Sometimes Friday and Saturday nights can ruin the idea of eating out. Traditionally the most popular choice for a night on the town, you begin to hear stories of maximum capacity, long waits, even being turned away from some of Perth's favourite hot spots.
This is why dining mid-week is so much better. Staff are chilled, food comes quickly, and you can relax into your meal.
Our Thursday night meal at Gordon Street Garage was exactly this – good food, lovely staff and a relaxed vibe that made us stay on after we had licked the plates clean and paid the bill.
I have written about Gordon Street Garage for breakfast before, but this was the first time I had been there for dinner – partly because I had heard how popular it was on weekends, and I develop stress rash at the thought of waiting for a table.
We arrived without a reservation just after 6pm, and the enormous room was only about a third full, a mix of family groups, business dinners, and couples. As the sun was beginning to set, the room got increasingly dark, lit only by moody overhead lamps. If you're the type of person who likes to see what you're eating, make sure you ask to sit under one of the brighter lights – or bring a torch.
We had the best seat in the house, benches reminiscent of old bus seats placed directly across from the pass, the opening into the kitchen. The smells and sounds that wafted from the kitchen were constantly distracting us from our conversation – exotic smoke, whooshes of flame, animated conversation.
The wait staff (we had two) were glorious – none of this uppity, I'm-better-than-you attitude you can find in some of Perth's hotspots. If they'd pulled up a chair next to us for a chat I wouldn't have turned them away.
The dinner menu at GSG is for sharing. You don't have to, but most dishes are easy to plonk in the middle of the table, to nibble on at your leisure. 'Eat with your hands,' we were told. As such, dishes arrive when they are ready, and not necessarily in any pre-ordained order. It makes dining a little unpredictable and fun.
It isn't a huge menu by any stretch, and the way it is written can leave a lot to the imagination. There are four sections of small foods, the types of things you would find on an antipasto platter – think breads, dips, sliced meats and what they refer to as 'tins' – olives, clams, mussels and artichokes.
The 'common loaf – white' is not the soft white sandwich bread found commonly in kids lunches – no, this refers to Bread in Common, and it is very special indeed ($2 pp).
A 'beetroot and goats curd dip' ($6.50) was unexpectedly white. We tried to send it back to the kitchen until we were informed the dip was made from the rare white beetroot, making it sweet and creamy.
There are five pizzas ranging from $14 (Bianca) to $22. We tried the honey pumpkin, sage, feta and pine nuts ($22). It was deceptively simple, with a modest (but sufficient) amount of toppings, and the perfect crust. It came with pepitas not pine nuts, but no one cared.
Three pasta dishes are house made, and we watched the enormous ravioli dish being prepared, giant disks of slippery pasta, with a blob of beetroot sauce, pecorino, poppyseed and swiss chard ($26). It's on our 'must try' list for next time.
The final group are called 'plates' which is not particularly helpful. It includes salad type dishes (asparagus, zucchini, pomegranate and witlof $19) as well as more traditional dinners (chargrilled beef ribs, heirloom carrots, watercress and horseradish $32). The menu isn't particularly descriptive, but it doesn't matter, because part of the fun is seeing what those four ingredients can be made into.
We chose the dish called 'quinoa, fennel, orange and BBQ salmon' at $24. It was delicious, although someone had been a tad too generous with the olive oil. We shared it, but it would easily serve one as a main meal for lunch or dinner. The salmon was lovely and charred on the outside and pink on the inside, slices of fennel and orange counterbalancing each other nicely.
The dessert section is equally small (three dishes) although there are also assorted muffins, chocolates and cakes in the front cabinet. We selected 'almond tart, yoghurt icecream and grappa strawberries' $15. It was a perfect way to finish the meal.
While vegetarians are relatively well taken care of, there is no dedicated children's menu, and many of the options would probably prove to be too 'grown up' or complicated for most kids. If they're happy with a margherita pizza ($21) and woodfired potatoes with rosemary and smoked ketchup ($12) then I'd definitely recommend bringing them. There is plenty of space and the quirky atmosphere would probably appeal.
Parking in and around West Perth during the day can be a complete nightmare (and very expensive) but after 6pm all the street parking becomes free and unlimited. There are car parks right outside the restaurant, and in the surrounding streets. It would be a healthy walk, but you can also access GSG from the Watertown train station (West Perth).