Circa, Mount Lawley

Brand new bistro and wine bar Circa on Mount Lawley’s Beaufort Street strip is easy to miss, painted black and tucked away opposite Malt.
Once I walked in I was taken aback. Although it was dimly lit and narrow, it was stylish and overly confident.
Unfortunately, we were sat at the back corner of the restaurant next to the doors to the kitchen so we didn’t experience the ambience the designers were going for.

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To start we ordered the chorizo, smashed broad beans and manchego crostini and field mushroom and valdeon arancini with arrabiata sauce and were both surprised and disappointed – the chorizo dish was packed full of flavour but the arancini were a little lacklustre as the rice wasn’t fully cooked.

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Our waitress promptly cleared our table as we ordered our mains and a bottle of Salitage pinot noir.
Minutes later we were presented with a wine that we didn’t order, and when we asked for the correct wine we were told that she “didn’t think we wanted the more expensive bottle”. Slightly insulted, we thanked her when our pinot arrived and anticipated our main.
My spaghetti with crab, lime, chilli, white wine and crème fraiche came moments later and I nearly forgot all about our wine mishap; it was beautifully presented and smelled delicious.

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However, my partner was disappointed after being given the wrong main. Originally he’d ordered the ricotta gnocchi with tomato and pecorino ragu and basil crumbs but was given the beetroot ravioli. The two sound nothing alike, and the waiter was most apologetic that our waitress had gotten it wrong. About five minutes later he came back with the right main and I could finally stop feeling guilty that I was eating first.
The house-made spaghetti was perfectly cooked, and the serving of crab meat was generous. The chef was clearly very experienced – each ingredient in the dish had its own part to play and came together to form a pasta dish that was light but flavoursome, and even the chilli was cut to perfection in fine strips.
As always I couldn’t finish my main, but had saved some room for dessert.
I ordered the fried Venetian custard with blood orange ice cream and pistachios, and although it wasn’t something I usually order, it was an excellent decision.

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The custard was velvety yet crispy on the outside and the blood orange ice cream was subtle, while blood orange sauce brought out the flavours of the ice cream and cut through the rich custard.
In the end it was a night that could have been much better, right down to the smaller details of decent seating to the more important details of service and knowledge of the menu.
Maybe wait a few months until it finds its feet – it’s still got a way to go.

Circa
676 Beaufort Street
Monday to Thursday open for lunch and dinner
Friday open til late
Saturday open from breakfast til late, and Sunday from breakfast til dinner

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Pimlott and Strand’s Truffle Dinner

The tiny cafe in the same complex North Perth Coles isn’t in the most glamorous location, but it’s trying hard to break into the foodie market.
Its most recent 20-seat truffle long table dinner, with British head chef Sophie Budd, was testament to the cafe’s longing to be included in the Perth foodie scene.
To start we had a brief introduction to the Italian bubbly plonked on our table and some bread and butter. I thought there would’ve been truffle butter to use instead of normal butter considering it was a truffle dinner, but a clean start wasn’t the worst thing.
The entree was a Jerusalem artichoke soup with fresh truffle served in an espresso cup, and it was delicious.

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The soup had body to it; it wasn’t watery in the slightest and the subtle flavour of the artichoke highlighted the unique taste of truffle shaved on top.
With one glass of wine down the noise started to pick up and the small cafe-turned-restaurant became a lively place to be on a Friday night.
Entree was next, and the pan fried gnocchi, parsnip puree, truffle tree hazelnuts, sage butter, parmesan and fresh truffle dish caught my eye as soon as it was put in front of me.

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The gnocchi was crispy enough to retain its creaminess, and the parmesan, sage butter and fresh truffle complimented it nicely.
However, the parsnip puree and tree hazelnuts weren’t a great mix as the sweet flavours overpowered the savoury gnocchi, parmesan and truffle flavours.
In saying that, I didn’t leave anything on my plate.
The wait between entree and the main event was much longer; a well-deserved break as wine and food started to fill up the stomachs of diners.
As soon as a glass of juicy, tangy Shiraz was put down I knew it was time for the braised beef cheeks, creamy potato, seasonal vegetables and beef and truffle jus that I’d been looking forward to.
Ultimately, this was the winner of the night.

