Taste of Perth 2014
I often say that food festivals are the best kind of event - after all who doesn't love a day or night or eating and feasting and dining away. So feeling like this it's pretty much a gimme that I was excited to attend the final event of Eat Drink Perth - the Taste of Perth.
This three day event at Langley Park is one that has recruited some of Perth's hottest restaurants, all of whom put up 3-4 "tastes" each for purchase. That way you can sample all different fare, and basically put together your own degustation meal based on things you like. I have to admit, the concept was very intriguing to me.
As one of the four official bloggers for Eat Drink Perth I was kindly provided with complimentary passes to Taste of Perth. My dining companion for the night was my boy Jeremy who I was glad to pull away from his paramedicine studies so we could get some time out together with food involved - bonus!
Our passes included an invitation to the gala event held in the Citroen VIP Lounge which awarded the Best in Taste winners. With a judging panel that included local foodie celebrities Gail Williams and Rob Broadfield, it was great to see Lalla Rookh, The Greenhouse, Bib & Tucker and El Publico all placing or winning an award.
After the official announcements (and for a little bit of time before too!) we dive into the food tasting for the evening. The official currency at Taste of Perth are crowns which are purchased in lots of $10 and loaded up onto your "crown card" for use as payment. We start off with $100 (= 100 crowns) on our card and after some quick scouting of the area, we decide on my boy's favourite restaurant, El Publico, as our starting point.
We run into fellow bloggers Chomp Chomp and Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse who are feasting on fried crickets and mezcal. What a fun way to start the night out! And a nice warm kick I'd imagine seeing as it's pretty cold here by the river when the sun goes down - I know I was chattering away but I'm always cold!
El Publico's stand
We order the Mexican street corn ($8) and lamb taco ($8). I'm a big fan of El Publico's corn (esquires) that they're famed for - loving that beautiful combination of charred corn and cheese. I'd hoped that this was a replication of that dish but instead we received two charred corn cobs topped with mayonnaise, cheese, chilli and coriander.
While a small part of me was disappointed, that soon disappeared once I bit into the delicious corn. Fresh, juicy and sweet the kernels pop in your mouth and are well balanced against the creamy mayonnaise, the salty cheese and the punchy coriander. It's a nice fresh way to start our night out.
The lamb taco is made up of pulled lamb, pickled vegetables and a pumpkin seed sauce. I like how tender and moorish the lamb is, working well with the tartness of the pickles and the sweetness of that original sauce. I love the sauce and just how different it is to anything I've had before. Very clever!
After finishing our starter dishes we decide to take a closer look at all the stands throughout the area. There's a lot going on with masterclasses in sake/champagne/wine at Brookfield Place Table Talks, cooking classes with Lurpak, and even cocktail making classes.
Peanut butter anyone?
There's also a variety of stands selling phenomenal produce and goods. The first to reel me in like a fish on a hook was "Pic's Really Good Peanut Butter". Oh how I love peanut butter, I really do! I chat to the owner for a bit and soon discover that this is the number one selling peanut butter in New Zealand and after trying a taste, I can see why. Nutty, decadent and just the right amount of saltiness.
I end up buying two of the medium size jars (at the back) which are two for $10 or $6 each. Naturally I get crunchy - because smooth peanut butter is a sin in my eyes!
Bib & Tucker's stand
The most amazing smell wafting from Bib & Tucker's stand causes us to make a beeline over to investigate. We see a spitted suckling pig rotating away over open flame, skin starting to blister and juices dripping out ever so temptingly. That sight alone is enough to prompt us to try their suckling pig slider!
Suckling pig slider
The slider ($10) is made up of a beautiful brioche bun stacked with strips of that glorious pig and a well seasoned and punchy fennel salad. There's also a little wedge of crackling which my boy gobbles up immediately before I even register what it was! I don't blame him - pork crackling is a rare commodity in our house, it disappears before it even hits the plate half the time.
The slider is one of the highlights for the night - it's incredibly tasty and a decent size for the price compared to some of the other offerings we'd seen so far. I love a good brioche bun and this one doesn't disappoint, it's buttery goodness in a bite!
Ocean trout tartare
Also from Bib & Tucker is the ocean trout tartare ($12) which comes atop a sourdough wafer, drizzled in harissa aioli and topped with crunchy capers. For me, this is a stunning dish.
It's so fresh and the flesh of the fish is soft on the inside but firm on the outside. It's got a great balance of citrus and seasoning, with the punchy flavours accompanying it. I love how crisp that wafer is though as a vessel to scoop up the trout it does get a little tricky to handle as I proceed.
After Bib & Tucker I spy Print Hall and notice straight away that the oyster king himself Jerry Fraser is standing behind the counter shucking away.
Both times that I've dined at Print Hall I sampled some of their oysters and fell in love. For me it's not about size with oysters - bigger isn't better in my opinion. I'm all about the smaller, sweeter oysters like these South Australian Coffin Bay beauties.
Coffin Bay oysters
These six oysters ($18) come served with a wedge of lemon and a small container of mignonette dressing with champagne and shallots. I'm salivating before I even get a taste!
The oysters are slightly creamy and have a nice salty aftertaste showing just how fresh they are. I love that mignonette, it dances on my palate and elevates the natural sweetness of this beautiful seafood. I could have easily polished off another half dozen but decided to keep some space in my stomach to continue munching through the festival.
