Last time I went to Dear Friends, which I have always considered to be the best fine dining restaurant in Perth, the waitress told me about the new venture from Kiran and Kelli Mainwaring called Co-Op Dining in East Perth.
It has the same philosophy as Dear Friends, using fresh local ingredients, nose to tail butchery, and each plate being well thought out in terms of balance, texture and nourishment. On arrival, the waiter was an absolute treasure – he is from Nantes in France and was very knowledgeable and courteous in recommending an aperitif without being too pushy. I chose the ‘New 75’ cocktail – vodka, champagne and lemon juice.
The restaurant is more contemporary in style than Dear Friends, the music is a nice eclectic mix and the atmosphere is comfortable and stylish. We were seated in a semicircular booth, scattered with comfortable cushions and probably one of the nicest tables I have ever dined at.
We chose the 10 course degustation menu. Some may say that at $120 it is quite expensive, but in my opinion it is perfectly justified for the fine dining experience, the quality, the flavours, and the thought and workmanship that has been invested in the presentation of the food. I wouldn’t spend that much every week, but I am happy to do so for special occasions.
The amuse bouche was a real stunner – marron tail served on a hot salt block – the marron is initially served raw like sashimi, and you can allow it to ‘cook’ on the salt block to your taste. I chose to keep mine fairly raw – the freshness shone through. Served with a prawn cracker made from the claw meat of the marron, nothing is wasted, and a slice of radish was added for texture. I could have happily eaten a whole plate of the marron tails, an excellent start to the menu.
The second course was cuttlefish with rabbit chorizo, squid ink sauce, kimchi paste and brussel sprout leaf. Cephalopods like squid and cuttlefish match nicely with spicy sausages such as chorizo and black pudding, so this was another match made in heaven, very enjoyable.
Next we had a vegetable course, and I never knew that vegetables could taste so amazing. There was a presse of Jerusalem artichoke on a Jerusalem artichoke puree with zucchini, nasturtium flowers and mushroom powder.
Next we were served with another vegetable course – chestnut creamy soup with parsnip crisps. Again this was a fantastic example of how a vegetarian dish can taste incredibly good and I found myself scooping every last drop of soup from the cup.
On to non-vegetarian courses, next we had morcilla blood sausage with a slow cooked egg, dijon mustard, poached pear, mint jelly and horseradish powder. There were a lot of ingredients on this plate, but they all matched nicely, my only slight disappointment being the horseradish which did not taste punchy at all. I like strong horseradish.
The next course was possibly the most perfect plate of food that I have ever tasted. Pork loin and pork belly on a purple carrot puree with gnocchi, button squash, kumquat sauce and pea sprouts. Wow this was so nice – the combination of pork and kumquat making an interesting change from the traditional pork and apple pairing.
Then we were served home made tofu with leek and a medley of mushrooms, garlic emulsion and mushroom powder. Wow more amazing vegetables – the mushrooms were perfect and earthy, such an incredibly good dish.
The last meat plate was wagyu beef, perfectly rare, with picallilli sauce, curried cauliflower, beetroot and parisienne potatoes, and pickled cucumber. This was like the cheffiest version of having ‘cold cuts’ the day after a roast dinner. It reminded me of home and the pickles were perfect with the quality meat slices.
Next came a palate cleanser of mandarin sorbet on lemon cured fennel.
Dessert was pink lady apples with rhubarb sorbet on apple puree with pistachio and oats. Yum. Apple and rhubarb is a classic combination, but this plate had texture, heaps of flavour, and was a perfect end to the meal.
Coffee was served with petit fours – the petit fours were nougat, berry marshmallows, and aerated heritage chocolate. Perfect again.
Would I come back to Co Op Dining again ? Hell yes. I now believe this to be the best fine dining experience in Perth, every course was pretty much perfect, the staff were fabulous, the timing was perfect. A great evening and a great experience.