To celebrate my birthday, Mr and Ms Foodie, Madam Rabbit and the Pretty Shit Farmer accompanied me to the Shadow Wine Bar, a fancy'ish restaurant that is attached to the new boutique Alex Hotel on William Street, Northbridge.
We left having been adequately fed and watered, and with one of us wearing more red wine than she drank. It was an ok night, all things considered.
The Shadow Wine Bar's menu certainly sets a fancy tone, so expectations are pretty high to begin. Being the plebeian that I am I made some unusual (read: stupid) menu choices, as set out below.
- I wanted to try most of everything, and so to begin the meal I selected one oyster; one crab crisp; and one steak tartare. As it turns out, these dishes are not intended to be single serves but rather enjoyed in petite sets. I'm very happy the waitress politely obliged me, but I would have been equally happy had she suggested my order was stupid, and that maybe I should try two or three goes of one menu choice, rather than trying them all.
- In any event, these starters were all very good. Again, because I am plebeian and don't usually order or eat many oysters, I made the mistake of thinking that each item served on the plate was intended to be combined together, and so I ended up adding the rock salt (which is definitely for presentation only, for those playing at home) lemon and sauce to the already-salty snotball. This went about as well as you would expect, and I probably wouldn't do it again.
- The crisp and the tartar were both very good. I think there is a risk of soggyness with the crustini and the potato crisp especially and so, had I ordered a few of them, I think the last few would get a bit soggy by the end. The steak tartar itself was excellent. The base had a decent crunch without being tough - a delicate balance with a big payoff when done right.
- The Pretty Shit Farmer ordered scallops and, again, they look a little silly unless you order a set of at least four, I'd say. She said they were delicious though.
- I think perhaps the prices are partly to blame for us having ordered just a couple of what are clearly single-bite starters. My crab crisp cost $7.00 and, in terms of per-bite prices, these are definitely up there with some of the most extreme we have seen.
- Quick query for those in the know, would the rock salt have pushed up the price of our dishes? We all agreed the plates we had been presented with had a copious amount of rock salt on them, presumably for atmosphere only. That stuff must cost money that I'm guessing the customers would subsidise?
- Mr and Ms Foodie ordered four cheese puffs to start and said they very good. I think I probably expected a bit more at $4.00 each (i.e. the dish photographed below cost $16.00 - how would you feel on being presented with it?). However, I didn't try them, and Ms Foodie assured me she had tried something very similar before, the flavours work super well together, and these were as good as any she had tried previously.
- In addition to the gold-plated cheese puffs, Mr and Ms Foodie ordered the carpaccio and were very satisfied.
- Madam Rabbit ordered the Haloumi starter and said that it was very nice, which for her I think is something special. Again, though, the below Haloumi cost $19.00 - not overly generous.
- By this stage we were getting a very pricey vibe.
- Mr Foodie ordered the Pork Jowl as a main. He was happy with the size, and confessed after the meal that after looking at what everyone else was served he was quietly confident he had made the pick of the bunch. His only comment was that there was lots of fat on the meat, which, admittedly, tasted really good. We were all impressed by the side of cauliflower the pork was served with - I haven't seen that before and it made for a great sidekick.
- Ms Foodie and Madam Rabbit both ordered the Pappardelle dish and were very happy. A creamy texture set off by the occasional pickled mushroom. It scored highly.
- I chose the Fish of the Day (served sans rock salt this time) and I was very impressed with the portion size after having been rationed on the starters. Unfortunately though the sauce and accompaniments (because it's a special I can't check the menu, but I think it was a mix of roasted tomato, capsicum, potatoes etc) and the general taste of the fish was a bit of a let down. I could really only taste the tomato. It was just ordinary - a bit boring - and for $42.00 I was hoping to be wowed.
- The Pretty Shit Farmer ordered the Baby Beetroot and Salmon Salad and said it was light, refreshing and very satisfying. We were all confused whether the salmon was raw, though. It didn't say on the menu and if I had to guess I'd say it was cooked, but the entire table wasn't 100% sure, for whatever that's worth.
- The Pretty Shit Farmer was very proud to have eaten a beetroot dish without spilling any on her very white silk top.
- Madam Rabbit also ordered a side of Broccolini and barely mentioned it. Again, it was fine, supposedly with chilli and garlic, but didn't blow anyone away. Interesting though that the prices at Shadow Wine Bar seem to be at the extreme high end of the spectrum, and yet the Broccolini here is $11.00 while the broccolini dish at the Gordon Street Garage was $19.00!
