I’ve said it before in previous posts… finding a great Italian restaurant in Perth can be really difficult. I’m a person who constantly researches cafes and restaurants, reading reviews and menus and soaking in word of mouth. I often put my faith in recommendations people give me – and more often than not, it tends to pay off. I guess I would soon see how Tabella was to turn out!
Normally a restaurant in Freo or beyond needs to get rave reviews before I’ll make the journey to dine there. Not that I don’t love Freo (I do) but it’s not the closest to us, and there’s so many closer restaurants on my wishlist. That being said, an occasion to head south came recently when I received notification from Dimmi advising that I’d racked up enough points to redeem a $50 meal voucher at one of their dining partners. Scanning through the list I noticed Tabella which I’d heard some favourable things about. A quick look on Urbanspoon and recent reviews seemed to say good things so I booked it in, inviting my boy and my mum along for the journey down to Fremantle.
We arrived for dinner, opting for a seat inside rather than on the outdoor strip. I usually shy away from restaurants along the main strip of Market St/South Tce in Freo but these days there seem to be some exciting new places popping up. I can’t wait to head back down that way and try the new Zapf Hall, a German pop up beer hall.
Looking over the menu we decided between the three of us that we’d pick a couple entrees to share between us to start things off. We ordered the piatto di salumi ($28.00) and the whitebait ($16.00). About fifteen minutes later they came out and we dug in hungrily.
The piatto di salumi was made up of a selection of Italian cured meats including prosciutto, mortadella and sopressa with fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and bread. You can’t really go wrong with cold meats in our opinion! The meats are tasty, particularly the prosciutto which is always a crowd pleaser. The bread is soft and could have used a bit more crunch to the crust. We tear it apart, dunking it into the olive oil and balsamic but all of us quickly came to the realisation that the balsamic had something really off putting about the taste so we ended up moving that to one side and going without.
The whitebait was presented in a mini fry basket, the fish pale and plentiful. While they looked promising, they were lacking the desirable crunch that comes with fried goods. The flavour though was enjoyable and we had no hesitation in digging in, dunking the dish in the accompanying aioli. The salad underneath was discarded due to being oily from the fish.
After our starters are cleared, the mains take their time to come our way. The restaurant is about two thirds full but we’ve only spied one bartender and two wait staff, so they appear to be consistently busy. I think it was about a 30 minute wait for the mains, and after an okay start to our dinner, we were pretty hungry.
We’ve all chosen pasta for our mains and being pasta fiends, we’re looking forward to trying what Tabella has on offer. Jeremy chose the pappardelle all anatra ($27.00) which is homemade pasta with slow cooked duck ragu and pecorino. It sounded so amazing, and I have to admit I was considering ordering this dish too!
When it came out, the pasta looked really good. It’s cooked al dente, but taking in a mouthful we both agree that it’s bland. The duck is stringy and there’s no ragu or real sauce to be seen in the plate. The promised pecorino also appears to be missing. It’s such a shame because on paper, it had all the makings of a stellar dish, but in execution it was pretty lacklustre. A rather large shaking of salt over the dish brought some much needed new life into the ingredients.
My mother’s choice of linguini ai frutti di mare ($28.50) is a generous plate with mussels, clams, calamari, prawns, fresh fish, tomato, chilli and olive oil. Her pasta is definitely the best for the night though her request for additional chilli was ignored.
There’s a decent amount of seafood provided which is nice to see given portion sizes in other restaurants tend to be a fraction of Tabella’s. The flavour is simple and tasty enough, though I personally would have liked to see both more chilli and garlic used to bring more oomph into the profile. But all up, not a bad dish at all. Definitely the star of the evening.
I think it’s my dish that really soured my experience at Tabella if I’m being wholly honest. Initially I’d ordered the gnocchi with beef ragu but was informed they’d run out for the evening. So as a backup choice I selected the ravioli al formaggio ($23.00) which was spinach and ricotta ravioli in a gorgonzola sauce.
Immediately when the plate hit the table the smell was overly sharp. I’m a newbie when it comes to blue cheese but over the past couple of years I’ve really enjoyed gorgonzola in pasta, so I was expecting to feel the same about Tabella’s. It wasn’t the case sadly! The sauce was really polarising and overpowering; the filling inside the ravioli indistinguishable. In the end my boy felt sorry for me and offered trade in dishes since he’s a bit more accustomed to blue cheese. A few bites in and he quickly agreed, it wasn’t a good quality gorgonzola in his opinion which explained the taste and smell.
While I would have loved dessert after, we decide to call it quits at that point and head home. Probably a good call since I saw one waitress walk past with a giant tub of Coles brand ice-cream into the kitchen. I have to admit, at that point I was feeling a bit disappointed with the night, especially the mains Jeremy and I ordered.
Looking back at our experience at Tabella I have very mixed feelings over the night. Service wise it was a bit hit and miss, and it seems that for the food it followed this pattern again. Reading reviews on Urbanspoon and Yelp I find myself confused that we didn’t have such a positive experience as many others have raved over. Hopefully for Tabella and those who visit it, my night was just a one off night that missed the mark.