Tonight, I enjoyed a rare treat indeed. One of those infrequent combinations of great food, good wine and utterly fantastic and intriguing company that I yearn for in a sublime dining experience. All at Kate Lamont's newly opened (for a week only!) restaurant at Bishop's See on 235 St George's Terrace. The funny thing about this place is that it really fronts onto Mounts Bay Road, despite its St George's Terrace address. So don't be alarmed when you come in off the Terrace looking for it - you'll need to walk all the way to the back of the block.
This is a fantastic example of a heritage restoration. A grand old house with a new lease of life as a fine dining restaurant. Despite the overall size, the dining areas fit around the available space in smaller, more intimate settings. You can even sit on the back patio or on the front balcony. The room we sat in seemed a bit sparse, though - too many mirrors hanging on the walls (unless, of course, you like to watch yourself). Probably needs some large artwork, particularly above the beautiful set fireplace - the flower arrangement sitting on the mantlepiece just wasn't big enough to command the size of the room.
Amongst my dining companions were my good friend and mentor Dario, and the ever effervescent and vivacious Lisa.
Most people around the table (as did I) ordered the tempura oysters. While I am a believer in the eating of freshly shucked, brine-tinged ostriche au naturel, this looked too good to ignore. And what a good choice indeed (if I may pat my own self-serving back) - soft, plump, juiicy morsels filled with hot juices, skilfully fried in a delicately light tempura batter, then put back in the shell for presentation on the plate.
Lisa ordered the slices of wagyu for her starters. It is oft said that wagyu can stand being cooked longer than normal beef (and indeed should sometimes be cooked longer), because the extra-high fat contents prevents the meat from drying out too quickly. Sadly, these cows must have vigorously jogged quite a few laps around the paddock before their innings were called, because the meat was chewy and there was no taste of the juicy, tasty fat with the trademark wagyu richness that one would expect. I have to say that my griddled Margaret River wagyu slivers which I served at home during the 2008 Festival of Melvo (accompanied by a 1974 Chateau Margaux, I might add) tasted much more like what you'd expect from this dish.
But my main well and truly redeemed. My duck leg (clearly a slow-cooked confit) was unbelievably tasty. Subtle hints of spices, succulent, yielding meat falling off the bone, topped with a fresh red cabbage and diced tomato topping (hey I was enjoying the conversation so much I didn't get a chance to read the menu too closely!)
We drank the Lamont's Family Reserve 2007, a red wine made from grapes sourced from a mutliple regions. It was delicious. Soft, sweet and slightly spicy - perfect with my duck, surprisingly good with my tempura oysters, and even with the chewy wagyu slices!
Having filched the wine-by-the-glass list to help me with this blog entry (yes I know I should have taken the menu too, given my vague descriptions of the dishes), I can say that it is very impressive, no doubt due to the involvement of Kate Lamont's husband, wine merchant John Jens. Wines by the glass include Pommery champagne at $19, Picardy Pinot Noir (one of my favourites) at $16, and even a 2001 Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz at $22.50 (that would have been a treat, having mellowed out over a few years in the bottle). Unsurprisingly, the Lamont wines also feature throughout the list. As I can testify, these are great drinking.
The beer list is short but equally impressive. Everything from the local Little Creatures offerings, to Weihenstephaner (the oldest brewery in the world), and even some mouth-watering Belgian works of craftsmanship - Blanche de Namur (at 4.5%) and Triple Moine (at 7.3%).
The service was perfect and seamless - someone would always be on hand to fill an empty glass, be it wine or water, and you never had to wait to place your order or to get the bill.
The highlight of dinner, of course, was the camaraderie and relaxed, open and lighthearted conversation that we shared. Dario and Lisa generously and liberally plied me with sage advice on life, career and love (not necessarily in that order), none of which I will ever publish, of course, but you may see me applying it from time to time. But mostly we just talked about life, friends, acquaintances, love, philosophy, and even pescatorial events. Lisa told us about one of her favourite books - The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. Some of what she was saying really resonated with me - live in the moment, for example. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time to go, Monday being well and truly a school night and all.
This was truly one of the best dinners I have enjoyed this year - no pomp, no wank, just friends who enjoy each others' company, speaking freely and honestly in a convival atmosphere, in the setting of a good restaurant with excellent, well-oiled service. Lean cows and too many mirrors aside, this is a good restaurant that is well worth visiting on multiple occasions (sorry - no photos, as my crapberry's camera is useless in low light conditions). I'll certainly be back, although it won't necessarily be in a rush.