Varsity Bar, Nedlands

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Varsity Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Varsity Bar is quite the popular burger joint. The American themed bar, with huge mural of the “stars and stripes”, was heaving on a Sunday lunchtime. Tables full of punters devouring burgers, $5 pint cans of PBR American beer and Pyrex jugs filled to the brim with creamy milkshakes.

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The bar is found on the ground level of Broadway Shopping Centre, a hop skip and jump from UWA, giving Varsity a student bar feel, though there were plenty of “cough” older people chowing down on their burgers there too.

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The crowd at Varsity is pretty lively. It’s not a quiet bar. There’s sports on big screens, pool tables, ping pong and more.

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With Little Chef being an only child, we tend to think of where we’d like to go to eat and hope that there’s a kids menu, rather than take him somewhere geared at kids with an indoor playground and average food. Varsity isn’t a bar you’d immediately think of taking kids to, though there were quite a few families when we visited. I think its fine for older kids, like 8 year old Little Chef. There’s a kids menu so it ticked that box for us.
Little Chef picked the cheeseburger and fries ($10), which he devoured in next to no time.IMG_8937

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Itsara – Nedlands

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Itsara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Itsara, a high-end Thai eatery on Stirling Highway, is an unassuming spot from the outside. The modern restaurant is packed with locals and it’s not hard to see why, once you’ve stepped inside. Never in Perth have I seen such a breathtaking eating space than the garden dining room at Itsara. You can imagine that you’re eating in a Thai jungle as you are completely surrounded by the lush greenery of the vertical and hanging gardens.

It’s comes as no surprise that their thriving indoor garden is down to Head Chef and co-owner Itsara  Pracharoenwattana, who has a PhD in plant molecular biology. As well as nurturing this dining oasis, Chef Itsara also grows a great deal of his own vegetables and herbs.

We step into the busy restaurant and are shown to our table at the door of the contemporary main dining room, which has large windows spilling out to the garden dining room below. I can hardly take my eyes off the greenery long enough to look at the drinks menu. I choose a glass of Pierro LTC Semillon Sauvignon. The delicate drop from Margaret River has tangy stone fruit flavours and compliments Thai food well.

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Most people share dishes at Itsara, though you don’t have to if you’re feeling greedy. The tempting modern Thai menu is completely gluten free, besides a couple of deserts. The kitchen makes all their own pastes and sauces from scratch, using fresh ingredients, meaning MSG and other nasty food additives aren’t used in their cooking.

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Soon enough our “Pretty Duck” arrives, $18, which is indeed a pretty dish. Char-grilled marinated duck is served with fresh julienned green mango, shallot and cashew nuts. The sweet dish has crunch and is drizzled with a cracking house made dressing, made of pineapple and sweet chilli.

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Little Way – Nedlands

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Little Way Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Walking along the Swan River, past the boats bobbing up and down on peaceful Matilda Bay, it’s easy to forget that we’re so very close to the hustle and bustle of the city. Just up the road, there’s a new addition to the ever expanding Nedlands dining scene. Little Way is a casual eatery, open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. We booked our table for a leisurely midday meal.IMG_3543

Little Way is tucked into an old building that’s filled with character. There’s a nice flow to the neutral dining room, bar and outdoor area. The leafy courtyard would be wonderful on a warm Summers morning or for a sunny Sunday sesh with a glass of Pimms or two. On this rainy winters day, we’re happy to sit in a cosy little nook inside.IMG_3563

Little Way is a lot of things rolled into a neat little package. The early morning crowd love it for brunch and a coffee. By night it transforms into a trendy bar, where you don’t need a meal to order a drink. The wine list offers mainly West Australian labels, with a few Europeans thrown in for good measure.  The rest of the drinks menu is made up of interesting spirits, local craft beers and cocktails.IMG_3574

I need a caffeine pick me up, so I order a flat white, which passes my “no sugar test” with flying colours. I only feel the need to add sugar to burnt, bitter coffees and this coffee, roasted locally by Loaded Coffee in Nedlands, is spot on.IMG_3526

