September 19, 2013

Au Printemps

I had dinner with my girlfriends at one of our favourite restaurants in Perth, Chez Pierre, which is located on Stirling Highway in Nedlands.  For those who remember the wonder that was Eminem (the Turkish restaurant, not the rapper), Chez Pierre is located at the same venue.  Oh Eminem, how I remember those days.

Enough of the reminiscing.  The food, service and atmosphere of Chez Pierre make it a worthy successor to Eminem.  I would not eat there so often it this were not the case.  One of the great features of Chez Pierre is that they release a seasonal menu every two months, which features a different menu for each week and that I think is not only a great way to have a wonderful lunch or dinner but is also great value.  Five courses under $60 in a lovely French restaurant, what could be better?

The 'Taste of Spring' menu was launched at the beginning of September and each week until the end of October their menus will feature spring produce served up classic French Provencal style.  Although it's technically spring, you wouldn't know it with the weather these last couple of weeks.  Rain, rain and more rain.  What's that saying though? Spring showers means no summer water restrictions, or something like that?

These special set menus are available all week except for Friday and Saturday, and each week's menu is representative of a region in France.  It is only recently that they have no longer allowed for these menus to be ordered on Friday, which I wasn't aware of when I booked but they were very gracious to allow us to do so.

We had the 'Biarritz' menu, which was composed of a creamy mushroom soup for our amuse-bouche, a tiger prawn and pumpkin risotto for entree, a crisp lemon sorbet to cleanse our palate followed by a half roasted spring chicken and chocolate tart for dessert.

I always love their amuse-bouches, and you never know what it will be until it's placed in front of you.  It was so creamy and rich, it definitely delights the taste buds.  The prawns in the risotto were plump, sweet and fresh.  The chicken was not the best main course I have had at Chez Pierre.  I found it to be quite bland in taste, which is a departure from the richness of all the other main dishes I have eaten there.  That said, I do understand that this is obviously how the dish is intended to be, a lighter tasting chicken dish flavoured with a tarragon herb sauce and served simply with roast vegetables.  Any lack of richness of the main was certainly made up by the very rich chocolate tart served up for dessert!  A slice of baked chocolate tart served up with creme anglaise and ice cream - mmm mmmm!!!

I don't have any photos of the dishes from that night, however, I do have some to share of a dinner I hosted there last month in their private dining room, which is a great choice if you have a large group or a function.

Private dining room

Pumpkin veloute amuse-bouche (from a prior dinner)

Smoked salmon salad entree (from a prior dinner)

Roast lamb main (from a prior dinner)

It's unfortunately not always common to find a restaurant that has great food and great service, it's often one or the other.  It's a shame because sometimes you want to return somewhere because the service is so good, but the food not so much and other times the food is fantastic but the service really puts the whole experience down a notch or two.  At Chez Pierre, the service is exemplary.  The staff are so very attentive but they're not intruding.  They just sort of move in silence, almost invisibly, clearing away your plates, brushing the crumbs off the table, filling up your water and generally being there, without being there.  If you get what I mean.  Hello!  They even have someone who stands out the front to direct your parking.  That night the poor person who pulled the short straw was standing out in the pouring rain.  That's dedication.

In my opinion Chez Pierre is somewhere you could go for a variety of reasons - family events, business lunches or dinners, romantic evenings or dates or just wanting to have a good meal with friends.

Chez Pierre on Urbanspoon

September 03, 2013

How do you get to Paradise?

Find here my directions to Paradise.  Board a small plane to the Mitchell Plateau.  Once you arrive at the Mitchell Plateau airstrip, flag down a helicopter and hop on board for a short (and beautiful) ride to Kimberley Coastal Camp.  You have arrived at your destination. 

Simple as that, really!

As the name alludes to, Kimberley Coastal Camp is a retreat located in the Kimberley region, the very north west of Western Australia.  It is perched on the shores of Admiralty Gulf, accessible only by air or water.  For Australians who've not travelled to the Kimberley, you should.  We are extremely fortunate to have a beautiful, vast and very much untouched land within our own country.  For my readers who do not hail from Australia, if you're going to come to Australia make time in your journey to see this land.  What you envision when you think of Australia you will see in the Kimberley.  

I was recently lucky enough to spend some of my mid year holidays (I call this my "escape from winter break") at Kimberley Coastal Camp.  Of course, to get there you need a starting point.  I began my journey in Kununurra, however you can also reach KCC (as the cool kids call it) from Broome and Darwin.  If you can find your own way to the Mitchell Plateau, you can do that too.  It is not a 'budget' holiday destination, but I sincerely believe the experience will reward you many times over the cost you incur to get there.  If there's ever place you'd want to put on your must-do list and start a savings plan for, this would be one of them.

Flying over Kununurra
Mitchell Falls

It takes about an hour and a half from Kununurra in a small plane to reach the Mitchell Plateau.  From there it's about fifteen minutes in a helicopter to arrive at KCC.  The best way I can describe KCC is as a very private and comfortable retreat that exists in great harmony with its surroundings.  The buildings do not impose on the environment.  Being in your bungalow you remain constantly aware of where you are.  They are built in such a way that you can see out to the water during the day, at night the starry sky and moon and the sound of the waves gently lapping up on shore lull you to sleep.

Mitchell Plateau airstrip
Aerial view of KCC

The bathroom facilities are outdoors with the showers built into the rock face.  It is something else to have a rainwater shower under an indigo sky dotted all over with twinkling stars.  The main building, known as The Shed, is where communal meals are shared with your fellow guests and the staff.  Although up to 12 guests can be accommodated, often there are far less and it may even just be you.  With four staff on site, it allows for a very exclusive and intimate experience.

The Shed

For those who come for the fishing and endless days on the water, you can join the two expert fishing guides Angus and Jimmy.  Then there's Julie, who can share her vast knowledge of the local environment and the creatures that call it home.  For the foodie, you won't go hungry with the delicious meals dished up by their chef Jordan.  There's a saltwater pool for the times you just want to do nothing - as beautiful as the water it is unfortunately not safe to swim in, so stick to the pool.  There are great bush walking trails and some of the best examples of Aboriginal rock art close by.

Steep Head Island

During my few days there I did all the above.  I fished, and was very proud of myself as a novice fisher pulling in a few impressive sized fish.  Another day was spent setting out nets in the mangrove creeks to procure some mud crabs for dinner.  Again, a successful mission with more mud crabs netted than were needed.  Of course we only kept the biggest and the best!  The bush walks led me through even more beautiful scenery,  finding respite from the heat and sun in the shade of the caves filled with Aboriginal art or by a plunge in a freshwater swimming hole.

Lawley River
When the time comes to leave, you won't want to.  You will already have resolved in your mind to return.  I felt that I had experienced so much, yet at the same time was wonderfully relaxed.  I also left with an increased feeling of thankfulness in my life and an overall refreshing in my perspective of many things.  You know Oprah likes to talk of these 'aha!' moments.  I'd say such a moment was had.  Being cut off from the rest of the world, even if just for a few days, can really do wonders for you.  I'm talking no telephones, no mobiles, no internet, no Facebook, no television and you really start to appreciate this disconnect.  If I had to sum it up in one sentence, this is it:  I was blessed with a very special time at a very special place.

Endless perfect sunsets

 Kimberley Coastal Camp