I was originally going to go to Low Key Chow House tonight, but for some reason I did a complete 360 at about 4pm and decided to head into Freo for something completely different. I don’t know if I can explain why I made this change, but I can definitely say that my chosen venue – The Wine Store and Kitchen – did not disappoint in any way possible.
I had tried to make a booking at about 4pm, and the guy on the phone had said to me that although they were fully booked (understandably), we could come on down because they always reserved some space for walk-in’s if we were happy to wait at the bar. Happy to wait at the bar? Me? I almost told him that the bar is my second home, but I didn’t want to come off as weird straight away – lets give it some time. I simply thanked him and we got on our merry way down to East Fremantle.
Once we got there and worked out how to use the door, which was a more complicated task than usual given you have to press a button to open it initially and then also pull it open to get inside, we were greeted by a very friendly waitress and seated immediately at a tall table just by the window. The decor was delightful, with a few vintage pieces including a lovely big wooden table just inside the door where some 20-somethings were having a fantastic birthday celebration, and simple tall black tables and stools.
When I wandered around the corner I was very jealous that we hadn’t booked, as the tables there looked directly onto an open kitchen area where all the chef’s were plating up. It would have been amazing to sit there and watch that for a while, but there is tip for next time! It appears there is a downstairs area as well but I didn’t get down there to see that.
The menu is small but delicious, with a South American influence and self proclaimed Argentinian edge. To start O ordered some oysters with a bloody Maria shot ($3.50 each), while I ordered an empanada with romesco sauce ($5.50), and we ordered the chorizo with shallot and cider reduction ($9) to share.
We were unsure of what to do with the shot, but O poured some into the oyster shell and swallowed the whole thing at once – if it wasn’t the right thing to do he was happy with it anyway. I had a cautious sniff of one of the oyster shells, and the smell of the ocean floor was enough to put me off eating oysters for another 10 years. I just can’t handle the things.
My empanada was much more pleasing, although not the standout dish of the night.
With really light, fluffy pastry it wasn’t too heavy for a starter, and the romesco sauce had a good level of capsicum flavour without being overpowering.
On a far more exciting note, the chorizo was out of this world!
Big meaty chunks of chorizo – I cant believe we had only paid $9 for this dish!. The chorizo itself had a nice bite to it, and was without the little chunky gristly bits that you can sometimes find in this most glorious of meats. The reduction that it was cooked in was a bit sweet from the cider, but worked well with the salt in the rest of the dish. O mentioned that he wished we had some bread to soak up the leftover sauce, and I have to say I agreed.
Once our mains came though I was grateful for the lack of bread, as they certainly weren’t lacking in quantity (or quality for that matter). We had ordered the Linley Valley pork belly, roast sweet potato puree, fresh herb & apple slaw ($22) and the Braised lamb ribs, mint yoghurt, red onion pickle ($24) to share.
The pork belly was one of the best I have had in Perth – 4 big chunks with so much meat on them, a small layer of fat and a thin layer of perfectly cooked, salty crackle. My one gripe with pork belly is usually the amount of fat that comes with it, which is necessary to keep it from drying out but which I sometimes find too much. This one had struck the perfect balance, and the meat remained moist and fell apart on the fork without that overwhelming layer.
Even though I hadn’t thought it could get any better, the lamb ribs managed to step it up about 3 notches
They may not look like much on the plate, but my first bite into this magnificent piece of meat and I was transported into another world. Despite just mentioning my negative disposition towards a lot of fat on my meat, these ribs were fall-off-the-bone meat, a layer of fat cooked PERFECTLY on top so it was crispy and provided a crunchy texture to offset the meat. The lamb itself had a smoky barbecue flavour, which combined with the mint yoghurt took this off the Richter scale for me. I was so impatient for O to taste it that I almost forced a forkful into his mouth while he was still chewing his pork belly. But seriously, this is a dish you can’t go past.
I saw a gorgeous cheese board go past and was almost tempted to ask for a dessert menu, as I had also spotted on there earlier alfajores (which I now know are a South American cookie) with peanut brittle, salted chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, vanilla bean ice cream. But alas, earlier in the afternoon we had filled up on doughnuts and brownies at Mary St Bakery, and our stomach’s were almost bursting.
It took us about 15 minutes to catch the waitresses eye to grab the bill as it was pretty busy by the time we left, but we weren’t in a hurry so this wasn’t too much of a bother. We were pleasantly surprised by the total, $88 all up for all the food, a glass of pinot and a big bottle of Rogers! That is one of the cheapest dinners I have had out in a while.
All in all, The Wine Store and Kitchen is a great little gem tucked away in suburban Fremantle, serving up some quality food at an extremely reasonable price. The decor is relaxed and the staff are friendly, and I would thoroughly recommend making the drive out there to try it out.