We went along to the Principal in Midland hoping for good pub food – in fact we got very, very good food indeed. In particular, the scallop dish – more about that later – was excellent.
The Principal is located in renovated school buildings – hence the name – in Cale Street, Midland, across the road from Midland Gate, in a restored historic precinct.
The building itself has high corrugated iron ceilings, wooden floors, vintage light fittings, and in the restaurant area a quite eye catching wooden bar.
Moving down towards the rear of the building you come to the bar area – food is also served there – and an outside area is available for drinking and eating – it was a little cold to be sitting out when we were there in the evening, but it looked an attractive spot to sit around when the sun is shining.
The restaurant walls are adorned with posters advertising Mandoon Estate wines – and these feature prominently on a pretty good little wine list. Other local wineries to get a mention include Upper Reach and Sitella as well as one of my favourite Margaret River wineries, Brown Hill, and Harewood from the Great Southern who produce top quality Riesling. They also serve a great range of craft beers as well as some made themselves.
We settled for a bottle of Mandoon Estate rosé- a beautiful example of a Swan Valley style – crisp, dry, lovely lifted strawberry aromas.
The menu contains many of what may be termed usual pub food – chicken wings, dips, fried squid, burgers, steak sandwiches, – but moves beyond the norm with offerings including duck rillette, quail and beetroot ravioli, and a couple of interesting salads – lemon pepper prawn and marinated squid.
We started with seared scallops and salmon gravlax and then onto stuffed mushrooms and a pub grub favourite, fish and chips.
The scallops, very lightly cooked, were fresh, moist, plump and juicy – perfectly cooked for my taste, and came with a bed of straw mushrooms – at first I feared the mushrooms would overpower the delicate flavours of the scallops but they complemented them very well indeed. A rosemary crumb, saffron infused aioli, shaved nuts and truffle oil, provided additional nuances of texture and flavour. It was a splendid dish – and extremely well presented on the plate.
Slices of sugar and cured salmon were dotted with crispy capers, salmon roe, tiny balls of tomato which burst on touch, mascarpone and dill. The fish was tender, the accompaniments adding hits of flavour and coming together to produce another very good plate of food.
The meaty, earthy field mushrooms stuffed with a mix of feta, cashews, onions and herbs were served on a bed of warm couscous and rocket salad, crème fraiche adding a creamy, sharp lift. It was a hearty and well cooked meal.
What can you say about fish and chips? Well these were excellent – light, crisp, clean batter encasing juicy, tender, flaky cod; chips beautifully done – crisp outer, inside floury and moist. Served with a small bowl of mushy peas and another of tartare sauce and a slice of lemon; it was all you could wish of the classic dish.
Despite the generous serves of our mains, we decided to try a dessert and this was the only (slight) disappointment, the pannacotta we ordered had none of the wobble and lightness that is required – it was set much too solidly, and this detracted from a well presented dish.
It looked good on the plate with chocolate and coffee crumbs, marinated strawberry and mandarin. The flavours were fine but it just missed the mark.
To end we thought we should at least sample some of the craft beers available – they serve a $10 paddle with tastes of 5 brews – and we were taken particularly by a couple from Yenda in the Riverina– Hell and Red, as well as a couple from the Principal themselves – a beautifully perfumed wheat beer and a pils style.
The quality and range adds another dimension to the place.
The Principal has carved out a niche as one of the best pubs in the area, but it is really more than that – the beers they turn out are high quality, the food is extremely good – a lot better than just pub food – the waiters are friendly, professional and helpful, while the building provides a lovely setting.
(One point that could be considered – the hard surfaces in the restaurant help create a bit of noise from adjoining tables when a lot of people are dining – some quiet music may assist in that regard.)
We will certainly be back, and recommend it highly.