A few years ago Alissa assisted friends as a set designer for an immersive theatre piece called Pollyanna. Staged in the Treasury Building during 2012's Fringe World Festival, it was great to see these long empty spaces reactivated for use. As we watched the works to restore the building to its former glory take place in the ensuing years, Alissa and I often wondered how the spaces would look once the restoration was complete. With the multi-concept bar and restaurant Petition taking up most of the space used for Pollyanna, we were particularly interested to dine at Petition Kitchen - especially after hearing that chef Jesse Blake was an acolyte of Andrew McConnell (of Cumulus Inc. and Cutler & Co fame). Excited by the promise of a new restaurant and keen to see how it stacked up after our meal at Petition Beer Corner just days earlier, we booked a table for four as a catch up with our friends Justin and Sarah.
Having seen the space in its unrestored state, Petition Kitchen had kept a lot of the rough post-industrial look, with a bit of polish making the space scrub up really nicely. The design's use of a lot of wood, exposed floor boards and unpainted walls is decidedly on-trend, and a very sympathetic dressing up of the space.
To begin, we started with a bottle of wine to go with our meal. Being linked to Petition Wine Bar, Petition Kitchen's list is decidedly boutique and eclectic, and while short compared to fine dining restaurants like Print Hall, its much longer that most restaurants in a similar middle-upper bracket. We decided to go with a bottle of the Yé-Yé Rouge, an unusual blend of Pinot Noir and Shiraz. A fairly avant-garde combo by the very new wave winery La Violetta, the wine was very interesting, quaffable and highly suitable as an accompaniment to a meal, with Pinot's fruity earthiness being giving a bit more grunt and pepper spice from the Shiraz.
Upon reviewing the menu, the four of us were probably thinking of ordering a small dish and a large dish each. In hindsight, this would have been significant over-ordering, and we were lucky to have our highly attentive waiter Maurizio advise us that 4 small plates and a main designed to be shared by two would be about right. The first small plate to arrive was Raw Kingfish, Beetroot, Ginger Vinaigrette, Horseradish. The Kingfish was nicely prepared, with the cure tempering the fishiness and resulting in a texture that Justin described as being as soft and buttery as an avocado. The dehydrated slices of Beetroot provided crunchy texture along with an intensification of the root vegetable's natural sweetness. The Ginger Vinaigrette and the grating of Horseradish on top gave the dish a bit of spicy heat. Being a small plate, it was over very quickly, but it left a lasting impression as the best of the four small plates we ordered.
Octopus cooked well is one of those dishes that seems simple, but is all the more impressive if you've cooked Octopus and and know just how challenging it is to transmogrify it into something that is not rubbery. Fremantle Octopus, Pernod Aioli was one such dish, with the perfectly cooked Octopus meat being firm without being chewy or rubbery. The Pernod Aioli provided creaminess and a nice anise hit. As good as the dish was, it was somewhat overshadowed by the better and more pleasing Kingfish dish that preceded it and that dish that would follow.
Alissa and I are always suckers for Duck Liver Parfait, so ordering the Duck Liver Parfait, Pickled Rhubarb, Grilled Bread was an inevitability. Really nice and light, the Liver Parfait had all the elements one would look for in a liver parfait - light airiness, that mild, irony liver flavour and a rich, moreish creaminess. Alissa felt that she wanted a bit more sweetness to cut the richness of the dish, as the Pickled Rhubarb was a bit sour. The grilled bread was nice and crispy, and made for what was probably the most decadent of our smaller plates. Or at least I thought so - Justin and Alissa felt a softer bread would have been more to their liking, so your mileage may vary. What we all agreed on was that there really should have been more bread provided, but I guess under-supplying bread would be a clever way of convincing customers to pay the extra $3 per person for another serve.
Roasted mushrooms, Salted ricotta, Warrigal greens, Potato was the last of our small plates. The dish conjured up mental images of breakfast, with the fried grated Potato on top providing a hash-brown like crispiness alongside a mix of mushrooms created a melange of flavours, shapes and textures. Salted Ricotta was sprinkled as a welcome seasoning on top, and the Warrigal Greens provided a spinach-like vegetable element that again made me think of breakfast. This was a Good vegetarian dish with a lot of textural interest, however for Justin it was a bit lost compared to the Kingfish and the Duck Liver Parfait. While Alissa and I liked it more, we all agreed that a shaving of black truffle on top of this dish in Truffle Season would take it to that next level of awesomeness. Here's hoping for something along those lines next truffle season!
