Health foods have come a long way since I first went into a dedicated store in my teens. From the emergence of smoothie and salad bars alongside fast food at shopping malls to the explosion of alternative flours and milks, there has truly been a nutrition revolution. As someone who still remembers their first glass of watery, bitter soy milk and trying carob chocolate – these are good times.
I love finding new health products to add variety to my mostly vegan diet. Buckwheat and quinoa are a lovely alternative to oats and I’ve recently been making the Italian flatbread farinata, which uses chickpea flour, for weekend brunches. I’ve also been trying to boost my protein intake from 70 grams a day to 110g/day. It’s been challenging but achievable, partly thanks to lupin flakes.
What is Lupin?
I first spotted lupin at one of my favourite health food spots The Clean Food Store and soon after I received them in a health foods subscription box. Lupin (also called lupini beans) is a legume that’s been used as animal feed for decades, but it’s only recently been widely marketed for human consumption. My home state, Western Australia, produces 85% of the world’s supply! The nutritional profile of lupin what impresses me most – it’s very high protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, and relatively low in calories.
Specifically, one 40g (4 tablespoons) serve of lupin flakes contains:
It’s also gluten-free and has a low glycemic index (GI)
If that’s not attractive enough, lupin flakes are also quick cooking, fairly easy to find in Australia and only around AU$9 for a 400g bag (or about 90 cents a serve!). So how exactly do you use them? Read on.
I received my first bag of lupin flakes about the same time I had an ageing orange in my fruit bowl. I grabbed a jar, some oats and had this delicious, high protein breakfast the next morning!
Lupin Bircher muesli (serves one)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp lupin flakes
1 orange, juice only
1 tbsp raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (soy, almond, dairy etc) + extra for the morning
METHOD: Combine all ingredients except toppings in a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add extra milk for a thinner consistency if desired. Otherwise, add toppings and enjoy!
Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I’ve been sprinkling 1-2 tbsp of lupin flakes on my Greek soy yogurt and fresh fruit most afternoons. It’s so filling! There’s something about the nutty flavour of lupin with the sharp taste of natural yogurt that I’m hooked on too. This combination packs 10g of protein with the probiotic goodness of yogurt for just 130 calories – and still under 200 cals with berries or a slices of fresh peach. You could also add a tablespoon as a salad topper, although I’m yet to try this.
If you like Middle Eastern foods, you will love lupin! I tried substituting lupin flakes for quinoa in several dishes, but I find it works best as a replacement for cous cous. To quickly cook in the microwave, mix 4 tbsp of lupin flakes with 1/2 a cup of water on HIGH for three minutes. Cover for a few minutes and then fluff with a fork to enjoy as a side dish with a Moroccan tajine or stuffed capsciums. I want to try lupin in this way with a spicy Indial dal too!
4. Just Add
In the same way I like to add flaxmeal to my breakfast and general baking, the neutral flavour of lupins means you can simply add it to a dish for a protein boost. One tablespoon in a bowl of oatmeal almost doubles the protein content, and you could similarly add a few tablespoons and lower the flour when making muffins or bread. It does have a slightly bitter, nutty taste so I find just one tablespoon in a single bowl of oats is a good balance. For other cooking, start small and increase over time until you find the right balance. Or check out my lupin cake recipe below!
When I got home late last week and hadn’t reached my protein target for the day, I had to get creative. I experimented with a lupin chocolate mug cake with surprisingly good results! This is not a rich, sweet mud cake. Rather, it has a denser texture more like polenta but it’s wholesome, chocolately and still a satisfying high-protein snack or dessert!
My Lupin Chocolate Mug Cake (vegan)
2 tbsp lupin flakes
1 tbsp spelt flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/8 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk (soy, almond, dairy etc)
1 tsp coconut oil
Optional: 1 tsp maple syrup
METHOD: Combine all ingredients in a mug and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Check and microwave for another minute if needed. Eat with a spoon straight away or top with berries, peanut butter or coconut yogurt.
I’m in the process of testing some high protein, vegan lupin cookies and plan to do a fruit crumble with lupin topping too. Like almond meal, you could also use lupin flakes to crumb meat, tofu or vegetables. When winter approaches, I’m going to try topping cauliflower cheese with lupin for a delicious crunch!
