With shiny new venues grabbing the Perth dining scene limelight, I want to show an old favourite some love. For me, Matilda Bay restaurant has been the setting of many a celebratory meal over the decades.
Matilda Bay is one of just a handful of big name, dare I say “old school”, restaurants that remain in Perth. Here, fine dining is served up in a relaxed atmosphere. But premium food comes at a premium price.
Watching the world float by on the Swan River is an indulgent way to spend a lazy mid-week lunch. A sunny winter’s day wafts in though the large, open windows of the Matilda Bay dining room, just meters from the river’s edge.
Our engaging waiter oozes the unpretentious feel of the contemporary restaurant, which enjoys a water view from most tables, as well as offering intimate booths.
The menu features strong Asian and European influences, as well as steaks that are far from ordinary. A purpose built dry-aging meat room was added to the kitchen some years ago.
Matilda Bay is undoubtedly the type of restaurant where you’d splash out on an expensive bottle of wine, and what a selection they have. While some bottles will set you back an easy three-figure sum, there are many mid-range options that are easy on the wallet, as well as the palate.
The Rockcliffe Third Reef Shiraz, from WA’s Great Southern, is a smooth drop. With notes of berries and spice – it’s the perfect partner to a first-class steak. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Bite-sized Shark Bay scallops ($8 each), are served on the shell with citrus flavours from Japanese ponzu dressing. Topped with avocado, shimmering flying fish roe, and delicate taro-root crisps, this entrée is the perfect start to our lunch.
A generous entrée of pork belly ($26) is crowned with crisp crackling and the familiar pairing of pork and apple. Creamy celeriac purée and crunchy caramelised hazelnuts make this dish a textural treat for the tastebuds.
We lose track of time, as we chat, sip and gaze out onto the distant city skyline. With just the right pause between courses, our mains arrive.
I procrastinate over several tempting seafood mains. Our waiter helps me decide on an Asian-inspired duck dish. Succulent duck legs ($45) have been glazed in honey, roasted with peppercorns, and served with a lurid purple cabbage puree, sharp apple and radish salad, as well as a chilli sesame paste for dipping. I love it.
Sides are a must at Matilda Bay, particularly with the steak dishes, and there are plenty to choose from. The poor Brussel sprout gets a bad rap. I share a delicious side of shaved sprout slaw ($12), tossed with cranberry, and smoked almonds.
Chef, ever the steak devotee, rates the Wagyu sirloin at Matilda Bay as one of his all-time favourite slabs of meat. With a hefty price tag of $68, this steak needs to be spot on, and it is. The 250g sirloin, dry-aged for 28 days, is cooked perfectly over flames – sealing in those smoky and intense beefy flavours. The melt-in-the-mouth steak is served with red wine jus, though Chef opts for the Béarnaise sauce for an additional $4, and questions if this additional cost is necessary.
Along with the steak, Chef tucks into a bowl of soul-warming mac and cheese ($12), with a big smoky hit of cheddar. All that brings the main to a grand total of $84. Wow.
We finish with crisp pillows of filo pastry ($18), stuffed with apple butter. The tasty dessert is finished with peanut butter fudge and vanilla bean gelato, garnished with a pretty apple chip.
The bill is eye wateringly close to $300. Is it worth it? For that special occasion, yes. The technique and organic, free range produce used by the kitchen are second to none. We do appreciate the un-stuffy service and the water view over Royal Perth Yacht Club is stunning.
We exit via walls adorned with photos of bygone days on the Swan River, from swimming baths, to boat racing. No doubt this stalwart from the heady days of the 1980’s will be here to make memories for decades to come.
In recent times we’ve seen a decline in formal dining around town. They’ll always be room for a few fine diners in Perth, and Matilda Bay Crawley is definitely one of them.
Matilda Bay Crawley – At a Glance
■ Matilda Bay
3 Hackett Drive
Phone 9423 5000
■ Opening times
Mon to Sat
11am till late
value for money 3
■ Style – Modern Australian
■ Wine – Affordable and premium
wines from Australia and
around the world.
■ Head Chef – Angelo Nico
■ Owner – Warwick Lavis
■ Feel – relaxed and classy
■ Wheelchair access – Yes
Entree – $4.90 to $28
Main – $36 to $68
Dessert – $12 to $18
■ All in all – an elegant spot
for a special meal on the banks
of the Swan River. Worth
pushing the boat out.