Karalee on Preston is a little like its name – just a bit different. On the outside, located in a small shopping mall, it's a popular local tavern. On the inside, the true meaning of its name (Karalee means watering hole) becomes clear.
When we visited on a Tuesday evening, the bar and restaurant were thriving. As you walk in, there is the bar with tall seating stretching around it, perfect for those who want a quick drink without a full meal. Across the room, comfortable restaurant seating designed to take advantage of the views across the roofs of Como out to the river beyond is laid out for those who want a full meal.
This is the best type of local tavern – bright, well run and welcoming to everyone. There were large groups celebrating birthdays, small tables with elderly couples enjoying a meal, families with the kids enjoying colouring-in packs, and happy solo diners tucking into a steak and chips in the bar area. All sorts come together at the Karalee, and the atmosphere from diners and staff alike showed that they were happy to be there.
I originally thought our thoughtful and attentive table service from the manager might have been because we were invited guests, but throughout the night we watched as he stopped and greeted many people at other tables, regular guests perhaps, but clearly this is a very friendly place with plenty of staff to ensure fast service.
The menu includes many pub favourites, chicken parmigiana ($29), lamb shanks ($28), bangers and mash ($25) and creamy garlic prawns ($34). There is a small entrée section if you like to graze while enjoying a drink including a shared antipasto platter, loaded fries and calamari and my favourite type of garlic bread ($8) – where it is crisp on the outside but still chewy and soft on the inside, and it doesn't send a shower of sharp crumbs down your front every time you bite. Like everything else the Karalee does, the serves are generous.
Fish of the day with mango and roasted beetroot salad
I ordered the fish special of the day $36 (cod), grilled tiger prawns, potato gratin served with mango and roasted beetroot salad. There was a lot going on – with an avocado puree under the fish, bean sprouts, cherry tomatoes and aioli as well, and I've never had the combination of mango and beetroot before, but it was pretty much all my favourite Aussie flavours together in one dish and serve was generous and filling.
Hubby ordered the scotch fillet with pepper sauce, beer battered chips and salad. ($39) You can choose from a number of sauces – pepper, creamy mushroom, red wine jus or garlic. It came presented with the chips in their own mini fry basket and the steak was cooked exactly as requested. The chefs definitely love their steaks, with the Karalee winning the prize for Perth's Best Steak Sandwich in 2017, with crispy maple bacon, pepperjack cheese, marinated tomato, rocket, caramelised onion, house-made BBQ sauce on Turkish bread, I can understand why ($26).
Scotch fillet with green peppercorn sauce and beer battered fries
Other interesting menu items are the very insta-worthy Angry Bird Burger ($23) which we saw go out to a number of tables so I had to stop and ask for a photo. Made with an eye-popping pink brioche bun (all natural beetroot colour), it consists of a chicken breast schnitzel crumbed in spicy corn chips, maple bacon, pepper jack cheese, sauerkraut, marinated tomatoes and creamy capsicum dressing. It's one of those meals you see go out to other tables and you swear slightly under your breath because you wish you had ordered it. Next time.
Children have a small section of $12 meals for under 12s – steak and chips, fish and chips, nuggets and chips and spaghetti and meatballs. This would keep 95% of kids happy as would the enormous cakes in the display case ($8) supplemented by a delicious warm sticky date pudding or brownie ($9) which comes with cream or ice cream.
Dinner serves are generous so we had to share dessert, a warm sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce
The wine list heavily favours local wines plus popular Marlborough NZ drops, with a range by the bottle or glass, plus plenty of craft beers and beers on tap courtesy of the convenience of having a fully equipped bar in the room. There is even a cocktail menu for those special occasions. Like Thursdays. (Actually, all cocktails are only $10 from 6pm on Thursdays which makes it a very special occasion).
Meal prices top out at $42 for a 500g chargrilled WA Black Angus rib eye and with the majority of mains sitting in the high $20s to low $30s you need to remember that this popular tavern is in the heart of Como. Indeed, the curves of the beautiful art deco Cygnet theatre are a feature of the landscape, as are the eye pops of purple jacaranda trees, looking much like they belong in a Dr Seuss book.
Karalee on Preston is a popular local watering hole with locals, but it's worth the trip if you're travelling from further afield.