Sneak a peak down the small Hay Street laneway and you'll come across a bar with a bustling indoor area and roaring courtyard. There's even an upstairs second-level bar that lets you look out at the city.
I've been wanting to try this place for some time since it opened, but with the neverending selection of afterwork venues for drinks in the city available, I just haven't found time. But thankfully I was due a catch up with my friends Jay and Linda, and this time it was my choice of venue.
Linda and I arrive at 6pm, and are happy to snag one of the last tables available in the courtyard. The restaurants all booked up for a function, but we're quite happy sitting out in the bustle since there's some heaters set up to keep us warm. Since Jay's coming into the city, we start off with ordering a couple small dishes to pick at and a drink.
I am dying for a wine, so I settle on a glass of the 2012 Side Saddle, which is a Margaret River blended white wine ($9 glass, $35 bottle). It surprises me how reasonably priced the wine is and I'm rapt in the zingy fruity taste that fills my mouth. This is definitely a wine that goes down a little too easily!
Linda is craving a coffee so she asks our waitress if they serve flavoured coffees. She replies that she's not sure so Linda places an order of a latte and if they have vanilla she'll take that... to which our waitress says, 'oh yes vanilla lattes we do those!'. Sadly, this was only the beginning of what I'll have to refer to as an interesting series of service events.
Linda and I each pick a dish from the grazing menu to snack on while we wait for Jay, knowing it's going to be a difficult choice! There's some great sounding dishes so I know I'll need to come back soon to try the corn & manchego fritters or the pea & mint crostini. Yum, yum, yum!
I choose the Lemon Battered Whole Whitebait with Smoked Paprika Mayonnaise ($13). As I place the order, we're warned that it is whole fish to include the eyes and tail - but that doesn't phase either of us, we both love whitebait and eat anything!
The whitebait is delicious. Absolutely moorish, with crunchy flavoursome fish and that little hint of lemony goodness. The paprika mayonnaise is creamy and smokey, working well each crisp bite. I love how much just squeezing some extra lemon juice over the top enhances the whole dish and brings it to a new dimension.
Linda picks the Hand-Cut Chips with Chipotle Mayonnaise ($8) to satisfy her fries craving. They come out as thick golden strips of all different sizes, crisp and oily. They're pretty tasty! But a bit underseasoned in our opinion and sadly there's no salt on our table to add. The chipotle mayonnaise is missing that kick that the paprika one has, and is a little bland for my own personal tastes - but then again I do love my bold flavours.
When Jay arrives we get him sorted with a long mac and start perusing the menu for our mains while chatting with a little too much animation. When the three of us get together, we tend not to shut up!
The dinner menu here is made up of a decent range of dishes, basically enough to satisfy any craving really! I've heard from one of the girls in my team at work that the pumpkin and cous cous salad is to die for, but in the end the Pan Fried Gnocchi with Black Olives, Mushroom and Persian Feta ($25) is enough to lure me in. I'm such a sucker for gnocchi!
Jay chooses the same dish as me, but Linda opts for the Blackwood Valley Organic Beef Steak with Oxtail and Yorkshire Puddings ($29). She chooses it as medium rare and it comes out beautifully presented, pink in the centre with a nice char on the outside. She assures us it's incredibly tender and offers bites all round but I'm drawn to the oxtail and dive in for a try. It's so fatty which expected but since I usually have oxtail in pies or soups, I guess I wasn't quite prepared for the mouthful of lardy goodness it offered. Definitely an acquired taste that you couldn't have too much of or you'd start to feel sick!
Though I usually try to follow Jeremy's life philosophy with ordering food in not changing the dish. But I'm not a big fan of olives, so I choose my gnocchi minus the olives and Jay has his with. We repeat this to our waitress, but it seems this order created some confusion. A few minutes later another waitress comes by to confirm how we'd like the gnocchi dishes - to which we reply one with olives, one without.
About 5 minutes passes after that and another waitress comes by our table asking if the gnocchi without olives is totally without olives or just with less olives. At this point I have to admit I'm a little flabbergasted by the difficulty of removing a single ingredient. I can see Linda in shock next to me, and Jay unable to tell if it's actually happening! But after I bring myself together I answer again, one gnocchi with no olives, the other with olives.
Thankfully despite the difficulty in ordering and delivery, the flavours here are enough to make me forget all about that. The gnocchi is pan fried and oh so light and fluffy. Buttery potato gems that sit amongst sweet red onion slices and mushrooms of different sizes and textures. I love persian feta, and it adds so much to the dish, sweet creaminess and decadence. The crunchy fried onions on top add some great texture and little bursts of flavour..
After our mains have been cleared, the distaste of the gnocchi ordering issue has disappeared and we're all back to a happy place. We've all greatly enjoyed our dishes, so we're happy to finish off the night with a shared dessert. We pick the Stables Wagon Wheel - dark chocolate, strawberry and marshmallow ($13).
It comes out beautifully presented; a long gold foil strip with chocolate cookie shards scattered on top. Such a gorgeous deconstructed dish, with strawberry sorbet, dark chocolate mousse topped with sea salt flakes, little toasted marshmallow drops and strawberry segments.
Deconstructed wagon wheel
The strawberry sorbet is sweet and mouthwateringly good; the cookie crumbs underneath offering a nice textural element of crunch. I'm not a big dark chocolate fan as I've said a few times in this blog, so I find the chocolate mousse a bit too bitter for my liking, though the salt does add a nice difference to your standard mousse. The little marshmallows and fresh fruit are sweet and transform this dish into a real life broken down wagon wheel. Overall it's pretty good.
At the end of our meal at The Stables Bar, we're full and more or less in a happy frame of mind. This place has all the makings of somewhere great, but the service leaves something to be desired. It's such a shame because the food we ate was really delicious, but was it enough for us to come back? Maybe - I guess we'll see!