Our waitress promptly brings us menus and water. The lunch menu is perfect for people who want it all, with a mix of brunch dishes and some of their dinner offerings too. To begin, we share a few small plates. The grilled chorizo, $14, with a good squeeze of fresh lemon is moreish.IMG_3533

Next up, we choose the crisp sweet potato, tomato and spinach arancini, $10 for three pieces. I think there is a tad too much potato – I like more rice in my arancini. But they’re tasty morsels, especially dipped in the harissa mayo and topped with creamy lemon ricotta.IMG_3532

The sweet potato, tomato and spinach arancini are perfectly bite sized!IMG_3542

The delicately crumbed squid rings, $14, melt in the mouth. On the side is a lime, mint and avocado mayonnaise. It is a subtlety flavoured creamy dipping sauce, which could do with a touch more lime for an added punch of citrus.IMG_3537

We sit back and enjoy the bustling atmosphere. Soon our mains arrive and I am wowed by the slow cooked lamb shoulder, $28. A very generous serve of moist pulled lamb sits on a mound of green olive tabouleh and Israeli cous cous. The dish is bursting with middle eastern flavours and finished with pistachios, mint, preserved lemon and yogurt.lamb shoulder

Chef chooses the Angus burger, $23. The juicy beef patty is topped with bacon, caramelised onion and smoked tomato relish. Melted Swiss cheese oozes out of the brioche bun. Little Chef chooses the kids burger for $12. The burgers are both served with a side of rosemary salted chips, which are quite possibly the chunkiest chips I have seen. They’re a big hit with the boys and boy are we full!IMG_3546

The Carlins don’t say no to pudding – so for “research purposes” we share a dessert. The chocolate brownie, $12, is deliciously fudgy. Topped with a cherry compote, fresh strawberries, toasted almonds and a vanilla bean ice cream it ticks all our boxes.Brownie

For the most part the service is friendly and engaging. The only thing that lets it down is that none of the three wait staff that visit our table replenish our first empty water jug or ask us if we’d like to order another drink.IMG_3523

The menu is full of the usual culprits, though each dish is cooked well. Little Way is the proverbial little gem. A neighbourhood eatery fit for families, groups of friends or a casual date night. We like Little Way in a BIG way!

** First published in the Post Newspaper**

At a glance

Little Way

161 Broadway

Nedlands

Phone 08 9386 3639

Opening times

Tues – Sun

7.30am till late

Rating

food 4

service 3

ambience 4

value for money 3

style – casual Australian/Mediterranean

wine –mostly local wines, with

a few NZ and European drops too.

Chef – Alex Lim

Owner – Michael Walker

feel – inviting & cosy. Great fitout

and a fab courtyard for fine days.

wheelchair access – yes

cost

Small – $6.50 – $15

Mains – $19 – $40

Dessert – $10 – $26

all in all –  lively eatery

with a tasty menu to suit

most tastes. Service is patchy.

Excellent local coffee.

Marumo – Nedlands

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Marumo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We are positively giddy as we arrive at Japanese restaurant Marumo. I’ve been looking forward to my meal at this much buzzed about spot on Stirling Highway for months. I’m not sure if the hype surrounding Marumo stems from the difficulty of securing a booking or the quality of the food. I’m ever so curious to find out.

With Chef out for the count with man-flu, my good friend, the chopstick challenged Jennie is dining with me at Marumo. Currently the earliest you can hope to enjoy a dinner there is October. Online bookings open just once a month and the entire month is booked out in a matter of minutes. We missed out on a booking a few times, having to wait another 30 days to try our luck again. Finally, we struck gold – a table for two at Marumo!IMG_3327

The menu is Omakase, a Chef’s choice set menu, which changes monthly. We’re advised by the friendly waitress that a sitting can last over three hours, which is fine. The simple, elegant dining room is small – seating about 25 covers. We take a seat in the cosy corner booth area.

