Clarences, Mount Lawley
My friend was leaving for Singapore for a holiday (yay for annual leave!) and as a result, we decided to catch up at the Mount Lawley precinct, for a midweek dinner. I had booked at Clarences primarily because my sister’s boyfriend really wanted to try their weekly specials, in particular, their seafood paella. I had been to Clarences a number of times, on occasion enjoying drinks in their back courtyard, and had been there a few other times to dine. The very last time I had been there, the food hadn’t been particularly enjoyable. However, a year previous to that day had been a different story – when I had dined there with a friend, the food had been fantastic. I was willing to give this mixed bag another chance.
I made a booking for 5.30pm and was pleased to find the place mostly empty when we arrived. We were placed at a spacious leather booth at the very front, the air conditioner in full functional mode (it had been excessively hot that day). Water was poured for us instantaneously, and I consulted the menu, while my sister’s boyfriend informed us that there were indeed weekly specials!
For drinks, my friend went for the espresso martini ($19). I had a sip and fell in love with it – the rich, mellow coffee flavours were accentuated by the dash of chocolate liqueur. Luckily, the alcohol hadn’t been used too heavy handedly, which can often leave a burning taste in my mouth. The froth on top was delicate and light, reminiscent of a cappuccino.
The weekly special that my sister and her boyfriend had ordered came with a complimentary glass of rosé. I swapped my ordered glass of cider with my sister’s boyfriend, substituting it for the rosé (I’m more of a wine person). My sister and I were impressed by the wine we were served – the rosé was crisp and sweet, my favourite characteristics of a good quality wine. It was enough to make me giddy for the rest of the night, resulting in loud proclamations of how wonderful life was. I liked how the wine glasses had “Clarences” stamped on the front – it was a nice, classy touch, if not slightly possessive.
My sister ordered a bowl of hot chips with aioli and ketchup ($10) as an afterthought, which came out first before any of our mains. It was a wise choice, acting as a entrée to satisfy our growing stomachs, while we waited for the main course. The chips were generous in quantity, perfectly crisp and crunchy. The aioli that came with it had a very mild acidity and slight notes of garlic – it was velvety in texture and glossy. The chips had been treated with a spritz of salt, giving it its extra crunch.
The seafood paella for two ($40 with a complimentary glass of rosé each) looked mouthwateringly good. The waiter warned my sister and her boyfriend that the large, iron clad pan would be burning hot, so they dug into it with caution. The seafood, consisting of prawns, mussels and fish, were exceptionally well cooked. The paella was a little under seasoned, but the scents of the seafood really sung through parts of the dish. The bottom was beautifully caramalised, and the rice had avoided becoming the potentially gluggy mess that many a paella and a risotto can morph into. It was a beautiful, hearty dish, that was certainly value for money.
My friend and I shared two dishes, the first being the barramundi with potato bravas, edamame and furikake ($36). The fish was simply sublime. The texture of the fish was smooth and amazingly moist, with the pearly, lustrous flakes falling away with a single touch. The skin was pan fried, crispy and golden brown. It was some of the best cooked fish I have ever had. The potato bravas were delicately sliced and roasted, splashed with a spirited chilli oil. Barramundi has a medium oil content, so it didn’t really need the two slabs of herbed butter on the top for moisture, but it certainly added to the flavour of the fish. The edamame puree was a delight, marrying beautifully with the barramundi. The puree was creamy, with an feta cheese-like texture, and a buttery aftertaste. What an amazing main meal to have on an ordinary weeknight.
Our second dish was the famed chicken wings and chipotle sauce ($10). I’m the sort of person who loves tearing into chicken wings with wild abandon, ending up arms deep in greasy crumbs. This wasn’t the case with these chicken wings, because after spearing my fork in, it became clear that the meat was going to fall off the bone with minimal effort on my part. There was a dense, salty crunch from the deep fried skin, and the chicken itself was tender and moist. The chipotle sauce had the slightest acidity and was so light on the palate. The dish came as a wing and chicken drumstick combo, and there seemed to be an endless amount of them. Finger linking good.
All of us were keen for dessert, though the three of us girls were reasoned out of getting all four of the desserts listed on the menu. (“It will be way too much food and you guys are ¾ full anyway!” My sister’s boyfriend exclaimed). Our first dessert was the choc pot, marshmallow and vanilla ice cream ($12.50). I had the choc pot over a year ago, and was surprised it still graced the menu with its presence. It was just as good as I had remembered – the marshmallow was a sticky cloud of Italian meringue on the top, lightly charred by a blow torch. Beneath that was a rich, seemingly bottomless layer of chocolate, a conglomerate of decadent cake and a grandiose mousse. The vanilla ice cream was placed within a fluffy cloud of Persian fairy floss, which was an added bonus. The whole thing was heaven in a pot.
The strawberry and cava terrine ($12.50) was a slab of rosy jelly, strawberries and blueberries suspended within the jelly, like an abstract piece of artwork. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine, which was the most flagrant of the flavours within the terrine. The Cava had a melon-like pureness to it, but had a full-bodied aftertaste, straying away from the sugary components of the fruit. The kiwi sorbet was feathery, icy and sweet, but offset by a trace of sourness from the kiwi. The sorbet was my favourite component of the dessert! The pistachio soil added an extra crunch to the dessert.
The banana and coconut fritters with salted caramel ice cream ($12.50) jumped out at me, because if there are two things that compliment each other, it’s banana and salted caramel. Ripe bananas had been forced onto skewers, lightly battered and coated with a crumbly mixture of desiccated coconut. It was the healthy man’s fritter, using minimal oil – my sister’s boyfriend lapped it up, along with the ice cream. The salted caramel ice cream was grounded on a bed of toasted desiccated coconut, which added a minor crispness to the ice cream. I indulged in the ribbons of salted caramel that ran though the ice cream, like golden rivers. Delicious.
Clarences is the embodiment of classic sophistication. The interior design of Clarences is like that of a rustic American town house, with its exposed walls and its careful litany of wine bottles, maps and books. The interior is almost like a classy office space, one that belongs to a literary genius or a cultured, worldly aristocrat. Apart from Clarence’s gracious ambience, the service was genuine, friendly and professional. The staff were all exceptionally attentive, all smiles and simply superb in manners. Menus for dessert were provided that night without any notification, plates were cleared regularly and water was topped up. If your looking for a place to impress on Beaufort Street, check out Clarences!
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Address: 566 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley 6050
- Clarences is open Monday to Friday for dinner (from 4pm till late) and Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner (12pm till late). Closed on public holidays.
- Weekly specials available from Monday to Wednesdays, including house wine and ciders.
- Happy hour is 5pm to 6pm weekdays with tap beer, ciders and wine by the glass available for $8!
- Reservations can be made via phone (9228 9474) or through Dimmi.