Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Universal Bar & Cafe - William Street

Last month, The Universal Bar opened their doors at 7am for the first time to introduce their new breakfast cafe. Having previously been tipped off by the manager about the upcoming breakfast bar, I was keen to get down to try it out and see if they have a similar "grab a granny" theme in the morning that is common most weekends. I asked along my good friend, Perth Scenester and altogether bloody thoroughly nice chap, Marc, for what we hoped would be, a decent breakfast and a chance to catch up.

If you're not familiar with The Universal Bar, they go for the American Diner look with booth tables, American Beer and soda signs on the wall and a relaxed atmosphere that has given way in recent years, to the upmarket, wine bar theme so common in Perth these days. On arrival, first impressions were that word hadn't got around that they were open for breakfast, other than scooping up the early risers that were passing by on their way to the city or new offices in Northbridge. However, that did allow the bar staff (who just happened to be the 2 managers) to give us their full attention and the service from start to finish was first class. Attentive and particular to the point of asking how I would like my long black. What do I say to that? "Long and black" was the swift reply.

Bonissimo coffee beans are imported from Peru and Mexico and roasted locally in Perth. It was a decent cup of coffee, a nice crema and a smooth texture sitting in an nice cup with an interesting design. Nothing special but drinkable and just around the corner from my office so I would expect to drink more from time to time. Marc had a Long Mach topped up and agreed that it was nice. Not the best he'd tasted but definately not the worst.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating". Good service, decent coffee, how does the food measure up? Well... it doesn't. I ordered Eggs Benedict and it wasn't great. Italian bread with wilted spinach (no ham or bacon), a poor attempt at hollonndaise sauce that was so thin you could see through it and some garnish dropped on the top with no love. It didn't taste great but the eggs were soft at least and the bread was decent. The most disturbing part, and I am going to say this quickly in the hope that it doesn't ruin their reputation, wasthecockroachclimbingoverthetableasweate. There, I said it. I dropped the 'C-Bomb'. I've fulfilled my civic duty and reported the truth in my review. I don't enjoy bagging restaurants and try not to go too far in getting stuck into them (although keep an eye out for my 399 Bar review). However, if I am to do an honest review of bars and restaurants, then these things must be mentioned. I told the manager who was very apologetic and I guess we all know there's not much you can do about it, but it did ruin an otherwise decent experience.

As a new cafe, there are always going to be some teething problems. Situated in an older, used bar that is not renowned for it's cleanliness, you have to expect "situations". So moving forward, as some constructive feedback, I would offer: Keep up the great service. Coffee is decent. Good atmosphere you're creating. Get the cleaners in and work on your hollondaise sauce. Oh, and slap a piece of ham onto the eggs benny, spinach doesn't cut it.

Scores on the doors:

Service 7/10
Atmosphere 5/10
Coffee 6/10
Food 4/10
Price 5/10

Final Score 27/50

Would I go again?

Dropped in for a coffee yesterday but can't see me eating there again.


Universal Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Il Circolo - North Perth

Il Circolo translates to "The Culture" in Italian. It's an apt name to represent the Italian leg of Angove Street's multicultural 3 leg breakfast tricast. Whilst Milkd is the trendy, modern cafe to go to and The Pantry Door offers you the old school French Patisserie option, Il Circolo is a straight forward Italian Trattoria which offers another angle on North Perth's diverse coffee strip. Today, on my way to soccer, myself and North Perth's ginger version of Cristiano Ronaldo - Rusty Reid stopped in at Il Circolo for a full breakfast and a drink before our game.

Of the 3 breakfast bars on this street, Il Circolo is the least frequented by breakfasteers at the weekend. If you walk down Angove Street, you will see crowds of people around Milkd and The Pantry Door but you are always guaranteed a seat in Il Circolo. It gives the impression of a humble cafe, happy to stand in the shadow of the other bars and avoid any hype. We decided to sit outside so I ran in to grab a couple of menus. No menus available but everything is scribbled on the chalk boards at the counter. The menu is different to most places. As with everywhere, they have their signature dish that seems to be popular with most customers. Here it is the Asparagi alla fiorentina which roughly translates to toast, poached eggs, asparagus, and grated Parmesan. Feeling a tad rough, I didn't think I could stomach parmesan so early in the morning so I ordered the bacon & eggs del circolo (translating, bacon and eggs of culture????) Rusty Ronaldo ordered the same but with scrambled eggs and we both got a juice and a coffee. The prices were decent; $12.50 for the Asparagi alla fiorentina or the bacon & eggs del circolo. Rule of thumb, anything under $15 is decent, $15-$18 is typical Perth prices and anything over $18 for eggs benny or any variation is daylight robbery.

