Chef Jed Gerrad brings indigenous produce to the table
When one mentions Australia, the creative capitals of Sydney and Melbourne immediately spring to mind. Both cities are home to some of the country’s best restaurants and bars. But to the far west lies a restaurant looking to shake things up. Wildflower restaurant in Perth is changing the city’s and state’s dining scene morsel by morsel.
Now, using seasonal local produce isn’t much to brag about, especially when you think about how the Japanese do it (the country has 72 micro seasons). What allows your voice to be heard in the crowd though, is when you design a menu that revolves around the Noongar calendar, one that’s traditionally used by the south-western Aboriginals who mark the changing of seasons by the blooming of different native wildflowers.
Since it set up shop at Como The Treasury in 2015, head chef Jed Gerrard and his team have been curating Wildflower’s menu around the six seasons in the calendar, using ingredients indigenous to Western Australia.
With that comes not just using native wildflowers that have bloomed during the season or foraging in the bushes and wetlands, but down to nailing down the best types of meats available in Western Australia each season.
Tonight on the menu, there’s kangaroo, pink snapper and Wagin duck just to name a few. It’s Bunuru season — a second summer that lasts from February to March — and with the hot and dry east and north winds, one can expect fresh fish and wattle, where the seeds hint of a nutty coffee aroma.
So, how exactly did dinner at the top restaurant in Western Australia fare? Here’s my take.
1st Course: Raw Shark Bay pink snapper
Where simplicity is concerned, this dish ticks all boxes. Chunks of pink snapper in a preserved radish cocoon, topped with bunches of beach banana for an added burst of saltiness. The tableside service of nitrogen-cooled ‘ginger snow’ wasn’t for mere theatrical effect. The spiciness of ginger provided a breath of the life to the dish, elevating the mild taste of snapper with a spicy kick.
Sourdough bread & whipped butter
Topped with chopped macadamias, the restaurant’s house-made whipped butter went perfectly with the fennel and wattle seed sourdough. That said, I wish that the fennel seeds didn’t overpower the bun though.
2nd Course: Burns Beach abalone in squid ink
A whole tender abalone that’s encased within a squid ink shell. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, while the abalone was juicy and easy to slice, the squid ink crust came across a touch oily. So much that it was a little difficult to finish the entire abalone. The brown butter emulsion added to the heaviness of the dish. Even the crystal sacs of finger lime in the emulsion barely stood out.
3rd Course: Dry–aged Wagin duck
It was only in 2016 where fresh Wagin duck became more commercially available. The fowl gets its name from the town it’s reared in, some four hours’ south-east of Perth. Those who tend to find duck a little too gamey would take delight in this dish, as dry-aging the meat somehow removed the aroma usually associated with it. The slice of duck breast was succulent, contrasting well with its crisp skin. This time round, the sour rosella (flowers of the wild hibiscus plant), fermented charred radicchio and pickled banana shallot made a welcome pairing.
4th Course: Wood grilled beef
Here, the beef is served two ways: sous vide beef rib (hidden beneath the garlic crisp and enoki mushrooms), and a yarra wood-grilled sirloin. I love a good slab of meat without sauces to mar the flavour. The beef rib won me over with its fall-off-the-bone texture, but unfortunately, it was overpowered by the reduction of its marinade. The sirloin, on the other hand, was slightly tougher, yet the marbling provided a burst of umami with each bite. The rest of the accompaniments (black garlic paste, nashi pear and ginger gel) faded well into the background.
5th Course: Whipped Bahen & Co Chocolate
An airy light mousse made with local cocoa beans sourced from the Bahen family farm in Margaret River, with a side of raspberry sorbet and preserved cherry. The coconut flakes provided the crunch to the otherwise everyday dessert. While this dish didn’t stand out like the others, it definitely ended the meal on a good note.
Considering what we had, it’s no wonder why Wildflower remains one of the top fine dining restaurants in Australia, let alone Perth.
Of course, it certainly helps that the dishes are beautifully plated and service is top notch, with staff taking the time to share their favourites of the season. There’s nothing like friendly chatter and buzz that’ll keep diners coming back for more. The menu changes monthly, so start making plans to visit Perth, if you haven’t already.