Perth people love a good list, and if you look at practically any list celebrating the fabulous new restaurants springing up across the city at the moment, chances are you will find New Normal at the top.
New Normal is one of the new style of restaurants that celebrate vegetables and put them squarely in the centre of your attention, rather than leaving them as a 'side'. The menu is constantly changing, making the most of the WA seasonal produce. We were told at least one or two new dishes are added every few days, so don't expect a paper menu on your table.
Instead let your eyes drift to the blackboard, where you will find around ten or eleven dishes on offer (plus a few desserts). Of those ten dishes, four were strictly vegetable dishes – not vegetarian – just beautiful dishes with beautiful produce.
The menu is designed to be shared, with dishes arriving as the kitchen cooks them. This can be a little frustrating if you wanted to mix and match dishes, or were desperate to try a specific one first. It always seems to be that the vegetable dishes arrive first, and just as you're wishing you'd worn your loose pants, the meat dishes arrive. For some tips on how to survive the share food experience, click here.
That being said, once we finally made our minds up (top points for our two very patient and knowledgeable staff), the food arrived quickly and there was always something new on the table. We were told to allow around two dishes per person – and our group of five ordered ten dishes in total – six vegetable dishes, lamb, octopus, fish and duck parfait along with two serves of the house made rye bread with cultured butter and olives.
Octopus, fennel, ink sauce $21 very surprising and the meatiest octopus I have ever enjoyed
With prices ranging from $10 for the cracked potatoes with garlic and rosemary to $42 for the lamb loin with carrot, peas and mint, I expected that the night was going to be extremely pricey. There was also a ribeye for two costing $70 which we didn't try).
In the end, our charming meal wasn't as expensive as I feared, everyone leaving with a full belly having paid $70, and that included two glasses of wine of each. Another welcome touch is that the complimentary sparkling water that we enjoyed throughout the night. Our ten dishes cost us less than $50 each, which is excellent value for something that everyone is picking as one of the top new restaurants in Perth.
Located in a heritage building on Railway Road, New Normal features a rooftop bar and terrace which was heaving when we visited on a pleasant spring evening, (apparently the cocktails are excellent) but it is open to the elements so it's not as much fun in the wet. Downstairs, it's not a large space, with an open kitchen adding fire and excitement to the room. Seating is at long communal tables in the middle of the room, normal four-person tables, and tiny bar stools in the front window and around the kitchen itself, which are perfect if you're dining alone or in a pair but probably not a great idea if you're planning to order a dozen dishes.
It's a lovely space. The only adornments on the stripped back walls are the chalkboard menus. Art deco lights strung over some of the tables and banksia on the tables form the only decoration. Here, the only art is the food on your plate. Our only complaint for the evening is that it is very loud inside, making it difficult to hear people who aren't sitting directly next to you, and adding an extra challenge to wait staff trying to explain dishes to a whole table.
We eat with our eyes and the produce-driven cookery at New Normal is certainly pleasing to the eyes as well as the stomach. Little Australian embellishments – some gum leaves under the bread, Geraldton Wax leaves in the mushrooms, native flowers on the tables – are welcoming and familiar, like arriving at your Grandma's house to the smell of her famous pumpkin scones.
Rye bread with cultured butter and complimentary sparkling water