Some Good Bits, Mostly Bad Bits @ The Precinct, Victoria Park, W.A.

Last Wednesday evening, I had dinner with Miss Egg from Perth Food Engineers, CJ from Perth Munchkin as well as her lovely husband, GG. I was flying solo as A was working late but she did say she would try to meet us for dessert. We had decided to try The Precinct in Victoria Park, as none of us had been there before and had all heard a mix of reviews.

When I arrived, I immediately noticed the dark wood and dark lighting throughout the venue, as well as the exposed brick and murals along the wall. When I sat down, there was one mural in particular that I kept looking at on one side of the wall – Queen Elizabeth in what seems to be a hoody (I love hoodys!). We were seated at the back of the restaurant, near the open kitchen.

We decided to share a bottle of vino and seeing as though CJ prefers light red wine, we ordered a bottle of the 2010 Altozano Tempranillo from Spain ($42). It took a little while for the vino to arrive, but the waiter was apologetic. I found the wine to be quite warm (definitely warmer than room temperature), which unfortunately added an unpleasant taste to the wine.

After looking at the menu, we decided to order nearly all of the small dishes on the menu to share between the four of us. This was a wise decision, as it allowed us to try lots of different options. An appealing aspect of the menu was it’s clear distinction of gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free options.

The first dish to arrive was the Lemon Pepper and Rosemary Popcorn ($5). It came in a plastic bag and was literally dumped on the table. Unfortunately, the popcorn was stale and hard to chew. There was a light rosemary flavour to the popcorn but overall it had minimal flavour evident. 

The second dish to arrive was the Baba Ganoush Dip with Tortilla Crisps ($9). I’m Middle Eastern so have spent a lot of time eating this dip (it’s my favourite!). Baba Ganoush is made with eggplant and has a rich flavour to it. The Precinct’s version had no flavour to it and definitely no eggplant evident. The tortilla crisps were really nice though – crunchy and lightly salted. At the end of the night, I mentioned the lack of eggplant in the baba ganoush dip and I was told that all the dishes at The Precinct were an ‘interpretation’ of typical dishes.

The Slider Duo’s ($12) were definitely one of the highlights. The buns were really soft and there was a citrus flavour to the burger that was quite appealing. We all enjoyed this dish. 

The Ham Hock Terrine with Piccalilli ($16) was another dish that we found underwhelming. Although the terrine was the right consistency, there was little flavour. In saying that though, in comparison to the other dishes of the evening, this dish was one that was liked. As CJ said, it was inoffensive.  The piccalilli (pickled vegetables in a mustardy sauce) and the two slices of baguette gave the dish some added flavour.

In the Mixed Vegetables with Salsa Verde ($7), there was quite a few brussel sprouts. Luckily, I like brussel sprouts but it was mentioned around the table that if you didn’t like them, you wouldn’t be able to eat this supposed dish of ‘mixed’ veggies.

Now, the standout dish of the evening was definitely the Truffle Mac and Cheese ($12). You could taste the truffle throughout it, the top was crispy, the pasta had texture and the inside was cheesey. This dish was everything a mac and cheese ought to be – creamy and delicious!

Now, probably one of the worst dishes of the evening was the Basil and Balsamic Octopus. I’m not quite sure that the basil and balsamic marinade was a good choice with the octopus, but also the octopus itself was barely distinguishable. It was giant in size and had a similar texture to chicken. This may have contributed to it being very tough and the only distinguishable part of the octopus was the tentacles and its seafood aftertaste. The four of us left this dish basically untouched.

The Chicken Wings with Nam Jim ($14) had a very interesting flavour. Nam Jim is a Thai based marinade that consists of a combination of salty, sweet, spicy and sour flavours. You could definitely taste the sour flavour of this marinade on the wings, which were unfortunately overcooked and dry.

The Cauliflower Risotto with Mascapone ($14) was another disappointing dish. There was no rice in this risotto, or if there was it was undistinguishable. I couldn’t eat this as it had a thick consistency that had little flavour. CJ mentioned that she enjoyed it.

The Raw Bruschetta with Almond Mayo ($12) was another interesting dish. This was the only vegan option on the menu and we were told that the base was made from buckwheat that was dyhydrated instead of cooked. The end result was a grainy, soft ryvita type slice with a few pieces of tomato on top. I ended up eating the tomato and leaving the buckwheat base. I also noticed that the others did the same.

The Hand Cut Chips with Ketchup ($9.50) was another inoffensive dish. We finished these off quite quickly as the chips were soft and lightly salted. The housemade ketchup and handcut chips were another highlight of the meal.

After that amazingly disappointing display of food provided, we were all unsure of ordering dessert. Not shortly after we had finished our mains, I recieved a call from A who said that she had just finished work and was on her way. She was hungry and keen to see Miss Egg, CJ and GG so we waited and chatted until she arrived. A was keen to order some food, and asked us for a few suggestions. I tried to persuade her to order the Truffle Mac and Cheese (mainly so I could have another crack at that dish!) but she didn’t feel like pasta. On our suggestion, she ordered the two safe dishes – the Sliders Duo and the Hand Cut Chips.

While A was eating her dinner, Miss Egg, CJ, GG and I ordered dessert. At the beginning of the evening, I had spotted the Banoffee Pie ($12) on The Precinct’s menu. I was keen to have one all to myself but after the mains I wasn’t sure we should try the desserts. I made the suggestion that we should order one dessert to share to see if they tasted better than the mains. If it did, we’d order a few of the others. Miss Egg, CJ and GG agreed to my plan and we ordered the Banoffee Pie to share.

When it came out, we were all a bit surprised. The menu didn’t state that it was to be a ‘deconstructed’ version of banoffee pie. Regardless, we each grabbed our spoon and tucked in. My first bite got me the crumbly top and the banana syrup on the top layer. These were nice, however the banana syrup was quite strong. I then decided to try and dip further, to grab some of the chocolate below. Once it was in my mouth, I was enjoyed it until the aftertaste. All under my gums was a salty flavour that was difficult to enjoy. I mentioned it to the others, who all said that they  hadn’t noticed the salty aftertaste. After a few more mouthfuls I was sure there was salt in the chocolate part of the dessert. This salty element was also noticed by Miss Egg and afterwards, we all decided to drop our spoons. For this one dessert, four people did not finish it.

At the end of the evening, our waitress asked how we enjoyed it. We all remained silent, looking at each other to provide the feedback. CJ mentioned the octopus and I mentioned a few of the other issues. The waitress thanked us for the feedback and mentioned that there are often compliants about the Lancashire Hot Pot which is deconstructed (but doesn’t say that on the menu) and that the waitstaff are happy to take feedback to the chefs. I thought this was a really nice element to The Precinct. She also took the octopus and popcorn off our bill and provided us with some housemade truffles to sample. These truffles were nice but at the end of the evening the five of us were keen to move on and left a few untouched.

While I was driving home I could still taste the salty aftertaste from the Banoffee Pie. Although the venue and service were both above standard, the food does not warrant a return.

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