Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Everything in the garden is lovely.

Well, right now it isn’t. Right now, it’s a blistering 36 centigrade at just half past eleven in the morning. Summer, true summer, is finally here and out in the garden, the yellowing leaves and drooping stalks attest to the unrelenting Western Australian heat.

But I’m not writing about my garden today. 

There’s a little corner of Fremantle where I like to go because I have friends there and because their gardens are that happy mix of form and function that I can only dream about. I have every admiration for people whose gardens are full of little crops and fruiting trees; where the water from the laundry goes straight onto the banana plants and where the happy ranks of nodding sunflowers are destined to become chicken feed eventually.

Such a garden is Katy’s garden in South Fremantle where we went for a truly memorable meal the other day. I have been privileged to watch this garden transform since Katy bought the house just under a year ago and am even luckier to have been able to be on the receiving end of the goodies it is now producing.

A shady veranda is a good place to drink a cold glass of sparkling wine on a hot day. Home-grown cumquats, preserved in vodka and spices, gave a great marmalade taste when the fruit and the liquor were added to improvise a cocktail as well as providing a golden Christmassy colour. It is the season to be jolly and after six or so glasses of marmalady fizz, jolly is all that you can be.

 Drunken cumquats
 Cumquat & liqueur in a glass (and a bit of free promotion for Happs Winery in Margaret River...)
 Golden cocktail

Once the sun is down, however, the back garden, a wide space, flanked by eucalypt and Norfolk pine, and with brick-edged beds of veggies, was also pleasant as the Fremantle Doctor rolled in off the ocean.

Our meal came from the veggie beds in front of us and from the chicken coop at the side of the house. A fluffy frittata was the tasty combination of heirloom tromboncino and the eggs which Kay, Effie and Celia (the names are a chicken joke, you work it out) had laid.

 Curly tromboncino

The cherry tomatoes were superb. Pulled from a vine outside the kitchen door and slow-roasted in herbs and olive oil, they were sweet and flavoursome and my favourite part of the whole meal.

 Sweet scarlet tomatoes

The salad was home-grown peppery rocket with shaved parmesan. Once again, the freshness was so apparent in the crispness of the greens. 

 Homegrown deliciousness

As darkness fell, Katy got out a mosquito coil (it’s a West Australian summer – you have to keep things real) and some dessert wines. We had the choice between a Redgate white port and a Talijancich 10 year white liqueur. We decided on the latter because it smelled of Christmas pudding and it went down so well with coffee.

 A Tale of Two Stickies

 Vintage glasses

If there is anything better than good simple tasty food and plenty of good wine to drink, with friends, outside, in the summer, I have yet to find it.

I came away with a box of fresh eggs, a full tum and a wonderful sense of well-being. Yes, everything in the garden was indeed lovely - the food, the setting and the friends.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Christmas Train - verse, images and good wishes.

It’s Christmas Eve and a goodly part of today will be spent in the kitchen. My plans include the butter chicken curry which the kids have requested for their dinner tomorrow as well as a cucumber sorbet that will form part of the dessert. It’s good to be at home, my family around me. It’s good to be able to afford to give everyone a splendid meal and gifts that will make them smile. All is good and that it as it should be. 

It’s Christmas Eve so indulge me while I get a little philosophical. 

Some Christmasses (is that how you make the plural? Spell check doesn’t seem to like it.) ago, I wrote a poem for my children. One was still a baby. The other was a toddler newly-diagnosed with an intellectual disability. The challenges that lay in the future seemed huge and insurmountable. I wasn’t sure if I was personally up to meeting those challenges but I did know that I was going to have to give it my best try. The poem was my way of trying to put into words what I wanted for them both. Material gifts I could manage, but the other things were going to be harder to achieve.

It’s Christmas Eve so please be kind. I play with words in the same way I play in the kitchen. Not a professional, just an enthusiastic amateur trying to find a way to express what I want for my kids and what we all should want for ourselves.

It’s Christmas Eve and my gift to you is my poem, The Christmas Train. 

Love & peace & happy times in the kitchen for 2012


The Strawberry Thief


For my children.