There is no wine list, so BYO is the go at Marumo. I’d recommend you bring your best bottle of bubbles or sake, to compliment the menu which mainly features seafood. Thanks to the efficient wait staff I never get to the bottom of my glass of water or warm green tea. Before the seven courses begin we start with an appetiser of sliced squid marinated in vinegar. The salty squid cuts through the sweet vinegar and leaves my tastebuds craving more.

Soon enough we are presented with steaming bowls of suimono, a clear soup with wagyu niku-dango (meatballs) and sōmen, very thin white Japanese noodles. The subtly sweet broth is made from two types of edible seaweed, wakame and kombu.IMG_3330

I absolutely relish the king prawn tamagoyaki, a rectangular Japanese omelette which is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg. Red quinoa, tossed with Manjimup truffle oil, sits on top of the tamagoyaki. It’s deliciously different.Prawn Omelette

Next is mouth-wateringly moist pan fried barramundi with pickled fennel.IMG_3334

Course four is Chef’s selection of sashimi. A platter of the freshest yellowtail kingfish, salmon and scallops is sliced to perfection and served raw. I love the simplicity of sashimi, dipped in a little soy sauce.IMG_3340

The dish of the night, Tasmanian salmon belly sushi, looks stunning topped with shimmering orange fish roe. Our waitress advises us that it’s best to eat each piece of sushi in one mouthful, so we taste all of the elements of the dish in one hit. It’s a tad unladylike, but we try to shove each morsel into our mouths as gracefully as we can with chopsticks. The sushi tastes even better than it looks.Salmon Sushi

A fruity sorbet of yuzu and navel orange arrives to cleanse our palates.

After a little pause and more green tea, a perfectly pink slice of duck breast appears. The tender duck sits upon a sweet potato puree, plump edamame beans and grape tomato. On the side is a little disc of onion, filled with a creamy Japanese style hollandaise. It seriously rivals the salmon belly sushi for my favourite dish, I only wish the slice of duck is a little more generous.Duck

For dessert we try something a little different, genmaicha mousse. Genmaicha is the Japanese name for green tea that is combined with roasted brown rice. A sweet granny smith apple gel is layered on top of the mousse and then topped with caramelised white chocolate and crunchy roasted rice tea. It’s not an overwhelmingly rich dessert, the almost savoury genmaicha balances out the sweet apple and chocolate. It’s very easy to eat.Dessert

Unlike other Omakase dinners I’ve had in the past, I leave comfortably full. Is Marumo worth the hype? Absolutely. At just $60 for a seven course meal that is full of technique, interesting components, quality local ingredients and most importantly exciting flavours – it is absolutely worth the wait. I better make my next booking soon!

 

At a glance

■ Marumo

22/145 Stirling Highway

Nedlands 6009

Phone 0431 040 899

■ Opening times

Tue – Sat 7pm to 10.30pm

■ Rating

food 4

service 4

ambience 3

value for money 4

■ style – Japanese

■ wine – BYO, $2.50 corkage

■ Chef – Moe Oo

■ Owner – Moe Oo

■ feel – cosy and intimate

■ wheelchair access – yes

■ cost

Set menu – $60

■ all in all – sensational value

for money – excellent food full

of technique, flavour and flair.

 

Pata Negra – Nedlands {CLOSED}

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Pata Negra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

David Coomer is one of Western Australia’s most celebrated chefs – with a reputation for sourcing top local produce and never compromising on quality. For years his iconic fine diner, Star Anise, was the place to go for an unforgettable meal.

His Spanish tapas restaurant Pata Negra feels like a small bar straight out of Catalonia – black walls, warm lighting, rustic furniture and charming mismatched glassware. There is a courtyard out the back, strewn with lanterns, a wonderful space to dine on a warm summers evening.IMG_0680

The wine list has an undeniably Spanish influence, with Tempranillo being a prominent choice. We select a bottle of smooth Pinot Noir ($85) from the small Dexter winery on the Mornington Peninsular.

