The Mundaring Hotel Chef’s Table Dinner
Ohhh what a night. A wet and wild weather kind of night that might entice you to stay indoors, especially when there is a drive involved to get to your destination. Earlier in the day, we’d glimpsed a peek of the impressive menu which meant rain, hail minus the shine there was no way we were going to miss the Chef’s Table Dinner with The Mundaring Hotel last Thursday night.
Before I delve into the menu from that night and take you to the Heart of the Hills, I need to take you back to 1996 when we were living the child-free life in Sydney. We’d just been to the theatre to see Wolf Lullaby. A chilling production my work was sponsoring out of The Stables Theatre in Darlinghurst.
We had our chef and foodie friends with us and after a quick meet and greet with the cast after the show, our friends treated us to a Chef’s table dinner at a renowned restaurant nearby.
The evening was extraordinary on so many levels. All these years later, the chef’s name may have escaped me, the restaurant may have closed but that meal from start to finish still sets the bar on all our dining experiences that have followed. We’ve certainly had some incredible dining experiences over the years, in particular, a long table lunch with Jamie Oliver when he was recently in Perth and a handful of other meals that have come close but nothing as a whole has really compared to that particular meal. Until now.
The Mundaring Hotel – Heart of the Hills
The newly refurbished Mundaring Hotel located in the heart of Mundaring and just 35 mins from Perth, with family-friendly restaurant, bar and beer garden that serves up everything from your traditional pub meals to A La Carte with a little something for everyone in between, makes it is easy to see why this establishment has been affectionately dubbed ‘Heart of the Hills’.
With live music Friday and Saturday nights, wine tastings, weekly food specials, long table dinners to write home about and more. There’s more a little something for everyone, no matter where you stand on the foodie scale of things.
For us, the recently refurbished restaurant with log fire burning was a welcome escape from the storm. Arriving a little early and after a little wander around the facilities, we took prime position at the long table in the seats closest to the fire.
The food menu devised by Chef Vincent, who is inspired by the local rural area, features quality meats and produce from in and around the Perth Hills and sometimes a little further afield with a fabulous selection of locally sourced fresh seafood and vegetables. It’s what Chef Vincent does with the produce that has people coming back for more. Us included.
While we normally head to the hills for holiday day drives, hiking and the occasional cider, this was our first visit to The Mundaring Hotel. The incredible menu together with the friendly service on offer meant it was more than worth the drive. We were already planning our next visit after our first bite and considering becoming a local after sampling the curry.
Speaking locals, the venue offers a free courtesy bus service on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 pm. Which means not having to worry about getting home safely. Does it get any better than that? Actually, it does!
LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED WITH… STARTERS!
- Poached Nannup Marron, Seared Scallop topped with Salmon Roe, Cauliflower Purée, Vine Cherry Tomato, Lime Hollandaise Sauce, Truffle Oil, Micro Herb Garnish
- Homemade Lobster Ravioli, Peas, Strawberry Tomato, Creamy Lobster Bisque, Truffle Oil, Garnish
- Sharing Meat Board – Lamb Skewers, Spiced Chicken Wings, Pork Ribs, caramelised onion, mint yoghurt and garnish
- Margaret River Venison Carpaccio, Macadamia Nut Concasse, Truffle, Chives, Truffle Oil, Micro Herb Garnish
What a start! The marron was one of the most mouth-watering delights from the night. While the truffle overpowered my sense of smell on arrival at the table, which as a lover of truffle isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I was pleased to find that it didn’t overpower the dish. The lime hollandaise sauce was sublime and complimented the freshest of marron perfectly. The cauliflower purée was a soft creamy consistency and has me looking at cauliflower in a new and improved light. The scallop topped with salmon roe was seared to perfection and the bursting with freshness vine cherry tomato added another level to the dish.
The impressive lobster ravioli was originally destined for the main menu side of town but it’s such an intense in flavour dish that it really works best as a starter. As does the delicate and delicious Margaret River venison carpaccio. Real special occasion dishes that remind me of our earlier dating days when we would without fail always pick the most impressive sounding dishes from the menu and be disappointed. Pleased to report on this occasion, we were more than impressed.
The sharing meat board will definitely be making an appearance at our next visit with friends. It’s substantial in both size and flavour and a perfect way to get the party started provided there are no vegetarians sharing your table. I couldn’t get enough of the shavings of sweet potato used as a garnish for this dish but I would have liked to see the sprig of rosemary roasted or toasted to take the fragrency of this dish next level.
Overall the starters were a little truffle heavy, which was fine by me being a lover of truffle. Having said that, I believe the seafood dishes have more than enough flavour to stand on their own merits, minus the truffle, when the truffle season ends.
THE MAIN EVENT
- Baked Red Emperor, Aubergine & Shrimp Fricassée, Butternut Pumpkin Purée, Poached Asparagus, Truffle Oil, Micro Herb Garnish
- Seafood Bouillabaisse with Red Emperor, Mussels, Lobster, Clams, Prawns & Crab Claw in a Rich Tomato Broth
- Homemade Mauritian Chicken Curry with Rice, Homemade Raita, Homemade Mango Chutney, Pappadum
- Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks, Creamy Chayote, Carrot Cumin, Puff Pastry, Micro Herb Garnish
- Civet of Margaret River Venison with Smashed Taro with Coconut Milk, Buttery Asparagus & Shiraz Jus
My favourite dish from the night was by far the cooked to perfection baked red emperor. Followed very closely by the seafood bouillabaisse which also included red emperor alongside the freshest of mussels, lobster, clams, prawns and a crab claw or two. Served in a rich tomato broth that I could do with right now as I’m nursing a killer sore throat and cold.