One Christmas evening
While you two were sleeping
I sat outside
In the warm summer breeze
Sat outside under
The old jacaranda
Watching the Southern Cross
Shine through the trees

All of a sudden
I spotted a movement
Perhaps a comet
More likely a plane.
So I looked harder
And, scarcely believing,
Gasped when I saw
In the starlight, a train.

I couldn’t move
As the engine chugged closer
Pulling two wagons along
In its wake
All I could do was sit,
Marvelling in silence.
The train thundered near,
The world started to shake

The glorious steam engine
Was dazzling, was golden
It lit up the night sky
As if it were day
The huge wheels revolved,
Sending out sparks of fire
They turned on the track
Of the wide Milky Way

I saw that a driver
Was steering the engine
He clanged the bell loudly and
Oh! What a sound!
The chimes seemed to echo
All over the heavens
The sky shook
The trees shook
The petals rained down.

I saw too, a stoker,
With sacks full of opals
And these he was shovelling
Into the fire
Out of the chimney
Came puffs of pure rainbow
Which glimmered and curled
And swirled higher and higher

I saw the first wagon -
A wagon of crystal
This wagon was loaded
With wonderful toys
All carefully chosen
(For I recognised them)
The gifts I had picked out
For my little boys

I saw the rope ladder,
The puzzles, the teddy,
The bicycle, tricycle,
Tiny toy cars
The picture books, crayons,
The hoop and the scooter
All on that train
Which was crossing the stars

I thought of the months I spent
Saving, selecting
To get what you wanted
To buy you the best
I’d dreamt of your smiles
As you unwrapped your presents
And blithely agreed to
Your every request

Then came the next wagon
All misty and pearly
Its shape pale and fragile
Against the black sky
And inside this wagon
I saw all the presents
I wanted to give you
But I couldn’t buy

Beautiful, ribbon-wrapped boxes of talent
Vials of intelligence
Flagons of wealth
Sackfuls of happiness and popularity
Heaps of humility, peace and good health.

Cartons of friendliness,
Crates of good judgement
Stacks of longevity
Parcels of love.
Oh, how I wanted
To stop that pale wagon
And pull all those precious gifts
Down from above

The bell rang again
And the train puffed on upwards
Through clouds made of opals and stars
It steamed on
I looked and I listened
And watched it grow smaller
Then, just like the dawn star,
It gleamed and was gone.

I heard the bells ring
And I knew it was Christmas
I went back inside
You were both still asleep.
Neither of you had been
Disturbed by the engine
Your heads on your pillows,
Your slumber still deep.

I sat by your beds
And I made you a promise
That I’d do my best
As each Christmas goes by
To help you achieve for yourselves
All those gifts
That I saw in that wagon of mist
In the sky.

Notes that were written when I rediscovered the poem after a few years:
(copied October 2007)

I found these verses, incomplete – many lacunae, in a note book that was about 4 or 5 years old. I recognise it as having been written during a very unhappy Christmastime when I wasn’t sure what the future would bring and could only hope for the best. Interesting to note that I wrote this long before “The Polar Express” film hit movie theatres with a similar message about the intangible gifts that mothers want for their children. Perhaps it is a bit maudlin and sentimental but it did move me to tears when I re-read it after so long.

(recopied 2009 – fixed up the lacunae. It is not a million miles away from “The Night Before Christmas”, I see that now. I still hope that it bears more of a resemblance to W.H Auden’s “Here is the Night Train” because that was the metre I wanted to copy. There was a conscious effort to make it an Australian poem. The sentiments are still the same.)

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Maple caramel slice

'Tis the season to be jolly. I guess.

I want to be upfront about this. If you love the kind of house where every surface is be-spangled with tinsel or hung with decorations, where the halls are really decked with holly, where there are cinnamon candles and spiced room sprays for those wonderful Christmassy smells, where the front of the house has enough fairy-lights to power a small European country and the kitchen is stocked with baked goodies for rosy-cheeked visitors and carolling urchins to feast on...don't come to my house.