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The beef was cooked to perfection while the truffle and beef jus didn’t take over, as truffle tends to do. The vegetables were fresh and tasty and the creamy potato mash was the perfect tool to mop up the tasty jus.
With three meals down and one to go I was nearly so full that I considered not even touching my dessert when it came out, but luckily there was enough of a relax between meals that I was ready for the next.
By now everyone was shouting and the jovial nature of the long table dinner had finally peaked after three glasses of wine.
The final dish, a wattleseed tiramisu with freshly shaved truffle, was delivered in a small jar with a glass of port.

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I like port at the best of times, but this was a rough drop and quite hard to drink with the creamy dessert.
The tiramisu was nice but I found there to be too much cream and not enough sponge. I sat there trying to figure out whether the tiramisu and the shaved truffle went well together or if the flavours were too separate and too different, and I’m still unsure.
Pimlott and Strand would be a great place to buy a sandwich or small treat during the day, like it’s designed, but they haven’t quite nailed the long table dinners yet.
It was a good try, though. Maybe next time they’ll nail it.

Pimlott and Strand

Shop 21/391 Fitzgerald Street

Open for breakfast and lunch 7 days.

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Cantina 663, Mount Lawley

Cantina has become a solid Mount Lawley establishment; everyone knows what it is, everyone knows what to expect and every week it’s packed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We thought we’d be the first people there as we trudged in from the cold, miserable weather right on opening time but surprisingly people had already started to arrive.

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Moments after we sat down at our window seat we were offered menus and water, and every few seconds I’d glance up and see the dedicated runners heading to City to Surf and feel slightly guilty as I pored over the delicious things on the menu.
The pancakes were incredibly tempting but I opted for the braised brisket, potato and spinach ($22) while the man typically ordered the steak sandwich.

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I didn’t know what to expect but it wasn’t what arrived in front of me. The fried egg was a welcome surprise and added a ‘breakfast’ element to the dish while the meat itself was so flavoursome I could’ve eaten it without all of the other things on the plate. The potato was cut into small chunks that were creamy and easy to eat – I only wish they went easy on the parsley.
The entire meal was covered in an oniony-vinegary jus that went so well with everything I was disappointed when there was only a tiny bit left by the end of the meal.
The verdict on the steak sandwich backed up my meal choice; “Yeah, it was nice, but yours was better.” Internally I smiled with pride.
What I love about Cantina is that it doesn’t have a typically breakfast-style menu. While there are bacon and eggs, pancakes and muesli on the menu there’s also a steak sandwich or brisket or fritter, and that makes for a delightfully unique way to the start the day.

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Cantina 663
663 Beaufort Street
Monday to Saturday, 7:30am til late
Sunday 7:30am til 3pm

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The Laneway Lounge, Perth

As Perth’s newest bar, The Laneway was packed, popular and pumping. It wasn’t late into Friday night when I noticed the lit-up sign hidden down the end of a Murray Street lane, and when I saw the line of people waiting patiently on red carpet to get in I figured it’d be worth checking out.
Inspired by the jazz era, it’s dimly lit but alight with an electric atmosphere; the bar staff are serious, the decor is a little tacky and the drinks are delicious.

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We managed to score ourselves two seats at the bar, and despite it being a busy night the barman was ready to go. I didn’t manage to check out their cocktail list, but a nip of Belvedere vodka set me back $12.
As a brand new nightspot it’s got a great Friday night drinks vibe and great ideas, but I’d wait a few months to come back for dinner and suggest that the staff turn their frowns into friendly smiles – for now it needs to iron out the kinks to blossom into a place where every hipster needs to be seen.

The Laneway Lounge also has live jazz in the dining room.