Look at this Long black. Spectacular isn't it! They use Moka J-Enna beans, an Italian company dating back to 1878. As you can see from the picture, they serve it in a big cup, filled to the top, with a beautiful thick crema to break you in. I'll not mince my words. This is the best coffee I've had in Perth. Not too bitter, delicious flavour, strong and robust. Rusty had a flat white and the barista made a pigs ear of the decorative leaf in the milk so it looked like somebody had dipped their thumb into it but other than that, no complaints.

When the food arrived, first impressions were that they go for "No Frills" presentation. 2 slices of Italian bread, 2 poached eggs sitting side by side on the plate and a few rashers of bacon next to it all. Other than hard poached eggs (which these slightly were), my other pet hate is having to re-assemble the contents of your plate to be able to eat it. Look at this plate>>>>>>>>
Who eats eggs on toast like this? You cut into the egg and the yolk runs all over your plate. You cut into it on top of your toast, the bread absorbs the yolk and you eat delicious yolk soaked toast with egg white and bacon with it. That's Eggs on Toast 101. To be fair, the toast was beautiful. An Italian loaf sliced not too thick and buttered before being toasted to give it that golden brown hue. The eggs were soft - ISH! They could've been done better but weren't completely hard. The bacon was nice, like Danish bacon you would get in Scotland (and thats the desired effect). Rusty's scrambled eggs were nice. He hoovered them quick enough so i didn't get much time to look. I guess that's a good sign?

Let's face it, this place is always going to play third fiddle to the other 2 big players on this street. However, if you want a quiet breakfast with no hustle and bustle and a quality coffee, this is your place. It's a shame they have these competitors in close proximity as they have a good product and would thrive in other areas of Perth. Marketing could be better as well, Il Circolo doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and in fact, I always referred to it as "That Italian place next to Milkd". They don't have a website either and really could do with getting themselves "out there" a little more.

Scores on the doors:

Service 6/10
Atmosphere 5/10
Coffee 9/10
Food 5/10
Price 6/10

Final Score 31/50

Would I go again?

I'll go back for the coffee, probably a fleeting visit as I head to soccer but as for food and atmosphere, I'll probably choose one of the other 2 first.

Website: Urbanspoons Reviews

Il Circolo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cantina 663 - Mount Lawley

I know, I know, second Mount Lawley breakfast review in a row. My car is out of commission right now so I'm only going to places within walking distance of my apartment. Today I woke up at 07:30 eager to get out my house for some fresh air and a strong coffee. There are 4 or 5 cafes I had to walk past to get to Cantina663 but another breakfast blog I read - Poached have this as their top rating place to eat in Perth so I've been keen to give it a try for a while now.

Walking into the place (with a stinking hangover), I felt like I'd walked into a wall of noise. The cafe was chock a block with customers and because it's a rather confined space, the chatter can seem over bearing. There weren't any seats when we first got there but we grabbed a table by the window as 2 people were leaving. The menu (above) is a little different. Not the usual favourites on it but variations offering different choices of eggs and other classics. The prices were fair. Not at all over priced and you would have to say anything under $15 for eggs on toast is a decent price.

My long black came fairly quickly. The thick crema is a sign of a good coffee well poured and you can usually tell by that and the aroma if it is going to be any good or not. Both the visual and the smell passed with flying colours and the taste didn't disappoint. I should've taken down the name of the coffee and will do so in the future but I have to say, I didn't recognise the taste so i presume it is a different coffee to that of the usual suspects.

As I had walked in, I had seen somebody eating scrambled eggs on toast and it looked awesome! The eggs have herbs cooked through them and it was a good sized portion on top of some nice italian bread, soimilar to bruschetta bread. I ordered bacon with it and forgot to ask for it crispy. However, when it came the bacon was cooked perfectly. Crispy bacon should be the default way to cook it, I don't believe anyone enjoys eating undercooked bacon so you shouldn't really have to ask for it crispy in the first place. Well played Cantina. Well played. The eggs were beautiful. I heard a tip once from Gordon Ramsey, he said that scrambled eggs should be cooked so that they are left a tad runny when served. If you cook eggs until they are hardened, that's an omelette! These were left a bit runny, had herbs through them and were seasoned perfectly. A tasty breakfast that completely hit the spot.

I think the atmosphere this place is going for is that of a thriving inner city cafe. It is always busy when I walk past and the reason people return is because the food is good and the service is friendly and quick. The actual area is very small but with seats outside on the street and into the arcade, they look like they have expanded through necessity. The coffe was delicious and different and the food was cooked to perfection. I can't find many things to criticise but I do not like the salt shakers they use. Empty the salt into a nice wooden shaker but don't just use the container it comes in. It looks cheap and tacky. Overall it is a great place to eat. There ae many cafes in this area and this must be one of the best.

Scores on the doors:

Service 6/10
Atmosphere 4/10
Coffee 7.5/10
Food 7/10
Price 7/10

Final Score 31.5/50

Would we go again?

