Reviewman Countdown 4 – Perth’s Best Burgers

Food trends come and go, much like the strange Mini Disc fad of the mid 90s.  However, unlike the concept of making CDs look like floppy disks again, the appeal of a hefty piece of meat shoehorned between two pieces of bread is ever present.  Perth has a good number of contenders in this burger-based Wrestlemania, but who boasts the concoction that takes the title belt?  It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. I took a look at the best burgers in the west, stemming from five notable burger joints and a surprise high-end restaurant.  For the sake of alliteration, let’s call this list Six Sexy Burgers.  I know “burgers” doesn’t start with an “S”, but we’ll roll with it.

 

6. CRAM $13.50 – Alfred’s Kitchen.

This casual Guildford outlet is one of the most loved in Perth, and with good reason.  The CRAM itself is one of them.  The most calorie-packed burger on a menu that’ll seriously cause the loosening of belts and popping off of buttons, it’s a classic “The Lot” burger.  Egg, bacon, cow two ways (beef and steak) and some relatively soggy salads make this more like a supercharged Double Whopper rather than a gourmet burger, but it has its charm.  The decent price:content ratio gets it bonus points, though it isn’t the cheapest on the list.  Fun fact: Matt Preston named this as his favourite burger in Australia.  The fact that he has the diet of a garbage truck and the body of a walrus should indicate to you that if you’re looking for healthy, nutritious food, you’re barking up the wrong burger joint.

Alfred's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 

5. Goat’s Cheese & Hummus $14.50 – Grill’d.

With a price as suspect as the lack of a letter “E” in the restaurant name, you’d be hoping for something pretty outstanding from this lamb burger.  It delivers, with a simple blend of ingredients that works.  Smooth, rich goats cheese is offset by the nuttiness of the hummus, two flavours that combine beautifully with the no fuss meatiness of the lamb.  Being a massive chain, expect some inconsistencies in quality.  Don’t be surprised to find the odd sandy lettuce leaf or grisly patty on your visit.

Grill'd Mount Lawley on Urbanspoon

 

4. Day Dreamer $12.20 – Bilby’s. 

Head up Davies Road in leafy Mount Claremont and you’ll come across a teensy tiny burger joint with a capacity of around nine diners.  Bilby’s holds a special place in my heart, having produced the first truly “gourmet” burger that I laid tastebuds upon.  To this day, I’m pleased to report that my favourite burger at the diner, the Day Dreamer, holds its own, against far more expensive entrants, I might add.  This chicken burger packs a decent hunk of breast marinated in thyme and all manner of native pepper berries, giving the traditionally boring white meat a nice herby zing and a little bit of heat.  It’s garnished with the usual salad greens and tomato mix, along with melted cheese, bacon and a beautifully silky avocado cream.  Being the cheapest burger on the list is a huge plus.
Bilby's Chargrilled Burgers on Urbanspoon

 

3. The Beef Big Smoke $15.50 – Burger Bistro. 

The price is as high as the burger itself.  If your wallet can brave one, and your jaw the other, the payoff is good.  A flavoursome Angus patty is engulfed in the obligatory salads, but the smoky barbecue sauce, quality Emmental cheese, pancetta and garlic mayo are the true keys to the magic.  The crispiness of the bread is a nice touch, which also prevents the burger from breaking apart through the combination of meat juice, cheese juice, sauce and all sorts of other juices.  Possibly the most filling burger on this list.
The Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon

 

2. Mozzarella Chicken $14.50 – Jus Burgers. 

Jus is seen by some as the undisputed king of the Perth burger scene, and I tend to agree.  They don’t overcomplicate things by loading ingredients in between bread, instead focusing on nailing what’s in each.  Perfectly cooked chicken tenderloins, with a little light charring for that inimitable taste of fire, are the centrepiece.  The little touches make a huge difference too, like fantastically crisp lettuce; and lightly grilled, salted and oiled bread.  It’s held together by a house-made pesto and notoriously expensive, fresh tasting buffalo mozzarella.  It’s not literally held together though – this thing is a nightmare to eat, even if you cut it in half with the provided steak knife.  Pack a bib, make sure no one’s looking, then lick it all up or soak it with bread & chips.
Jus Burgers on Urbanspoon

 