 My favourite Tudor rose tree decoration

While I think that cinnamon candles and spiced room spray would be great fun (because by spraying one across the other, you could make a huge Christmas flare - WHOOMPH! and everything smells of roast cinnamon AND singed hair!), my Xmas prep mostly consists up getting our modest tree out of the shed, shaking off the redbacks and throwing on a few baubles.
Even in the kitchen, where I feel huge Suzy Homemaker pressure, the lack of air-conditioning and the summer heat conspire to keep me out unless I really have to be in there. Still, Christmas baked goodies are nice and, because I want the kids to look back one day and have fond memories of their mother  - every now and then I try to extend myself to a few treats.

So here is a super-quick recipe for you to use or, if you want to be really jolly, you can make with the kids - maple caramel slice.

You will need:

250 grams of plain biscuits (I used Arnotts Scotch Fingers)
250 grams butter
a 400g tin of sweetned condensed milk
3/4 cup of maple syrup (the real stuff, because it's Christmas. If you buy 'maple-flavoured syrup' then you're just a big ol' Scrooge, you will deserve the resulting nastiness you get and and bah, humbug to you too.)
2 blocks Lindt 70% chocolate (you can use cheaper chocolate if you like, but the 70% makes such a nice bitter contrast to the sweet caramel)

First up, crush the biscuits - in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or in a food processor, it's up to you.
Melt 125g of the butter and combine with the crushed biscuits.
Line a 28cm baking pan with baking paper (you must do this or you will never get the slice out of the tin at the end) and use a spatula to press the biscuit mixture evenly into the bottom of the tin. 
Put the tin in the fridge to cool.

Combine the condensed milk, maple syup and 100g of butter in a sauce-pan over a medium heat. When it simmers, stir continuously until the mixture thickens and it golden - about 10 minutes should do it. 
Pour the maple-caramel mixture over the chilled biscuit base and return to the fridge.
Break up the two blocks of chocolate. Place in a microwave-proof dish with the remaining 25g of butter and melt in the microwave for 1 minute on high. Remove from microwave, stir until all chocolate is dissolved and the mixture is glossy. 
Pour over caramel mixture and return to the fridge until set. 

Cut into small pieces with a sharp knife...

...and and serve to rosy-cheeked visitors or carolling urchins.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Rottnest Bodge - Marlin's & Aristos'.

Rottnest. It’s a little piece of paradise off the coast of Western Australia. Think Isle of White and then overlay that image with one of Corfu or The Bahamas and you’d be just about there. The colours of Rottnest are blue, mainly blue, grey-green and ochre. It is simply, breath-takingly beautiful.

Private cars are not permitted on Rottnest so visitors walk, bicycle or take the island bus. The atmosphere on the island is one of relaxation and holiday. It is such a different place that it is hard to believe that you are only 25 kilometres from the mainland.
The trouble with places that look like paradise is that very often they feel that they don’t need to try very hard in other respects. Where Rottnest fails (and fails spectacularly) is in the provision of a decent place to eat.
We arrived at Rottnest Lodge on a glorious spring day. The ferry crossing had been smooth and we were in full holiday mode as refugees from the CHOGM-infested city. Upon checking-in, we were asked if we wanted to book a table for dinner as bookings were recommended. As we had agreed to meet friends for our evening meal, I replied in the affirmative and asked for a table for 6 people for 7.30pm.

