We hadn’t had our Varnish fix for a while and after finding nothing on the menu at a nearby place we had picked for lunch we knew that Varnish would not let us down, and so it proved. It is one of our favourite small bars and has been recognized in various bar awards as one of the best in Perth.
Their particular bent is American whiskey and if this your tipple of choice then Varnish is the place to go – down the stairs off King Street, blink and you will miss the door, and in you are in a wonder world of whiskey, wine and food.
The wine list is well put together, with a good range from Australia and overseas, with around a dozen available by the glass, while the menu is small but interesting, and geared towards small share plates; and the pickle backs – a whiskey accompanied by a select pickle are well worth the ordering.
So for lunch we opted for three of the share plates – grilled prawns, Texas spiced octopus and pan fried Brussel sprouts; with the food, well before it really, we ordered a glass of Rusden Poco Loco rosé for Lady FWO and La Violetta Riesling Gewurztraminer blend for me.
The Poco Loco, a blend of Grenache and Cinsault from the Barossa has strawberry and stone fruit aromas, with a dry palate with a pleasant citrus zing; excellent drinking.
La Violetta from Denmark has an intensely aromatic nose with lemon, rose petals, lime blossom and ginger all there as well as a musky back note; the oily palate has a good dash of spice, fine acid and is full of citrus, nectarine and red apples. A little sweetness at the end rounds out a beautiful wine.
As to the food, the large Tiger prawns had been grilled and split, had sweet, tender and moist flesh and charry shells – served with a sprinkle of salty mullet roe and finger lime pearls, a small explosion of intense lime flavours; lovely.
The sprouts were pan fried, still with good crunch, with maple syrup providing a sweet contrast to the vegetal flavour, and melted blue cheese adding creamy saltiness; another well turned out dish.
The final of the three – a host of baby octopus, spiced with what was described as Texan spices, was served up with tender squid tentacles, zucchini strips and a dash of tarragon adding an aniseed note. The flesh was tender and juicy, but gee the spices – the Texans must like it hot – the cumin and garlic were there and maybe a touch of smoky paprika – but the chilli put all those well in the shade; now I liked them a lot, Lady FWO demurred somewhat. So be warned…..
With the heat, another drink was certainly called for, and while the good Lady FWO stayed with the Rusden I chose a Vermentino from the Riverlands, Delinquente – nectarine and pear aromas, vibrant acid with zingy lemon and lime flavours – refreshing and zesty.
A final drink seemed called for after the food, and Singlefile Pinot Noir from Denmark was the choice – aromatic cherry and spice nose, with tart sour cherry flavours, medium bodied and smooth tannins; great current drinking.
Varnish continues to impress with an interesting and innovative menu of light meals and snacks, together with its fantastic array of whiskey and well-constructed wine list, all brought together in a sophisticated and welcoming atmosphere. Excellent waiters, too –we like it a lot and it is definitely recommended.