Beached in Perth

The breadth of Perth's natural pleasures ranges from indigenous culinary wisdom to cold drinks on Cottesloe beach on a 37 degree day.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, finds a restorative lifestyle on Australia's west coast.

There’s this thing about a three hour time difference. It means that even if you want to sleep in after a flight and a big day and a big night the night before, you inevitably wake up at 6am thinking that you’ve slept in. And in a cruel twist of fate the clock face tells you the next morning "silly sausage, you’ve woken up too early”. It’s no matter as our second day in Perth sees us actively and hungrily seeking out new food adventures.

We start with breakfast downstairs at The Richardson, which has a continental breakfast of fruit (fresh and poached), breads, pastries and cereals included with your room rate. There is also more elaborate hot breakfast available on a separate menu which is paid for separately. I’ve never been good with yogurt and cereal in the morning – call me backwards but I feel cereal is best eaten at 11pm when you crave a crunchy hit. So I always order a hot breakfast.

The scrambled eggs are creamy and there are two types of sausages, a fat and juicy pork and honey and a chicken and herb sausage, as well as crispy, halved chat potatoes, a whole tomato and some rashers of bacon. It is well prepared but at $33, it is not an inexpensive breakfast.

There are certain places that you want to be on a 37 degree day. At a beach is one of them. Cottesloe beach to be exact, one of Perth’s most famous beaches. And given that our bodies think that it’s about 3pm Sydney time and they think that we’ve missed our lunch, we’re all hungry! We arrive at Indiana, a gorgeous beachside restaurant with an airy beachhouse feel to it, named after the "Indiana Tea House”. We’re seated at a corner table where we look out to see happy beach goers and we relax to the cool breeze wafting through the window. There’s the stretch of beach just outside where they held Perth-born actor Heath Ledger’s wake.

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Since I’m trying to drink sensibly I want to pace myself and whilst they’re happy to make fruit drinks they don’t have any pre-designed mocktails. I order a fruit cocktail that is a mixture of fruit – most noticeably strawberry and orange juice. Oh, and I should mention that I didn’t put any of the prices next to the dishes as I think they gave us larger sizes than what was on the menu. This was because we were such a large group and we were sharing most of the food and I also didn’t see the individual prices on the bill at the end.

Sometimes soft shell crab can be greasy and weighed down with oil. Here, it isn’t. Instead it is light and crunchy with a pocket of soft, moist sweet crab meat. The dipping sauce is a sublime chilli and lime dipping sauce with a sweet almost plum sauce quality to it. I may or may not have had four halves. I’m not confirming anything…

The fried calamari is lovely and tender although I don’t taste much za’atar spice or lemon in the yogurt and I think a lemon aioli or tartare would suit it a bit better as yogurt slightly wets the crunchy outer.

Where are we off to next? An Indigenous tour with tour guide Greg Nannup! He is going to guide us around Kings Park where he will show us points of interest and various native plant species. He shows us a saltbush plant. I’ve eaten a lot of saltbush lamb so it was interesting to see the bush up close and if you press your tongue to a leaf there is a strong salt flavour. It grows readily and helps with salinity challenged soil so it is a popular plant to feed lambs which in turns adds flavour to the lamb meat. The only downside is that the lambs fed on saltbush need to drink four times the amount of water.

We see Boab palms, which are fascinating palms that can suck in and store thousands of litres of water and then close up their bark to seal it in. They transplanted one from another area and this one is about 750 years old and hasn’t stopped growing. Greg also shows us native peppermint which when rubbed between the palms is incredibly refreshing and fragrant.

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He takes us to a lookout where we see a view of the Swan River and tells us that there are 25 or so dolphins that swim through here, including a baby dolphin. He also takes us through some of the tools that the Western Australian indigenous people use and it’s interesting to see some similarities between the tools of the aborigines in the Daintree versus this area.

The Kings Park shop is also worth a visit and features absolutely gorgeous, unusual items. I could have gone mad in here I tell you and it was lucky that I left my credit card in the car – one of my travelling companions was kind enough to loan me $20 to buy some things!

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