When a new restaurant opens in Perth it can get a bit of fanfare regardless of it’s stature or offering. But when a great restaurant opens, that’s a whole other story. New Normal Bar + Kitchen opened its doors back in June 2017, and with it came a long list of admiration and accolades including WA Good Food Guide’s 2017 New Restaurant of the Year.
So it was a long list of reasons pushing me to try this place – but I kept insisting we do it for a special occasion. And what better reason than for us to celebrate our recent engagement. Just Jeremy and I, dolled up, Ubering in, ready to devour plate after plate, glass after glass of what this new Subiaco powerhouse has to offer. The expectation level was pretty damn big.
What’s particularly exciting for me about New Normal is I’ve known one of the owners for over a decade now. We used to work together back in our heyday at Metro City, and over the years we’ve run into each other at various events as we transitioned our party ways into a mutual obsession with food. I love supporting people I know who are doing great things locally with their small businesses, and so it was yet another notch determining our fate to visit.
Arriving just before dark on a Saturday night we were welcomed warmly and given the option to sit at a table or the kitchen pass. Obviously we chose the latter so we had a prime view of the masters at work under Chef Charlie Vargas’s watchful eye, and it allowed us to lurk on every dish pumping out before our eyes.
New Normal has a dedication to eliminating waste in every part of their operations and are true to their word with chalkboard menus on the wall rather than printing paper ones. We were happy scanning it over, while waiting for our drinks (Deep Woods Harmony rose for me and Hannah’s Hill cab merlot for Jeremy) and a plate of wood-fired housemade rye bread with aerated duck liver parfait and rhubarb.
This dish should have brought alarm bells my way. I am easily the biggest parfait fiend ever (you name it, I’ll go there to eat it) so an aerated version worried me. And interestingly John Lethlean in his review in The Australian didn’t enjoy this dish – so what would I think?
It was great. Playful, yes, but also still quite thoughtful. The parfait wasn’t so light that it disappeared when you spread it, and it had a wonderful flavour from the preparation process. It’s easy to see with this dish alone how respectful the team here are with the West Australian ingredients used in the seasonal menu.
The kingfish with buttermilk, melon and air-dried beef was our next to come out, and looked beautiful. Kingfish is such a lovely protein to enjoy sashimi style, and it sung with the pops of salt from the beef and the compressed cubes of melon.
It was well accompanied by the following dish, which was actually my favourite for the evening. Local Torbay asparagus with orange sabayon, native pepperberry and cured egg yolk. You could tell it was almost the end of asparagus season when we were served this as the stalks were on the skinny side, but luckily they still had great sweetness which worked well with the creamy sauce accompanying it. Perhaps simple, but the torched preparation of this vegetable left me almost speechless – which if you know me at all is a big feat!
New to the menu that night was the prawns with scorched corn and chilli. Cut open for easy shell removal, they were cooked spot on retaining some bite with each mouthful. Jeremy was quick to declare this as his dish of the evening, and I have to say it was a very close second for me. Once again, it was a case of ingredient respect – they really put the spotlight on produce which I value so much.
Our final savoury for the evening was another vegetarian dish – and after the asparagus I was ready for what this one would bring. Plated sophisticatedly sat piles of courgette, squash, broad bean and ricotta. Flavours we know work so well together, and this was no difference.
While I didn’t love this dish as much as the others, it was still a tasty way to finish up this portion of the night. That’s the beauty and allure of veggie based dishes for me – they often have to try harder than meat ones, so they have such a charm of their own.
We’d shared all dishes that night as New Normal designs, but with our different sweet tastes we decided to pick a dessert each (though we greedily stole some bites of each other’s). For Jeremy, his love of dark chocolate steered him towards the Bahen + Co chocolate with wattle seed and green almond, whereas I went for the peaches with sandalwood nut, honeycomb and whey.
The chocolate was light yet still had a slight bitterness to avoid being too sweet. The green almond was a clever touch, bringing in some savoury qualities and freshness – plus added texture. I tried it, and I liked it. But really, I only had eyes for my peaches dessert.
Peach sorbet (isn’t it so beautiful!) that absolutely hummed with flavour was accompanied by the whey soaked peach slices and the satisfying crunch of that honeycomb. There’s really no words to describe how satisfying I found this dessert – and how badly I want to go back soon to eat it again. And everything else if I’m being completely honest… because New Normal has truly stolen my heart. We’re both elated we chose it as our place to commemorate this important milestone for us, and we know it will be a place we return to time and time again. I can’t wait to see it grow even more into its own and continue to dominate.