- Ms Foodie ordered the Pear Tartine and said it was perfect. One of the comments that went around the table when we looked at it though is that it comes out with a lot of cream, perhaps a bit too much - Ms Foodie certainly didn't complain about it however so what do we know.
- In fact, Mr and Ms Foodie felt that the Pear Tartine might have been the star of the whole meal - and I think they probably made the best choices throughout the night - so it really does come highly recommended.
- I went with the Chocolate Pave and thought, firstly, the dish looks amazing. Look at the precise corners on the right side! Amazing. It also tasted scrumptious. So very very good. Also, I don't know what a pave actually is, but I seem to like them..
- The Pretty Shit Farmer and Mr Foodie ordered the Pistachio Meringue and all were pleased with it. The Pretty Shit Farmer commented a few times that she found it hard to cut through the rhubarb, though.
Overall the service was good, but a few things:
- there was a long line to get into the restaurant, and if you're seated up against entryway you're going to get a draft everytime someone enters or exits, and if the line is going out the door (as it was when we arrived) you're going to get very cold.
- So cold, in fact, you might tell people waiting to get inside to 'close the fucking door, mate'. Perth's nice like that.
- Our starters didn't come out all at once, and in fact there was a long long wait after my three hors d'oeuvres (totally googled the spelling of that one) and the scallops, carpaccio and haloumi.
- We think this long delay may have been our fault, as when our waitress asked Ms Foodie whether she was sharing she replied she was, meaning that her and Mr Foodie would be sharing their starters, however perhaps the waitress thought she meant that the whole table was sharing starters. Which would have made for an even more confused kitchen when they considered how a table of 5 was going to share a single oyster, but I don't know, I'm just trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.
- After they realised we weren't all sharing, the waitress apologised for the long wait, and that was a nice touch.
- Otherwise our waitress was very friendly, attentive, and helped us out during a certain incident (see more below).
So often with these reviews I have nothing worthwhile to add at the drinks section. Well, I'm excited to be able to put something in here!
As regular readers will know, I'm a bit behind on the write-ups (this one is nearly four weeks behind) and with the passing of time I often forget little details. Fortunately, for our dinner at Shadow Wine Bar I was aware that I wouldn't have much time for writing and so I recorded the whole evening. Sure, now my friends think I'm a creep, but I was able to pick up one special drink-related moment, embedded below (it begins about 30 seconds into a conversation about buying some second hand chairs).
So, yes, I managed to spill a full glass of red wine all over the Pretty Shit Farmer (aka Claire).
Despite the ridiculously unstable red wine glasses, we all felt the Hotel Alex team have done an unbelievably good job on the feel of the place. The Shadow Wine Bar is set within an older building on William Street, with a cavernous warehousey feel to it. The colour palette is quite subdued, almost dull, with greys, crisp whites and bold blacks, but altogether they really work.
I also like the blinds they have on the windows on the William Street side, as from the outside it looks like a somewhat dated, fairly anonymous building, and this lays the foundation for a wonderful reveal as people step inside and see the very formal, very fancy setup.
Ms Foodie and I have been by on another occasion for an after work drink and it works well in the daylight also, though the evening seems to be where this place truly shines.
In summary, they have done an effing awesome job on the feel of this place and it sets the right mood - a mood deserving of the expensive menu.
I think I like the Shadow Wine Bar but at the same time I hope it gets better. The place is very expensive and while I think it will eventually own its high-price spot in the market, at the moment I'm not sure the food is quite there.
Mr and Ms Foodie's choices were probably well deserving of the money, but I'm not sure that mine were. In fact, I'm sure they weren't. I paid $17.00 for three bites (a crab crisp, a (very salty, once you add the rock salt) oyster and steak tartar on a little crustini), $42 for some very one-note tomato and fish meal and $14.00 for an excellent chocolate pave. I would have paid more for the pave, probably, but I feel I really got screwed on everything else.
That said, though, a lot of that disappointment was due to my own shitty menu choices and I think they probably will get their food to an even higher standard in due course. I -love- the feel inside and the service was pretty decent as well.
Overall, it's not the kind of place you want to visit regularly, but for special nights out I think it's well worth a visit - and likely only going to get better.
7.5 red wine stained silk tops out of 10
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