Taste of Perth 2014
To say I was excited for the final few days of the Eat Drink Perth festival was a gross understatement. The first Saturday of my May month was dedicated to the Taste of Perth, using the Silver Crown tickets that I had purchased a few months before the date. Silver Crown tickets were only available for pre-sale through Ticketek, including entry fee and 30 Crowns (1 Crown = 1 Dollar).
I had scouted through multiple food blogs during the day (thanks Chomp Chomp, Breakfast Confidential, Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse and The Food Pornographer) for tricks and tips of the trade for the event. I also had a long hard look through the Taste of Perth Menu Card, which included a map, a list of the food stalls available, the different events running throughout the day and a menu (surprisingly enough, sarcasm inclusive).
I can get pretty OCD and that particular day was no exception. I had spent a good hour browsing over the recommendations made by fellow bloggers and friends who had visited the previous day, before doing up my own draft schedule for the night. The common key, everyone had said, was to be prepared and organised. So my sister, her boyfriend, my friend and I rugged up for a cool Saturday night and headed off to Langley Park, with my printed schedule in hand. On the schedule, I had organised the times of the masterclasses I wanted to attend, where each event was located, how much it all cost and complied a list of all the dishes I wanted to try. I have to say, I was pretty proud of it (#bigego).
We grabbed parking at Wilson parking on Terrace Rd, which was only a quick 5 minute walk from Langley Park. Parking was said to be a problem, so I went through Wilson’s Book A Bay system and reserved one online for a mere $8.50 for 5 hours. Winning! There was a line snaking around the corner as we approached, but the staff were ready to go. As we stood in line, people came past to check if we needed Crown Cards. We were immediately given our special bright pink plastic credit cards, which contained endless possibilities. Moments later, our tickets were collected and the herd of people waiting outside were let in, luckily a few minutes earlier than the official 5:30pm mark. Efficiency at its best!
Our plan of attack was to sign up to everything we wanted to go to first. Team work was put into motion – my sister and her boyfriend headed off to book the Sensology Art of Cocktail Making Class, whilst my friend and I put down our names for the Brookfield Table Talks and Lurpak Cookery School. We blazed through it and met up briefly to self-congratulate each other on our productivity, before we decided to put some food into the system, prior to indulging in some choice alcohol. It wasn’t excessively busy at this stage, which was good, because it meant we weren’t waiting in lines for a long time!
Our first dish of the night was Nonna’s Meatballs ($8) from Lalla Rookh. The meatballs were braised, submerged in a soft polenta and coated in parmigiano sauce. There were only two meatballs swimming inside our little container, so for $4 they were quite steep in price, but they certainly were as tender as anticipated. Best yet was the polenta, which was reminiscent of a gooey béchamel sauce. My sister and her boyfriend also ordered one between them, whilst sipping on a hot Rekorderlig and the standard cold icy version ($8 each).
We wandered up to the end of Langley Park to purchase the Pork Belly with Spicy Miso Caramel ($12) from Nobu. Hands down, it was my favourite of the day. Nothing is better than melt-in-your-mouth pork belly with a snappy cracking, and this one was in fine form. I adore the combination of sticky, sweet caramel with meat, so this dish was a great starter for me. The four portions of pork were covered by a line of red onion and possibly something like pickled ginger. I almost licked the plate.
My friend always raves about raw fish, so she chose the Yellow Tail Sashimi with Jalapeño ($12), also from Nobu. The fish was fresh and thinly sliced, curled up around a sprig of parsley. The jalapeño on top added some colour to the dish and a wave of heat (not too much though, luckily for me). It was the sauce that struck me though, which was soya sauce with a burst of citrus acidity, perhaps from lime, lemon or yuzu. It elevated the natural elements of the yellow tail fish. Delicious! It was so good that my friend went back for seconds!
My friend also grabbed a salted caramel macaron ($3) from Jean Pierre Sancho, which she munched on as we hightailed to our Sensology Art of Cocktail Making session. We also got a few macarons for the back home trip at the end of the night, after all the other stalls had closed. Luckily for us, we had a total of $6 left on our cards at the end of the night, which equated to exactly two macarons. Not only did we get two popcorn macarons, but we also got a bonus coffee flavoured macaron for the drive back. Thanks JPS!
We had paid 10 Crowns for our Art of Cocktail Making Class, which included a simple step-by-step guide to making and serving iconic cocktails. The purchase also included the drink at the end of it. The vibe of the class was perfect for a Saturday night – fun, loud and funky. People around us were dancing. Our guide for the session was at the front in a loud Hawaiian shirt, also busting out some moves to the music. Everyone was jubilant.
