Dinner for four at 7.30pm on a Saturday night.. It was ok.. I guess..
(FYI - you can click on most of the images below to scroll through them)
Booking at Public House can be done very easily via their website, so smooth was the process that we began with a good impression of the place and were looking forward to having a good night. Except that's not really what we had, and I can't quite put my finger on why.. All of us left feeling more than a little bit let down and, perhaps it's not fair, the end result is that I don't think any of us would recommend Public House to friends.
Our disappointment began immediately on entering. The entry-way door to Public House is awkwardly located so that people entering the restaurant walk directly into the main dining area with people eating all around them. There is a tiny little standing-desk-like workstation to the left of the door, but it was unmanned when we walked in and so we really weren't sure where we were supposed to go to be seated. We ended up walking over to the bar, who was a bit busy serving drinks but managed to get the attention of a waitress, and the way he was able to juggle his drinks order while recognising the lost looks on our faces and then grab someone to serve us indicated to me that perhaps lost first-timers often make their way to him upon entry. Once we managed to get the attention of a waitress we were seated to our table.
The food was good!
It's a tapas place, which I didn't know when we booked in. I was a bit disappointed when our waitress told us it was tapas as sometimes that's not really my thing, but all of it was very nice to eat.
We started with a Chip & Dip, which comes out as flattened deep fried wanton shells and a jar of guacamole. We could have used more guacamole - to be honest I think we could have used a second Chip & Dip - but I think the photo below was taken as soon as it was placed down, so you can get an idea of the available guacamole to wanton ratio for yourself.
The 'main' tapas were also very satisfying. The Black angus scotch was not something I had eaten as tapas before and I wasn't disappointed (kind of - see below). Well cooked, tender and perfectly seasoned, so that it seemed to be even more enjoyable when eaten over bite-sized intervals and mixed up with the other tapas than it would have been had I eaten it as a main.
The other items we chose for the four of us (again we had one vegetarian - different to the one that came to Old Faithful, but no less annoying with her life choices) were the Corn & Manchego croquettes with Salted Pop Corn, Empanadas, Ceviche Salmon, Burnt Carrots, Sweet Potato Puree and Local Greens. All of these were very nice and with the benefit of hindsight I think we probably should have ordered a few more items to try.
Dessert was also pretty good, although perhaps a step down from everything else. The Milk & Honey dish is meant to be a pane cotta although Ms Grey (aka. Mrs Foodie) was quick to criticize it as not a real pane cotta. I'm not cultured enough to know why, though I think it had something to do with the consistency. Whether her criticisms were fair or not, I enjoyed it for the most part. The Ecuadorian chocolate tart and macaroon were also quite nice - I don't think anyone had anything bad to say about them.
Now, all that being said, there just wasn't all that much food for the price. I will let you all look at the photos and judge for yourself, but the Milk & Honey not-a-pane-cotta costs $14 and is over faster than a FIFO's first night back home. The macaroon is being sold at what is effectively $2 per bite. I think that dollar-to-bite ratio only gets worse for the other dishes. Looking at the photos now, it looks like there may have been about 9 bites of Black angus scotch for $40. I'm not sure that I'm ok with that.
Perhaps this is simply a common problem with tapas food that diners have learned to accept. Every dish we ate was lovely, but I wish they had been served on plates coloured according to price so we could have really appreciated the cost of each bite.
In the end, we left feeling like we hadn't been served all that much food and were stung by the price.
I suppose I should note that each of Ms. Rabbit, Ms. Grey and Rose Gold didn't feel all that hard done by at the bill, simply notching it up to 'Perth Prices'. I'm sure this is a comment made at a number of places around town. I suppose also Perthites are accustomed to the ridiculously large sums necessary to have a night out in the most isolated city in the world. But my own view is that charging a premium for living in Perth simply because everyone else is doing it doesn't make it ok! If that's the strategy Public House has decided to implement, well that's a decision for them, but I feel like I should be allowed to call them on it.
To begin with I ordered a cocktail tasting plate, which is a menu item I can absolutely get behind on nearly all occasions.