The menu of share plates reads; Tapas, The Earth (Vegetarian), The Sea (Seafood), The Land (Meat), The Dairy (Cheese) and more – with four options under each food category. I feel a little overwhelmed at what to pick – there are so many tasty possibilities! Our waitress suggests we choose the “Vamos a darle de Comer” menu, which roughly translates as “we are going to give food”. For $86 per person, the kitchen sends out a random selection of dishes to our table.

Little bowls of mixed olives and spiced almonds, from the tapas menu, gets our tastebuds started. Next is xarcuteria (charcuterie) and we enjoy a platter of mouth-watering cured meats serrano, chorizo and fennel salami.IMG_0685

A chicken liver pate, with a layer of madiera jelly, has a depth of flavour so often lacking in pates. We spread it thickly onto sliced crusty sourdough and relish every morsel.IMG_0683

From “the sea” we try Arroz negro – a rice dish similar to seafood paella. The al dente rice, flavoured with squid ink, is served with a generous dolop of allioli – the Spanish alternative to aioli. We mix the creamy allioli into the paella and add a squeeze of lemon juice. This tasty dish is one of Pata Negra’s mainstays and I can see why – the cuttlefish is tender and the black rice has a perfectly thin crisp layer on the base.IMG_0688

The gold band snapper ceviche, with smooth avocado, cucumber and dainty little radishes work well together to make a fresh and flavoursome dish – with a punch of summery citrus tang.IMG_0686

We are served a cracking fennel dish, from “The earth”. It is served with garden-fresh broad beans. The flavours of the dish are well balanced with salty anchovy, creamy pecorino cheese and sweet basil.IMG_0696

The wood roasted asparagus, served with a more-ish romesco sauce, is deliciously simple. David Coomer also runs Xarcuteria deli in Claremont and this romesco sauce took me back to the time Chef and I enjoyed some scrumptious take away pork belly rolls and eating them on the Cottesloe foreshore.IMG_0692

From “The land” we devour the Rangers Valley skirt steak, served with kohlrabi, a horseradish cream and hot sauce. I’m so glad that we chose the “trust the chef” menu, as I probably wouldn’t have picked this dish. Skirt steak is one of those cuts of meat which is inexpensive and full of flavour – but often not cooked correctly. Here, it is so tender, it melts in the mouth. Perfection. The kohlrabi, similar to a turnip, is an interesting addition to the dish.Skirt Steak

We finish our dinner with scrumptious cinnamon doughnuts, house made ice-cream flavoured with Spanish sherry Pedro Ximenez, topped with plump raisins.IMG_0702

With new restaurants continuously opening in Perth, it is so easy to get swept up in the buzz and excitement and forget a little about the existing Perth kitchens that are doing an exceptional job. For us, Pata Negra is THE tapas spot in Perth.IMG_0704

** Originally printed in the Post Newspaper **

At a glance

■ Pata Negra

26 Stirling Highway

Nedlands

Phone 08 9389 5517

■ Opening times

Tuesday to Saturday

6pm to Midnight

Friday Lunch noon to 3pm

■ Rating

food 5

service 4

ambience 4

value for money 3

■ style – Spanish Tapas

■ wine –Spanish inspired

wine list. BYOW cellar

night Wednesdays

■ Chef – David Coomer

■ Owners – David Coomer

■ feel – intimate and relaxed

■ wheelchair access – no

■ cost

Small Plates- $6.50 to $35

Larger plates – $17.50 to $37.50

Dessert – $16 to $24

■ all in all – Delicious food –

perfectly balanced flavours,

interesting produce and

spot-on technique. Attentive

service and fab venue.

Wild Duck – Nedlands {CLOSED}

Wild Duck restaurant was an Albany favourite for over six years, winning many accolades and awards. In 2012, with nothing much left to accomplish in the great southern, the Chef-owners Andrew Holmes and Clinton Maclou upped sticks and moved their restaurant to Nedlands.

 

On arrival, we are greeted and seated in a small dining room, one of three intimate spaces at Wild Duck. It’s a modern restaurant, with quirky little duck statues and warm timber furnishings. Wild Duck is Modern Australian – fine dining, in it’s food style and very well regarded for its degustation menu. Chef and I opt to dine a la carte. The service is friendly, but off to a shaky start – it’s some time till we get a food menu and the first drink I order never appears.

