What a great way to start lunch on a warm and sunny Saturday! As we take our seats, Jac asks if the bartender can whip us up a couple of cold and fruity mocktails. This request is cheerfully received and we’re soon presented with these lurid but lovely strawberry and lime slushies.
We’re at CBD Restaurant and Bar, on the corner of King and Hay Streets at the Rydges Hotel Perth, to have lunch and meet Executive Chef Sam Southall, who has revamped the CBD menu over the past few months. The restaurant and bar have been here for years, but to be honest, to us it’s always been a place to grab a drink with mates or colleagues rather than go for a meal.
Sam took on the Executive Chef role at CBD in August last year. He began his career in 1995 at Oriel in Subiaco, one of my regular haunts after shifts back in my hospitality days. Sam completed his apprenticeship at Fraser’s in Kings Park, then worked overseas in London, France, Monaco and Canada. Since his return to Perth in 2007 he’s worked at Frasers and Rockpool Bar & Grill in Burswood before CBD. He’s quietly spoken but eager to talk about his food, his expansion of CBD’s steak offerings and his plan to introduce more dishes designed for sharing.
We decide to take Sam up on his offer to cook a selection of dishes for us.
We start with squid ink and caramelised onion bread served with French butter. The bread is baked and delivered fresh daily by award-winning local boulangerie patisserie Jean Pierre Sancho.
I find the black bread enticing. The squid ink gives the bread a faint extra saltiness, but otherwise, it tastes very much like regular bread. As soon as I break apart the other bread roll I can smell the delicious savoury aroma of caramelised onion. The French butter makes eating these bread rolls feel wonderfully decadent.
I imagine that some people will be put off by the blackness of squid ink bread. At an event at Rockpool Bar & Grill, one of the diners was so repulsed by the black colour of the squid ink risotto she couldn’t bring herself to taste it. What about you? Are you put off by black food, such as this black bread?
Next to arrive are tasting portions of cauliflower soup drizzled with truffled hazelnut honey. There’s a lovely surprise at the bottom: the crunch of chopped roasted hazelnuts. The soup is deliciously creamy and flavoursome, our favourite dish of the meal. The regular sized soup is on the menu at AU$12.
I love deep-fried battered squid (especially calamari rings at the fish and chippie, and the salt and pepper tentacles studded with garlic that you get at dim sum) but CBD’s spiced crispy cuttlefish (AU$16) is a welcome change to its often greasier cousins, with just a delicate dusting of Japanese spice mix on beautifully tender pieces of cuttlefish. The cuttlefish is served on a bed of Japanese seaweed salad with a sesame oil dressing, and wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.
The spice on the cuttlefish is tasty. We try to identify the flavours as we eat – I’m sure I can taste ginger and something citrus. Later, Sam reveals the spice mix ingredients: red peppers, roasted orange peel, black sesame seeds, yellow sesame seeds, seaweed and ginger.
Next is the Shark Bay crab risotto (AU$28), topped with lobster bisque foam and a seared scallop, with decent amount of crab meat. Jac finds it a bit too salty for her liking but I don’t mind at all and am delighted to enjoy every cheesy spoonful.
The main event is a shared steak, the 350g Cape Naturaliste sirloin, 100 days grain fed (AU$48). Sam’s served it with onion rings and a selection of sauces in shiny little pans (left to right): chilli and lime sambal, peppercorn, mushroom and horseradish cream. The steak has been sliced just before serving for our convenience.
I like the crunchy onion rings. How did Sam guess we’d prefer onion rings to chips?
We also have Romanoff potatoes, cooked with onions, cheese and sour cream, served bubbling hot in a mini cast iron pot.
Last, a salad with pumpkin, pickled beetroot, radish, dates and goat’s cheese (AU$14). Regular readers will know I dislike beetroot (tastes like dirt to me), but the pumpkin goes very well with the sweet sticky dates and soft salty cheese.
The mushroom sauce is my favourite, richly mushroomy in flavour. The chunky chilli sambal included pickled limes and is super fiery! My chilli hero friend Charlene would approve. Side dishes are AU$8, sauces AU$4.50. All “sea” and “grill” dishes include one side dish and one sauce.
We’ve enjoyed the savoury courses and are ready for something sweet. For dessert, we share two tarts. First, an elegant sliver of chocolate raspberry tart, silky smooth and not too sweet, served with raspberry cheesecake cream.
Second, pineapple and Malibu tart with rum syrup and double cream (AU$16). The top of the tart has been lightly bruleed, a warm layer of delicate toffee crunch.
As we dine, we are interested to catch a glimpse of the other dishes being delivered to adjacent tables. The CBD beef burger and Caesar salad look pretty good. I’m kept occupied with food-watching but Jac also enjoys our window seat’s street view – great for people-watching.
We really enjoyed our lunch (only need a light dinner!) and hope to return for another meal. Jac has said the next time she’s in the city she’ll definitely be keen to eat at CBD again.
Sam tells us the CBD menu will change very shortly. All the dishes featured in this post will be on the new menu, except the Romanoff potatoes and pineapple and Malibu tart.
TFP and Jac dined compliments of CBD Restaurant and Bar. All opinions expressed are mine and Jac’s.
CBD Restaurant and Bar (at the Rydges Hotel Perth)
Monday to Friday: 6am to 10am
Saturday and Sunday: 7am tp 11am
Lunch and Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 12pm to 10pm
Monday to Saturday: 11am to Midnight
Sunday: 11am to 10pm