Do you want to try dishes that are a little bit quirky and unusual or dine at a restaurant where regulars seem to have a direct input into the chef's menu? Intrigued? Well, you need to pay a visit to Zephyr in North Beach, a little known gem on a beautiful terrace close to the shore.
I have lived in the suburb for four years but it wasn't until recently that I spotted Zephyr's good reviews, so decided to try it out. When I arrived, we were shown to an outside table, the patio heaters were on and we weren't the slightest bit cold, even though it was officially winter.
First off - why the name Zephyr? Well apparently Zephyr is the Roman god of the west wind and his wife was the goddess of flowers, her Roman name being Flora. This small but welcoming restaurant is on Flora Terrace close to the beach on the west coast, so it was an obvious choice for the chef and owner Lawrence Juracich, who runs the restaurant with his wife Natascha.
Looking at the menu, I spotted the ''Beef Cheeks in Filo Pastry" served on a bed of mash and sweet potato and chocolate sauce. How could I turn down chocolate in a main course? These cheeks had been matured in an oven for five hours. My friend selected the "Pork Belly with Crispy Crackling Seared Scallops" served with fermented veg. Now this is where it gets interesting. I commented on the fermented veg and the waitress told me how it came to be on the menu.
Regular diner at Zephyr, Kevin Lewis, who's a psychology student and interested in the gut/brain connection, had been making kimchi and other fermented vegetables at his home. When his favourite barista at Zephyr was taken ill with irritable bowel syndrome, he suggested that his fermented vegetables may help her complaint. He offered her some of his kimchi and her IBS subsided. She subsequently told chef Lawrence who introduced it on the menu.
My friend commented how the fermented veg certainly gave her pork dish a kick. Research has shown fermented veg can improve your mood and mental health as well as doing wonders for the gut. Hmm, now there's a thought, eating out at a restaurant can improve your memory. What a great excuse to dine out.
What struck me was the simplicity of adding this fermented veg to a dish. Apparently, Kevin and Lawrence put the vegetables together in the Zephyr kitchen with a dash of pure sea salt. It's left to ferment for 28 days or more which gives the fermented veg maximum probiotic quality and great flavour. There are no additives, no preservatives, no anti-caking agents in the salt, no chemicals of any kind. Not even water is added.
Towards the end of our evening chef Lawrence came out to chat with the guests, which gave this dining experience the personal touch. He told me how he sources only local produce and shops at local markets. His fish comes from Exmouth.
Other dishes on offer include 'Oysters Natural and Kilpatrick', and mouth-watering chargrilled 'Lamb Cutlets' along with rather delicious creamy 'Seafood Chowder".
Also served up on the Zephyr menu is a flour-less chocolate cake and his doughnuts are just to die for as they are filled with pastry cream, and served with apple salsa, butterscotch sauce and finest vanilla gelato. I suppose my only problem was that there was too much choice!
There's also a large selection of cocktails, and a happy hour, so we tried a few out.
I didn't go away empty handed, as I was persuaded to buy a jar of fermented veg. I'll be adding it to my own dishes, and every time I use it, I'll be reminded of this very welcoming restaurant, just around the corner from me.