As a blogger and also a genuinely food obsessed individual, my wish list of places to dine at seems to grow and grow ever longer. It seems that way in particular now more than ever, with new restaurants and cafes emerging all over the place, and social media making it so easy to find out about such venues.
A place I’ve heard so much about but had never made it down to try was Varnish on King Street in Perth. An underground whisky and tapas bar that is dark, intimate and war, in it’s wood textures.
I finally had my chance to try Varnish when my best friend Vee took me out for a belated birthday dinner there last week. Somehow I managed to find parking literally out the front which meant a great start because it was damn cold outside and I wanted to quickly run into the heated comfort that this place had to offer.
We’re seated in the restaurant at a cosy 2 seater table with low light. When Vee made the booking she’d asked for the $55 per head Chef’s choice menu but as we’re seated our waitress informs us they aren’t offering that option on that night. What a shame!
But never mind, we’re happy to browse the menu and look for some delicious options to share. As we do so, our waitress brings out a board of specialty house seasonings – I believe there was a citrus salt, pepper and celery salt. A really nice alternative to your standard salt and pepper shakers.
After placing our orders the wait wasn’t too long before food starts to come to the table. In suitable share food fashion it comes out as it’s ready, which means we can make decent progress on each dish before moving on to another.
Our dinner starts with the mac and cheese, bone marrow and spec ($14). I love a good mac and cheese, and when my mum makes her version for us it always have bacon in it so this was very much comfort food to me. Al dente macaroni and salty, delicious spec work hand in hand together. I do find the bone marrow undetectable which I had hoped I might find some creamy pockets of since I adore it so much, but the dish itself is tasty as you could hope for. I like the crusty top of the pasta – mmm-mmm!
My favourite dish for the night is the sweet potato with goats curd, brussels sprouts, burnt butter and maple ($14). There’s something truly delicious about sweet potato that resonates with me. That soft, slightly smoky vegetable is enhanced with the creamy but slightly tangy goats curd. I love every ingredient on the plate, and every bite I take.
Vee’s most excited about the pork belly dish which comes with prawns and baked quince ($26) so when it’s placed on our table there’s a bit of a hushed delight between the two of us. Pork belly is a protein that surfaces quite often in my household but I know for my bestie it’s more of a rarity.
We dig in and it doesn’t disappoint. The meat is fall apart tender; juicy and flavoursome. I love quince and it’s really great to see it emerging more and more on menus these days. But definitely the hero for me on the plate is the prawns. Perfectly cooked, they have that wonderful almost ‘snapping’ sound as you cut into the flesh. They’re sweet, yet salty from the seasoning. A perfect play on the tastebuds and a great showcasing of the beautiful produce used.
After our pork dish is finished we both decide we’re still a little hungry so we add on an order of the cured Esperance scallops with smoked mussel, coconut milk, cucumber and salmon roe ($21). While not a cheap dish for the size of it, I really loved this, especially after squeezing the lime over the top.
It’s tangy and well balanced in intensity, with the flavours never dominating the delicateness of the scallops. The salmon roe pops under my teeth in a delightful manner. It is cool, refreshing and just plain yum.
All up our dinner at Varnish at King was so good! I am really keen to go back because I’ve heard since my visit that the ribs, duck and venison are all the stars of this place. I guess that means this restaurant has gone from being on my wish list, to being enjoyed, to back on my wish list for more!