I am in Perth for the Easter break after a wonderful flight and I an off to dinner at Friend’s Restaurant on a beautiful crisp Autumn night. I have been once here before and tried their tasting menu with some matched wines and am looking forward to another night of culinary delight.
The Restaurant has an old school decor very much akin to the private dining room in Parliament Houses or Private Clubs. Old fashion decor and hospitality seems to define this place with a little charm from yesteryear.
The liquor trolley is appetising and I certainly shouldn’t be left unsupervised around it.
We are seated and opt for the Eight Course Tasting Menu. There is a choice of three star or five star wine. I opt for the five star wine for tonight.
Perrier-Jouët Cuvée Belle Époque (2006)
This is a classic. The champagne is 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier. The seductive aromas of pure white citrus and stone fruits (lemon, peach and grapefruit) are complemented with delightful hints tropical fruit and refreshing lively floral notes. The champagne is not fruit intensive but is very much about its sensual, silky, and fresh minerality which leads into a long, fine finish. Incidentally this wine was handpicked by the Prince of Monaco for his recent wedding, which is especially endearing given my love of Monte Carlo.
Grilled Bremer Bay Abalone, Mushroom Duxelle, Crispy Pancetta, Breadcrumbs, Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
The beautiful succulent rich deep taste of the abalone with the earthiness of the mushrooms, the salt of the pancetta and the crispy grainy breadcrumbs and the light tang of the rich juicy tomatoes and vinaigrette showcases the perfect blend of textures, flavours and aesthetics. The abalone retains its firm position as the key ingredient in the dish with the other items working around it. The Perrier-Jouët’s freshness and floral notes provide the perfect combination to the saline richness of the abalone.
Hugel Gentil Alsace, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Reisling, Muscat, Sylvaner (2011)
The limestone and clay soils of the Alsace region provide intense minerality to this wine. The aromas of floral notes (mix of jasmine and acacia) along with stone fruits (apricot and peach) and some light spice notes spring from the wine. The stone fruit flavours flow onto the palate along with some light flavours of pear. The wine is dry and light bodied but well balanced with a lively acidity and a deep fruit sweetness in the finish.
Chilled eleven vegetable soup, blue swimmer crab meat, lemon zest, garlic and parsley and creme fraiche
This dish was super light and fluffy, a bit like the sensation of tasting a cloud (although I have never tasted one). The sweetness of the soup and crab is balanced with the strength of the garlic, the tang of the lemon zest and the acidity in the creme fraiche. The creme fraiche also gives a fullness to what is very light dish. A refreshing touch to the dinner.
Zarephath Porongurup Riesling (2011)
The wine has wonderful citrus and floral notes with hints of gentle stone fruits in the finish. It is crisp with fresh minerality and a vibrant acidity in the finish. A simple Riesling which has the perfect power of citrus and acidity to pair with the salmon.
Huon Salmon Ceviche, Avocado Mousse, Purple Tomato, Pickled Cucumber and Shallots
The rich oily jelly like flavours of the salmon are a treat, while the avocado adds a light creamy touch to the dish. The juicy tomato pairs well with the lightness of the avocado. The pickled cucumber adds a tangy freshness to cleanse the palate. Its very simple dish which is well executed.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, (2011)
The aromas of pears, nectarines and citrus dominate the nose with some notes of vanilla and cinnamon spice. On the palate the wine has the amazing sweet flavours of figs and quince initially which is balanced by some citrus zest. A series of nutty flavours and creamy layers flow through with a nice long finish. The nutty and creamy texture of the wine is lovely with the quail – again another well chosen pairing.
Roasted Quail on Truffle Asparagus, Soft Boiled Egg, Brussels Sprouts, Truffle Jus
The deep gamey quail meat is harmoniously paired with the rich earthy deep pungent flavours of the truffles. The soft gelatine egg white texture with the rich runny sticky yolk of the quail egg add a nice interruption to the broader dish which is contrasted with the crunchy texture of both the brussels sprouts and asparagus. The saline richness of the truffle jus delivers a combination of powerful flavours and quality produce (quail) to create an exquisite dish.
