Alpine Restaurant, Carlisle
Erin and I both lamented our lack of a Lowenbrau Keller or Bavarian Bier Cafe here in Perth. Jac and I have enjoyed German food at the Duckstein Brewery in the Swan Valley, which is a bit of a drive to get to. But then Erin reminded me of the Alpine Restaurant in Carlisle. Aha! Jac, Juji, Jay and I went to Alpine Restaurant for dinner the next Friday night.
We began our meal with garlic bread, one of the specials of the evening. It was delivered in a basket lined with red and white checkered cloth that immediately made me think of picnics and Little Red Riding Hood. The bread was crisp and buttery with a good garlicky flavour. We were all starving and devoured the bread eagerly.
For his starter, Jay had the prawn cocktail (AU$14.90). The cold prawns were served on a bed of lettuce and smothered in a brandy mayonnaise sauce. Jay generously invited us to all try a prawn or two - while they weren't exactly bursty, they were pretty good for cold cooked prawns. The sauce was nice but I couldn't really taste the brandy.
Jac was excited to see rollmops (AU$13.50) on the menu. The dish really should've been called "rollmop", since it came with a single rollmop - a herring fillet marinated in spiced vinegar, rolled around gherkin and chopped onions, served on crisp iceberg lettuce, with red onion rings, German potato salad and buttered rye bread. This was a perfect dish for Jac - she loves pickled anything, salad and rye bread! I tried the potato salad - it was creamy, had finely chopped crunchy sour pickles in it and was totally moreish - I would've happily eaten a big bowl of it.
I ordered the soup of the day, pea and ham soup (AU$6.50). I admired its murky, swampy pea soupiness and enjoyed its delicious hammy smell before even tasting it.
It was a hearty, rich soup full of chunky bits of ham, peas, potato and carrot. I love chunky soups.
Juji ordered the Alpine onion soup (AU$8.50), a delicious reddish brown soup full of soft, sweet onions and (Juji was thrilled to discover) yummy meaty morsels. The onion soup was served with cheesy toasted french-style bread floating on top. Despite loving my chunky pea and ham soup, I must admit to secret food envy after I tasted the onion soup. Would she notice if I switched bowls? Mwahahahaha! :P
Juji ordered bratwurst (AU$18.90) for her main course - grilled German sausages served with fried potatoes, onions, sauerkraut and mustard.
Jay had the rahm schnitzel (AU$19.90), described on the menu as "tender loin" (I presume pork loin) served with chardonnay cream and mushroom sauce and fried potatoes. The sauce was quite thick - I'd say it was "gloopy" rather than "creamy". The loin was tender and the potatoes especially delicious.
Jac ordered the Alpine beef goulash (AU$17.90). The goulash was made with chunks of beef slowly stewed until tender, flavoured with onions and paprika. It looked like the chunky cousin of the onion soup. :) I thought I could taste a hit of curry in the gravy, which was very tasty. The goulash was served with three small boiled potatoes. Some bread would've been perfect for mopping up all that yummy gravy.
Each of our main courses came with a side salad. I barely touched mine as I battled to finish my enormous main course...
Wiener schnitzel is my weakness whenever I go to a German restaurant. At Alpine Restaurant the authentic wiener schnitzel comes in two sizes (AU$15.50 small, $22.00 large). I ordered the large, of course - not only am I a glutton, I planned to share my schnitzel with my dining companions. The thin, tender crumbed schnitzel had been fried to a perfect golden-brown and served with freshly deep-fried finger burningly hot crispy golden potato chips.
I've complained many times about chefs who serve the meat on top of the chips (my much detested "steam trap" - see my recent review of Portorosa Cafe) - at Alpine the chips were served on top of the schnitzel! The crispy chips were among the best chips I've ever been served in a restaurant.
The schnitzel was so beautifully crispy and tender. My favourite bits were those dark brown crunchy edges. If I had been all alone and not sharing my schnitzel I may have just picked it up with my fingers and nibbled and crunched my way all around the edges.
As you have probably gathered, the food at Alpine was delicious and we enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, the great food was let down by slow service. Extremely slow "I can't believe we're still waiting, This could be the plot of a Seinfeld episode" service.
Food WIN, service EPIC FAIL
On all the tables and on the menus there was "A note from the chef" telling us that "good food takes time". As the meal dragged on, this mantra became an irritating excuse.
The restaurant was not fully booked that night - we did note there were several group bookings and couples having dinner. We suspect the slowness came from having a two-person team (the husband and wife who own and run Alpine) to look after all the customers - evidently, one person to cook and one person to serve does not represent that famous German efficiency!
The waiter did her best but simply could not keep up with the number of customers. Yes, you wait to be served in a restaurant, but it becomes a problem when you start to feel like you have been waiting too long...for everything. Everything was waiting: waiting to order, waiting for drinks, waiting between courses, waiting for dishes to be cleared, waiting to order dessert.
After placing our order, we waited around 20 minutes to receive the garlic bread. After we finished the garlic bread it was at least another half hour before the starters arrived. We then waited another hour between when our starters were cleared and our main courses were served. We were starting to get cranky by the time the main courses arrived The topic of conversation drifted to how hungry we all were. We did observe other diners looking irritated and bewildered too - there was noticeable fidgeting going on around the restaurant.
The desserts (all AU$9.50) sounded very nice and would've been the perfect way to end the meal: appelstrudel (hot apple strudel with vanilla ice cream - Juji's pick of the bunch); rote grutz (fresh raspberries and red currant served with cream or ice cream - Jac's choice) and birne Helene (pears served with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and fresh cream - my choice). Alas, the thought of possibly waiting another hour to have our dessert orders taken and then served - we could not bear to wait and find out. We decided to skip dessert, pay the bill and leave.
We worked out that Alpine Restaurant could've made an extra AU$60 - $80 from our table, had the waiter offered another round of drinks and if we had stayed for dessert and tea/coffee.
As we waited to pay (we waited at least 10 more minutes for the waiter to finish what she was doing before she was free to come over to the cash register) I took this photo of Mozart's Balls on display at the counter. I've eaten a Mozart's Ball before - one of my workmates brought some back from a European holiday. I'm not a big fan of marzipan, so it didn't really appeal to me, but whenever I hear the phrase "Mozart's Balls" I always giggle (yeah, I know, juvenile!).
The restaurant has two separate dining areas and a functions area tucked away in the back behind velvet curtains. The decor is fun and interesting, with lots of touristy trinkets and Germans arts and crafts displayed throughout the restaurant. It's kind of cluttered and kitchsy - all I could think about was all the dusting they'd have to do to keep everything clean! - but with a comfortable, cosy, homey feel, kind of like visiting your German grandma (not my grandma, as she was Chinese :P). There is even a real cuckoo clock on the wall, with a tiny cuckoo bird that pops out every half hour and really proclaims, "Cuck-koo!"
The food at Alpine Restaurant is delicious - that authentic wiener schnitzel really was magnificent - but you will need a lot of time and patience to dine there. It would be great to dine there with a friend you haven't seen in years - you could sit there and talk and talk and talk - maybe that would distract you from the slow service (though if you were both hungry you might grow increasingly cranky and eventually be deafened by your growling protesting stomachs). I enjoyed my food, but the service made for a disappointing experience.
44 Raleigh Street (corner Archer Street)
Telephone: (08) 9361 5463
4.5% fee for credit card payments; no EFTPOS available