I did attempt a lupin porridge but I found there wasn’t enough starch to make it very creamy, even when cooked with grated apple, soy milk and vanilla. I also added cooked lupin flakes to a bean salad but they soaked up moisture from the beans and tomatoes, resulting in a soggy lunch. Both meals were edible, but I prefer the recipes above.
It’s never been easier to get a healthy breakfast and restaurant lunches are typically lighter and brimming with salad options. But when it comes to date night, catching a friend or a group event, dinner is a time where good intentions can be derailed. I love going out, exploring new venues and drinking a good glass of wine – my fitness routine is never going to stop that! But I don’t want to undo all my efforts at the gym by overindulging when I’m dining out. I don’t feel good after I eat greasy or carbohydrate-heavy meals (hence the lack of pizza or pasta in my posts – gnocchi with lots of tomato sauce excepted!) and too much wine makes my 5.30am alarm a struggle.
While the definition of healthy food is subjective, I consider it as anything that’s minimally processed and eaten in moderation. I try to avoid anything from a packet and instead eat a variety of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables daily with nuts, wholegrains and proteins. Dark chocolate and occasional home-baked treats like banana bread are all the sweetness I need. Thankfully, perhaps in reaction to fast-food and convenience meals, restaurants are increasingly focusing on fresh, seasonal produce. Whether you have specific dietary needs such as gluten free, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or simply want nutritious yet delicious meals, these restaurants are for you! Options range from casual to special occasion, and all but one venue serves meat and alcohol.
1. DeJa Vu tapas restaurant, Northbridge
Comprising a rooftop venue and a restaurant, a first glimpse of Dejavu‘s menu reveals cocktails, sliders, and pizza – where’s the healthy you ask? Look closer. The pizzas are on activated charcoal bases. The hummus is made from carrots and served with vegetable sticks. Slider options include free range chicken and shredded jackfruit (vegans rejoice!) on house-made buns. There are also distinctly Australian flavours – think lemon myrtle, macadamia and damper. As for the cocktails Dejavu uses essential oils and coconut sugar syrups, and you’ll again find activated charcoal… in its tequila! The romantic rooftop setting and stunning service make this a magical night out.
Cost: Tapas plates $8-16, sangria $8 and cocktails from $17. Address: 2/310 William St, Northbridge | Website
2. New Normal, Subiaco
From the outside, this venue doesn’t look overly healthy. You’ll see wine, a rooftop bar and waitstaff with plates of delicious looking food. But on closer inspection, New Normal completely embodies my idea of healthy eating. The focus is on fresh, seasonal produce and it’s entirely sourced from Western Australia’s South West (drinks menu included). The menu changes so often, they don’t have paper copies (but if you’re shortsighted like me and can’t read the blackboard, you’ll be kindly given a chalkboard at your table). My boyfriend and I dined just before Christmas, choosing plates of tomato, golden beetroot, octopus and rosemary potatoes. I felt like we were in a renovated farmhouse, eating exceptional flavours picked straight from a garden. The atmosphere was intimate, wholesome and just lovely. Don’t wait another minute. Book your table now!
Cost: Approx. $60 per person, including a bottle of wine. Address: 2/23 Railway Rd, Subiaco | Website
3. The Raw Kitchen, Fremantle
Remember that time before bliss balls and coconut wraps were widely available in supermarkets?The Raw Kitchen opened in Fremantle eight years ago, pioneering healthy eating in Perth. Today, it’s evolved to beautiful warehouse venue that offers yoga, healthy living workshops and even a zero-waste store. But back to the food. Despite its name, not everything is raw. Think yellow tempeh curries, raw nachos with ‘cashew cheese,’ and a ‘live’ pizza with dehydrated buckwheat base. There’s no dairy, gluten, refined sugar or additives. The wine list has preservative free, organic and biodynamic options too! Eating out never felt so good.
Cost: Entrees/shares from $7, mains from $19, wine from $36 per bottle. Address: 181A High St, Fremantle | Website
4. Post, Perth CBD
I’ve only been to Post for breakfast but it’s open for lunch and dinner, so it’s going on this list. Set in the city’s stunning State Buildings, the menu features several dishes designed by its Como Shambhala spa, aimed at being light and nutritious. Enjoy dishes such as quinoa spaghetti, salads with carrot top pesto and plenty of local seafood in a beautiful heritage setting (how long can you stare at that ceiling for?). I’ll be returning for Post’s Champagne brunch served Sundays from 11.30am – nut seed ‘real toast’ with avocado, buckwheat cannoli cacoa dessert and a glass of champagne of course! Post perfectly captures indulgence without excess and you can even get a spa treatment before or after, if you wish.