We had a good day. The kids swam in the pool and then at the beach. We went to the general store and bought snacks for afternoon tea (but not too many, kids, because you don’t want to spoil your dinner). We rested.
At 6.30pm, we  went to meet our friends at the Courtroom Bar. I had heard the this bar, which touts itself as the only cocktail bar on the island, did good mojitos so as soon as I got there I ordered one. And it was a good mojito, not problem with that. When my friend, and fellow food blogger, C-A, turned up, she ordered a mojito too. Problem – they were out of mint. It had all gone into the making of my mojito.
The last of the mojitos
I don’t know about you, but I feel that if I were running ‘the only cocktail bar on the island’ and it was Friday night, I’d want to make sure that I had a good stock of garnishes and ingredients. I’d want tiny paper umbrellas and fluorescent straws andmaraschino cherries and pineapple and mint.
It was the first tremor of the earthquake of inefficiency that was about to happen. We sat by the pool for an hour with our drinks (C-A had to make do with a vodka and lime) and then at 7.30pm went over to the area which is Marlin’s Restaurant. If you go to The Lodge's food and beverage web-page, you will see that they begin by claiming that Marlin's is 'the best restaurant on the island'.
The restaurant manager checked for my booking. She shook her head. She sucked in her breath through her teeth. The booking had been made for two people only. I said that I had definitely booked for 6 people. She continued to shake her head while making “I don’t know” noises. It was like having to discuss plumbing with a particularly irksome tradie.  Eventually, having put us through this pantomime of gesture and noise for a couple of minutes, she presented her solution. If we would wait a little longer, she would organise a table for us outside in ‘their most requested area’.
Rule of management number one; if you can fix a problem, say so. (And if you are a restaurant manager worth your salt, you will know exactly how full your 'most requested area' is). Don’t play games with your customer by sighing and sucking at your teeth and pretending to scour the seating list and certainly don’t make them feel bad about what is YOUR mistake.
We were hungry and we said we would wait.  As it turned out, waiting for and not being waited upon, became quite the theme of the evening.
One waiter came and said he would be back to light our candle. That never happened and, as we were outside in the dark, that is why there are no photos of the food. Another waiter came to take our order. We decided to keep it simple – two plates of toasted bread with dips to start, two tasting plates of emu, crocodile, buffalo and kangaroo for mains. Two kids' meals for my children – nuggets and chips for one, fish and chips for the other. And drinks.
The drinks came, brought to us by Waiter #3. We poured our own. We drank and talked and waited. And waited.
My children are good children but they had not eaten since afternoon tea and they were hungry. The head of my younger son nodded over the iPhone game that we had given him to amuse himself with. My older son, who has autism and who is therefore not so good at diplomacy when he is hungry, started to fuss and say, repeatedly, that he wanted dinner to come.
We finished our drinks. We ordered more. We’d been waiting an hour. I had a look around the restaurant – there were a lot of tables where people were drinking and not eating. I flagged waiter #4 and asked her how long the food would be.
“Oh, it’s only two or three minutes away,” she said, “Um, sorry for the wait,” she added as an afterthought.
Two, then three minutes passed. Eventually, about twenty minutes after we had enquired, the children’s meals arrived and so did our starters delivered by waiter #2.
Now, the fish and chips and nuggets and chips were perfectly adequate, the chips were fat and chunky, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside. The nuggets were substantial and the fish fillets were a good size and battered lightly. There was lots of salad on the plate.
The bread and dips though were disappointing.  Each plate had four triangles of toasted Turkish bread and three bowls of dip. One tomato and chili, one tsatziki and one pesto. The pesto was the worst – it was straight from a jar, the kind you buy when you are too lazy to make your own. Now, in Western Australia in the spring, there is no problem getting hold of fresh basil to make pesto,or there shouldn't be. However, if the Lodge could have a cocktail bar that ran out of mint, it was not so inconceivable that  their restaurant might have run out of fresh basil.  To serve up stuff out of a jar is a crime, though. If it has to be used at all, it is meant for stirring through pasta and not for dipping bread into. The tsatziki was okay – supermarket yoghurt and cucumber strips, the kind I’d make at home. The tomato and chili was really quite nice – it was sweet and the chili had a good bite –but it still rather smacked of out-of-a-jar.
Question; how long does it take to lightly toast eight pieces of bread and fill six dishes with pre-made dips, assuming you have a professional kitchen to work in? Ninety minutes? I think not.
It was lucky that we were in good company because we had another wait ahead of us for the mains. These were okay too. The meats were served on little skewers and were actually quite tasty. We all commented on the different texture and the juicy quality of the crocodile skewers. The jams and sauces that they had made to go with the dips were also quite nice. C-A and her partner recklessly ordered a bowl of chips from a passing waiter (don’t ask me which one) and we took the opportunity to order the children’s desserts while there was a waiter around.
Again, the chips were delicious! And the desserts arrived on time for the children. (Quokka Crumble, by the way, is just a glorified apple crumble and not a crumble-bestrewn marsupial). Talking of quokkas - Rottnest's famous resident animals with the cute faces - here's a thought, I know there are everywhere on the island and i know they look adorable BUT when it comes down to it, they are flea-covered scavengers, quite verminous, and you should probably keep them out of the 'best restaurant on the island'. All the shops have anti-quokka gates and I suggest that Marlin's invests in some of its own. My older son was extremely bothered by the quokka sniffing for tidbits under his chair.
Cute outdoors but not under your dinner table.
It was late and for the kids, dessert was over. They finished up and went back to watch TV in our room. They had done very well to keep going as long as they had and now they were extremely tired.
We were asked if we wanted coffee and desserts but said no. It was getting on for 10.30pm by this stage and I think that by that time, everyone had had enough of the dining experience.
The bill for the meal came to $236.  It really hadn’t been worth it.
We retired back to the cocktail lounge for another drink. Things were looking up when we ordered (and received promptly!) some cheekily-named combinations. The “Thomson’s Bay” was a mix of blue curacao and Sprite; the Whole Lotta Quokkas was a take on a pina colada; Sex Down at Pinkies was equivalent to a tequila sunrise; and the Rottnest Me Crazy was the best one – it was Galliano and ice-cream and perhaps coconut. It was a cocktail dessert.
Thomson's Bay - very blue.