The absolute star of the show was the Margaret River Beef Shin to Share, Romesco Sauce, Lemon. And my goodness did it make a theatrical entrance - the dish was brought out with the Romesco Sauce piped into shin bone itself, and then the perfectly braised meat was shredded at the table by our waiter with the Romesco spread on top. The meat was incredibly flavoursome and melt in your mouth tender - I think that even a person without teeth could have eaten this dish! The Romesco Sauce was nutty, spicy and deliciously smoky, with it heat helping lift the dish.
The Shin came with its own side of Celeriac Salad providing some acidity and vegetable crunch, with its slight tanginess making us think of Sauerkraut. Altogether the complete Shin dish would be reason alone for visiting (and revisiting) Petition Kitchen - it really is a cracking dish.
Our other side of Roast Potatoes, Salt Bush, Confit Garlic (ordered separately) was good but not amazing - I've had better crispy potatoes that were nicer (Cape Lodge in Yallingup being the gold standard). The seasoning was however absolutely spot on - perfectly salty (and backed up by crispy Salt Bush for good measure), and pleasingly garlicy. Whole cloves of garlic were present that could be squeezed for a paste of even more garlic awesomeness. Better crispiness would have made this a must-order, however the flavours were definitely there even if the texture was not.
Maurizio's sage advice to order less than we had intended meant we had room for dessert, with each of us ordering a separate dish. Being a fan of fruity desserts, I had to try the Burnt Meringue, Sour Plum, Cherry, Sheep's Milk Yoghurt. This was a superb dessert that was right up my alley, with the overall sweetness balanced out by the sourness of the Cherry, Sour Plum and Sheep's Milk Yoghurt Components and the toastiness of the Burnt Meringue. The flavours were so well integrated each component built on the other, and was for me a perfect conclusion to the meal after the unctuousness of the Shin.
Apple, pastries and custard are some Alissa's favourite flavours, making Broken Oatmeal Cannoli, Apple, Brown Butter Custard, Sorrel an obvious choice. This was an equally fresh and fruity dessert, with the Apple Sorbet being tangy and sweet, and the Sorrel leaves backing up the sourness. The surprising inclusion of Cucumber was probably the most left-field addition on the plate but somehow worked its cooling magic in a highly synergistic way. The nutty flavour of the Brown Butter gave extra interest to the excellent, creamy Brown Butter Custard piped into the nice and crispy Cannoli. This was well thought out and complete dessert.
Sarah really loved her choice of Soft Chocolate, Peppermint, Wattleseed Shortbread, Cocao Nib. She particularly liked the nutty crunch that the Cocao Nibs provided, as well as Wattleseed of the buttery, crumbly Shortbread placed on top of the dish. The Peppermint flavour and the airiness of the Soft Chocolate recalled the lightness and flavour of an Aero bar, making this a nostalgic dish that would be sure to please chocolate lovers.
Justin went all out and ordered 3 Cheeses - Le Pico (French Soft Goats Cheese), Gorgonzola Dolce (Italian Blue Cheese) and L'auffiné au Chablis (French Washed Rind Cheese). Also available at Petition Wine Bar, the selection of cheeses was fantastic - not quite 1907, Vue de Monde or Caprice level, but far better than one could expect from a more casual restaurant like Petition. The L'auffiné au Chablis and the Le Pico particularly shined, with the oozy deliciousness looking like they were pieces of yellow Gak thrown lovingly onto the plate. With bits of dried fruit to provide some sweetness, This is exactly the kind of cheese plate that makes a good argument for skipping a fully sweet ending and keeping the umami party going for a bit longer.
The Verdict: Excellent
Being impressed by the beer but a bit disappointed by the food at Petition Beer Corner, Alissa and I were glad to find Petition Kitchen well and truly committed to making excellent food, matching it with an eclectic drinks list and providing superb service to complete the experience. Like his mentor Andrew McConnell, Jesse Blake's food is skilfully prepared without being overly complicated or artsy. Dishes like the hearty Beef Shin are the kind of food highly conducive to conversation and a very convivial gathering rather than the kind of show-stopping, artistic experience of somewhere like Restaurant Amusé and Attica. Petition Kitchen is a restaurant that knows its genre, and does it very, very well.