Cost: Starters from $18, mains from $24. Address: State Buildings, corner of St George’s Tce & Pier St, Perth | Website
5. Hanami, Mt Lawley
With a focus on simplicity and minimal cooking times, Japanese is a great option when looking for healthy dining options. But I specifically keep coming back to Mt Lawley’s Hanami because it’s always so fresh. Sure, there are spring rolls on the menu and you could choose fried chicken with a pile of white rice. But there’s also edamame, endless seafood, cold tofu, and the option to have 5 or 10 pieces of sushi (thumbs up for portion control). The ambience is lively and casual, the food is delicious and you can’t beat the prices. Japanese is also the perfect opportunity to skip the beer or wine and drink green tea all night too.
Cost: Starters from $6, sushi from $6, mains from $17. Address: 685 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley | Website
When you think of a family vacation, what jumps to mind? A camping trip or a week away in Bali, Florida or Spain? In my family, we can barely meet for dinner without a month’s notice. It was therefore a rare and special treat when my family and I stayed at the brand new Crown Towers in Perth, Western Australia. Granted, it was only for one night in the middle of winter. But we were going on a family holiday!
The 500-room hotel opened in November 2016 at a cost of $650 million. It’s reportedly the most expensive hotel ever built in Australia and is the largest in Perth. It’s strategically located in Burswood alongside the greater Crown complex, about 10 minutes drive from Perth’s CBD and 15 minutes from Perth Airport.
Our stay at Crown was devised months in advance by my youngest sister (a travel agent) and her boyfriend. We sat around the Christmas tree last year and they gave us mysterious gift wrapped packages with our names on them. We took it in turn to open our gifts, revealing cardboard clues with images of keys, some numbers and a crown. After 15 minutes or so, we solved the puzzle. We were having a night at Crown Towers in July 2017! A week before our booking, my sister and her man sent an an elaborate email detailing room inclusions, dinner reservations and breakfast. My first staycation was looking exceptional!
arrival & check-in
My boyfriend and I caught an Uber from our city apartment and arrived at Crown Towers within 15 minutes. Like most West Australians, we’d been to Crown complex before but driving up to Crown Towers’ entrance was distinctly different. Perth’s humble skyline looked world class alongside the sweeping Swan River views. Equally as striking was the Crown Towers’ building itself. It was tall, glistening and commanded your attention. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in my own city.
We arrived at 2.30pm for a 3pm check in but it wasn’t exactly smooth. Reception were confused as my sister had booked four rooms but we’d arrived separately (albeit within an hour or so of each other). I didn’t think this would be an uncommon situation but the issue was resolved within a few minutes. I was surprised when we were told our room wasn’t ready. It may have been because of our request for adjacent rooms but it was only 30 minutes before the official check-in time. Staff told us they would call or text when the room. Again, confusion arose about whether to call me or my sister who’d made the booking (and already had her room). I was beginning to doubt whether Crown could live up to world class standards.
The delay provided a perfect chance to head to the The Waiting Room for a cocktail. It was a beautiful, art deco style space adjacent to the lobby that would’ve fit neatly in The Great Gatsby. Tables of mostly women were enjoying afternoon drinks, and I spotted a few people enjoying the bar’s signature “High Coffee” which consists of a coffee-based cocktail and four matching desserts for $35. I’m not a coffee drinker but I made a note to take friends.
I ordered a spiced winter cocktail ($18) while my boyfriend had an expresso martini ($20). His drink looked and smelt wonderful, but the presentation of my drink was underwhelming. It tasted fine though. A moment of redemption came when I inquired about one of the ingredients in my drink, Lillet. The waiter explained it was a French aperitif, mostly made from white wine and some citrus. I was happy with the information but then he returned with the bottle a few minutes later so I could see the label. My afternoon cocktail had become a liquor lesson! I was very grateful (and I’ll be buying some Lillet for my liquor cabinet too). We got a text that our room was ready at 3.15pm. As we left, I noticed one of the television screens was showing live football. The 1920s ambience was suddenly very 2017.
