Marquay on the Mends Street jetty in South Perth is in a brilliant location; what used to be Bellhouse has been revamped and is now a very attractive, inviting looking spot, with lovely views of the foreshore and back over the river to Perth. With seating both inside in a nicely set up room, or out on the decking, it really is one of the better located restaurants around the traps.
Lady FWO and I met up with friends from Bunbury there on Saturday night – we caught the ferry across which was a good way to start the evening; I have always thought much more could be done as far as ferry travel on the river is concerned; in fact we seem to waste so much of the waterfront along the Swan when, with a little vision restaurants, coffee shops, boardwalks and the like could be set up to take advantage of the beauty of the river, with perhaps ferries delivering people from one side to another.
But when any development particularly around the river is mentioned, the same old blinkered, narrow minded, insular and parochial attitudes raise their head – at least after years of talking something is being done on the Perth side – but it could all be so much better. Anyway, back to Marquay….
We sat outside for a time sharing a bottle of wine, a refreshing 2012 Saracen Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (pale straw in colour, lifted tropical fruit and grassy notes on the nose, and with good levels of acid and intense lemony tones on the palate) while we waited for a table to become available – the place was very full – perhaps something to do with the power being off at the Windsor? But we didn’t have to wait all that long, and we hadn’t caught up for some time so had lots to chat about. At this point I should mention the waiter who was looking after us – she seemed also to be in charge of front of house, and was delightful – friendly, accommodating, helpful, and everything you could possibly hope for in customer service staff.
So we got our table in quite a crowded room, were provided with water and menus and we sat down to look through them. The wine list is well put together – about two dozen of each red and white, ten sparkling, a couple of rosé and half a dozen stickies – and include some very good wines. Plantagenet Riesling, Yelland and Papps Vermentino, McHenry Hohnen Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Giant Steps Chardonnay among the whites; 3 Drops Pinot, Castelli Shiraz, Saracen Cabernet Merlot the reds.
We chose a 2013 McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Cabernet Merlot to accompany our meals. This was red/purple in colour, with distinct plum and berry aromas on the nose, along with a hint of mint; the full bodied palate exhibited silky smooth tannins, with chocolate, blackberry and plummy notes moving to a long finish. It is an excellent food wine and should cellar well into the medium term.
As far as the food choices went, the menu listed a number of small plates, such as oysters, bruschetta, salt and pepper calamari and beef carpaccio. It also included three large share plates – seafood, meat and Mexican. Among the main courses were whole spatchcock with Moroccan spices, oven roasted rack of lamb and gnocchi with braised beef cheeks.
We started with a couple of small plates of Turkish bread and dips; for mains we chose maple and bourbon glazed salmon; barramundi fillet; grilled Scotch fillet; and (the gnocchi having run out) braised rabbit and prosciutto risotto.
The dips and bread were a good, light starter – two dips, one based on carrots, one on yoghurt, olive oil and dukkah and a few nicely toasted and fluffy bread strips to soak up the dips. They eased the hunger pangs while we awaited our mains – but we certainly didn’t have to wait long. The kitchen was obviously well organized and turned out the food orders quickly; it was impressive especially with so many patrons.
The barramundi had been roasted in its skin which was wonderfully crisp, the flesh firm but juicy and moist; the salad components crunchy and fresh tasting. A dressing provided a zesty accompaniment. The dish was well presented, the flavours combining well, and showed a good degree of fish cooking skill in the kitchen. It was a very good dish.
This skill was also exemplified with the salmon. A large piece of salmon was presented with a glaze based on maple syrup and bourbon – sweet, tangy and rich. The fish was well cooked retaining a pink moistness at the centre, meltingly tender. Creamy mashed potato and sweet caramelized onion jam completed the dish.
The steak had been char grilled and came with a green peppercorn sauce. The meat was tender and juicy; had been ordered medium but may have slipped a little towards well done – although there was certainly still some pinkness at the centre. The sauce had a peppery lift which added a little fire to the dish. While it was flavoursome, a little less cooking would have enhanced the enjoyment of this meal.
The rice in the risotto was nicely cooked – retained an al dente texture and the rich, creamy sauce with some salty notes from the prosciutto had been soaked up by the grains; the gamey flavours of the rabbit were a good contrast to the sauce. The bunny however was a little chewy and perhaps could have benefited from further cooking to better tenderise it. Despite this it was a dish full of flavour.
After eating we adjourned outside, once more, to take in the river views, the lights of Perth, the shouting and exuberance of the river cruise participants sailing by, a nice fresh cool breeze, more wine and more conversation until we called it a night.
Marquay is beautifully located, has a good wine and drinks list, very professional and engaging waiters, and turns out some (relatively expensive but) quality food – from what we experienced, particularly fish dishes. A little glitch or two in the cooking of the steak and rabbit didn’t take the shine off what was a very nice night out. We will be back to give another opportunity to get all the bases right.