Sex down at Pinkies - is pinkish.
Rottnest Me Crazy - sweet and white and sticky.
A Whole Lotta Quokkas - let's hope there's no fur in there.
The waiter couldn’t help laughing when she brough the drinks over and asked us which was whose and she had to say the names. We laughed too and had fun trying each other’s drinks to see which was the best. We finished them much too quickly and then tried to order another round.
"Sorry, the cocktail bar is closed."
It was 11pm. If we wanted more drinks, we’d have to go around to the Governor’s Bar on the other side of the hotel. This was a shame, as I was just starting to relax and enjoy myself again after the dinner fiasco. We got up and walked around to the other bar. It didn’t have the same atmosphere. It wasn’t meant to. The Governor’s is a sports bar. Its currency is beer and spirits, not cocktails. Its atmosphere is less relaxed and more boisterous, as evinced by the drunken football team (wearing pyjamas with homophobic statements written on the back) who were occupying the bar when we walked in and who could be seen from our table when they decided to collectively wee into the bushes outside the bar.
My question would have to be, if The Governor’s could stay open past 11pm, then why couldn’t the The Courtroom? Once again, we felt that, as guests in The Lodge, we were seriously inconveniencing the staff with our unreasonable demands to consume alcohol and spend money.
I think, as we left, the bar, that I already had the beginnings of this blog entry in my mind. Certainly, when I woke in the morning and returned to Marlin’s for breakfast, I was thinking what I would get to write about a second meal there. Breakfast came as part of our room rate and, having had such a bad experience the evening before, I was curious to see if the restaurant could redeem itself with breakfast.
It couldn’t.
My heart sank when I saw the rows of steaming bains-marie  and heard the word ‘buffet’. Lifting the lids confirmed my worst fears – dried out hashbrowns  - 'there's no potato in here' said my 10-year old, 'it's just crust all the way through' - , cheap wrinkled sausages, oily mushrooms, scrambled eggs that had not been scrambled but were just a one huge piece of egg covering the surface of the pan.The cereals, yoghurt and fruit were depressingly quotidien. There was a queue to use the archaic toaster and no knives to be had. We sat down at a table which a waiter cleared but didn’t wipe down so there were toast and croissant crumbs everywhere while we were eating.
The quod room we had booked was the most basic type of accommodation which The Lodge offers, but even then we had still paid $300 for the night. It was a special occasion, out first time staying over night at Rottnest together, thus had we justified the cost. At those prices though, the standard of the morning meal should have been a lot higher.( Just to give you a comparison, at this moment in time, on wotif, you will pay $299 to spend a night  at the 5 star Duxton Hotel, $205 for a night at the Hyatt, and a mere $139 for a night at the Hilton.)
Let’s not even begin to talk about the coffee at Marlin's. Let's finish talking about it, full stop.
There are no photographs. I just wanted to get out.
Things were looking up by lunchtime. We went down to Aristos’ seafood restaurant on the waterfront. Fish and chips for $18 per portion, choose from beer-battered, grilled or crumbed. A special on chili mussels at $27 for a serve.
Crumbed at the back, battered at the front.
The hotter, the better.
I enjoyed this meal very much. They did a tasty fish and chips, the chili mussels were superb. But just a few things could have been done differently and made the experience so much better.
First up, when the server asked me how hot I wanted my chili, I said very hot. I love chili – the hotter the better. His response, “Are you sure?”
I hate being asked this question when ordering. Yes, I am sure. That is why I said what I said. I am not some child who needs to be cautioned by mummy when about to make an improvident order. I am not some ignoramus who needs to have the ingredients of a dish explained to me. (Such as the time at a certain Greek restaurant in Subiaco, where the pompous waiter said “Are you sure? Have you ever had it before?” when we ordered a bottle of retsina. Yes, we know what retsina is. If we didn’t, then the description of it on the wine-list would have filled in all the blanks, thanks very much.)
Secondly – I had no idea that there were still restaurants out there that used the evil canned, dried parmesan powder that smelled of vomit and haunted the spag bol of my childhood. But there it was, on top of the chili mussels and in a little bowl beside them. I am only a recent convert to parmesan (I had an epiphany in a restaurant in Canberra, but that’s another story…) and to be taken back to 1976 again was almost too much for me to bear.
A step back in time. Stinky canned parmesan. Plus a glimpse of tiny bread roll.
Finally, when you have a delicious big bowl of super-hot chili mussels (once you have scrapped off the offending parmesan) and there is lots of  yummy, burny sauce – don’t be stingy with the bread. One little roll does no favours and makes you look cheap and grudging.
Great food should be part of a great holiday and the places that we visited on Rottnest need to stop taking visitors for granted and to give them some decent food and some decent service. It’s lazy to capitalize on the fantastic view and location. It’s worse to give the impression that because there are limited places to eat on the island, you have a captive audience and you can be as indifferent to their dining comfort as you choose.
That said, it is a gorgeous place. I highly recommend it for a visit and I highly recommend using the free barbecues dotted about the place. I, for one, will be self-catering all the way next time I am there.
Go for the scenery, but don't stay for the food. 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Afternoon Delight: Petite Mort

