Petition Kitchen is one of the new restaurants in the recently opened State Buildings on the corner of St Georges terrace and Barrack Street. The building, formerly the Treasury Buildings, has been completely renovated and it is stunning inside and out, with each of the different bars and restaurants having a unique identity.
Petition Kitchen has a raw industrial feel – the roof space is very high, but there are no ceilings, instead a maze of air-conditioning vents and metal beams run unchecked overhead.
The floorboards are untreated, the walls barely touched. Lighting is dim and the tables unadorned. This is the sort of place you're meant to look at the food (and other diners).
Head Chef Jesse Blake, formerly of Cumulus Inc in Melbourne, amongst other well known establishments, has developed a menu of rustic dishes, based on local fresh produce, all designed to share, so there is a certain etiquette involved.
With four choices in each section there is a 'smalls' section – not underwear, but starters such as olives ($8), duck liver pate or a charcuterie selection ($29); a 'raw' section with oysters ($4.50), beef tartare ($17) and a green vegetable dish ($10); comestibles, and a meat and fish section.
Overall, the menu is very pricey with the meats starting at $34 for the free range chicken breast with leek and brioche (by the far the best dish of the night) and tipping the scale at a whopping $65 for a Margaret River beef shin. Naturally, these are dishes to share and the beef shin is quite literally half a leg of meat, with the exposed bone filled with romesco sauce. It's not something a single diner would tuck into on their own.
The comestibles (or veggie dishes for the average person) are inventive with a corn dish with three different manifestations (creamed, kernels and popped); a mushroom dish with salted ricotta and warrigal greens and a roasted heirloom tomato dish.
My favourite was an unusual dish of chopped broccoli, puffed grains, walnuts and feta – a subtle yet crazy combination of textures and one that was really enjoyable to eat. These dishes were not overly large, ranged between $16 and $22 and would make a good side dish to share between two.
The food on the whole, was pretty amazing. The service however, was less amazing. I'm hoping it was just a blip, and we caught them on a bad night, but just in case, I would definitely be petitioning them for some additional staff. The night we visited, you could see how hard the guys were working, but it wasn't quite enough, and a host of small issues could have been avoided by having a few extra floor staff.
Things like having only one menu on the table between six of us, and then having it whisked away as soon as we ordered, having to shout over the noise to be understood, waiting a lifetime for drinks and then one waiter inexplicably showing up a few minutes later with two cocktails we hadn't ordered, saying the kitchen had made them by mistake and would we like them ('well yes, we would, thank you') and then saying 'well, I'll put them on the bill then' and wandering off again. Very strange.
Two of the desserts - oatmeal cannoli at the front
But perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the night was that the dishes were sent as the kitchen prepared them, meaning we had received – and finished – all our salad and vegetable dishes before the meats even hit the table. This meant we were eating a huge chunk of beef shin without the benefit of accompanying dishes.
The wine menu is large and thoughtfully includes plenty of wines by the glass. Petition also has a number of signature cocktails including the intriguing cucumber, though I would caution against the lime. The mojitos, luckily, were excellent.
They also offer complimentary still and sparkling water.
I had the oatmeal cannoli with brown custard and apple for dessert, and was little underwhelmed – it was tasty and respectable but hardly a show stopper. I've since learned the burnt meringue with sour plum and cherry might be the way to go.
Petition Kitchen and all the other bars and restaurants in the State Buildings are very popular. With two sitting times and a three hour allocated time slot, you can't wander in off the street and expect a table. The crowds of beautiful people spill onto the streets and queue for the single, solitary (very busy) toilet on the upper level (hint – go downstairs – there is more).
Petition Kitchen is open every day of the week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.