Last month, I wrote about the mushroom dishes I ate at Friends Restaurant in East Perth as part of Mushroom Mania. Those dishes were small part of an unexpectedly epic meal – here’s the meal in all its glory.
We ate at Friends quite a few years ago, back when I was studying full-time. I used to listen to the radio throughout the day and regularly entered competitions, usually quizzes. One of the best prizes I won was a voucher for dinner at Friends. I didn’t take any photos back then – that’s how long ago it was – but I remember eating a delicious rabbit and hazelnut raviolo while Jac ate a magnificent piece of Kobe beef she still talks about and remembers as one of the best steaks she’s ever eaten. With those fond food memories still so vivid, we were really looking forward to eating at Friends again. We were not disappointed.
As soon as we had placed our order, waiters swooped in with not one complimentary amuse bouche, but three. The first two were served on the same dish: piping hot mini crab arancini, and pork terrine, served cold in Asian spoons, topped with a sweet apple relish.
The third amuse bouche was delivered to our table as I was photographing the first two – dolly cups of rich creamy mushroom soup. It was a mini feast… as it turned out, a mini feast before the real feast (though the abundance of silverware on the table should’ve been my biggest clue).
We ordered the chef’s restaurant baked bread (AU$3 per serve). A waiter presented a basket with a selection of bread rolls for us to each choose two. Jac chose two wholemeal rolls; I chose one white and one tomato and basil. The fourth bread roll which neither of us chose was a brown one with raisins.
Still, the activity didn’t stop! We were then presented with a dish of flavoured salts, which our waiter suggested would go very well with our bread and butter: szechuan pepper and malden salt (bitey and hot), dried chilli and palm sugar (sweet with an afterburn) and nori seaweed, roasted sesame seed and malden salt flakes (very fishy). We had fun tasting each of the salts, but I enjoyed my fresh bread rolls simply with lots of butter.
For her first course, Jac ordered the oysters with basil jelly and caviar (AU$25). Six plump oysters were served in their half-shells on ice, the caviar gleaming like black pearls on puffy white creme fraiche clouds. Jac enjoyed the oysters but later said she preferred either a vinaigrette-style dressing or her favourite oyster topping, Kilpatrick, with lots of worchestershire sauce and bacon.
I told you about my first course in my Mushroom Mania post – the scallops seared St Jacques, tomato and herb risotto (AU$25), crowned with an unexpected layer of mushrooms. It was one of two standout risottos I’ve eaten this year, the other being the free range chicken and mushroom risotto at Coco’s, South Perth.
Shortly after our first course plates were cleared away, we received a complimentary course of cured salmon with a terrine of barramundi and scallop. The fish was exquisitely delicate and practically melted in the mouth. The sprinkling of blackened salt flakes really enhanced the flavour of the terrine.
My main course was the tender Mt Barker chicken breast with wild mushrooms, truffled mash and truffle foam (AU$45). I described this dish in detail at my Mushroom Mania post.
Jac’s main course was the beef fillet, braised beef cheek, fondant potato, young vegetables, madeira and truffle sauce (AU$45). I’m sorry I didn’t get a better shot of the braised beef cheek, which is the black blob that looks like a prune in the background in the photo below. The beef fillet was superbly tender, the beef cheek soft and rich with the deep flavours of madeira.
We were keen to have dessert to cap off what had been a wonderful meal, but I just about died when the waiter put the next plates on the table and announced a pre-dessert, compliments of the chef – a beautifully presented truffle panna cotta, raspberry coulis, vanilla creme anglaise, pistachio crumble.
The panna cotta was perfectly wobbly (yes, I did the ever-so-gentle plate shake) and wonderfully smooth and soft as I dug in with my spoon. I’ve eaten panna cotta before but never truffle panna cotta – it was divine. Sweet yet savoury, with the distinct flavour of truffle, and unbelievably moreish. When combined with the sweet raspberry and vanilla creme anglaise and the peppery pistachio crumble, it was perfect though somewhat substantial for a pre-dessert!
We knew we had two dessert dishes still to come and we really shouldn’t eat all the panna cotta but it was so beautiful and so delicious we didn’t want to stop.
And so, the desserts we ordered were delivered.
Jac’s glazed lemon tart, honey marscapone cream and honeycomb (AU$15) was served with more raspberry coulis, creme anglaise and drops of fragrant mint oil. The lemon curd filling was smooth and delightfully lemony but it had a strong eggy smell that put me off somewhat, but the honeycomb was a dream.
I’d ordered the apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream (AU$15). The ice cream was melting rapidly before my eyes and as soon as I’d taken this photo, I lifted it out of the hot pastry. Inside the pastry, the baked half-apple was sweet and soft. I found the pastry quite difficult to eat – too much caramelisation had left the edges like too-hard toffee that stuck unpleasantly to my teeth. The garnishes on the plate looked familiar! Creme anglaise, raspberry coulis, pistachio crumble and mint oil.
It was an amazing meal. We had not ordered the degustation menu, but thanks to all the complimentary courses, it ended up feeling like we had! Don’t get me wrong, we appreciated it all, very much – but Friends’ generosity far exceeded our expectations. Had we not ordered dessert, the pre-dessert would’ve been a perfect way to end the meal; but of course, had we not ordered dessert, there would have been no pre-dessert!
It’s fine dining, but like the restaurant name suggests, there’s a friendly feel about the restaurant. The service was faultless – the staff were efficient and had great timing. Despite their many visits to our table, they did their job without once interrupting our conversation and there was no constant barging in to ask how everything was (which some Perth waitstaff appear to think is the equivalent of giving great service). Jac still talks about that years-ago Kobe beef, I dream about unexpected truffle panna cotta, and we’re still big fans of Friends.
Don’t be fooled by the frumpy curtains – there’s an excellent restaurant behind them.
20 Terrace Road (the Hyatt Centre)
East Perth WA 600
Telephone: (08) 9221 088
Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday
Open for lunch Friday
We ordered off the a la carte menu. Ten-course tasting menu and truffle tasting menu currently also available.
Open Sunday and Monday for functions
Entertainment book card discount up to $45 off (that’s the price of a main course)
I made our booking online at their website, my first time using any restaurant’s online reservations system. So easy!