There was only one thing I didn't like about The Stables, and that was its location. Sure, if you live or work at the west end of the CBD, snaps to you, because you can just walk to this hidden gem, and even if you work elsewhere in the city then it's possible the Stables are only a CAT bus ride away. But for the rest of us, the dearth of easy business hours parking in the city means it can be a bit of a hassle to get to during the day.
The Stables Bar is built into a renovated 1894 house and stables in the heart of the Perth CBD, and incorporates two levels of dining. The cleverly converted cobblestone laneway has been transformed into the outdoor dining area, but you never feel as though you are exposed to the elements. Instead, despite its size, there is an intimacy and warmth to The Stables it could be exposed brick and decorative ironwork, or it could be the way natural greenery has been allowed to run riot along the roof trusses. Or maybe it was the nice staff. Or maybe I was just in a chipper mood because it was a Monday and I was out to lunch with my sister and no kids.
It doesn't feel like you are in the middle of the city
Still, I liked the way The Stables felt. You'd never know you were in the middle of the city. (And although you need to take a torch along to find your way in the dark bathrooms, it's a small price to pay.)
There are a number of menus at The Stables, which is a tad confusing. There was a lunch specials menu (Mon-Wed only, $15), the normal lunch menu (from 12-2.30pm, prices from $24 to $34), and the 'from the beast' menu, which starts at $51 for a kilo of slow roasted pork up to $100 for three kilos of braised lamb shoulder so I'm assuming they're considered share plates (for very large groups or very hungry carnivores). They also have a dinner menu (and dinner 'beast' menu) from 5.30pm, sides and dessert from 11am, and the all day grazing menu from 11am.
There were too many yummy things on the grazing menu to restrict myself to a single lunch dish, so we selected three dishes to share, all the time with our eye on the dessert menu and the dish my sister said I needed to try the deconstructed Wagon Wheel. More on that later.
The grazing menu has thirteen dishes, ranging from grilled vegetable house baked sourdough ($7) to pulled pork sliders ($15) and southern BBQ chicken wings ($15). Each dish sounds intriguing and all manner of styles and cuisines are covered.
Since we are both lovers of pate, we selected the duck liver parfait, which came with warm brioche, caramelised onion and pickled cauliflower ($14). This was absolutely my favourite dish of the day, and when the waitress came to collect our empty plates, we were still trying to scrape remnants off the board. The parfait was perfected set, finely textured and totally delicious. The three baby brioche buns came in a cute little pan and melted in the mouth. The accompanying onion and cauliflower was both sweet and tart respectively. Recommended.
We also chose the chicken and chorizo croquettes ($14), and not just because we are fond of alliteration. The four crunchy fingers were well cooked and enjoyable but lacked the big spicy hit of chorizo we were expecting. They came on a drizzle of saffron rouille, which is a sauce made from breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chilli. Again, it was a tad bland for such a punchy combination.
The marinated Fremantle octopus and chickpea salad ($15) was amazing. If you don't normally like the taste or texture of octopus (or chick peas for that matter), you need to try this dish. It was soft (octopus), firm (chickpeas), mushy (roasted garlic), smoky (octopus) and woody (rosemary and chickpeas). It was so very different from what I was expecting and it also came with two big hunks of a great chewy bread.
For vegetarians there are four grazing dishes to choose from (including zucchini and cauliflower pakoras $11) and two main lunch dishes, a ricotta and mushroom risotto and a salad made from saffon infused Jerusalem artichokes, cauliflower and grapefruit ($24). The two mains are also offered at dinner.
These three little dishes filled the two of us up completely. And at $43 it was a bargain. But this was a birthday lunch and I MUST try the wagon wheel ($13). I grew up on these awesome creations: two large thin biscuit disks are stuck together with strawberry jam and marshmallow and then covered in chocolate. You're not a real Australian until you sink your teeth into one, and The Stables take on the humble wagon wheel was interesting if nothing else.
Deconstructed, my sister had warned me, and it was. A line of crunchy soft biscuit crumb was the bottom layer, upon which sat a neat ball of zesty strawberry sorbet, a killer ball of dense dark chocolate mousse, some baby homemade marshmallows and a few fresh strawberries. So actually nothing like a real Wagon Wheel, but still very yummy and fun to eat. There were other deserts on offer but I wasn't even allowed to consider them.
We visited on a quiet weekday for lunch, so it was easy to have a long, casual lunch. The music playing was soothing and the service friendly and knowledgeable. It was also a stunningly beautiful Perth day. I imagine that towards the end of the week and at dinner times, it can get very busy, but it would be a fun place to hang out. There is also a great view from upstairs apparently.
The Stables prides itself on sourcing as much of the local, organic, free range and seasonal goodies as it can, and they make almost everything on site including baking their own bread, making their own condiments and smoking their own meats. I will certainly be back, I need more of that parfait, and I also want to know what three kilo of braised lamb looks (and tastes) like.