Following the paddlin' we ordered two follow ups of the Pink Senioritas and the Pisco-Politans. Ms Grey was boring and picked herself a white wine - I didn't ask but she didn't complain about the selection or prices so it's probably safe to say they came in on target (her Riesling came in at $10.50 per glass, blah Perth Prices blah).
Like the food, the cocktails were enjoyable but expensive at $16 for the Pisco and $18 for the Pink Lady.
I already mentioned we had a bit of trouble getting seated, and while the ladies that served us afterwards were very friendly, we seemed to go through a few of them? I think we had three different people ask us if we were ready to order and/or pick up some drinks once we sat down.
We asked the first two ladies for a few more minutes to look at the menu and make some decisions and by the third lady we were beaten into submission.
That may be unfair, I was always going to go for the cocktail tasting board and I suppose other people would enjoy being served so quickly on sitting down, but since we asked the first and second lady for ten minutes to catch up with each other and review the menu, by the time the third person came to ask us the same questions as the first two it was clear that our request for some time to settle in just wasn't the way they did things here.
Otherwise, the cocktails (especially the tasting board) took a while to come out to us. The poor barman must have been slammed by a few tables sitting down at once, as ours wasn't the only tasting board we saw being walked around, but hey, screw that guy, I wanted my girly cocktails and I didn't want to be made to wait for them!
It seems the strategy at Public House is to pressure people to order their drinks and then let them sweat a bit, so that they're keen to order more when the omnipresent servers come looking to arrange your next round.
Ok - so here is the rub.
(It seems weird to get to the main point of the review at the 'Amenity' heading as, to be honest, I had always felt like this was kind of a bullshit criteria - but here we go).
So as I said at the outset we all left feeling really meh about the whole night and I couldn't quite work out why. The food was tasty. It really was good. It seemed expensive, but then when we think about the 'Perth Prices' thing and when we think back to some of the other nice nights we've had, there's no doubt we've paid those prices at other places and still chalked the night up as a win. So what's going on?
I think it comes down to the amenity of Public House. The place just has a weird vibe to it. It feels like the place is too well lit for the price.
When you look around while sitting down at Public House you don't feel like you're in a nice restaurant that is going to charge you a premium for the experience. You feel like you're in a hotel lobby. Eating at a hotel restaurant. Eating a meal where you know they're going to screw you on price, not because it's a great dining experience but because you're a hotel guest and you want to pay for the privilege of being too lazy/scared to explore the wilderness beyond the lobby.
It almost feels like an airport restaurant. It's busy enough, clean enough, and you end up begrudgingly paying $5 for a 330ml ginger beer because you have no other options.
Except of course, there are plenty of other options in Perth other than Public House. So why would you go there?
I really think they need to take a look at the feel of the place. Dim the lighting. Turn it into a proper dining experience. They could hammer down on a theme, too. Is it meant to be a South American joint like the waitress was telling us? Because I don't get that vibe from sitting inside, or from the name, or from looking in when I walk down Adelaide Terrace.
And why is there a stencil of Queen Elizabeth riding a motorbike in the toilets?
I can't believe I even ask that question because a very big part of me thinks: does there need to be a reason?! It's awesome, that's why!
But then I think - is English Royalty riding motorcycles a South American thing? Perhaps it is - I really don't know ... But I suppose that's my point. I just don't understand the place. All I truly understood is that Public House is expensive, and when we left we all agreed we probably wouldn't come back.
This review was hard to write for a few reasons. Firstly, I'm not a good writer. Secondly, what can I really say about Public House other than we didn't really like it and I can't work out why.
The food was good. The drinks were pretty good as well. The service was ok, nothing amazing and could be better, but they didn't spit in our food as far as I can tell.
It was all very expensive but I guess that's now standard for Perth (but that doesn't make it ok!)
All the above is a mix of details and rant, trying to explain why we didn't like it, but in the end all that really needs to be said is that our party left feeling ripped off and unsatisfied.
Public House: We didn't really like it.
6 Motorcross Queenies out of 10.