Hubby, on the other hand, has a thing for beef cheeks and don’t get me started with his crème brûlée antics. Interestingly, the melt in your mouth beef cheeks followed very closely by the curry were his favourites from this menu.
For me, the 8-hour slow cooked beef cheek was the most interesting dish of the night due mainly to the creamy chayote. Chayote or as I know it… choko aka the vegetable of my nightmares (and hubby’s) growing up. Basically, it grew really easily on vines in our backyards and our parents would boil the guts out of it and zucchini and serve them both dripping with boiled water at most meals. We grew up detesting this apparent delicacy. It really was the stuff of nightmares.
Chef Vincent has with this light an almost fluffy dish redeemed the humble choko in my mouth eyes. Had the vegetable not made an appearance in its original form on the night, I would be none the wiser and would have likened the creamy chayote to a vegetable gnocchi. Absolutely divine. Who knew?! Clearly not our parents.
The venison was an interesting addition to the main lineup. Rather intense in flavour. So while a weird consistency when you’re expecting something resembling mashed potato to accompany the meat, the taro with coconut milk was actually a nice (lower carb) touch. I’ve only had taro on a handful of occasions, generally as an alternative to fries. The texture does take a little getting used to but it’s such a great alternative to potato especially if you need to avoid nightshades in your diet. I could not fault the asparagus or the shiraz jus that accompanied the meal.
Chef Vincent will tell you he doesn’t play favourites with his menu and he doesn’t have a signature dish but I would beg to differ. Without a doubt, it has to be his homemade Mauritian chicken curry served with rice, a super refreshing raita, the freshest made on the day mango chutney and a pappadum. I seriously wanted to bottle the raita and mango chutney to take home with me. Failing that I may have suggested that Chef Vincent run workshops or start bottling the produce in take-home packs for us non-locals to keep us going in between visits.
A SWEET SWEET SEND-OFF
- Homemade Crème Brûlée
- Homemade Crêpe Suzette
Both dishes we sampled were served with salted caramel ice cream, cream and berries. Light and luscious and the perfect note to finish on.
Which brings me to the only real disappointment from the night (apart from the other end of the table point blank refusing to play a little game of favourites at the end of proceedings) was the crème brûlée. While the custard was cooked to perfection and the ideal consistency the dish lacked the necessary crunch factor, which I believe was due to a faulty blow torch. Something the owner was heading out first thing the next day to rectify.
Given crème brûlée is hubby’s go-to dessert would it be weird if on our next visit we started here?
With the restaurant and pub sharing an impressive fully stocked bar, you’re not short on choices. Everything from beer, wine, cider, cocktails and more. I did spot a happy hour promotion that runs daily but was more than a little distracted with the food and drink at hand. On this occasion, given the extensive selection of wines on offer and appreciating the full extent of the 11-course menu, we turned to owner Joanne O’Connor for guidance and was not disappointed.
MAKING A WEEKEND OF IT…
As I’ve said above, we were already planning our next visit after the first mouthful of juicy marron. By the end of the night, knowing a relocation to the heart of the hills wasn’t on the cards, we were discussing making a weekend of it. With the accommodation upstairs currently being revamped, there are still plenty of appealing and affordable options close by and I might just make it my next Perth Staycation destination.
I believe The Mundaring Hotel run the long table dinners for events on a semi-regular basis. It would be worth heading over and following their Facebook page for updates. They also do a grazing function which would be a wonderful idea for your end of year parties, especially if you are keen to try a selection of food rather than have a set menu.
I’m particularly interested in the live music coming up and hoping to see local favourite Adam Hall make an appearance once he’s returned from his current tour of Europe.
CASING THE MENU?
If you’ve been playing along at home with our Casing the Menu reviews, you would know that I usually shy away from featuring launch events or Chef Table style dinners. You could say I prefer to eat my food rather than photograph it and I believe we are by most accounts receiving our meal on a silver platter. The level of service and quality of food might not be the same on an ordinary night and I prefer to give a real account of the state of play.
As I simply do not have the time to head back four or five times under cover before sharing, please consider this more of a highlight reel than a full review. That’s not to say that I won’t make it my mission to do an extensive review in time. The drool-worthy menu practically demands it. You should join me!
Also, I completely fail in the photo taking stakes at these events. For a number of reasons. My regular meal establishment audits are all about the food and the service and less about capturing a bite by bite account. As such, photos are not required, they’re generally frowned upon and seen as a distraction from my real job.
As a general rule, I don’t stage or edit photos and I only take one or two pictures quickly then hope for the best. I also don’t like to get in the way of others photographing the food, who do it so much better (waving to Inex from Inexology).
Finally and probably most importantly… food, especially of this quality when so much effort has gone into the menu from start to finish, is made to be eaten. Hot food especially should be eaten within a certain time frame of hitting the table. Wouldn’t you agree? I know my rather hungry and impatient hubby (when food comes into the equation) would.
Heart of the Hills
Cnr. of Nichol and Jacoby Street, Mundaring