We got a station each, the four of us placed at one table. We were given black aprons and got a chance to suss out the utensils and ingredients in front of us. A poor, unwilling newbie at cocktail making (a.k.a human sacrifice) was brought to the front of the tables to demonstrate “how easy it was to make an espresso martini”.
We filled up our shot glasses with vodka, chocolate liqueurs and coffee syrup. When I measured mine up to everyone else’s, it seemed marginally less, so I was a tad worried…. until the man at the front sternly told everyone NOT to add extra alcohol (my sister, beside me, looked away guiltily). We crammed it with ice, stuck it in the cocktail shaker and shook the sillies out of it. A guy whirled by to grab it off my friend, giving it a vigorous, almost manic shake. We poured it into our glasses, froth on top (mine actually looked a bit naked because apparently I didn’t do a good job of shaking it) and decorated it with three coffee beans, in a triangular shape. It tasted amazing – sweet with a mellow taste of espresso. Easy peasy!
The cocktail making class was over very fast (it had been about a 15 minute session), but it had been an absolute blast. Considering you pay about $12 – $18 for a cocktail on average in Perth, to get a crash course on how to make one and to walk away with one in hand, was real value for money. Plus, I now had something to sip on as I waited in the long queues for our food, which was rapidly growing.
The Cheddar Perogies ($8) from Co-Op Dining were great, two dumplings with a creamy, cheesy filling. It was slightly crusty on the outside, but had a hot, oozy centre. I couldn’t really taste the caramalised onion that apparently had come with it, but a gentle sweetness came from the tomato puree-like blobs on either side. They were great to taste, whilst we waited in the mammoth line for Bib and Tucker. Though there was that massive roasted pig that distracted us for a while…
Ocean Trout Tartare ($10) from Bib and Tucker was sure to satisfy my friend, who as mentioned, is obsessed with raw fish. The ocean trout had a slightly tart base or marinade, eventuated by the harissa aioli that mingled with the fish. The fried capers were a nice touch, adding a bit of crunch to the dish, and a contrast to the fresh cubes of trout. The sour dough wafer was sadly a little more on the stale side and we had to ditch it, because it had become rock hard. This was the dish that got the most attention as we walked through the crowds and lined up: “What is that?” a lot of people enquired and we were happy to direct them back to Bib and Tucker, which had a lovely set up.
We also got a glimpse of the man himself, Eamon Sullivan. My friend went into a frantic panic attack, watching as Eamon Sullivan helped behind the scenes with the serving of the food. Olympic swimmer, Masterchef winner, owner of two of the best food establishments in Perth, constant food and dog lover as witnessed on social media. The man is a legend!
My Lamb Belly ($10) from No 4 Blake Street was mouthwateringly good. My friend commented that whilst it wasn’t the most visually impressive dish, it was still fabulous in flavour. The Lamb Belly had the tender, pink, fall-apart-instantly quality meat of any slow cooked fare. The fava bean tofu was a throwback to my traditional Chinese Hakka background cuisine, a personal favourite of mine – a spongy piece of deep fried tofu sat next to the lamb. A mound of earthy, charred eggplant puree sat on top of the pork, and along side it were dots of fruity pomegranate glaze, which actually tasted a bit like mango puree…
During this time, my sister and her boyfriend took the liberty of seating in the comfy deck chairs in the Virgin Mobile Beats and Seats. It was a psychedelic lit stage with local talent, including Morgan Bain, who ran a few magical acoustic numbers. Everyone was having a great time!
Our next event was the Lurpak Cookery School, which we paid 8 Crowns a head to enter. It was another event that was worth the Crowns, because not only did we get to cook two dishes, but we got to talk to the wonderful Julia Taylor from the fourth series of Masterchef Australia. Each of us were given a work station each. Mine had the ingredients for the ravioli with salmon in nut-brown butter. A lot of the ingredients had been prepped beforehand, which made me sigh in relief – could you imagine me pin boning a piece of salmon with fast accuracy? Disaster.
Meanwhile, my friend next to me was on the other side of the bench, in front of the ingredients for the salted caramel sauce. Both used Lurpak Butter, which was fantastic. The sugar and water was on the stove heating up and the water for my pasta was simmering away. The only thing I really had to do was cut the butter and dill up. Julia had warned us to remove the knife from its sheath before cutting. I laughed at this joke before realizing, as I cleaved through my butter, that I had done the one thing she told us not to do. Doh.
Julia ran two different commentaries simultaneously, one for the pasta dish, the other for the salted caramel sauce. My pasta came off the boil, I pan seared my salmon, and then added it all back into the pan to caramalise the sauce. I think I may have overcooked my salmon (whoops) and not browned my butter sauce enough. A chef I am not.