 

We look over the menu and the entrée “Dam Buster” ($25) catches my eye. Soon Chef and I are holidaying where the original dam busters (a World War Two plane operation) practiced their secret missions – The Derwent Reservoir in England’s Peak District. So choosing that was a no-brainer.

 

Wild Duck 1The “Dam Buster” arrives with theatre. As the domed cloche is lifted off the plate, it releases fragrant spirals of smoke. The delicious smoked seafood chowder is held back by the dam wall – fish mouse piped along the plate. Perfectly cooked scallops and prawns are on the side. I can see why this is one of Wild Duck’s most popular dishes – it’s rarely off the menu.

 

Chef enjoys the charcuterie plate ($29). It’s brimming with small goods. A smear of chicken liver parfait, pork loin with confit pork, prosciutto and pork jelly.

New Image2We have a delightful mid-course dish. It’s a roasted potato consume, with a quenelle of potato and a drop of cream. We really enjoy this, it’s excellent and quite different. It tastes just like roasted potato skins.

The wine list is extensive – a mix of Australasian and European wines. Chef chooses a fab little red from the Heathcoat region in Victoria – renowned for producing premium Shiraz. The Archer Eagle Eye Shiraz ($84 for bottle) is wonderfully smooth. Despite the initial hiccup, the service is very good.

 

I enjoy Pork Belly ($39) for main (also with steamed pork bun, a sweet corn puree, grilled polenta and crisp apple salad. The pork is slow cooked for 16 hours; the skin is perfectly crackled. There’s a multitude of different textures on this dish, that work so well together. It’s a beautiful dish and I’m a bit miffed that the camera didn’t like the mood lighting very much. These pics don’t do the artful and precise plating any justice.

 

wild duck 3Chef tucks into the Beef Duo ($38) of braised beef and sous vide fillet is so tender. It is accompanied by veg and a parsnip and blue cheese sauce. Chef thinks the sauce was a good change from having a jus and it didn’t overpower the flavour of the meat.

 

wild duck 4For dessert, we share a Basil Crème ($16). The green crème is topped with a crumbled balsamic meringue and sweet tomato sorbet. Its the most unusual dessert I’ve ever had – perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea! Though the flavours are all sweet, it is essentially a Greek salad of sorts. We enjoy it, as a change from a traditional dessert, though my tastebuds are left a little confused. It is a challenging dish. It’s great to see these chefs are thinking outside the box.

 

Andrew and Clinton’s innovative food is a delight. It excites Chef and I. The technique and execution of the dishes are superb. The kitchen is also backed up by some fine young talent. James Cole-Bowen is on the Australian junior culinary team. Wild Duck is a perfect spot for a special occasion or date night – I’m hoping to visit again for sure!

The Byrneleigh – Nedlands

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We’re always on the lookout for somewhere new for a pint. The Byrneleigh in Nedlands is just a hop skip and jump from Sir Charles Gardener Hospital, Kings Park and UWA. I had no idea it was there till recently. It’s a funky little venue that serves pub food.

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We had lunch there recently. The menu was typical Perth pub fayre. We had chicken parmigiana with chunky chips and a daily special, Salmon with roasted cauliflower quinoa. The parmi was good, but the tomato sauce had an odd, slightly too acidic taste about it. The salmon unfortunately wasn’t medium rare (it was over cooked) but I enjoyed the quinoa.

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Admittedly, we wouldn’t rave about the food. But it was ok and with a good discount from my Entertainment Card, it was great value for money. The chefs just need to focus on getting the basics right.  I’m not too sure if I’d return there for a meal – but I’d love to go there for a few drinkies – it was a fantastic setting for that, with the astro turfed beer garden and funky vibe its reminiscent of its sister venues “The Aviary” and “The George”.

***The Byrneleigh is in the 2014/15 Perth Entertainment Book (2-for-1 main) ***