Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published March 7th 2020
It's a family style restaurant that just oozes charm
From time to time I am asked by people finding out that I'm a food writer and restaurant reviewer 'What's your favourite restaurant?' My invariable answer seems to surprise them: 'For what purpose?'
Because we don't only go out to a restaurant simply to eat – purposes can be romantic; to try something new in the way of cuisines; to see and be seen; to celebrate an occasion; as an indulgence or simply to give the cook a break and have a quick, cheerful family meal. And, of course, value for money must be a factor.
Chef Darren of Chef & Co in action (Photograph courtesy of Chef & Co)
Each of these can have a favourite restaurant ranging from The Loose Box (of happy memory) to MacDonalds. Think about it; do you want to take the girl of your dreams to a restaurant on a nervous first date, and find a huge family of three generations having a noisy birthday party at the next table? Fun, but it could ruin the moment.
For pure classic silver service fine dining two restaurants stand out in my memory over the past thirty-four years of being a professional restaurant reviewer and a longish stint as a Gold Plate Judge – and that's The Vigneron at The Vines and Alexander House in the city (both now long gone, alas).
Tasting platter for two - (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
It's run by two long-experienced restaurateurs – Yvonne Khan, who ran both Padbury's in Guildford and Carilley's in the Swan Valley for many years. Her business partner in this venture is Darren King, a highly qualified and experienced chef, formerly of The Loose Box, Riverbank Winery Restaurant and more. So, with a massive collective experience, they have opened Chef & Co.
It's a family-style restaurant that just oozes charm and welcome. It's quite big, but with a control booth and bar in the centre and the tables around the perimeter it seems almost cosy. Situated on the corner, it has two street frontages, a raised platform at the back and a beautifully large, immaculately clean kitchen visible through glass walls.
The walls are rich Kelly green with large patches of distressed raw brick showing – shabby chic charm. The tables are large, the chairs comfortable and the welcome from the front of house, warm and inviting.
Caesar Salad at Chef & Co (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The menu is manageable in size and variety and full of the food that both couples and families actually like to eat – old favourites, comfortable and comforting foods.
You will look in vain for oven-baked Sasquach drizzled with peanut or plantain fricassee with passionfruit foam, but you will find Garlic Prawns, Surf and Turf and Lamb Cutlets.
We, the family of four and baby Evelyn, ate off the new standard menu (changes seasonally) of six appetisers, seven entrees, and nine mains. There are options for the vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian and those with gluten intolerance as well as separate menus for kids ($12) and seniors' specials ($18).
We began with a 'to share' platter of Garlic Bread ($6) and Chicken Liver Paté and bread ($12). The Garlic Bread was delicious and the paté was out of this world. Described as paté, it was so smooth and fine that I would really describe it as Parfait and with a light layer of, I think, quince jelly rather than the clarified butter more usually used to seal.
Chef & Co's grilled squid (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce
It was absolutely divine, rich and full without being sickly and just so morish …
Fortunately, as one of the entrees, we ordered a 'Tasting board for 2' ($35) of cured meats, olives, (pitted) arancini, pickled vegetables, relish, a grilled baguette and another portion of that delicious paté.
I ordered a Chicken Caesar Salad ($19), one of my absolute favourites, but seldom made as well and as traditionally as here. It came complete with Cos lettuce, anchovies, croutons, parmesan flakes and crispy bits of bacon and a softly-poached egg and a wonderfully smooth, flavourful dressing – one of the best I have eaten in years and years. And a very large portion indeed. Interestingly, the balance of the ingredients was perfection. So often too much lettuce, not enough anchovies and so on – not at Chef & Co. Perfection.
Jessi chose Grilled squid with garlic, chilli and wakame salad ($19). (Wakame is an edible seaweed). Cooked to perfection, the squid was tender, full of flavour and delicious.
Sizzling Garlic Prawsn from Chef & Co (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Angela chose, as I did, sizzling garlic prawns, for a main course ($38), although you can have it as an entreé ($22) and with chilli if you wish. I don't know how many of you remember The Witch's Cauldron in Subiaco – they were there for decades and their garlic prawns were world famous. These prawns from Chef & Co were at least as good, probably better.
Served in the traditional cast iron pot a large portion of fat, succulent, prawns came in a rich garlicky oil replete with nice toasty bread to soak up the left-overs. Didn't count them, but somewhere between fifteen and twenty I thought.
Ribeye Surf and Turf at Chef & Co (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
James also had prawns, but in a cream sauce on top of a huge (not joking) ribeye as Surf & Turf ($36) cooked exactly as requested – medium rare – the meat was tender and delicious and plentiful at 450g, although that included the Bedrock bone.
Jessi's selection of 'Braised pork belly with crispy crackle, seared scallops, bok choy and a soy glaze' ($35) was delicious and tender.
We also had a side dish of 'Duck fat potatoes' ($10) – which were outrageously delicious. Also a vast portion, enough for all of us to have a potato or two, or three.
Although we were by this stage replete, even stuffed to bursting, dessert menu presented its usual temptation and we were unable to resist. Chef Darren was crafty enough to put 'Sticky date Pudding in Butterscotch sauce' on the menu, which I am powerless against. If I were Superman, Sticky Date pudding would be my Kryptonite.
Chef Darren's Sticky Date Pudding (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
I wasn't alone – puddings all round (including a superb crepe Suzette and an outstanding apple pie, made with a shortbread crust) accompanied by excellent coffee rounded off one of the most delicious and pleasant meals I've had in years – every element was perfection.
The service was friendly and swift, the prices exceptional value for money and I can, and do, whole-heartedly recommend Chef & Co to anyone looking for quality, value and a damn fine meal.
Chef & Co is licensed with a serviceable wine list of mostly local wines and a range of spirits, beers, and ciders.
Chef & Co serves breakfast, lunches, $38 Business lunches and can host functions and events five days a week (closed Mondays and Tuesdays).
The excellence of Chef & Co has been recognised by a couple of prestigious awards, but the real achievement can be found in the smiles of the happy diners leaving Chef & Co.