its char grill plate, the choice of three mains included a salad of char grilled local prawns or char grilled veal tongue in a green sauce. Despite these delectable offerings, how I could resist prosciutto that was labelled “the best from Italy”? Teamed with char grilled bread I agreed, until about half way through my generous serve. I realised that a whole plate of prosciutto to myself was a little over the top, and whilst it broke my heart, I did leave a few slices behind. Not to worry, extra bread and an olive oil that had more floral notes than bitey grasses helped the meal pass, as did the glass of 07 Bollini Pinot Grigio.

Bravo to Cantina for its laid back feel and service to match. And bonus points for pouring my wine at the table, just a small thing that showed this little Cantina is punching well above its neighbourhood café appearance. I was tempted to stay for coffee but I was determined to try at least one more of Matt’s recommendations. Enter Spring Espresso in Subiaco.

Why Spring when I was in Mt Lawley? Well I was keen for a wander through Subiaco and I certainly wasted some time in Simon Johnson’s along the way, although I had forgotten the trend of price tags there. Is it really expensive or am I spoilt by Melbourne’s food accessibility? Spring Espresso wasn’t quite what I had in mind for a mid afternoon coffee and cake but I liked it. Bright yellow walls scream “Wake Up”, and it’s all down to the business of getting coffee and moving on. I could see that this was many people’s ideal barista fix as they dashed to work each morning. So I grabbed a takeaway and ambled back to the station.

Thank you Matt, and everyone else who made suggestions, for helping me to find some of Perth’s gems. Even if I didn’t get to try many. Despite early eating times and higher-than-Melbourne prices it really is easy to make any meal enjoyable in a city as laid back as Perth.


Matt at Abstract Gourmet said...

Well I don't think anyone can say you didn't make the effort :) Though you do realise you could have been chauffered around to those few spots if only I'd known :)

Glad you made it to Cantina, which is still one of my favourite lunch or dinner spots. You should perhaps have also popped in Boucla, which is very nearby Spring, as they do great desserty things... though Spring is kind of a coffee lovers choice in that area.

Over all, well done :) Glad you made the effort and sounds like you had a great trip ! Most pleased i could be some help.

Ali-K said...

Thanks Matt, Cantina is a real gem. And whilst tired feet is all part of the adventure, I promise to engage a knowledgeable chauffer next time.

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said...

Wow, sounds like a real adventure. Hope I can get over to Perth some time soon to taste the food delights, but I must say pizza and surf is hard to beat!