1. Rockpool Burger ($24) – Rockpool Bar & Grill.

Neil Perry is known for many things.  Ponytails, QANTAS First and Business Class menus, steak, fine-dining, and having the most successful high-end group of restaurants in Australia.  I’m here to talk up the burger, tucked sneakily away on the bar menu, which is not only the best in Perth, but may well be the best in Australia.  Virtually everything on offer is made in-house, from the pillowy bun, through to the tangy onion and zucchini pickle, amazing chilli jam, and of course the patty.  Using assorted cuts of David Blackmore’s Wagyu Beef, which are finely minced, seasoned and formed into generous slabs before being cooked medium rare, this is a serious piece of beef.  This isn’t that low marble score crap you get at some restaurants either though.  This is some of the only 9+ Wagyu beef you can get in the country.  Say what you will about the $24 asking price, which will get you the burger and absolutely nothing else… this is a literal double handful of explosive flavours, and is the best burger I’ve ever eaten, by a distance.
Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Found any better options?  Let me know, I’d bloody love to chow down on them.

 

PS: “But… I’m a vegetarian…”

Fantastic, so is my sister!  Luckily for the protein-challenged, there are several vegetarian options at these eateries.  Stay tuned for my list very soon.

Review 8 – Cold Jellyfish and Pig Trotter

When I eat Chinese, I normally go for the stereotypical classics.  Sweet and Sour Pork, Crispy Duck, Sizzling *Insert Meat Here*… these are the greats that have stood the test of time, and the test of different cultures, having travelled outside their region of origin to tempt tastebuds worldwide.

On a recent visit to Uncle Billy’s, I stuck to my guns… initially at least.  But three beers and two champagnes later, I made a call to sample something different, IE: the least appealing item on the menu: Cold Jellyfish and Pig Trotter ($19.80).

Presentation was actually decent.  It’s not going to please fine diners used to dishes plated up using a combination of tweezers and titration.  However, it’s much better than what I was expecting, which was the foot of a pig and a jellyfish, as cold as the carcass and ocean from whence they came.  What I got was thin slices of what was in essence very lean pork belly, complete with a thin layer of fat and skin around the edge of each.  This obscured the pile of jellyfish beneath, which was also thinly sliced into strips, presumably across the dome rather than the tentacles.  Basically, it looked like Kim Chee, or Korean pickled cabbage, which happens to be the food of my people, so based purely on looks, I was pretty stoked with my ill-advised choice.

It kind of ended there though.  The flavours weren’t disgusting, nor were they mind-blowing; they were just amazingly unremarkable for something that sounds like it would be so much more… unique.  The pig trotter was under-seasoned and quite bland.  It was probably more ham than pork, and the fact that it was cold made it all the more “sandwich in a lunchbox”-esque.  The jellyfish was basically jellified seawater.  It was quite salty, which nicely offset the blandness of the pork, but it may as well have just been seawater.  I couldn’t identify a distinct flavour of any kind.

Textures are where the dish falls down.  If you’ve ever cooked pork or bacon with the rind on, you’ll know that it’s a tough, unpleasant layer when raw, but becomes an outstandingly crispy treat when cooked right.  But, Uncle Billy’s asks: “why would we make a crispy skin when we could cook this pig’s foot, cool it down, and in the process pretty much leave the skin as it is when it’s raw?” That’s a missed opportunity.  The jellyfish feels like those really thick rubber bands.  I know this because I used rubber bands as dental floss when I was a younger, more stupid child.  Terrible.

I suppose the lesson to be learned here is to go with your instincts, and if you wish to enjoy a dining experience free of mediocre, obscure dishes, keep alcohol content to a strict limit that won’t affect your judgement.  If I’d followed my instincts here and stopped at the bog standard classics of Chinese cuisine, I would be writing this to you $19.80 richer.

3 jellyfish tentacles out of 10.

Review 7: MasterChef Season 5 – Episode 1

I used to love MasterChef.  I loved sitting down in front of the idiot box at 7:30pm on a nightly basis, watching people trying to put together restaurant quality meals for three portly men.  I loved the joy on their faces when they succeeded, almost as much as I loved the tears when they failed miserably. It was comforting TV.

But it quickly became boring TV, routine TV, repetitive TV.  Subsequent seasons stuck to the same formula.  You could almost rattle off contestant monologues before they happened (“I really don’t think I can get this done in time!”).  You could call the episodes before they happened: (“I bet they travel in this one!”).  The judges said the same shit every time, and you could predict the infuriatingly timed ad breaks to the nanosecond. Even spin offs like Celebrity, Junior, and The Professionals did little to mix things up , with dropping viewer numbers a clear indicator that my feelings were shared by viewers across the nation.

So Season 5 has arrived, with its battle of the sexes angle.  The advertising campaign was tiresome, but maybe it was actually a disguise.  Maybe Ten were deliberately setting the bar low so I could be blown away by awesomeness.

