(Disclaimer: this review may or may not actually include any venison)
I seem to have a recurring theme with my friend C that we decide to go out for dinner at the last minute on a Saturday night, and then can’t actually get a table at anywhere we feel like eating. We went through this familiar process a couple of weeks ago, with the opening line of my phone calls getting more and more pathetic.. “Oh yes hello there, I’m sure there is no chance but I was wondering if you might possibly have a table free for dinner tonight?”. Some places probably did have a table free but didn’t want to serve such a meek sap. Just when almost all hope was lost we tried our luck with the Beaufort Street Merchant and easily secured a table at the exact time we were hoping for. I tried not to let this make me suspicious.
Arriving to find C and her partner L already at our table (actually, he was off checking out the wine collection out the back) I blamed my tardiness on having to head up to the heart of the Mt Lawley part of Beaufort St to get some cash out, then having to get my car back down to Inglewood whilst successfully avoiding all the drunken human chicanes already spilling out of the Flying Scotsman and the Queens.
After finally getting around to checking out the menu, we ordered the grazing platter to start with, consisting of Danish feta, chorizo, kalamatas, hommus, Catalan tomato and crusty baguette ($22). L was disappointed to discover that the special (which I can’t remember) wasn’t actually available anymore and decided to try “the pie – 5 hour braised beef, mushroom, Guinness, potato gratin, savoy cabbage” ($22), which was really asking to be tried with that name. You can’t italicise a menu item in such a way without it actually delivering the goods, or so we hoped. Despite the best efforts of L and I to convince her to branch out, C just couldn’t go past the “pumpkin tart – with caramelised onion, Danish feta, rocket” ($16). After considering the Thai chicken salad which I read good reports about on another local food blog I decided to try and make up for my recent tagine disappointment and opted for the “tajine – Moroccan chicken, preserved lemon & olive tajine with almond cous cous” ($26).
Hopefully your retinas can recover from the blinding feta in this shot to look at the rest of the elements, all of which were very nice. The feta had a pleasant tartness to it, the hommus was nice and creamy, the oil was absolutely delicious (dang, I forgot to ask what type of oil it was), the bread was perfectly fresh yet crusty and the kalamatas were really cute!
C’s pumpkin tart delivered yet again, and I fear she will continue to order it when she returns. We did however notice a sign informing of an impending menu change, so the future of her beloved tart may be in jeopardy!
It turns out the pie, sorry, the pie, may in fact be deserving of italics after all. Thank god for that.
Hooray, my meal was absolutely filled with a generous serving of perfectly cooked chicken! Moist and succulent, it was a struggle but I managed to finish off every last morsel of it, and I also polished off most of the soft, well seasoned couscous whilst mopping up the delicious sauce.
I certainly had the lion’s share of food in terms of size of mains, so although I was very curious to try the “nectarine sticks – roasted nectarine strudel sticks and creme anglaise” ($9.50) I instead ordered a long black. L however chose the “very lemon tart – lemon curd filled sweet pastry case served with double cream” ($6.50) and C went for the very tempting “sticky date pudding – toffee sauce and vanilla bean icecream” ($9.50).
This was beautifully dense and sticky and warm, perfect for the cold winter’s night awaiting us outside the warm restaurant.
Wow, another dish that certainly lived up to its name! This was incredibly lemony, and conjured up images of various MasterChef personalities calling it “gutsy”. Perfectly matched with the sweet pastry and cream, the lemon curd packed a delicious punch.
After finishing off our meals, we spent quite a while wandering through the aisles of the produce section in the rear of the restaurant. I spied some dark chocolate coated prunes that I was going to buy for my Dad, as he really enjoys the chocolate coated dried apricots done by the same company, but then I checked the use by date and found it to be some time ago and I’m not so sure that he would be thanking me after polishing off a generous amount of too-old prunes, hehe. I managed to console myself however by picking up a container of quince paste, which is still sitting in my pantry waiting for me to pair with something tasty. I resisted the urge to spend piles of money on piles of Gianduiotti which I was introduced to by my Piedmontese friends whilst staying with them a few years ago, and sometimes still think about with a soft smile on my face and a grumbling in my belly.
So be warned – whilst The Beaufort Street Merchant offers lovely meals at quite an affordable price, with excellent service and warm, comfortable surrounds, you may find yourself leaving with bags full of verjuice, buffalo mozzarella and squid ink, wondering when exactly you are going to have time for the dinner party menu you’ve just planned in your head.
The Beaufort Street Merchant
488 – 492 Beaufort Street, Highgate 6003
Phone: 08 9328 6299
Hours: 7 days, 8am – late (Public holidays 8am – 5pm, with 10% surcharge)