The Greenhouse's parfait ($18) is made up of kangaroo liver, sourdough, sandalwood nut and quondong jam. A very Australian dish that I'd heard great things about and I was quite excited to try.
I have to admit that sadly it wasn't quite to my liking. While the texture of the parfait was extremely light and silky, the flavour wasn't in sync to my personal tastes. I think the intensity of the kangaroo liver was a bit overpowering and almost bitter for my palate which is such a shame because I'm a HUGE fan of The Greenhouse and their sustainable cooking ethos. Never mind though because taste is obviously a personal and subjective thing - I'm sure others love this dish.
After our stop at The Greenhouse we head over to the Rekorderlig Tent to meet up with the ever-delightful April from Exposure PR. She's invited us down for a complimentary drink which we're all too happy to take her offer up on since we both love cider.
Jeremy chooses a pear cider and I opt for the passionfruit. It's a cold night but the ciders are a welcome sweet interlude during our eating session. Rekorderlig is my usual cider of choice and I note that they have warmed winter cider available too - I make a mental note to return when the cold officially pushes me to the edge.
Virgin mobile's beats and seats
After our drink we stop by Virgin Mobile's Beats and Seats area to relax and watch the live music performing. The double person deck chairs are fantastic - I want these! A nice little seating selection to snuggle into with some hot food to warm you up.
Matt Stone's demonstration
Taking a break from 'tasting', we head over to the Blanco Taste Kitchen to watch a cooking demonstration by rockstar chef Matt Stone (of The Greenhouse). It's an interesting change of pace and I like the pause in walking around. It's great seeing someone so young like Matt doing such innovative and exciting things with food. He really has a wonderful respect for produce.
This one is definitely worth the wait - a perfect little pillow of pasta with seasoned mushroom and ricotta inside that holds together well when I cut into it. I love the little chestnut that comes out with the pasta, it's softened and buttery from it's inclusion in the sauce.
After we've finished our heart warming pasta (I really need to get my ass back to Lalla Rookh and try that $55 Chef's menu I keep hearing about), we head over to Bistro Guillaume for a final savoury course. We've been snacking on samples from varying vendors in conjunction with purchasing tastes. Some of these samples included bread from New Norcia Bakery, buttery slices of Atlantic smoked salmon, aged cheddars and caramelised macadamia nuts. While we're not full, we're reasonably sated so know that just a little bit more will do us just fine.
Chicken liver parfait
From Bistro Guillaume we decide to try their chicken liver parfait ($8) with crisp wafers to see how it distinguishes against The Greenhouse's version. I love parfait so I'll never say no to this kind of dish!
Guillaume's version is so lovely and creamy. I think the portion size is great for the price though I would have loved some more wafers or actual bread since the wafers couldn't hold much parfait without falling apart. But the flavours on the plate were just plain lovely - really delicious.
The lamb cutlets ($12) were simple but beautifully presented. They're extremely juicy and tender, practically pulsing when you press into the soft flesh. Inside the meat is plump and pink, the juices all infused back into the meat and bursting into your mouth when you bite down. The meat is well caramelised with lovely char marks. A nice way to finish off our savoury food for the evening.
For dessert we know we have a few options to consider. There's a giant salted caramel macaron at Bistro Guillaume, a pannacotta at Lalla Rookh and the beautiful chocolate garden ($16) at No 4 Blake Street. If I'm being honest I wanted them all! But I decided to rein in my usual greediness and just pick one - opting for the latter.
Walking over to No 4's booth I'm met immediately with a smile from a familiar face - Madjouline, the lovely lady who runs their front of house. She tells Jeremy and I teasingly that she hasn't seen us for sometime which we both have to admit we're way overdue for a return visit. I make a mental note to book in some time to drop by for brekky or dinner in the next couple of weeks.
The chocolate garden is a feast for all senses. It's a gorgeous terracotta pot with nuts, chocolate mousse, crumb and edible flowers. I think it's so stunning and when I bite in I know we've made the right choice. Yes, we have had this before at the restaurant but I love that I could take a trip down memory lane - and I actually think it tastes better than ever!
Simon Johnson cheese
While the chocolate garden was the perfect sweet ending, we know we have some crowns left and I'm incredibly set on taking home some cheese with us. There's a couple of different cheese stalls but we settle on Simon Johnson, which has a store in Subiaco that includes a walk in cheese room where you can cut off samples to try. Definitely my kind of place!
We sample their goats cheese, aged cheddar and brie which are all equally delicious. I love cheese so I know I have a battle on my hands picking what we leave with that day. In the end after chatting to the attendant I choose the haloumi because he tells me it's the same brand Bivouac uses. Sold!
Jeremy picks a 20 month aged cheddar which is dry, firm and intense in flavour. It's really nice and I know we'll enjoy this at home one night this week. It's a great pick.
The end of the night
The Taste of Perth event was a great celebration of this city's food and beverage. The restaurant dishes lived up to the festival's name, offering a taste of what you would expect when dining there. It wasn't a cheap night out but food festivals never are because you always end up eating and eating and eating! I regret nothing and loved every minute of it.
It was the perfect way to finish Eat Drink Perth and a wonderful Friday night to kickstart my weekend. I hope you managed to make it down to Langley to get your own Taste of this beautiful city.