Memories of the awkward check-in and my average cocktail were washed away the instant we walked into our room. The Perth skyline and river views filled the floor to ceiling windows. I felt as far from home as you could with a 15 minute drive. My boyfriend and I spent at least 10 minutes staring out the window. A family holiday had never looked so good! It was time to crack the complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, which was included with our booking. Except it wasn’t there. I made a quick call to the front desk and it arrived 10 minutes later. It was another slip in customer service, but the view was so good I didn’t care.
It turns out we’d been upgraded to a Premier King room (hence the view) although we only discovered this later when speaking with family. I explored our abode for the night, which featureda huge bathroom (with a television by the bath), an iPad to control room settings, and thick, luxurious bathrobes. The mini-bar was excellent and showcased local goods, including Hippocampus gin and a wide range of Koko Black chocolates. There was time for a quick soak in the tub and if it wasn’t for our dinner reservations, I wouldn’t have left the room!
Crown Tower’s outdoor pool is as much about striking aesthetics as it is about leisure. However, it was a cloudy 17 °C (62 °F) during our winter stay so I didn’t make it out there. The fee for renting a pool-side lounge started at $65, and rose to $375 for a luxury cabana on weekends. The pool is strictly for guests only, so no chance of making a day visit in warmer months. It was taunting us from our room!
I didn’t have time to check out Crown Towers’ gym, despite it being open 24 hours. I didn’t visit the day spa on this occasion either, although I’d previously been for some birthday pampering over summer. I used the Aqua Retreat area for about 20 minutes before my treatments, which consisted of a Wild Kashmir Purifying Facial ($200, 1 hour) with turmeric and lavender and a firm relaxation massage ($180, 1 hour). The facial was soothing yet detoxifying while the massage was calming but also addressed tight spots. I felt liked I’d had a full night’s sleep when I left! While hotel spas can be known to take advantage of their captive market, Crown Spa truly stands on its own.
Our family had booked a table at Crown’s premium Chinese restaurant Silks. I’d dined here a few years earlier with my boyfriend, but we’d both agreed it was a venue better suited to groups so you can try more of the menu. Silks was about 10 minutes walk from our hotel room and it was much more ornate than I’d remembered. Our party of seven included chilli lovers and chilli haters, a vegetarian, some serious carnivores and my mostly vegan self. We were promptly seated at a round table with a lazy susan in the middle – my favourite setup for group dining.
We ordered white wine (Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc $65) and some beers while we looked over the menu. We decided on a few small dishes to share and each chose a main, making sure there were no duplications. The feast that ensued was incredible. The Crispy Bean Curd with chilli and salt ($18) was devoured by all. My Sweet & Sour Gluten Dumplings ($28) were a delicious, chewy main that had all the flavours of childhood takeaway elevated in mock meat. My vegetarian mother declared it her favourite dish. The carnivores were seriously impressed with the tofu, and also said the Signature Dim Sum ($25 for three pieces) was a highlight. The Fried Egg Noodles with Barbecue Pork ($28) and Peking Duck ($11) received praise too, while the Stir-fried Chicken with XO Sauce & Cognac ($48) was reportedly satisfying but not sensational. There was a second bottle of wine (Plantagenet Riesling $55) and some spirits and cider as our chatter and chopsticks continued. There was no room for dessert.
The bill came to $625 for the seven of us ($90 a head), although the final total was closer to $550 once we used our Entertainment Card discount. Would I return to Silks a third time? I find it hard to separate Chinese food from memories of plastic takeout containers and pyjamas, but I’m yet to find anywhere in Perth that can rival Silks’ crispy tofu. Combined with the lure of sweet & sour dumplings, I’ll likely revisit with my mum in another year or so and truly tackle that wine list.
Half my family went back to Crown Towers to enjoy their rooms while the rest of continued our night at the casino. Crown’s gaming area is much like any casino in the world (I’ve been to several in Las Vegas and oddly enough one in Zimbabwe). It’s a labyrinth of bright lights, felt-covered tables and slot machines without a clock in sight. I quickly lost $20 in Blackjack and my boyfriend had a few wins before losing at the same table. My sister and her partner were on a winning streak but lost shortly after. It was an expensive hour but a novelty. By now, we were full of food and alcohol, and some of us had work the next day. It was time to say goodnight.