The Laneway Lounge

414A Murray Street

Tuesday to Saturday, 4pm – 12am

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Gordon Street Garage, West Perth

Originally a garage, the aptly named Gordon Street Garage has been fitted out with funky furniture, art and a feeling of reinvention all the while keeping true to its auto-electrics origins.
It’s owned by Nic Trimboli, who has Balthazar, E’cucina and Little Creatures under his belt, alongside Daniel Goodsell and Graham Arthur who collectively own Il Lido and Duende. They’re all respectable eateries in their own right, so it makes sense that their latest venture is as loved by customers as it is.

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Not only does its breakfast rival the best but its lunch, dinner and wine menus prove that it’s at the top of its game.
For just after 7 in the morning, staff members were very pleasant and friendly; however, that could be down to coffee from their specially selected coffee and in-house roaster.
The Gordon Street Garage’s menu is not pretentious and its selection of tea, coffee, juice and cold drinks would satisfy both the loyal foodie and more relaxed diner.

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Being the first people there we had no trouble with service and tea and coffee was delivered quickly and without fuss.
I ordered the house smoked salmon, potato and zucchini hash brown, spinach, poached egg and béarnaise ($21) and, like the other times I’ve been there, wasn’t let down.

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The salmon wasn’t overly smoky but it had a very distinctive flavour complemented by the tangy and creamy béarnaise while the potato and zucchini hash brown was a little crispy, a little salty and a lot delicious. There were two poached eggs which was a nice surprise, so despite the dish looking on the smaller side, I left feeling full for hours.
The orange and grapefruit juice ($7) I sipped on tasted more like orange than orange and grapefruit, but was still refreshing with lots of ice.
The Gordon Street Garage is somewhere you’d meet a friend or date for a casual meal, and on the casual dining scene it’s one of Perth’s very best.
For breakfast, get there before 9am; after that it’s harder to get a table. Also, good luck walking past the cake cabinet without stopping to grab something sweet and tasty.

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Gordon Street Garage
16 Gordon Street, West Perth
Open Monday to Sunday
7am til late

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Picco’s Kitchen, Maylands

Despite its shabby exterior (or, more politely, ‘unassuming’) Picco’s Kitchen is one of those places that you drive past a thousand times but never bother to go in.
Once I got past its boring facade and stepped through I completely forgot about what it looked like outside.

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Customers are greeted with modern decor, friendly and knowledgeable staff, the smell of delicious food cooking and a wide range of house-made produce; Picco’s Kitchen even makes its own terrine.
The restaurant’s menu is hardly your stereotypical breakfast with things like black pudding and haloumi polenta cake.
I opted for the house-smoked salmon with dill hollandaise, poached egg, spinach and sourdough ($24) and I was not disappointed.

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The salmon was flavoursome and melt-in-your-mouth good, while the dill hollandaise was tangy, refreshing and nothing like the thick, oily sauces that I’ve had before. The poached egg was cooked well and the dish was presented so uniquely that it was almost sad to destroy the toast-spinach-salmon-egg-hollandaise tower – but it did make it a little easier to eat. The toast could’ve been warmer and there could’ve been a lot less spinach but neither of those were the real centre of attention.
I didn’t have a coffee, which my friend described as smooth, but their orange  juice ($4.50) tasted like it had just been squeezed despite being from a glass. By this attention to detail I got the impression the chef likes to pick good quality produce. Normally they make their own fresh juice, but sadly this time they’d run out.
Picco’s Kitchen never made me feel unwelcome or burdensome, and being a busy Sunday morning, that’s a pretty rare feat to achieve.

