dear friends – caversham
Dear Friends has always been one of those places I pass by and wonder about. It always seemed mysterious with no hint of what’s on the inside. All I could derive from its inconspicuous existence was that is must be at least decent to survive on the somewhat lonely strip of Benara Road, just on the fringe of the Swan Valley.
[As you can see, this post is seriously belated - the photos are from my old point and shoot camera! This was one draft post I could not bear to trash as the food was quite fabulous.]
After recently rediscovering the foodie haven Swan valley could be, the absence of Dear Friends from our dining repertoire was growing on me and finally the day of our lunch booking came around. Or so I thought.
Somehow in my mind, Sunday had become Saturday… Kelli kindly accommodated us and we were promptly seated on the alfresco terrace, overlooking the Pinelli vineyards and soaking up the sunshine.
What followed was a divine long lunch. K even had three glasses of wine and he’s a self proclaimed non drinker! We shared the outside terrace with two other tables, making it an intimate but casual experience. Despite the dusty columns and unkempt garden, with the last of autumn’s fine weather fading away it was barely noticed.
We were served 7 courses within 3 hours. The speed was possible due to the three starter courses being mainly cold dishes. There is an emphasis on game and local produce, which is a fantastic point of difference. One of the courses was wild hare – a first for me. The highlight of our degustation was the suckling pig course, tender and milky. As with my previous degustation posts, I have decided to keep the verbage to a minimum. More pictures and less words.
The home made bread platter, which included a delectable warm pudding. The smokey tomato chutney was absolutely delicious, we kept slapping the butter and chutney onto everything. And when we finished, we were generously served a second platter.
The appetizer – a miniature ploughman’s lunch. Suckling pig pork pie, picalilli, genuine British cheddar and house made prosciutto. Simple and reminiscent of the chef’s heritage.
Tortilla with palm heart, kidney beans and house made goats curd, sprinkled with native bunya nut powder. The goats cheese was soft, mild and luscious, and nicely paired with the gritty, earthy bunya nut powder.
More stunning in real life, the Tasmanian salmon tartare stood like a tower of gleaming gems in a pool of lurid green asparagus soup. A textural dish, the coolness of the salmon, bursts of salty salmon roe and chlorophyll of the soup was raw and fresh.
Tempura scallop with foam and Welsh lava. The tempura batter was a little on the tough side but the scallop was sweet. Sitting on a bed of Welsh lava (seaweed) and shredded jelly, the dish was very original.
Wagyu steak BBQ style. The ice cream was mustard flavoured! Paired with the sweet and acidic BBQ sauce, it was an interesting combination of cold temperature, charred flavour and nose prickling intensity from the mustard. The wagyu steak was delicious. One of the favourites of the degustation.
Wild Australian hare. It tastes different from rabbit – intensely gamey and cooked like lamb, pink in the middle. With Illawara plum sauce and crispy chickpea batons, the dish was likeable. It pushed the boundaries of what I normally eat, combined with more recognisable foods, like the tortellini. The hare tasted wild, almost bloody, which paired with the sweetness of the plum sauce was very good.
Suckling pig rib, fillet and jowl – all vine smoked and so very good. Milky and tender, it’s not a dish you’d see everywhere. I loved the use of whole beast in the degustation, featuring in both the entree and main courses. A rich dish, the suckling pig was served with camembert reduction and cumberland (fruit based) sauce. So tender and decadent!
Pre-dessert – on the left, lemon sorbet with crumble. On the right, jelly with green apple pearls. The jelly did not have a clear flavour, in fact it tasted almost artificial. The apple flavoured pearls were quite fascinating – like fish roe but rubbery and bouncy.
Indian summer – gulab jamun and fruit naan with mango lassi mousse – looked stunning on presentation. However the gulab jamun was not soaked in sugar syrup thoroughly and had a hard, floury center. The lassi mousse was a highlight – silky, light and airy.
Coffee and petit fours. The truffles and macarons were average, but nonetheless a sweet way to end the meal.
I like the concept Dear Friends is offering – modern Australian with a fixation on game, interesting combinations and fresh produce. The degustation seemed to tell us a story, a bit about the chef, from his Welsh origins to embracing local Australian produce. Dear Friends is on its way to something special.
Up’s: Wonderful and knowledgable service by Kelli. I liked the focus on game and interesting produce. Quiet and casual setting.
Down’s: The outdoor area needs a revamp. Flavours not as defined as other similarly priced dego’s in Perth – not necessarily a downside, as this is unique modern Australian cuisine.
100 Benara Road, Caversham WA 6055
T: (08) 9279 2815
Wed – Sun lunch and dinner
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