First up: I am going to try and blog about Petite Mort without including any sexy euphemisms. If I do my job properly then "Afternoon Delight" will be the only smutty pun today. It's not easy though and perhaps that is what the owners intended when they chose the name. I have taken to calling it "Petite Mort restaurant" when talking or writing about it because otherwise it sounds a bit naughty when you say:

"I'm going to Petite Mort tomorrow" or

"Getting excited about Petite Mort" or

"This'll be my first time to get to Petite Mort".

How very dare you, indeed?!

As I have mentioned before, the restaurant is a very walkable 2 minutes from where I live. My partner was on holidays from work and I had decided to take a half-day. Having read in the local rag that Petite Mort were now doing a lunch-time special ($49 for 3 courses plus a glass of sparkling wine), I decided to take a punt and call them on the Thursday evening to see if I could make a booking. I was so prepared to be let down that I didn't even listen to the person on the other end of the phone properly and was saying "Oh, you're fully booked?" just as she was saying "What time would you like to come in?"

When we arrived it was quiet. There were plenty of empty tables and the majority of these filled up while we were there but there were still a couple of tables available which makes me think that if you want to try out this restaurant, lunch-time is a better bet than the evenings.

We had a table by the window, looking out onto busy Onslow Road and Bloomsbury Antiques (one of my favourite shops) across the street.

The waiter brought us menus and explained that we could simply order or we could have the lunch special. We said that it was the lunch special that we had come for so she indicated the list of dishes on the menu and explained that we could choose one dish listed above the chicken galantine and one dish listed below. After this she would bring us the dessert menu and we could choose one dish from there. 

Our glasses of generic sparkling white arrived. It was too citrusy a sparkling for my taste but otherwise acceptable to nurse as a single glass through lunch. I did wish that we had the time to order a bottle of something so that we could have the wine-list brought to us because the wine list is on a iPad and each table gets one. I rather fancied a play to see if it made a difference to a printed wine list. Oh, well. Next time.

Feeling a bit whimsical, I decided to theme my two savoury choices around duck. Duck liver parfait with brioche and rhubarb and then duck breast, apple ravioli, blood orange and liquorice. My partner, less whimsical than I, chose the seared scallops, herb pistou and spring vegetables to begin with and then decided on the potato-wrapped barramundi with pea puree and a quail egg.