I will definately go back there. There are other places around there that I will be trying out but if it came to it, I would definately go back.


Cantina 663 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lawley's Bakery - Mount Lawley

Today I walked up to Lawley's Bakery on Beaufort Street with a pounding headache and a craving for a strong coffee and something greasy to line my stomach. Probably not the best form to be in when going to Lawleys; a boutique bakery that specialises in quality baked goods, cakes, pastries and of course, breakfast. Their "niche" is the quality of their baking, the beautiful presentation of the pastries and also the fact that they roast and sell their own coffee beans on the premises. Having been before, I know they do a quality eggs benny and I always make a point of picking up a couple of pastries while I'm there.

In arriving there, I was met with a familiar sight. A queue right out the door, spilling onto Beaufort Street with no sign of it getting any smaller. Luckily, most patrons frequent the bakery for a takeaway pastry and a flat white so despite having to queue to place my order, there is always a table available round the back for the sit in customers. Because of the hustle and bustle at the front of the shop, I do find the cafe a tad frantic and the seating area is a bit of a tight squeeze so the overall the atmosphere isn't ideal but does the food make up for that and promote a return visit?.......

As I mentioned, they roast their own coffee beans on the premises and sell them behind the counter to take home. When my long black arrived, I didn't like the look of it. Weak in colour with no crema whatsoever, just a few dubious looking bubbles that made it loook like somebody had been blowing bubbles in it with a straw (I should point out that i didn't have a camera today so the pictures are from the web and not my own). To be fair, it tasted better than I thought it would. It wasn't as weak as it looked and the flavour, although distant, was nice. The only explanation for no crema and weak coffee is either the quality of the coffee itself or the way it is poured. Considering the coffee comes from a self pouring machine that is set to pour slowly with the correct volume of coffee, I can only assume that they topped it up with hot water to fill the large cup. They did however, redeem themselves with the cute little complimentary macaroon that comes with the coffee. Made in house as well, you can see what I'm talking about in the picture.

I should probably make clear that the breakfasts here aren't their main selling point. It's the delicious rustic breads and the amazing pastries and cakes they sell that gives them their point of difference. However, the eggs benedict are good and stand up to most competition in Perth. In fact, they are one of the best around and I would only put them behind Zamia Cafe's as the best in Perth. Their eggs Benny are actually very similar to Zamia's version. They use their own toasted bread, with wafer thin ham then 2 poached eggs and hollondaise sauce drizzled on top. Like other restaurants, they stack the 2 slices of bread on top of each other which makes it a bit awkward and usually leaves me to reassemble everything myself. The ham was straight out a packet from IGA, probably "Wafer Thin Honey Roast Ham" but it was nice nonetheless. The eggs were on the small side but were poached well and nice and runny. The hollondaise sauce was home made and made to perfection although I could've done with a bit more on them. I don't want it swimming in sauce but I'd appreciate a generous helping so i don't have to go fishing with my dry bread at the end.

Overall, everything was satisfactory. The egss benny are one of the best I've had although buying in larger free range eggs would be advised. The sauce is delicious as was the bread. The coffee was disappointing, especially considering they roast it themselves but I suspect it was the young girl adding hot water that weakened it. The service is good condsidering they are always run off their feet. The food came prompt with a smile from the waiter and the ladies behind the counter are always good for a chat and some advice on what to buy. The price, as always, is on the expensive side but if you see the presentation of the pastries and cakes, you would expect it to be expensive. An enjoyable experience which is walking distance from my apartment. I also picked up 8 bagels before I left so will be getting stuck into them through the week.

Scores on the doors:

Service 7/10
Atmosphere 6/10
Coffee 5/10
Food 8/10
Price 6/10

Final Score 32/50

Would I go again?

Will definately be back. Local and reliable. Will go for breakfast again at some point but will definately be picking up more bagels and pastries soon!


Lawley's Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Urbanspoon Rocks!!!

The Perth Breakfast Club Perth restaurants
I've recently attached my blog to the Urbanspoon website (Click on the Urbanspoon badge above). This means each review I do will now be linked from the restaurant's corresponding page on the Urbanspoon website. E.g. A search for Greenhouse, Perth in the Urbanspoon search engine will give you all blogs and reviews for the Greenhouse (my review is at the top of the listed blogs at the moment). You can link to the urbanspoon reviews from my blog by clicking on the spoon like this one here > Greenhouse commonly found at the bottom of each of my reviews.

The more reviews I do and the more hits on my page I get, the higher I will climb in the Perth Blog Leaderboard (my current ranking is displayed down the right hand side of this page). My goal is to be in the top 10 by the end of the year and that will only happen with your help. Keep reading the reviews, forward them to your friends, keep up with the top breakfast spots in Perth and I will try to mix it up and offer something a bit different. In the words of Kevin Costner....
"Build it and they will come!"