On the other side, my friend was having fun with her caramel sauce. The poor guy behind us had “man handled” his salted caramel sauce, by adding the butter too early, but luckily my friend didn’t encounter the same dilemma. She threw up her hand in order for Julia to check if the caramel was turning its proper golden brown, before adding the butter.
At the end of the session, we had two salted caramel tarts each, a copious amount of salted caramel sauce left over and a ravioli dish with burnt butter sauce and salmon. We also got a bonus take home recipe brochure. Julia encouraged us at the end of the 30 minute session to mingle, talk to her and eat. We did all three, also managing to capture a shot with her. The whole experience had been lots of fun, really funny (we kept on laughing at our incompetence) and very hands-on. High five for our cooking accomplishments!
At Bistro Guillaume, I ordered the Amelia Park Lamb Cutlets Ratatouille ($12) which had earned some high praise from my sister’s boyfriend. The grilled lamb cutlets were cooked immaculately, tearing away from the bone quickly, with its trademark smokiness. The two cutlets had been covered in the ratatouille, a rich stew of tomato, peppers and onion. Warm, great for the cold, and easy to pick up whilst we marched about!
The Salted Caramel Macaron ($8), also from Bistro Guillaume, was massive. Dubbed the “dessert sandwich,” it took up the whole plate and was sugar overload. It had a wonderful chewy exterior and the salted caramel ganache inside had a good hit of salt. It was still a bit too much sugar for me, but my sister relished it. She sure loves her macarons.
The Mango Pudding ($8) from Nobu, was possibly my favourite dessert of the night. The dessert was a scoop of velvety, fruity mango flavoured crème brulee, blanketed in fresh mango cubes. It was inundated with sago and coconut milk. The coconut milk was rather viscous and worked well with the mango. The buttery lime crumble was delicious, a twist on your traditional “mango pudding” affair. As I waited in line, I snapped a lot of shots of people, food and my surroundings. Alternatively, there would be times I would have food on hand to eat whilst I waited and luckily this was my saviour as we waited. The wait would be up to 10 minutes for some places.
We had to arrive 10 minutes early for our pre-booked session of the Brookfield Place Table Talks, which was free entry. We were attending a culinary discussion revolving around Champagne, aka a Champagne Masterclass by the head sommelier of The Heritage. It was exceptionally educational and we got to sample some of the top range champagnes from Piper-Heidsieck.
The head sommelier explained the characteristics of identifying different wines – the consistency of the bubble, the colour, the aroma and the notes. We were given an in-depth account of each wine’s origin, and were encouraged to help point out the different notes or flavours we tasted (someone hilariously said “grapes” at the back of the bench, when asked what she could taste).
We got to try four different wines of different grades – the Piper Heidsieck NV, the Rosé Sauvage NV, Vintage 2006 and the Charles Heidsieck Reserve. The length of each wine increased as we went down the line, indicating its quality. My friend favoured the rosé, for its pink pearly touch and its black cherry tones.
My favourite was the last one, a non-vintage champagne. The sommelier told us that it had been made from a combination of wines, with an average age of about 6 years. It was my favourite because it was sparkling with many bubbles, leaving a fizzy aftertaste. He also gave us an interesting tip on what food to match with champagne – surprisingly, it was popcorn! I must try that out one day! The whole session was very educational, plus I got hydrated after a long, solid period of eating food.
The Blanco Taste Kitchen with Paul West from River Cottage Australia was a definite highlight of the night. My sister and her boyfriend managed to secure us a row of seats, third from the front and luckily, being on a centre aisle seat, I got clear view of the cooking demonstration. Paul, an upholder of fresh, local produce cooked up a chicken salad. This chicken had been poached in milk and herbs, laid across a bed of cos lettuce and radish.
The best part of the cooking demo was Paul West himself. He kept a running commentary as he exhibited his culinary skills, which was equally witty, genuinely hilarious and insightful. The whole session was interactive, with questions fired at him from the audience (there were some serious fans out there) and he was also delightfully self-deprecating. The occasional interruption by the announcer, who had to redirect him to what he was actually cooking, also had us in stitches. It was so worth it for free entry. Behind me, a man had commented that “chefs were now like rock stars” – this would be the truth for Paul West, as he knew not only how to cook, but also how to entertain.