The service was good although perhaps the young waiter needed to maybe not lean in quite so close while explaining what was going on on each plate. The first dish arrived promptly and was accompanied with a warm mini brioche for each of us plus a little serve of salted butter.

The brioche was beautifully done - crumbly yet melting and delicately sweet. I was glad that I had extra brioche with my duck parfait. It came presented on a skewer in little rounds and was decorated with potato crisps, thin slivers of warm radish and pea fronds. For myself I could have wished for the parfait to be a little more seasoned to really bring out the taste of the duck but the rhubarb proved to be the key to making this happen and this dollop of bright pink sour delight was, for me, the best thing on the plate.

My partner's scallops were fat and juicy - just set with a caramel-coloured char on the edge. They sat a-top a pile of vegetable pieces which were bathed in the pistou broth. A swirl of pea-frond completed the effect. The taste was pronounced as good as the aesthetics.

The palate-cleanser that appeared between dishes on cold dessert spoons was a surprise and delighted both eyes and taste-buds. Not being on the menu, I didn't catch exactly what was in it, but I am fairly sure it was grapefruit sorbet, watermelon gel and a tiny slice of mango. It did the trick admirably and we were ready for whatever came next. 

The waiter was at pains to point out that there was no such thing in this restaurant as entree or mains, but when they next dishes came out, that's how I thought of them. Sorry.

My duck breast was the tour de force that stayed in my mind for the rest of the weekend.  I know that when I go back to Petite Mort in the future, I will be facing the horrible dilemma or trying something new or going back to something that is so good that I couldn't not order it.

I had two succulent pieces of roast duck. They were stacked on a single apple ravioli and around the whole was swirled a blood-orange syrup and tiny green splinters of fresh liquorice root. There were toffee macadamias scattered over the dish. It was one of those taste sensations that you cannot conceptualise on your own and probably couldn't recreate in your kitchen at home. Magnificent. Petite Mort, you earned your name with this creation. It was phenomenal.

My partner tells me that his fish was also excellent. He had a decent sized chunk of barra with a thin potato-wrap around it that looked just like filo-pastry. He had a streak of pea-puree on his slab (I'm not wild about the whole slab-phenomena but am willing to overlook it when the food is good) which was punctuated at intervals with fresh peas and radish as well as macadamias.

Having exclaimed over the 'mains', it was almost too much to be asked to contemplate the dessert menu but we managed...

Eton Mess for my partner, bavarois for me.

The Eton Mess came on a slab again. This time, my partner did say that it was hard to enjoy the dessert as much as one could when every movement of your spoon threatened to push some onto the table cloth. When dealing with cream and ice-cream and sorbet, a bowl tends to be a good idea. That said, the ice-cream was beautifully vanilla and the sorbet was an elegant milk. There were little toasted meringue throughout and a scattering of fresh strawberry pieces and a couple of streaks of strawberry puree.

The bavarois was burnt caramel and came with 'chocolate soil' and pieces of frozen banana. Almost a year after Cyclone Yasi wiped out the QLD banana crops, I still feel decadent whenever eating banana. The waiter brought a little jug and around the bavarois he poured cold white chocolate whiskey soup. Heavenly, heavenly combination of white chocolate and whiskey. It was almost Christmassy!

The coffees that we finished with were good but quite the anticlimax after all the heightened taste sensations that had preceded them. 

We had appointments to go to in the afternoon so when we had finished we got up and went to the counter to pay. As we were handing over the ol' Visa card, the waiter arrived with some petites fours. We had been in too much of a hurry to leave, evidently. So we walked out of the restaurant munching a tiny madeleine, a delicate cocoa truffle and a miniature chocolate macaron with passionfruit filling and no photographs of any of them!

The whole lunch, with sparkling water and coffees at the end, cost us $115 and, let's face it, you're not going to get a much better deal for this quality of food at many places in Perth.

Currently Petite Mort opens for dinner in the evenings from Tuesday to Sunday and I'm told that it is pretty difficult to get a booking. However, they only open for lunch on  Fridays between 12-2pm and, for a chance to sample the menu, this option is recommended.

We will definitely return for a special occasion to try the other dishes and to play with the iPads.