I'm a night owl. I'm often the most productive at night and do my best work well into the wee hours of the next day. The flip side to that is that I am very poorly suited to early mornings. I am fortunate to have the job that I do that allows me to waltz into the office generally being the last person to arrive. I have tried to be more of a morning person but it's just not me, and I thought to myself, why fight who I am? I am very obviously suited to being more active at night than I am in the early hours and this works for me. It's always been other people who have told me that I'm wasting the day by not greeting the sun each morning, but the way I see it, the moon and I get to dance a little longer every night.
Being the ninja of the night that I am, it's not uncommon to find me still wide awake at the witching hours even if I'm not out and about causing trouble. It's not unheard of for me to duck out of the house at one in the morning for a midnight snack, usually in Chinatown because there's not much on offer at that time of morning. It delighted me when I found out that there was a newcomer to Northbridge that was planning to trade until 3am everyday. Yes, everyday. And it was located outside of Chinatown. I had to know if it was going to be a suitable option for when the late night/early morning munchies strike.
Darlings Supper Club is the name,and as stated, they trade until 3am daily and is located on Lake Street. This was the street you could find me on in my clubbing days and in fact, the pizza shop we'd sometimes stumble to is still there even though the club is now long gone. With a focus on dumplings and noodle dishes, Darlings certainly does seek to fill a void when it comes to late night dining options in Perth.
The fit out is stylish; a nod to an industrial chic look with the exposed brick and masses of greenery hanging from the ceiling and protruding from the walls. There is an impressive bar alongside the open kitchen. I am not sure if you can dine at the bench in front of the kitchen. There were some stools underneath however it looks mighty close to the cooking elements.
We ordered three dumpling dishes, the fried Japanese tofu, the Hong Kong XO pork noodles and decided on teh tarik to accompany our food rather than alcohol that night. I love teh tarik, which if you don't know is pulled milk tea. The pulling method, which is pouring it from one cup to another, results in a frothy top to the tea. It's usually made with condensed milk which gives it a different taste to the normal tea you'd brew at home. I am happy to report that the teh tarik is brewed from the actual tea as it definitely was devoid of the instant packet flavour.
We chose the skinless scallop, prawn and truffle dumpling and the mushroom dumpling which was made with Swiss, field and oyster mushrooms. These two dumpling choices were steamed, and the third dumpling we chose was fried, this being the sticky pork and tamarind.
The skinless scallop, prawn and truffle dumpling was quite soft, perhaps to the point of being mushy. We couldn't pick up on any truffle flavour and overall we thought the flavour was lacking. Similarly, we thought the same of the mushroom dumplings. Given that it's filled with three different mushrooms we were expecting a very earthy punch from the mushrooms but it was quite bland and the limp skins of the dumplings would indicate it had been steamed for a touch too long. Perhaps this also happened with the skinless dumplings hence it's extremely soft texture. The pan fried sticky pork and tamarind dumplings were delicious. This was obviously the clear winner of the three dumplings, which is disappointing. One out of three isn't the most ideal result.
The fried Japanese tofu was seasoned with a chilli salt and came with a miso glaze. These were fried golden and were crisp on the outside and silky on the inside. The chilli salt partnered well with the tofu, especially as tofu generally tends to be bland so needs the input of other flavours to bring it to life.
The Hong Kong XO pork noodles is served with spaetzle on top. In European dishes spaetzle is usually a soft noodle or dumpling, it can somewhat resemble hand rolled gnocchi, but in this case it was small pieces of what I assume to be egg noodle that was fried crispy. It was not unlike the crispy noodles you often find garnishing many Asian dishes. Unfortunately this dish also failed to delight us. The overwhelming taste to the dish was that of the oil and there was little else to be found in terms of flavour.
To look at our dining experience as a whole, it was disappointingly average. This is a shame because I would very much like to have somewhere to go when I want to eat out late at night, but Darlings didn't quite live up to my expectations. Given their focus on dumplings and noodles, it was surprising to me that they only had two noodles dishes, or three if you consider that you can add chicken to one of them. There was also only six different dumplings, again not many options and given that we only enjoyed one out of our three choices that isn't what you'd hope for when dumplings are meant to be one of the main stars of the menu.
Darlings has only been open for a short time and perhaps still finding their groove. I wouldn't rule out a return visit in the future but for now I don't plan to rush back. I rank flavour and taste above all else when it comes to eating out. I'll eat in a little hole in the wall place if the food tastes good and will choose substance over style every time. I think Darlings has the ability to fill a void in the Perth dining scene but I would have loved if I could rate the food as highly as I do their impressive interior design.