First impressions weren’t good, but they weren’t crap either.  It was all just a bit… expected.  22 contestants, 11 male, 11 female, split into teams based on gender and given the task of putting together a three-course menu for 14 on a tight budget.  This was MasterChef by the numbers.

After being put to the kitchen knife in the ratings by 7’s My Kitchen Rules, I thought Ten would open with a gun celebrity chef presenting a borderline impossible challenge.  Put together a dish that’s raw.  Make an Asian dish without any kitchen utensils.  Turn this chicken into a foam.  I don’t know, something different, something outrageous, something that’ll turn heads and cause people eagerly anticipating another “just waiting for a mate” moment on Highway Patrol to change channels.

A challenge that limits contestants by budget hasn’t just been done before in every season.  It discourages exotic ingredients and dishes with multiple complex elements, instead forcing contestants to come up with things that are a bit mundane.  Chicken pie?  Lemon tart?  Sure, executed well the simple things are beautiful for the tastebuds.  But this is television; I can’t taste, smell or feel, so I have to find interest elsewhere.  The basics can’t really excite on the small screen, at least not to the extent something revolutionary could.  The challenge is a missed opportunity for a season opener, that’s for sure.

While I understand that getting the contestants’ thoughts on the on-screen action is essential, it’d be nice if they were more insightful.  For the most part contestants are describing word for word, almost frame by frame, what’s taking place, much like an Arnold Schwarzenegger DVD commentary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjvSGSPAcPs).  “Look at what is happening.  And just in case you, the idiot viewer, can’t understand what is happening, let me describe it to you at length”.  You could easily edit out this filler and halve the show runtime.

Emphasising the superfluous nature of the above is the lack of focus on the actual food; the finished dishes.  Now correct me if I’m wrong, but the contestants’ survival on the show depends entirely on the end product they give to the judges.  So why, when it comes to tasting time, are we shown a handful of shots of the food and some token comments before it’s all over?  This is where time should be spent.  Instead of showing someone whisking sour cream, then showing someone talking about how they were whisking sour cream, commit those five minutes to letting the viewer know how the bloody thing presents, feels and tastes.

Giving more time to finished dishes would also lead to greater input from judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston, a trio who I’ve actually come to appreciate more as seasons have passed, but away from MasterChef.  I’ve seen them in interviews, Can of Worms, columns in magazines and the like.  These are three unique, respectable individuals who are definitely experts in the field of food.  They can crack a pretty good gag too; they’re funny guys.  If you give them more time on-screen they’re inevitably going to show this personality, rather than rattle off the same lines they always have.  They’re serviceable though, and nothing they say seems forced; these are obviously blokes who can genuinely tell a brûlée from a brisket, are happy to give credit where it’s due and don’t hold back if something tastes like old bath water.  My sources tell me Calombaris has dropped 20 kilos too, so there’s that.  Speaking of judges, if this is a battle of the sexes season, why do I only see male judges?  Pretty glaring omission if you ask me.

The battle of the sexes angle adds a little bit of friendly banter between the two teams.  It’s actually pretty entertaining, but this is only episode one.  I feel like the boys and girls are going to have to come up with some absolute pearlers if they’re going to keep things fresh over a whole season.

It’s hard to get an early read on how the contestants will be, but the spotlight seemed to be on Jules and Nicky of the girls and boys respectively, who captained their teams in the main challenge.  Jules is a headstrong “take no shit from nobody” kind of gal, which is a breath of fresh air after the crybabies of past seasons.  Nicky is a bit of a weirdo, with a military background, and while he seemed to be quite good at delegating, he was shit at actually doing any cooking, which seems crucial.  But at least he wasn’t a cardboard cutout.

Overall, I think this season of MasterChef has potential.  The battle of the sexes angle could add intrigue and conflict.  Limited glimpses of contestants show promise that there’ll be some real characters among the 22.  The judges are going through the motions but are nonetheless decent, despite the fact that there’s NO FEMALE AUTHORITY IN A BATTLE OF THE SEXES-THEMED SEASON!  There are plenty of ways it could fail and instead become another irritating exercise in repetition.  If the banter’s going to continue, there are going to have to be some absolute ripper calls in there, or it’s all going to get real annoying, real fast.  The challenges need to up the ante too, because episode one’s was simply underwhelming.  And can you show us more food please?  That would help.

I give it a six-course degustation out of ten.