My boyfriend and I returned to our room to discover two boxes of Koko Black chocolates and breakfast menus on the bed. A pair of slippers had been placed on a small mat each side of the bed too. It’s the most attentive turndown service I’ve ever seen. We took some time to enjoy the night time views before sinking into the luxurious bedding. I slept until our alarm at 8am, a reluctant but necessary measure to ensure we made it to breakfast.
Our family met at 8.30am in Crown Towers’ buffet restaurant Epicurean. This venue has been on my list of places to try since the first photos from its opening day flooded Instagram. The space itself is at ground-level and it’s light, bright and airy. The combination of marble and rose-gold features is fun and classic. It wasn’t very busy but it was also a Monday morning. I was excited.
I’ve had buffet breakfasts at five star hotels across Asia and Europe, and Epicurean is up there with the best of them. Even at breakfast time, you could choose from antipasti, cheeses and an extensive salad bar to fresh pretzels, tortilla chips and guacamole. The continental section included sweet and savoury breads, bagels, crumpets, cereals, yogurts, four types of poached fruits and even healthy bliss balls worth several dollars at any cafe.
Epicurean’s hot section boasted multiple Indian curries and breads, noodles, and Western options such as Tuscan potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs and baked beans. There was a dedicated meat section too, with delicate individual pieces lined up in a window. Then there was desserts! The standout was a chocolate fondue tower (both milk and dark varieties) with bowls of churros and an entire cabinet of fresh fruit. You’ll also find trays of croissants, cakes, pastries, donuts, pancakes and muffins.
I chose Indian dahl and paratha for starters, plus hummus, guacamole and crispy wafers. My second bowl was poached figs and granola, which were both packed with cinnamon and spices. I was tempted to have a fresh pretzel but my buffet strategy told me no. Instead, I rounded out breakfast with a churro, dark chocolate and fresh pineapple for good measure. I was impressed by not only the extraordinary range of food, but also the quality. My sisters adored the jaffa cake, while my mum said the super fluffy scrambled eggs were an unexpected highlight.
My sister had pre-paid breakfast when booking our room for $36 (it’s usually $42 Monday to Saturday). Given this includes endless cups of coffee and tea, it’s exceptional value. I left for work very full, but very happy. I will absolutely be returning to Epicurean for lunch and dinner.
We delayed check out as long as I could, but by 10am I had to get to work. One night wasn’t enough to feel fully refreshed or appreciate all the services at Crown Towers but it was a luxurious way to hit ‘pause’ on life and make some lovely family memories. I’m already dreaming of my next staycation! If Crown Towers can raise all guest experiences to the heights we saw, this hotel will be strong a drawcard for international tourists and locals alike.
Cost: A Deluxe King starts from AU$268 per night on Sunday and Monday nights, but I’d highly recommend the Premier King room for the dramatic city views (from $322). Access to Crown’s Crystal Club with breakfast and evening drinks and canapés starts from $448 in a Deluxe King room or $508 for a Premier King. Prices climb mid-week and hit a peak for Friday and Saturday nights.
Winter seems to bring sniffles and sore throats no matter how well you look after yourself. I try to avoid getting sick in the cooler months by paying close attention to diet and exercise, even when it’s dark and rainy outside. I still get a cold or two each year, but I tend to fight bugs quickly and get back to normal within two days.
When I do feel a cold setting in, I head straight to the kitchen and make tea with lemon and raw honey. I’ll also make a big batch of vegetable soup packed with fresh herbs and a hint of chilli. It’s both nourishing and comforting, and convenient if you’re at home unwell for a few days. To treat a sore throat, I gargle warm saltwater a few times a day and also have a spoonful of raw honey. Salt helps reduce bacteria growth and unprocessed honey also has antibacterial benefits. These are easy remedies to find if you’re suddenly struck down at work or travelling too.
My boyfriend recently got a winter bug and the doctor’s advice was simply to stay warm and rest. I turned to our humble apartment kitchen to try find a remedy. We had carrots, fresh ginger, garlic and a packet of dried shiitake mushrooms. I cooked this soup within 30 minutes and it was too good not to share! It’s delicious, nutrient-packed and has a serious ginger kick.
