Bivouac. Just the hearing the name of the beautiful Mediterraneanish restaurant opposite Is Donburi and newcomer No Mafia is enough to make me breathe a sigh of happiness. There’s only a handful of restaurants in our glorious city that get me a little weak in the knees and I’ll never say no to visiting. While it might not be a fine dining venture, Bivouac is a place that never disappoints, never fails to deliver and always seems to find a way to highlight ingredients some of us may have long forgotten.
My weekends are usually purposely chock-a-block. Catching up with friends, indulging in some quality recipe time and of course spending time with my boy in between his shifts with St Johns. It’s actually quite rare for me to have a quiet weekend but recently I found myself with no plans on a Saturday night. While a big part of me thought it was best to stay in and relax, I also knew I wanted something tasty to eat – and didn’t feel like cooking. So I invited my mum out for a date night dinner which she happily accepted.
We both love our food, and I really enjoy taking her to new restaurants she hasn’t tried before. Choosing the venue was a little tricky as I ran through the options. Somewhere new? Or somewhere tried and true? And then it hit me – Bivouac. One of my favourite places to eat and somewhere I knew my mum was still to try.
Arriving for an early sitting we arrive around 6pm and the restaurant is already filling up with families and couples – many I suspect in for an early pre-theatre bite. I love the casual vibe of Bivouac where you get some people really dressed up and others relaxed and laid back. It’s all part of the charm of Northbridge.
Since it’s still quite hot outside we decide to kick things off with a drink each. My mum’s choice of spirit is always gin so she picks the G&G – gin, grapefruit soda and rosemary. I opt for a light blood orange soda mixed with ginger ale and thyme. I know it’s a little kitsch, but I’m loving this recent common wave of herbs being used in cocktails, they always add a nice dimension to the flavour profile as well as looking pretty in the glass!
The drinks here are consistently on point. They look great, are simple but yet go to impress with their taste. Bivouac also has a wonderful selection of wines to enjoy with your meal – and the staff are always ready to make recommendations on request.
The style of dining at Bivouac is recommended to be shared, which is definitely my kind of eating. Looking over the dishes there’s a small selection but everything sounds tasty. We throw around a few suggestions before choosing three dishes to share. We place our order and advise our waitress we’re happy to have them come out as they’re ready rather than all together.
First to come out is the pomegranate cured salmon with olive oil dust, charred baby fennel, pickled beetroot and salt & vinegar emulsion ($24.50). It’s a small dish but it looks so bright and enticing. The salmon is firmer than I normally prefer, but it tastes fresh and sweet; the olive oil dust melting in my mouth as it reconstitutes. I love charred vegetables and the leek becomes sweet and smokey at the same time. It’s a valuable addition on the plate.
I really like the emulsion which literally screams of salt and vinegar flavouring and is a nice contrast to the sweetness of the other ingredients.
When the salmon dish is finished the plate is cleared and there’s a wait of about 10 minutes before the next item comes out. The beauty of the salmon is that it is cold so I can imagine most of the prep is done beforehand with the dish plated up as ordered.
Our first hot dish is also our favourite for the evening. Comprised of black barley, crispy brussels sprouts, asparagus, baby carrot, beetroot hummus and za’atar labneh ($28.00) this is a vegetarian dish that will convince you that not every meal needs meat.
The black barley is flavoursome and has a lovely toothsome texture, complimenting the charred brussels sprouts which are sweet. I’m such a fan of brussels sprouts, they’re such an underrated vegetable so seeing them on the plate was enough to bring a big smile to my face. The beetroot hummus is pretty as a picture, vividly pink and a nice flavour. I find myself alternating between using this and the spiced labne as a sauce/creamy accompaniment to each bite.
It’s funny but over time I’ve really started to learn that vegetarian dishes are often the best dishes on a share menu. I guess without a main protein to fall back on, it becomes all about injecting flavours and textures into a dish with no meat in order to make it attractive. And when done right, I, the meat loving food blogger, can often fall utterly in love with a vegetarian dish.
Our final savoury dish comes out about five minutes after the barley and is the house special for the night (from their secret menu which is not so secret anymore). It’s Louisiana spiced lamb backstrap served with Israeli couscous and baba ghanoush.
Firstly, let’s just take a minute to appreciate just how beautifully that lamb is cooked! Plump, juicy and pink in the centre it was the star on the plate for sure. The spice rub is tasty and has a nice little kick to it for the heat seekers out there.
We’re both feeling quite sated after our savoury dishes, having cleaned up every last bite available but like I say (or try to convince myself), there’s always room for dessert. Spying the rhubarb, pistachio and orange blossom frangipane tart with crème fraiche ($14.00) on the menu, mum immediately has her dish in mind. She’s a big fan of desserts that use almond meal!
I love how it has a lovely Mediterranean come Middle Eastern twist to it. The pastry is light and buttery; the filling just sweet enough with that fragrant orange blossom flavour. There’s little rose jelly mounds throughout which is the perfect flavour companion to the orange blossom. I like the dusting of pistachio nuts too which offer some textural crunch.
My dessert choice is the chocolate, cherry and sesame crisp gelato sandwich with chocolate hazelnut dust ($15.00). It’s a generous sized dessert so I would definitely recommend sharing this one if you order it!
The chocolate gelato is rich and creamy, the meringue like crisp it was sitting on was chewy and crunchy at the same time. I like the flavours – it was savoury and sweet at the same time. I didn’t really like the top layer so much just because it was impossible to cut through with my spoon – when I did eventually have a bit I had to pick it up with my fingers. It was just a tad too chewy for me so I put it to one side and focussed on the rest of the dish was just plain delicious.
The little cubes of jelly were a welcome addition, sitting happily in a vivid red cherry sauce and next to the soft chocolatey dust. I loved the house made marshmallow (I have such a weakness for them) which was toasted so it was gooey on the inside – mmmm! All in all a pretty great dessert though I did have to wave my flag in defeat as I fell short of completing it, I was too full sadly even though my greediness kept pushing me to keep going.
Like I said at the start of this post, Bivouac is one of my favourite places to dine at in Perth. Every meal there is one that leaves me grinning with happiness, elating from slurping, munching and crunching my way through tasty plate after tasty plate. There’s a reason I keep returning here and I think my love affair with this place grows more and more each time.