WHEN a cafe pushes itself to produce restaurant-quality fare, it’s an impressive surprise. When a flash new restaurant serves tricked-up cafe food priced at the higher end of the scale, it’s a bit of a letdown. And as much as I want to fall in love with Isle of Voyage, that’s the impression I’m left with.
Isle opened five weeks ago atop the man-made island in Elizabeth Quay. Maybe there are just too many seats — 250, with half outside — to deliver some wow factor. Or maybe the surrounds dictate the restaurant’s vibe.
Just as Perth’s expensive new waterfront has been carefully designed and styled, the venue feels somewhat contrived. Inside, it’s whiter than white, with lofty ceilings and a ring of bay windows meeting pine tables and stunning teal floral banquettes. Staff sport striped yellow tees with pale denim jeans and linen aprons. It looks as if it’s been recreated from the pages of a glossy interiors magazine, but it lacks heart. The smile feels painted on.
Regardless, it’s going to be a mainstream pleaser. For a start, it’s housed in the 85-year-old Florence Hummerston Kiosk, which was deconstructed, then rebuilt on the Quay site, at a cost of $4 million. It’s also sister to the popular Voyage Kitchen at Sorrento, and its opening menu (deliberately limited, still, as it settles in) shares many dishes.
Alas, the entrance is a mess. People enter and wait to be seated in the same, narrow area as others try to pay and leave. One staff member handles both — poorly. In the kitchen, a new head chef started the day after I visited, so I go again, ordering the same thing. On both trips, our online booking is lost and table service is distracted. Drinks orders are so slow we think they’ve been forgotten.
Chicken liver parfait with grilled sourdough, pink peppercorns and cranberry relish. Picture: Richard Hatherly
The shared starters are, by far, the highlights. Chicken liver parfait ($14), velveteen smooth, blush-pink and smothered in claret-coloured cranberry relish, is brilliant.
A trio of pea and kale croquettes ($15.50) skip the usual mashed potato and bechamel; instead, the insides are as green as the English countryside, thickly blended and mashed with ricotta. Scattered with edamame beans and shattering kale leaves, it’s a decent, if pricey dish.
Mains move into the “simple, nourishing” territory the restaurant aims for, but miss its other purported goal: to satisfy.
For $30, a serve of fresh tagliatelle with blue swimmer crab is tiny, dry and flavourless. On visit one, breadcrumbs trump crustacean, which has been cooked down into single fibres. Round two is wetter with crabby chunks, but there’s one overriding flavour: salt. When the waiter takes my largely untouched bowl I share the feedback, but it’s left on the bill.
My second go at “aromatic beef pie” ($28) delivers a better whiff of Moroccan spices, its buttery pastry edge-twisted the old-fashioned way. It’s also petite, the plate filled with a choice of two salads from the pretty displays beneath the kiosk’s vaulted octagon roof.
There’s rewarding ginger tang in the broccoli, bean and quinoa rendition, while crunchy Italian coleslaw is showered in parmesan. But picking salads from a display feels too casual, too cafeteria.
Ham and cheddar tart with homemade tomato chutney. Picture: Richard Hatherly
Ham and cheddar tart ($25) — essentially a mini quiche lorraine — was perfect the first time, but is overcooked on my return.
The wine list is excellent, full of cutting-edge WA winemakers. Let’s hope the rest of the venue catches up.
Isle of Voyage, Elizabeth Quay, Perth.
The food is more cafe than restaurant, its simple style and basic flavours likely to appeal to 60-something baby boomers and beyond. The service will do nothing to help Perth hospitality’s poor reputation. But it’s early days, so let’s hope things improve by the time the sun’s out, when this place should pop.
Original Article Perth Now