Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Suite

 I don't drive. Heaven knows, it's not for want of trying. Apparently in certain European countries, after you've failed your driving test more than 3 times, they send you off for psychological assessment, evidently concerned at your inability to master the art of car-handling. What they would do to someone like me, who has held a learner's permit 4 times and not even got to the test stage, I dread to think.

How fortunate for me then that I have a spouse who is in possession of a full license. How unfortunate for him that whenever we go out, he has to be the abstemious one because he is the one who has to get us home again in one piece. 

Delicious cocktails are often off-limits for the responsible driver.

There is a certain appeal then, in having an evening out where a car is unnecessary and my partner can have as much wine or as many cocktails as his heart desires. The Suite on Nicholson Road is within easy walking distance of our house and is our current favourite place to go.

Taking a short cut around Laker Jualbup and up Derby Road, The Suite is on the crossroads on Nicholson and Derby. It's an intimate space - the front area accommodating maybe 20 people comfortably. In warmer months, there are a couple of tables outside on the street. There is also a private dining area to the back of the restaurant.

When we go to The Suite we usually start with cocktails. Why? Because we can. Also, because they make interesting cocktails. The Red Queen -photo above - is rum-based (white rum, thank you very much, none of your Bundy tastes-like-rum-essence ghastliness) with a little citrus and a load of berries. I love currant flavours and this was blackcurrant rich with a raspberry edge and lots of raspberry pips. My partner had the apple and ginger margarita which for some reason I didn't photograph. Maybe because he drank it so fast (I jest! I jest!). 

The menu changes seasonally (always a good sign - a chef who pays attention to what is seasonal) and at the time we went, it was still decidedly winter. The style is small eats so we ordered a selection.

To begin with - small loaves of bread, olive oil and dukkah.

 Warm bread and things to dip it in. Lovely.

It's a good thing it was an grown-ups only night because our kids are mad for bread and olive oil. This was local - from Wambyn Olive Farm near York - quite a sharp tasting oil which I might not have liked especially on its own but which complemented the dukkah well.

Hello, chorizo!

One of my enduring favourites, glazed dried chorizo, was also there and the glaze was a dark glossy Pedro Ximenez offering. You can be sure that some of the bread intended for the olive oil and dukkah was put to good use making sure that every last sweet salty drop of glaze was  mopped up and the bowl made quite clean. I recently discovered that my first cousin lives within a few minutes drive of the Pedro Ximenez vineyard and I may have to reconnect with her for purely selfish reasons. (Again, lest you think me some sort of opportunist monster, I jest!).

As we were finishing the chorizo, out came the next two dishes.Chicken liver pate with sherry port jelly alongside onion jam and breadsticks; Merguez and green olive kofta with tomato relish. The kofta was crumbed which, for me, detracted rather from the taste of the filling. All I could really taste was the crumbing and I'm afraid that made me think of what my kids would call "a Birdseye Dinner". My partner, however, really enjoyed them, The chicken liver pate, however, was lovely and rich and my only regret was that there weren't more bread sticks to spread it on. The onion jam was tangy and sweet and we cleaned that bowl too.

Another two breadsticks would have been ideal...

 Crumbed koftas - not bad but not really my thing either. The tomato relish was the best bit.

The last dish that we had ordered was a cassoulet with a mini baguette. We ordered this especially because it contained Spencer's Brook sausage. We know the Spencer's Brook stand at the Subiaco Farmers Markets very well. We have had their smoked bacon and their sausages before and think that they are beyond delicious.

The cassoulet was served in a cute little cassoulet-pot and when the lid was lifted, was redolent with the scent of tomato and herbs.

 Eh, voila!

It was thick and hearty and went well with the bread. I don't think it was the right showcase for the Spencer's Brook sausage - I would have rather had a crispy, dark-skinned sausage (the way I would cook it at home on the barbecue) on the side, rather than see pale soft chunks of it mixed into the cassoulet.

By this time, we were ready for another drink. While we debating whether to go with wine or to have another cocktail  - and I almost decided to have a White Mistress, simply because it would have been so poetic after my Red Lady - I saw what the people at the table next to us were drinking. It looked great and I could smell it from where I was sitting. When our table was being cleared, I asked what it was.

 Cocktail lust at first sight (and smell).

It was an espresso martini. (I am told these are quite common on cocktail menus so evidently I don't get out as much as I think I do). I ordered one. We ordered a couple of glasses of sparkling primo secco as well but it was the martini that had me excited.

It arrived, dark with a light foamy layer on top and sprinkled with coffee beans. It was strong and bitter and divine. I may have exclaimed upon the first sip. The espresso martini was my new favourite cocktail right away.

 Foamy fun and added beans.

In summer, The Suite offers a delectable basil pannacotta with tomato jam for dessert. In winter, however, that option is not available, so we opted for the next best thing - a trio of cremes brulee. They arrived in little shot glasses, crisp sugar topping with little biscuits in between. One was chocolate, one was vanilla and one was ...I'm not sure, so I'll just say generic creme brulee. My favourite was the vanilla for a mouthful of speckled creaminess. 

 Three brulees are better than one.

We finished with coffees - in mugs this time rather than martini glasses - then settled up and headed home across the park.

I do recommend The Suite and not just because it is a walkable distance for me. It's cosy and friendly. The staff are pleasant and know their way around a wine list and a menu. We've always been able to get a table - in summer or in winter. Plus, they have a bar license so if an excellent espresso martini is all that you require, you can get one without having to order food. I do, however, strongly recommend ordering food if you have the time and the appetite.