Brrr baby it’s getting cold outside! But between you and me, I actually don’t mind – I have a bit of a weak spot for winter. I love rugging up on the couch, layering on scarves and jackets, and of course indulging in some comfort food. And trying Five Bar’s new menu by Neal Jackson with steaming mugs of mulled wine, well that definitely sounds comforting to me.
It’s always exciting to me to try a new menu, and after my recent dinner at Lot Twenty as part of Eat Drink Perth, I was eager to see what the chef had come up with for the venue. Invited to attend with my foodie friends Grace, Laura and Bryony, it was an ideal way to catch up with girl chat while feasting away.
It was a frosty night, but thankfully the generous heating inside made me forget the weather the moment I entered the dimly lit venue – doing the trick before I even took a sip of that delicious mulled wine they have here. I just love mulled beverages with their heady combination of clove, cinnamon and other warming spices. I’m becoming more and more obsessed if I’m being honest!
With our drinks in hand, we settled in to our seats and dissected the menu. Being the somewhat greedy girls we are, lots of dishes were ordered quickly – and before long, they started hitting our table.
The hiramasa kingfish crudo ($18.00) was delightful and actually one of my favourite dishes for the night even though it was the first I tried. Served simply with a sichuan dressing and pickled cucumber, it was fresh and firm – the fish really shining on the plate. I liked the heat of the dressing that contrasted the tartness of the pickle.
Our plate of torched salmon sashimi ($18.00) came out with wakame, pickled ginger and wasabi mayonnaise. I just love aburi salmon and this had a playful nod to the Japanese dish, with bold flavours that offset the oiliness of the fish. I really like seeing seaweed on menus more and more as it’s something I grew up eating as a snack when I was young (can you believe I got teased a little for eating it in primary school and now it’s so common!).
The Korean steak tartare ($18.00) sounded like my kind of dish for sure with it’s oyster mayonnaise, kimchi, wolf berries and prawn crackers. Yes, you’re not alone if the description has you thinking of Mary’s version when it was still open for trading (oh how I miss them so much).
However the flavour profile was completely different here. Great produce used for the steak, which melted in my mouth with each bite. However I did find that the sweet tartness of the kimchi was really overwhelming and detracted from the subtleness of the rest of the ingredients in the dish.
The sticky beef fingers ($12.00) however were a completely different story. Red wine braised rib meat was served simply with a glaze and slices of chilli and spring onion. Morish – yes, and oh so sticky. These were rich and make for a great bar snack at this venue.
By this stage the food was pumping out quickly, and the lights dimming around us. The crispy skinned barramundi ($19.00) really showed Neal’s European cooking style with it’s mussels, smashed peas and saffron sauce.
The flesh of the fish was steaming hot and flaky, the skin living up to it’s promised texture. The use of the other ingredients managed to detract from any mudiness (which can be a risk with barramundi), and though I’d read the menu I’d forgotten mussels were included so that was a nice surprise.
Though it’s a slightly more predictable menu item at a bar, I loved the salt and pepper squid with kimchi mayonnaise ($12.00). It was just so tender to bite into once you hit the actual seafood which was encased in a crunchy coating. Generously seasoned, punchy sauce and slightly addictive, I went back over and over for these. A staple menu item definitely executed well.
When Bryony and I saw the morcilla ($18.00) on the menu, we were both really insistent on ordering it. We both love black pudding, and Five Bar’s version comes with a potato cake and gooey fried egg making it almost like a decadent nod to breakfast. I’m not really sure that it was a comprehensive plate of food, though each individual element was tasty.
Though we were feeling quite sated by that stage, Neal sent out a couple additional savoury dishes for us to enjoy which was a lovely treat.
The sautéed mushrooms and spinach ($14.00) are a simple but tasty winter’s salad with the addition of zataar and roasted almonds. While it’s a vegan dish it was quite hearty and flavoursome, and I can imagine would be a popular choice to accompany the meatier dishes.
Not listed on the menu (but I believe is a common occurring special) was the oyster omelette. This dish has a bit of a special place in my heart as it’s based off a Taiwanese classic recipe that I’ve had quite a lot of times in the past at various night markets in Asia. Cooked in a hot wok with small, sweet oysters wrapped in a egg and potato starch mixture, it’s then covered in a spicy sauce.
Five Bar’s version wasn’t the same as the ones I’ve had overseas but it was still popular on the table. It was a refined, western version that might not be up everyone’s alley, but it pulled on some memory strings for me. I think a hotter wok to get more smokiness would have sealed the deal.
Transitioning from savoury to sweet, we decided to share between us all three different desserts on offer. First to come out was the camembert, apple and bacon strudel ($17.00) which was presented simply and rustically.
While on paper it sounded delicious, I think this was more of an entree than dessert. Enjoyable, but lacking a saccharine hit that I like to associate with this course. The pastry was obviously made in-house, with a nice layered texture and oozy cheese filling. This was definitely more savoury than sweet.
The bourbon and pecan chocolate pie ($10.00) with bourbon sauce and cream was a rich offering, crumbly and well balanced. It reminded me of a pie version of a cookie, with a boozy kick! Again not quite as strong as I’d have liked for a sweet ending, but that’s a personal preference.
My favourite of the desserts was the sherry trifle with strawberry, mango and coconut ($10.00). Another boozy dessert but it was playful in it’s flavours, with the taste reminding me of your classic trifle. A bit retro perhaps, but I’ve always been a fan of trifles so I thought it really hit the spot.
My favourite meals are ones that end in both dessert and a cheese board. I can never choose between them, so having both is a real treat!
Our board included Maffra Ash cheddar with pickled vegetables and rye ($14.00), Overman blue cheese with candied nuts and croute ($14.00) and what I think from memory was a camembert cheese too. Perfect to enjoy with a glass of red wine (or more mulled wine in my case) to finish off a great evening of eating, chatting and laughing.
The new menu at Five Bar is a welcome breath of fresh air in the dining scene of Mount Lawley. With a European spin on the food, it’s a nice point of difference to other offerings nearby. I think that it’s nice to see some diversity, but I do question the pan Asian influence in the menu as the strength of having Neal Jackson on board lies with his wealth of experience. Just a casual observation, but in all the food for the most part delivered and was just the thing for our girls night out.