Castle Rock Estate, Great Southern, Pinot Noir (2013)
Castle Rock Estate is located near Porongurup (near where the Zarephath winery is located). The cool climate results in a very intense flavour of the wine. The pungent aromas of dark cherries and strawberries with hints of spice and liquorice provide a powerful introduction to the wine.
The wine has a wonderful silky texture on the palate with the full rich and intense flavours of dark cherry and strawberry carrying through. The oak bite is noticeable with fine tannins and acidity providing a long and memorable finish. The intense fruit flavours are capable of standing up to the strength of the Kangaroo which make this a perfect match for the dish.
Slow cooked Kangaroo Loin stuffed with Mushroom and Port Duxelle, with Truffle Potato Mash, Brussel Sprout Leaves with a light Cranberry Sauce
The intense and strong flavour of the kangaroo shines in this dish. The juicy succulent meat with the firm smokey crust is truly a splendid taste sensation. It is complemented by the earthiness of the mushrooms and truffle mash. The intense flavours of the kangaroo is balanced well by the sweet flavours of the cranberry sauce and natural saline streak of the jus.
Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Heathcote Shiraz (2004)
This is a classic Heathcote Shiraz which is rich in flavour, complexity with the opulent dense fruit flavours which one would expect. It was the perfect choice to pair with the beef fillet.
The wonderful aromas of cherries, plums with notes of oak along with some spice and soft floral notes capture your attention. On the palate the wine delivers with the full fruit flavours of plum and blackcurrant with deep peppery spice notes. The fine chalky tannins work with the wine to provide a nice blackcurrant fruit and spice notes in the finish.
Fillet of 120 day grain fed Black Angus Beef, Crispy Beef Terrine, Red Wine Reduction, Potato Wafers, Pea Puree and Vegetables
The rich buttery flavoured angus beef is full of flavour and juices. The sweet salinity of the red wine reduction is the perfect pairing on the plate which does not detract from the natural flavours of the beef. The pea puree is a lovely soft pulpy texture and balances the strong flavours of the beef. The potato wafers add a nice crunchy texture (and creativity) to the dish. The crispy beef terrine adds an further injection of richness to the dish while its unique crunchy grainy texture coating leaves a memorable impression on the tongue. The crisp and firm vegetables are a treat and work well to round out the dish.
The wine is 15 years old and the age shows with deep blackcurrant and tobacco aromas which flow through onto the palate although the fruit intensity has faded. There are hints of floral, smoky and light savoury notes which flow through in the finish along with silty and elegant texture on the palate.
Pyengana aged Cheddar, clothbound, Tasmania
Pyengana clothbound Cheddar is produced in Tasmania using original methods since the early 1900s. The Pyengana has a crumbly texture with aromas of rich herbs and light hints honey. A rich full flavoured creamy savoury taste with acidity dominates the palate. The crunch of the walnuts and the lovely sweetness of the fig paste is a wonderful accompaniment to the cheese.
De Bortoli Riverina Noble One Botrytis Semillon (2010)
The Noble One is Australia’s premier dessert wine and indeed Qantas even include it on their First Class Wine List. I am not a huge fan of dessert wine, but I do have a small taste and note the sweet syrupy marmalade flavours of the wine.
Black Forest Souffle, Chocolate Cream, Amaretto Cherry, Kirsch Ice Cream
The crisp super sugary fluffiness of the souffle is a pure treat as is the deep rich cocoa dusting on top. The rich chocolate flavours of the cream. The deep intense fruitiness of the liquored cherry which is also consistent with the kirsch ice cream. Its a amalgam of the deep dark chocolate, the cream and cherries which flow through to re-create the Black Forest experience.
The tasting menu with the five star matched wines was a perfect example on how to construct a classic culinary experience. The dishes were well thought through, firing on all cylinders with; quality produce, the flavours of the different ingredients interacting well with each other, a broad array of textures on each dish and wonderful aesthetics (both in terms of colours and general presentation). The wines chosen were interesting with some older and more unique wines to keep things interesting. The service was focused on being attentive and efficient rather than being overly friendly – although the hosts were charming. Friends Restaurant would have to be one of the best dining experiences in Australia.