I have heard some great things about The Painted Bird, but none of us had paid it a visit before. The menu looked great though, so I was feeling fairly confident it would be an enjoyable evening. And it just so happens that if I were to ever pick a night to come, this was the right one! Turns out it was their one year anniversary so we were brought out a complimentary glass of bubbly and an amuse bouche of beef neck croquettes to celebrate.
Fried treats will always win my heart over – especially ones that use diverse cuts of meat. I still think about that liquidy fried beef tendon we enjoyed at No 4 Blake Street one dinner long ago (I need to return soon I think!)… it was such a memorable bite. This one at The Painted Bird is satisfyingly crunchy on the outside, with the meat soft inside. It’s a little chewier than I would have normally expected but the seasoning is spot on. It definitely gets my tummy rumbling and eager for more food.
We decide to share a couple entrees between us before moving on to the mains portion of the evening. Our first choice is the Chef’s canapés tasting plate ($17.00) which comes out with a mini pork slider, chicken terrine, orange and miso glazed salmon with soba noodles and onion rings with tomato relish.
I leave the slider to Jeremy and mum and concentrate on the salmon which is soft, flaky and has a nice miso flavouring. I adore soba noodles (they’re a regular feature in my packed lunches I take to work) so I knew I’d enjoy these, slurping them up happily.
The terrine is sadly too dry for me so I only eat a little before skipping over the perfectly crunchy onion rings. The relish has tomato and chilli – and is really good, it works well with the sweet fried vegetable. Who doesn’t love a good onion ring!
Our second entree is actually one of my favourite dishes for the night. It’s the pork neck with squid, steamed buns, spring onion and hoisin sauce ($19.00). I had expected the pork neck to come out as chunks but it’s actually thin, soft shavings that look like ham. I love the flavours – the slightly salty meat, the sweet sauce and the vibrant spring onion.
We cook bao relatively often at home so I’m a bit of a hard judge on this sweet Asian bread and this one felt too dense and damp to quite hit the highs I wanted – however in saying that it was still an enjoyable ingredient on the plate and perfect to cut in half and load up the other items. The squid is also wonderful – crunchy, salty and not at all oily.
After our entrees are cleared we relax back in our seats and await the main event. Mum orders a margarita ($17.50) which she tells us is a bit lacklustre in flavour – lacking that real oomph a great margarita can have. Nonetheless she drinks it up and it’s a change of pace to her normal gin and tonic go to. I skip having a cocktail (though I want one!) since I’m still stuck with a bit of a cough at the moment so alcohol isn’t the smartest choice currently.
The mains take a bit of time to come out but when they arrive they’re all served at once, with all eyes immediately going to mum’s dish. She’s ordered the house made linguine which comes with blue swimmer crab, albany squid, coffin bay clams, chilli, garlic, olive oil, pangrattato and parsley ($34.00). I immediately have order envy seeing how much seafood she has and when I dive in for a bite I’m really taken by how strong the garlic flavour is, how perfectly al dente the pasta is and the crunch of the pangrattato. This is the dish of the night – we all unanimously agree.
Jeremy’s main of Margaret River beef 3 ways ($41.00) is corned rump, braised cheek, tendon croquette, fondant potato and shiraz glaze. It’s definitely a dish for the meat lovers and while I had initially thought the rump didn’t look the best, when he gave me a bite it was so tender and juicy – very tasty!
The fondant potato was soft and buttery, sliding open with ease as his knife made contact. There’s something very enticing about an amazing potato that leaves you wanting more!
My dish is named after the restaurant – The Painted Bird – consisting of confit duck leg painted with orange and mustard, wrapped in puff pastry, with truffle oil mash and duck jus ($36.00). It looks so pretty when it comes out to the table! Love the detail of frenching the duck leg before it’s wrapped in the pastry.
Cutting into the duck meat it’s steaming hot, but perfectly cooked. The pastry on the outside is crunchy and flaky, with the orange flavour coming through strongly. I would have loved to taste more of the mustard but only because I’m a huge fan of this condiment. The truffle oil mash is soft and rustic, working well to soak up the rich duck jus. The duck itself is quite plain so I make sure I scoop up some jus in each bite to give it extra seasoning and flavour. The plan of attack works well!
I would have loved on mine and the boy’s dishes to see some greens or vegetables of some kind outside of potato. While they do have some side salad dishes you can order for $9.00, I think just a couple vegetables on my dish would have elevated it to the next level.
Normally when mum and I dine out we don’t usually have dessert, but on this occasion we all decide we’d like to indulge. Scanning the options (all priced at $15.00) we each place our order and our food comes out relatively quickly.
Mum’s ordered the pear and almond tart with Frangelico ice cream and vanilla anglaise. Her dessert (like her main) is the best of the bunch. It’s light, with that sweet frangipane filling elevated by the soft pear slices. I really like it and appreciate the finishing touch of a pear crisp and candied hazelnut.
Jeremy’s dessert of banana and apple pudding with butterscotch sauce and banana ice-cream is simple but enjoyable. Butterscotch and pudding go hand in hand as perfect companions, and it’s nice to see something different to your normal sticky date pudding (though I am quite partial to this). He tells me it’s nice, though a little cakey and would have benefited from a softer, moister texture.
My dessert was definitely the ‘risky’ dish on offer but I really liked the sound of it. Maple crème brûlée, peanut friand and bacon ice cream was sounding very Elvis Priestley reminiscent and I had high hopes. I really, really wish I could say I loved this.
The bacon ice-cream is my favourite element on the dish – bringing the sweetness of cream and the saltiness of bacon together in harmony. At first it feels a bit polarising but the more I eat, the more I like it. If I’m being wholly honest, I find the peanut friand confusing. It’s more of a sponge cake than a friand, with not enough sweetness but definitely a peanut kick. It’s quite dry and so the only way to enjoy it is with some of the ice-cream – in the end I push it to one side.
The crème brûlée is soft and custardy inside, with a satisfying toffee layer on top that I crack my way through. The maple flavouring is mild, but still enjoyable. I really like the texture of the dessert but I would have liked it to be colder – it was a little on the warm side which brought out the egginess. Not a huge issue, but a personal preference. The little ‘maple leaf’ tuille on the plate is cute and delicious – baked perfectly and offering me a wonderful final bite.
All in all I enjoyed The Painted Bird and didn’t mind too much that our plans to visit Old Faithful were disrupted. We’ll get there one day hopefully! There were a couple misses but all up it was an enjoyable night out with my loves, and my mum was so impressed by that pasta she’s dubbing it one of the best she’s eaten lately. Happy first birthday to you, The Painted Bird, here’s hoping for many more!