Menu

38 Peninsula Road, Maylands
Breakfast and lunch Monday to Sunday
Dinner Thursday to Saturday

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Jackson’s, Highgate

Originally, the plan was to head to Rottnest for a Moss Wood wine dinner as part of Rottnest Lodge’s wine dinner series but, as fate would have it, the weather stopped us in our tracks.
With an adventurous budget and a fire in our bellies, the most sensible thing to do was score a reservation at one of Perth’s most renowned fine dining establishments.
Despite the rough weather and quiet streets, Perth bars and restaurants were alive and pumping behind closed doors and Beaufort Street was no different.
Jackson’s is the brainchild of Englishman Neal Jackson and is close to the trendy bars of Mount Lawley/Highgate like Clarence’s and Must.
Although we were left waiting at the door looking awkward as we waited to be seated, a smiling and apologetic staff member glided towards us and you couldn’t help but feel at ease.
The main thing that I noticed about Jackson’s, apart from the wonderful ambience and sophisticated, moody design, was that you never felt like you were in a high-end, snobby, fine-dining restaurant. The staff members were friendly, although sometimes a little too casual, and you didn’t feel uncomfortable asking questions about the food or wine. For those just becoming interested in the fine dining scene, it’s a good place to start the journey.
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We opted for the degustation with wine pairing, starting off our dining experience with a glass of sparkling rose.
It wasn’t long after finishing our drinks that a complimentary entree was offered, and we were left wanting more.

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The scallops in our first course were cooked perfectly and blended well with the citrus flavours on the plate. Although the citrus was too overpowering at times, the French champagne cut through the tang and left a clean finish.
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The marron, crab, chicken and mayo sandwich was a very unique dish that benefited from the truffle flavours drizzled over the dish; once you took a sip of the viognier, the truffle flavours finished and the next bite could begin afresh.
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The next three courses involved the incredibly rich, delicious meats of pork, lamb and venison – a personal favourite of mine.
Each dish was cooked perfectly and the pork and lamb dishes complemented each other well as the flavours slowly built up to the venison.
The beetroot element of the venison course made the difference between a good dish and a great one, with the horseradish noodles a welcome palette cleaner from the complex flavours.
Although I didn’t order the cheese course due to nearly bursting from my full stomach, the men on the table decided to give it a go. Between mouthfuls of an apple and bacon strudel, I was told it was very different but “f-cking awesome”.
I always look forward to the desserts in degustations; mainly because they’re always fantastic, but also because there’s no other way to finish a meal than with a kickass dessert.
To my delight, a thin chocolate brownie with edible gold foil was placed in front of me surrounded by coconut soil, raspberry coulis, milk chocolate gel and lavender ice cream.
Dessert
It’s easy to scoff at lavender ice cream, but when it’s used the way that Jackson’s did with the incredibly intense chocolate brownie and tart raspberry coulis, it allowed it to come into a world of its own. The sparkling sweet red that was paired with the course was unusual for a dessert wine but could have easily been one of the best inclusions in the menu.
After the restaurant cleared out and our voices only became louder and louder after a few glasses of vino and a final coffee, the staff never made us feel unwelcome; as always, we were the last ones left after midnight.

Best dish: Marron, crab, chicken and mayo sandwich, truffle, asparagus
Best wine: CassioDorus Amarone Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Margaret River
Although it was on the sweeter side of cabernet sauvignon, when paired with the pork belly the wine really opened up and enhanced the flavours of the pork.

MENU

Jamon Iberico, seared scallops and blood orange
V. Testulat Carte d’Or Brut NV, Epernay, France

Marron, crab, chicken and mayo sandwich, truffle, asparagus
Whicher Ridge Viognier 2009, Geographe Bay, WA

Roast pork belly, black pudding, scotch quail egg, sprouts
CassioDorus Amarone Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Margaret River

Amelia Park lamb rump and belly, white bean, parsley gravy
Domaine du Espiers 2010, Cotes du Rhone, France

Venison loin, horseradish noodle, beetroot, bitter chocolate
Morgante Nero D’Avola 2010, Vendemmia, Sicily, Italy

Optional cheese course
Camembert, apple and bacon strudel, waldorf salad
Le Pere Jules Cidre, Normandy, France

Chocolate and lavender
Trentham Estate Maestri Frizzante 2012, Trentham Cliffs, NSW

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