I spent last week in Perth, mainly at a conference. You didn't even notice, did you? (Maybe Vida did - I regretfully turned down her invitation for a bakery excursion and then took up to 5 days to respond to comments.) I prepared some posts before I left and Michael faithfully published them throughout my time away, so I hope there's been a fairly seamless flow of material regardless.
I generally ate well in Perth - the catering at the Convention Centre was of high quality and offered some variety for a vegetarian, although I did accidentally consume an anchovy in what appeared to be a spinach quiche (blergh). Dining at the official conference dinner was far less impressive - a carvery and overcooked veges served buffet-style under heat lamps. Here are a few highlights from the nights that we delegates foraged for ourselves...
Jetty No. 4 Barracks Square (behind the Bell Tower), Perth
This is a pay-what-you-feel vegetarian Indian restaurant in the vein of Melbourne's own Lentil As Anything. Instead of ordering from a menu, the food is laid out buffet-style for you to serve yourself. It's the luck of the draw whether you'll be lined up as fresh chappati are brought out and quickly scooped up by your fellow diners, but you can always return for seconds on the multiple curries. Just be sure to save room for a small cup of the sweet condensed milk dessert.
What sets Annalakshmi apart from the Lentil As Anything chain is its atmosphere and location. Inside this is a lavishly decorated Indian restaurant. The plastic furniture outside may be less genteel but the view over the Swan River ensures it's the most popular seating. We enjoyed a vivid sunset as we ate (pictured top).
Little Creatures Brewery
40 Mews Rd, Fremantle
This glass-walled microbrewery by the sea must be Fremantle's worst-kept secret. Even on a Wednesday night it was packed with punters! Although I didn't photograph the food we ate there, I think Little Creatures deserves a special mention because it caters to vegetarians much better than Hobart's Cascade Brewery bothered to. There were FOURTEEN meat-free gastropub dishes, from modest sharing plates of marinated olives and feta through to gourmet pizzas and my pick, a toasted open mushroom and avocado sandwich with chips and salad. Don't miss out on the frites - they are thin and crispy with the skin left on and served with an excellent mayonnaise. Brew of the night was Rogers' amber ale.
Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant
Units 1 & 2, 220 James St, Northbridge
Lotus is a 100% vegetarian Chinese restaurant offering a huge range of faux-meat dishes from $10-$22. There's some tofu and vege-only dishes available as well, but the six-page menu is dominated by 'chicken', 'fish', 'pork', 'duck' and 'beef'. This was my dining partner Tracy's first encounter with faux-meat and I was thrilled to see how much she enjoyed the experience. She judged her crispy-skin BBQ 'duck' to taste exactly like the real thing, though the texture was subtly different. My honey sesame 'chicken' was the best faux-fowl I've ever eaten, with the battered balls moving from fryer to table in what must have been seconds. They were piping hot, super-crisp on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside (faux-meats can often get a bit rubbery with over-cooking). A sparing squirt of honey sauce added some extra sweetness without drowning out the other flavours and textures. A few dollars extra for steamed rice and a pot of Chinese tea and you've had a damned fine meal.
Lotus also offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for ~$17 and has an adjoining grocery store with take-home frozen faux-meats and other vego goodies.
William St, Northbridge
Northbridge seems to have a seedy reputation and it does have a smattering of massage parlours, broken windows and drunken backpackers. But the northern end of William St also offers a multitude of Indian and Asian grocers, which Tracy and I took great delight in browsing through. In addition there's Mela Indian Sweets & Eats, decorated in bright Bollywood style and featuring a dessert cabinet resplendent with all kinds of bite-sized treats. The menu of mains is more restrictive, with only three vegetarian curries, but who cares when you can get a vegetarian thali plate for $12.50? It comprised of sambar, chickpea curry, potato and pea curry, dhal, lots of raita, rice, bread, a pappadum and a sweetened condensed milk dessert. We were too stuffed to even glance at the sweets cabinet that first lured us through the door.