At the start of the Blanco Taste Kitchen, my sister’s boyfriend went around to use up the last of our Crowns. He managed to buy a few bottles of Rekorderlig, but also got me a Whiskey and Cigar dessert ($8) from Print Hall. This rivalled the mango pudding in its sugary glory, because not only did it look a treat, but it tasted sublime. Lorchan Ora, a blend of Scotch and heath honey, was layered as a golden, slightly gelatinous component on a beautiful, velvety vanilla panacotta. The cocoa nib and bittersweet chocolate cream formulated the cigar component, showcasing a crisp, papery wafer before the chocolate spilt out. It all worked together perfectly, though I felt bad about eating it during the start of the Blanco Taste Kitchen – biting into that cigar executed an embarrassingly loud “crunch!”
Before long, the end had arrived, with many of the stores closing up shop, ready to rumble for the next day. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Taste of Perth. It was exceptionally well organised from start to finish – at the start, people in line were handed passport sized menu cards that were easy and portable. Getting inside the event itself wasn’t a hassle, with smiles from numerous staff stationed at different points. There were plenty of chairs and tables to sit and eat, and picnic blankets were handed out when they started to fill up. Littering was counteracted by the sheer amount of bins. Crown Checkpoints and Banks were located at stations every couple of metres, in case you needed to refuel or check your balance. The use of the cards were also smart – bright pink so you wouldn’t lose them and non-cumbersome. Genius.
Every foreseeable problem was addressed, and it could be boiled down to the great organisation of the Eat Drink Perth team. The atmosphere was fantastic and there was a non-stop flow of entertainment – music, dancing, cooking classes AND a ping pong table (cool or what?). The Rekorderlig Tent turned into a Party House of 90’s musical hits towards the end of the night, its neon lights a glowing beacon in the middle of the event.
Compared to the Good Food and Wine Show, I felt as though I did a lot less walking, perhaps due to the fact that there were less stalls and everything was contained in a very accessible area – feel like munching on an El Publico taco while waiting for octopus at Bib and Tucker? No problem, they were right next door! Great example of a well thought layout.
The food was were rather expensive for the portion sizes (and the quantity of key ingredients per plate varied across the range) but the food was refined and of a high quality, showcasing talent and technique from some of Perth’s best chefs and establishments. It was certainly more of a “degustation” style as a result, but I heard very little complaints from my party at the end of the night. Overall, I had spent $50 on my Silver Crown ticket, plus loaded an extra $50 onto my card for a total expenditure of $100. This allowed me to attend all the events, plus I got several rounds of food across the savoury and sweet spectrum.
We were all very impressed at the speed the food was provided at, upon placing our order. The food came out super quick – it was either on the table ready and raring to go, or it was divvied up in a matter of 60 seconds. It showed professional kitchens, working efficiently in a foreign environment.
I can’t wait to return back to Taste of Perth next year. Next time around, I think I might purchase a Gold Crown and take more time to talk to the head chefs – they have wisdom that will surely expand the skills of any foodie! To 2015!
Rating: 8 out of 10.
In honour of all the great blog posts I read on the Taste of Perth, my Bites section will instead be dedicated to tips and tricks for next year:
- Get there early – Saturday night’s event opened about 15 minutes earlier than scheduled and we didn’t have to compete in lines to get food because it was rather quiet. It also gives you more time to browse all the stalls, many which offer free tastings!
- Plan out what you want to do and where you want to eat beforehand – it saves a lot of time and energy spent walking around aimlessly. Also, figure out the times of each session you want to go to – I highly recommend going to Lurpak Cookery School and the Sensology Cocktail Making Class. Though you have to pay, it is well worth the price for the experience and you get food to eat/a cocktail at the end of the session!
- Book the places you want early by putting your name down on a wait list (a.k.a as soon as you get in) – a lot of the places have limited seating capacity. For places like Blanco Taste Kitchen, which doesn’t have a wait list, go in at least 15-20 minutes early to secure good seats.
- While waiting in line, get some food to eat or have a drink in hand. Also it is a good idea to split up and line up in a separate stall each to increase efficiency.
- Have a rough idea of a budget – Crowns are non-refundable, so make sure you aren’t overspending! Crowns can only be added on the card in $10 denominations. It also gives you a good idea of what you want to eat and buy. Buying Crowns beforehand is also ideal.
- Keep record of how many Crowns you have. If you are like me and are bad at mental maths and have a gold fish memory, the banks are good for this, and I thought I saw someone with a sticky note on their card, with their current balance written on.
- Park at Wilson using their Book a Bay service. They usually have weekend or weeknight specials making it relatively cheap, close by and you won’t spend 100 years trying to find parking. I paid $8.50 for 5 hours.
- Have a hands free bag (ladies), a good pair of walking shoes/boots or lots of pockets. Otherwise you’ll end up juggling food, cards, paper and drinks all at once (this happened to us and we had heaps of pockets/hands free bags!).
- Enjoy yourself! :)