Wild Duck, Albany
This was the second of the restaurants in Albany for which Jac made a reservation before we left Perth.
EDIT 2013: Note: The Wild Duck closed in Albany but has moved to Nedlands in Perth. See the Wild Duck's new website.
The Wild Duck only offers a degustation menu - AU$115 for five courses with matching 80ml WA wines, or AU$85 without wines.
We were greeted, seated and left with the evening's menu. No one came back to our table until about 25 minutes later. We were a little perplexed; we didn't need long to decide between wine or no wine, and you would not expect to have to wave for a waiter's attention to take your drink order in a restaurant of (apparently) this calibre. You don't expect degustation dinners to be speedy, but this was a very sluggish beginning. If we hadn't made a reservation we probably would've left at this point.
Thankfully, it didn't take too long for drinks and food to arrive after our orders had been taken, and thank goodness the food was great.
First course: creamy mushroom soup with forest mushrooms and seared scallop
Our plates were placed before us with a dainty arrangement of a seared scallop, cooked forest mushrooms, purple flowers and a drizzle of oil I hoped was truffle, before the waiter gently poured the soup. I immediately smelled mushrooms. It was a mouth-watering spoon-in-hand moment of impatient anticipation.
The scallop was perfectly cooked, delicately springy and sweet. The thick, dark rich soup looked like sludge but tasted wonderfully of mushrooms and was bowl-lickingly good.
Second course: Confit pork and pork loin roll with tomato chutney, pork jelly, cornichons and fresh bread
This course was served cold. It was a pork lover's delight with an interesting selection of delicious tastes and textures - crunchy sour cornichons, soft sweet tomato chutney, lightly dressed micro leaf salad and a wobbly cube of salty pork jelly that was terrific spread on the sliced mini bread.
The confit pork and pork loin roll was very meaty and (not surprisingly) strongly porky in flavour.
Third course: Beef eye fillet on braised beef cheek with beetroot puree, carrot and beetroot cubes, cauliflower crumble and blue cheese sauce
The beef eye fillet was tender pink and cut like butter. It sat on a bed of juicy soft shards of braised beef cheek, topped with a creamy strong blue cheese sauce. The cauliflower crumble was not at all what I'd expected - a line of golden crispy crumbs that bore no resemblance to the vegetable except for its distinctly cauliflower flavour. The sweet carrot cubes were bright and beautiful. The beetroot cubes were topped with beetroot leaves. No matter how hard I have tried over the years to like beetroot, it just tastes like dirt to me. I sampled the beetroot puree and a beetroot cube in case this would be different - but no...! Jac eagerly accepted my beetroot donation.
A palate cleanser was served between the third and fourth course, a shiny quenelle of kiwifruit sorbet. It was refreshing and smooth, with just the odd seed as a reminder of its fruity origin.
Fourth course: Chicken dinner - sous-vide chicken breast, carrot puree, baby carrot, creamed peas, corn puree and chicken sauce
I loved the idea of a chicken dinner as part of a degustation menu! The log-shaped chicken breast was moist and succulent, served on a salty savoury chicken sauce, half a steamed baby carrot on one end, carrot puree on the other. A garnish of curly tendriled pea leaves hid the lumpy blob of creamed peas. The corn puree was so gorgeously sunshiny sweet I was sad there was so little on the plate. The cube of polenta was bland and added nothing to plate except geometric visual appeal.
I know a real home-style chicken dinner is hearty and generous, not little items arranged strategically on a plate, and some might think this sort of food is pretentious and unnecessarily arty-farty - but I love the adventure of dining and discovering the tastes and textures a chef has assembled on a plate, finding some comfortingly familiar, and yes, some strange and unexpected. It's fun, and as long as it's mostly delicious, I'm happy. I wouldn't crave this when I needed comfort food, though.
When is a fried egg not a fried egg?
When it's served for dessert at Wild Duck, Albany!
Fifth course: fried egg on toast - meringue and mango, toasted brioche, custard, cream and fresh fruit
I couldn't wait to see this course and I was excited to see something that looked very fried egg-like, with a glistening orb-like egg yolk begging to be burst. But would it taste good?
To my delight, when I pierced the yolk with my fork, it burst and oozed tantalisingly like a perfectly cooked soft egg yolk... and tasted of sweet mango! The fried egg white was (less surprisingly) made of meringue that was crisp yet chewy, with a perfectly shaped hollow for the yolk to sit in. The fried egg sat on top of a bed of finely diced fresh apple and strawberry tossed in cream, on a thick gooey layer of lemony custard, all served on top of a thin slice of toasted brioche. It tasted lovely! A fantastic dessert, very Heston Blumenthal-esque.
When I first saw Wild Duck's logo, I instantly saw the resemblance to the logo of Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant. I presume Wild Duck's chef/owner is a Heston fan...
We really enjoyed the food - it was playful and intricate, beautifully presented, and most importantly, delicious. I had hoped for an amazing duck dish, given that the restaurant is called Wild Duck. I'd previously read about the restaurant's signature dish of roast apple filled with sweet chilli braised duck served with seared scallops and a soft herb salad...mmm.
The service could've been better. The staff were friendly and pleasant but seemed to be struggling to keep up all night. We weren't asked whether we wanted coffee until well after we'd scraped our dessert plates clean.
The dining room decor is elegant but simple so you have no distractions - the star is the food. Wild Duck is worth a visit if you like your dinner to be tasty and imaginative. Our waiter advised that the menu varies daily, though some dishes may be repeated during the week. Allow up to three hours for the degustation meal. Make sure you're dining with someone with whom you have lots to talk about.
112 York Street
Albany WA 6330
Telephone: (08) 9842 2554
Open Wednesday to Saturday 6pm till late.
There's plenty of parking at the back of the restaurant (the IGA supermarket car park).
More Albany posts
This post is part of my series about our trip to Albany in January 2011.
See the full list of Albany posts.