I recently caught up with a few girl friends for dinner at a new restaurant by the beach, Bib and Tucker.
There’s been a lot of hype and fanfare surrounding the opening of this establishment, with the owners being Australian Olympic sports stars – Eamon Sullivan (swimmer), Steve Hooker (pole vaulter) and Jamie Dwyer (hockey player).
Perched on the sand dunes and overlooking Leighton Beach, Bib and Tucker (named after two West Australian bushrangers – outlaw bandits who became folk heros in the 1800s) was said to have a relaxed and beachy atmosphere, offering a modern take on traditional Australian fare. Since its opening, I have been very keen to try out their breakfast or lunch menu, and enjoy a coffee in the winter sun.
But my girlfriends had booked for dinner at 7:30pm on a Friday night… so when I arrived, it was pitch black, it was howling with wind and rain, and it was so cold! I raced out of my car and into the restaurant as quickly as possible and the whole “beachside feel” was totally lost on me. I promised myself I would come back another day for lunch!
Bib and Tucker offer a set menu for 10 people, at $70 per head. I really liked the idea of a set menu that everyone shared. It meant that we all got to try a lot of different dishes, instead of just two dishes (entrée and main course). But $70 per head (not including drinks) seemed a bit expensive to me… or ahem, am I just cheap?
Anyway, when I sat down and saw the menu…wayhey there were so many dishes that I felt that maybe it justified the price just for variety alone!
For starters, we had house marinated olives (not pictured) and wood fired flat bread with house made dips.
The bread was fresh, lovely and hot, with a perfect balance of soft bits and crispy bits. Eaten with the beetroot and feta dip, it was a yummy start.
Charred squid with fennel, almonds and chorizo.
This was a fantastic entree. It totally appealed to my healthy side and it felt like good “clean eating” food.
My girlfriends and I have been having big fancy dinners about once a month… and I don’t usually take photos of the food. But this time I wanted take some snaps for my blog, so as each dish arrived, I whipped out my big Nikon DSLR and went all paparazzi on them. My girlfriends thought it was hilarious :P
They even helped me style the food and find the best looking piece of grilled squid to plonk on top. Gotta love your girlfriends!
Quinoa, corn, pomegranate and mint salad.
This was a delicate and light salad. Although it didn’t look very pretty, the fresh mint flavour complimented the sweetness from the corn and the pomegranate really well.
Rotisserie pork belly, fennel and apple puree.
The pork was soft and juicy, however the flavours were perhaps too subtle – I felt it lacked a WOW factor.
Iceberg lettuce, pickled cucumber, seeds and sheep’s milk salad.
Ok this is where it got weird for me.
I understand the concept of reinventing “old fashioned” Australian dishes with a modern twist, but this dish really gave me… an internal conflict. And I’m not talking about indigestion. I’m talking mental confusion.
On one hand, if they just presented a boring side salad, with chopped lettuce and a bit of shaved cheese, everyone would have thought “HOW BORING!”. And I wouldn’t even be photographing and talking about the dish.
So yes, this dish got my attention. The concept and presentation was certainly unique, strange and interesting. It made patrons (like me!) stop and think about the combinations of food, the origins (I assume the “sheep’s milk” referred to the cheese), and why it was assembled that way etc.
But I think it was the fact that this dish was featuring something so simple as iceberg lettuce… it made me a bit annoyed because I was so distracted by the concept. My brain was churning away with conceptual considerations, like it was a controversial modern artwork… but it was just a side salad of mostly iceberg lettuce!! I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not! And even as I type this blog post, I still can’t.
Crispy skin fish, with romesco and char grilled squid.
Ah this was much nicer! The fish was soft, succulent and tender… and the romesco sauce gave it a great lift.
The presentation made me imagine that I was in the outback and a weathered, master fisherman was cooking good, old fashion “bush tucker” for me… and this is how it would look, fish and squid all cooked up, thrown together in this fresh, natural, unpretentious platter.
It tasted good, but I didn’t think it was OMG YUM.
Leighton Mess – Meringue, lemon curd, yoghurt sorbet and textures of strawberry.
OK THIS DISH was the MIND BLOWER for me. It was fricking aaaawesome!!
I didn’t look at the menu before it arrived, so didn’t know what it was. It looked like a smashed up messy dessert. And when I tasted it, I gasped with surprise and enjoyment and I knew it was a modern take on the classic Australian pavlova… and it was sooooo goooood!
The meringue was an amazing mix of crunchy, soft and gooey. The yoghurt sorbet was cold and mild with a lovely milky taste. The lemon curd gave a contrasting blast of tang and creaminess. And the strawberries wrapped it all up with berry-depth and sweetness.
It was such a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed the concept this time.
Last was the White chocolate and raspberry ice cream sandwich.
I got the old-fashion napoleon ice cream reference. I got the ice cream sandwich reference. It was like a reference to 1970/80 Aussie kids treats.
But I was so blown away by the previous crunchy-soft-gooey meringue, that I didn’t spend much time thinking about this dessert. I gobbled down my slice, and then went back to have seconds of the meringue. Oops.
It was a Friday night, the place was packed and noisy… but I still managed to have several in-depth conversations across the table. The service seemed fine, which contradicted several reviews I read. The waiter-dude serving my side of the table was very friendly and attentive. He was also very warm and pleasant when I asked permission to take photos.
Overall: I’m conflicted. I can’t decide whether the whole modern menu concept was pretentious or brilliant. Was this kind of dining… clever and unique, or just overpriced and trying-too-hard?
I thought the food was just good, not amazing. But maybe, not on a busy Friday night while trying to talk to my girlfriends about babies and boyfriends, I would have appreciated it better?
I would love to come back during the day to try out the lunch or dinner menu, on a week day/night. I’d definitely take up the opportunity to try this again, just me and a foodie friend. Hence I’ve called this post Part 1.
Bib and Tucker
18 Leighton Beach Bvd
North Fremantle, WA