How does it help you in winter? Carrots are an excellent source of Vitamin A (330% of recommended daily intake in a medium carrot), which is vital for immune function. Ginger and garlic have antimicrobial benefits and add a strong, medicinal flavour to this soup. Dried shiitake mushrooms have been shown to boost immunity, and they also add umami which is known as the ‘fifth taste’ after salty, sweet, sour and bitter. You can find dried shiitake mushrooms for around $3-4 a packet in the Asian section of most grocery stores, either whole or sliced. Enjoy!
Time: 30 minutes (5 mins prep, 15 mins cooking + 10 mins soaking)
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 cups water (1 cup hot , 1 cup room temperature)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed or roughly chopped
1cm (half-inch) fresh ginger, sliced
5 carrots, thinly sliced
1 tbsp salt-reduced soy sauce (or tamari if gluten-free)
Place shiitake mushrooms in a bowl with 1 cup of hot (not boiling) water. Let soak for 10 minutes, then let them continue soaking while you start on the soup.
Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan.
Sauté garlic and ginger for 2 – 3 minutes, until fragrant.
Add sliced carrots and remaining 1 cup of water, plus half the shiitake mushroom water.
Bring to a boil then simmer on medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, or until carrots are soft but not soggy.
Blend 3/4 of the soup using a hand held mixer or machine (I use my Vitamix). Be careful when blending hot liquids as they can explode when you remove the lid.
Return the blended mix to the saucepan and add soy sauce and remaining shiitake mushroom water (keeping mushrooms separate). Stir and reheat if necessary.
Slice the shiitake mushrooms. They should be soft but slightly chewy.
Divide soup into two bowls, and serve topped with the mushrooms and fresh herbs.
Leftovers will keep a day or two in the refrigerator. This recipe is easy to double too. It’s so delicious, I’m going to recreate it all winter! Next time, I’ll try topping it with roasted chickpeas for a protein boost.
If you had to eat just one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be? Mexican immediately jumps to my mind. So does Asian, specifically Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and dumplings. Does Indian count as Asian? And I couldn’t live without hummus! What cuisine does avocado on toast come under?
Needless to say, Italian is a little further down the list. Excuse the sweeping stereotype, but pasta doesn’t woo me. It’s just so… heavy. I’d fall asleep if I had spaghetti at lunch and risotto to me is just nutritionally unappealing. I know many of you are finding this blasphemous but I didn’t grow up with an Italian nonna and a basil-scented kitchen (rather, my Polish grandmother cooked cabbage and meatballs). I did have a life-changing moment at Unravelled in Perth’s western suburbs, when a simple tomato and basil spaghetti took my breath away. But the venue closed a few years ago so my love for Italian was once again sidelined.
Given this background, it was with some surprise I realised I’ve been on an Italian food bender lately. Not one, not two, but four restaurants across Perth in rapid succession. And you know what? I’d return to to all of them! From creative plates to classic dishes, put on your best white shirt and check out these inner-city Italian eats:
1. Solo Pasta, Mt Lawley
Confession: one of my all-time favourite Instagram searches is #noodlelift. If you go to Solo Pasta on Beaufort St, you can compete in the noodle lift Olympics! This venue opened a few months ago and has a simple but delicious concept: choose your pasta flavour (classic/spinach/beetroot), choose your length (3 metres is standard) and pick from one of the 19 sauces, neatly divided into tomato, cream and olive oil bases.
I ordered the tomato and eggplant sauce with spinach pasta ($18) and sipped my BYO chardonnay ($5 corkage per person). The wide tagliatelle-style noodles were like diving headfirst into a basket of ribbons. The sauce to pasta ratio was perfect: every bite had a rich, glorious coating with a few bonus spoonfuls at the bottom. The chicken coconut curry ($21) and WA beef fillet with mushrooms ($22) ordered by my friends were also met with applause.
In a rare move, I went back a week later with my sister and ordered the same dish except this time with beetroot pasta. I thought the spinach was a better match, but it was still tasty. We also had bread, butter and olive oil ($6), which we agreed was wholesome and delicious. Will there be a third visit? Absolutely!
Food: creative takes on classic noodles.
Price: entrees & sides $6-14, standard size pasta $18-$23. Quite the bargain.
Allergies? Any of the sauces can have ingredients omitted, except the seafood. Solo’s is vegetarian heaven, although the pasta by the metre contains eggs. They offer gluten-free pasta which is also vegan, and GF and nut dishes are clearly marked on the menu. Buon appetito!
