First established back in 1897, it’s fair to say that the Subiaco Hotel is an institution. It’s a modern gastropub that defies your standard pub-grub menu, and has in more recent times, been a place known to be quite cheffy. This is in part due to the large scale renovation that took place throughout the venue in 2014, as well as the appointment of Head Chef Dave Whitting – formerly of Bistro Guillaume and reputable overseas Michelin star restaurants.
Invited to come down for dinner one night, Jeremy and I took advantage of a respite from studying, working and blogging to enjoy a dimly lit setting that felt much like a date we would choose for ourselves. The frosty air outside was left behind as we entered the warm restaurant, our table prime viewing for the diners around us.
A glass each of the Yard Riversdale cabernet sauvignon from Frankland River in WA ($14.50 per glass, $66.00 per bottle) was the ideal way to settle in and browse the menu.
I love this time of year when it comes to red wine – winter just seems to go hand in hand with the beverage, offering warmth and spice and full flavour points.
Choosing our entrees we decided to pick a dish each and share half, half. This is definitely my favourite way to enjoy dining out, as I’m a self confessed sufferer of order envy quite often. A standout in it’s uniqueness to us both was the blue manna crab with sweet corn, pink eye potato, beurre noisette and almond snow ($20.00).
Arriving at the table it looked like a dessert in nature, and was unassuming in it’s layers of flavours. The crab was sweet and delicate, maintaining it’s distinctness and not allowing itself to be overshadowed despite the intricacies of the other ingredients. I really loved the richness of the beurre noisette (aka brown butter) which was nutty, deep and velvety. The snow over the top was playful; dissolving on the tongue in an instant.
The grass fed beef tartare with quail egg, edamame crème, chipotle aioli and gaufrettes ($17.50) was an excellent example of the elegance and elevation Whitting has brought to the kitchen at the Subiaco Hotel. Fresh, tender beef sat primed amongst the other ingredients; that single quail yolk waiting to be spilled onto the plate and dunked in with as much gusto as one can with a tiny egg. This can and will only be described with one word. Delicious.
The gaufrettes (waffle cut potato) are a nod to the chef’s time at Bistro Guillaume – a classic accompaniment to the bistro’s famed dish. While in a smaller presentation here, they offered necessary texture and savouriness which made each bite even better.
In the same vein as our entrees, Jeremy and I agreed to share our mains because we were both torn between the same two dishes. The wild forest mushrooms with spelt, egg yolk pasta, parmesan crème and poached duck egg ($28.00) sounded like the perfect winter warmer, though our waiter was quick to advise us that it wasn’t your standard pasta dish. We assured him that we still wanted to try it – and I’m truly glad we did because it was my favourite for the whole night.
Thin al dente pasta sheets were layered on the plate, with generous spoonfuls of mushroom and spelt in between. The crème poured over the top was loose and light, aerated to ensure it wasn’t cloying or overpowering. The use of spelt here was comforting and filling, and a diverse method to others I’ve tried elsewhere.
The spatchcock with forbidden green rice, chestnut crème, daikon and charred baby cos ($38.00) had a Asian feel to it’s description but was more modern Australian really which suits the venue. Charred lettuce is one of my current obsessions and this was an excellent execution. Slightly smokey, sweet and yet somehow still fresh it was perfect to dunk in the chestnut sauce.
The bird was juicy and pink fleshed in the centre, the skin crisp. I liked that there were a couple spatchcock sausages on the plate, with the meat wrapped in nori. A clever way to utilise more of the meat and showcase it in a different method. All round tasty and worth ordering, but didn’t quite hit the highs of the pasta.
With just enough room to cap the night off with dessert, we decided to head separate ways for the final course. Jeremy’s valrhona chocolate marquise with rosemary gel and jersey milk ice-cream ($18.00) was an absolute showstopper. Silky and rich, with just the right balance of sweetness and bitterness.
The goats cheese marshmallow and rosemary shard were both wonderful additions, providing added depth of flavour and texture in what was already a knockout dish.
My choice of the maple and banana brûlée with toffee genoise and walnut snow ($17.00) was another pretty plate of food. I was pleased by the satisfying crack of the toffee layer on top, though I felt that the banana mixed into the brûlée mixture made the texture a little polarising on the tongue. It lacked that textbook velvet quality that it should have delivered.
Changes in life are completely normal. Some may resist or cling to the past, but I think the Subiaco Hotel is a clear example of change for the better. I have no doubt that with their new restaurant menu, impressive wine and cocktail list, and same polished service they will continue to thrive even though the suburb around them is quietening down. I was invited down to dine free of charge on this occasion, but I know I’ll be back in the future to try more of their revamped menu now that I have a taste for how great it has become.