First, the trail blazing Brookfield Place, a hub of cool eateries and bars arrived in the CBD. Then Perth was positively spoiled with the State Buildings dining precinct. Now, Hibernian Place has opened in the city’s east end. Here, the stunning five star Westin Hotel seems to have sprung up out of nowhere and with it has brought a whole host of trendy restaurants and bars.
We headed to one of the most buzzed about spots, Garum, found in the heritage listed Hibernian Hall. The face of Garum is familiar, celebrity Chef Guy Grossi, of Melbourne’s Florentino Grill. What he has brought to Perth is not your ordinary Italian. Specialising in the traditional food of ancient Rome, the 120 seat diner has components like lucaniaca sausage, hand cut pastas, farrow and the restaurant’s namesake, garum (a Roman fish sauce) on its menu.
The immense dining space boasts the original high timber ceiling, exposed brickwork and timber floors, giving the feel that Garum has been around for much longer than a few weeks.
We’re seated under the vine covered wall and look over Garum’s wine list, which also takes inspiration from the Romans, listing varieties by colour. There’s “white” and “yellow” wines, white being refreshing and light, while the yellows are richer and fuller. Equally, reds are divided into “Red Blood”, “Purple” and “Black Wine” types. The wine list is WA heavy, with a sprinkling of Italian drops. I choose an Italian San Martino Prosecco, which has a lovely dryness. Chef opts for an earthy Silverstream Pinot Noir from Denmark.
Many ancient recipes are used, including the Roman sourdough, which we start our meal with. On the side is moretum, a herb and ricotta cheese spread, that ancient Romans liked to spread on their bread.
Guy Grossi, temporarily in Perth to open his first venue outside of Victoria, is painstakingly looking over each dish that leaves his pass until Head Chef Mario di Natale takes over the reins.
I find the raw kingfish Crudo ($20) cut too thick for my liking. The fresh fish is full of flavour, topped with barley, and complimented with the freshness of sorrel and cucumber, along with garum.
The delicate quail ($22), is brined and then grilled with honey, garum, fennel, currants and pine nuts. Tender morsels of meat are spot on, making it a delicious dish with a real peasant feel.
After our plates are cleared Chef orders another glass of the pinot. His glass is replaced, though it sits there empty for some time.
Chef enjoys the Amatriciana pasta dish. At $24, it’s reasonably priced. You can have a light lunch and glass of wine at Garum without having to blow your budget. The bowl of thick spaghetti-like pasta, bucbatini, is cooked perfectly al dente. The pasta, which is made in-house, is smothered in a lick licking sauce of simple flavours – pancetta, tomato and chilli, giving it a subtle bite.
Perfectly pink Akady lamb cutlets ($45), have a beautifully charred crust. The lamb is a little fatty, but bone-nibbling delicious, served with parsley, capers and anchovy. Sautéed radicchio is too bitter for my taste, even with a squirt of grilled lemon.
Now, to dessert. The brand spanking new restaurant is absolutely heaving with a fully booked lunch service. Our mains are cleared, but we aren’t offered the dessert menu for a good 20 minutes or more. Chef’s waiting on his second glass of red, which is still MIA. After trying to make eye contact with a waiter for what feels like an age, finally I wave one down and request the dessert menu. He is very apologetic about the wine and does not charge us for that.
The globi ($16), small doughnuts with poppy seeds, have a rustic feel. Unlike traditional doughnuts, they are not particularly sweet or fluffy, with a more bread-like texture. The honey ice cream provides moisture and sweetness to this tasty dessert.
A little disappointed by their gluten free menu offering, or lack there-of, I have a bowl of honey ice cream and chocolate sorbet.
Garum is full of well-cooked Roman classics, made with top West Australian produce. Once the service is polished I’d definitely return. If you love pastas that are the real deal, Garum is the spot for you.
At a glance
480 Hay Street, Perth
Phone 6559 1870
■ Opening times
Mon to Fri, 6am until late
Sat to Sun, 6.30am until late
value for money 3
■ style – Modern Italian
with a Roman focus.
■ wine – mainly WA drops,
with traditional Italian wines
from the region of Lazio.
■ Chef – Mario di Natale
■ Owner – Guy Grossi concept, Westin manage
■ feel –bustling and classy
■ wheelchair access – yes
■ cost –
Entrée – $4.70 to $22
Pasta – $24 to $28
Mains – $42 to $65
Dessert – $16 to $22
■ all in all – Soul warming
mod-Italian classics. Patchy
service, brilliantly different wine list.