The word “sharing” makes some people shudder. Not me! Tapas is like creating a personalised buffet at your table, having precise control over dishes, portions and price. It also lasts longer than your typical one-course affair. When I saw No Mafia had a Chef’s Selection Menu ($45 a head), I was keen to check it out. We booked a table for five on a Thursday night and were seated in a cosy booth at the rear. With no need to choose our dishes, we could get straight into the wine (No Mafia Sauvignon Blanc Semillon $42). The chef was happy to accommodate for a vegan in our group.
An array of dishes were brought to us over an hour or so. A bowl of Bread in Common sourdough was the first to arrive, followed by Sicilian olives, gnocchi, several meat dishes, salads and some banging crispy, triple baked potatoes. Our table was covered in plates! I’ll be honest, we ordered a second bottle of wine… and a third… and there was beer too. I can’t remember if we had dessert. I do remember struggling at my 6am gym class the next day.
The food was absolutely delicious, although I couldn’t try the gnocchi as it contained dairy. My carnivore comrades were grinning with their options. When the plates stopped arriving and we’d cleared their contents, we agreed we could’ve eaten a little more. However, I suspect a few hearty dishes were replaced with vegetable dishes to cater for the vegan. Definitely give the Chef’s Selection option a go!
Julio’s is no newcomer to West Perth but it had a serious makeover in 2016 with the arrival of Sage Hotel. I walk past this Hay St venue almost daily on my way to the gym and I’ve been keen to check it out for months. My sister craving Italian and we hadn’t caught up in ages, so I booked a table for 7pm on a Friday.
The restored heritage building has a stunning interior. Think wooden floorboards, exposed brick and several connected but open rooms that make you feel like you’re at a friend’s home. Our waitress was patient as we were too busy talking to actually look at our menus! I eventually ordered the hand rolled vegan gnocchi ($25) while my sister chose the cocoa tagliatelle with venison ragu ($26). I was envious when her meal arrived – wide, chocolate coloured noodles topped with crumbled hazelnut and asparagus. Mine arrived without any garnish. The tomato sauce was very light, too light for my tastebuds, but the gnocchi was firm and satisfying. Neither of us finished our meals, possibly because we had homemade focaccia ($8) too. It was an elegant two hours of wining and dining. I immediately told my boyfriend we had to go there!
This venue isn’t in the heart of Leederville but that’s a good thing, otherwise it would have people lining up at its doors! Pappagallo is a sizable restaurant a little further up Oxford St with indoor and outdoor seating. I went here for a dinner with colleagues on a cold, windy weeknight but our al fresco table was sheltered by large, clear blinds and gas heaters. The menu was extensive in addition to the day’s specials of osso bucco, truffled beef ravioli and mushroom risotto. The smoky scent of woodfired pizzas was tormenting me, but I chose gnocchi ($19) because it was dairy-free. The wine list was dominated by Italian varieties, and I went with a Pecorino ($8) as my first choice had sold out. Others had brought BYO, $8 for corkage.
The pasta arrived first. The truffled ravioli looked and smelt sensational – three flat but giant pillows covered in cheese. My dish was a bowl of rich red, but I instantly regretted my choice when I saw the pizzas. Enormous plates were placed in front of the lucky individuals, creating a halo of woodfired aromas above our table. Pizza is clearly where Pappagallo shines! I put my food envy aside and got stuck into my pasta. The tomato sauce was luscious and rich, exactly as I like it, but the gnocchi was in a dead zone of neither firm or fluffy. I’d asked for my dish without parmesan, and suspect it played a vital role in breaking the dish up.
I still ate most of my meal, which was another amateur move. No room for dessert! The Italian donuts had sold out but the affogatos, tiramisu and even the biscotti my colleagues ordered looked incredible. I’ll be returning for Pappagallo’s pizza very soon and will be sampling more of that wine list too!
Food: the menu has something for everyone! Italian classics of every kind.
While I did declare my indifference to Italian food earlier, I should state Il Lido in Cottesloe is one exception. I didn’t visit this beachside venue on my current Italian bender but it’s consistently outstanding. Jamie’s Italian is also worthy of mention for its excellent CBD location and good value for money. I’m yet to visit Lulu La Delizia, but this small Subiaco eatery was just named one of Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants (read more here). Also on my list are Lalla Rookh in the CBD and Mt Lawley’s ThreeCoins. It looks like my Italian bender is going to have a sequel!