Reviewman Countdown 1 – Best Hangover Feeds

Does Bradley Cooper’s facial expression ring true with you? Then you know how it feels to be truly, appallingly, horrifically hungover. Your second stop, after the toilet, will most likely be the nearest source of nutrients. But next time you’ve had one too many moisties, take the time to consider your choice of food with my handy dandy list.

10. Subway Steak and Cheese Footlong

The self-proclaimed “athlete’s training restaurant” is neither a restaurant, nor would it be used as an official component of any professional athlete’s training regime. But despite this deceit, they can actually pull off a decent sandwich. If you want something satisfying, and the illusion of healthiness which will have some mental payoff after a night of heavy substance abuse, Subway’s your answer. Take my advice – leave that “seven grams of fat or less” crap on the shelf, and load up with the Steak & Cheese Footlong. What salad ingredients you get are irrelevant; the non-negotiables are cheese, steak and Southwest Sauce. Eat fresh indeed.

9. Grand Angus Meal with 10 Nuggets

This truly is McDonalds royalty. No doubt the result of decades of in-depth research and development, the Grand Angus is as elegant a McDonalds burger as you’re likely to find, with a decent heft of beef in the middle, lettuce, red onion, cheese and tomato, along with a signature lashing of “special sauce”. It’s a real flavour sensation, and in my opinion has no peer on the menu. To kill those alcohol aftermath-related food cravings completely, make it a large meal and add 10 nuggets on the side with a sauce of your choosing, and shove a handful of chips into the burger for an impromptu KFC-inspired Tower Burger.

8. Nando’s Tenderloins Meal + 2 Extra Tenderloins

It should go without saying, but what makes Nando’s great is the chicken. I still wonder why I see people in there with their “corn on the cob” or “spicy rice”. When you’re hangers, you go the loins, no ifs, whys or buts about it. It’s a distillation of everything you like about Nando’s: that’s chicken and sauce. Where are the carbs? Let me direct your attention to the imposing lake of chips on your plate. If you’ve ever dined in at Nando’s, you know they pile the chips sky high, and they don’t stop until every little bit of immaculate white china is covered in sauce, chip, chicken or all three. Take my advice and add two extra tenderloins for a total of six – you won’t regret it.

7. Chicken Kebab with Double Meat and The Lot

A staple choice of drunkards across the globe, the humble kebab is still hard to beat when it comes to high-calorie deliciousness; this take on it is just the King of Kebab Kingdom. Packed with salads, twice the meat, cheese, egg, maybe a cheecky bit of tabouli, and sauce, it’s one of the few meals you could struggle to get through in a single sitting regardless of state of mind. Garlic and Satay are my sauces of choice. I recommend Ararats in Crawley or City Kebabs near Amplifier Bar.

6. Elixir BLT

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that do the trick, and the basics are done damn well at Elixir in Chelsea Village Nedlands, whether it’s their coffees, cupcakes or brekkies. However, don’t leave without having consumed a BLT. Generously portioned, it’s seen a few variations over the years, and has at different times featured an astonishing beetroot jam, mustard aioli, egg or avocado. But the essentials are always in there, and it’s never less than excellent. If you can haul your sorry arse out of bed early you’ll avoid a long wait and queues.
5. Peter’s Butcher Pie
Peter’s Butcher is renowned as one of the better butchers in the Western Suburbs of Perth. But the hidden gems here are their pies. With a host of fillings on offer, made using quality chicken, lamb and beef sourced from some of the nation’s best suppliers, each one makes an absolute mockery of anything you’ll find at Jesters. Don’t even talk to me about Mrs Mac’s or Four ‘n’ Twenty either. If it ain’t a Peter’s Butcher Pie, take it back. Don’t forget to request sauce when you order.
4. Guzman Y Gomez Chicken Burrito
The Mexican food fad has caught on like the Black Plague in Perth. Luckily this plague is delicious, and the latest strain is the best yet: Eastern States heavyweights Guzman y Gomez. In my opinion do the best burrito of the major chains. Though you’re not likely to care, they chargrill their chicken to order, which gives it a little extra smokiness that you can’t really get from food that’s been sitting in a bain-marie for hours. The freshness of the salads kicks things along, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll add that guacamole and hot sauce for a true Mexican experience.
3. Jus Burgers Spanish Snag
For me, this is the best beef burger on Perth’s best burger joint’s menu. Justin Bell takes pride in his fresh, local produce-driven eateries, and it shows in the burger quality. Though it’s probably the least healthy burger on their menu, that’s probably a bonus after a night on the tins, and will only serve to further ease your pain. It’s got Jus’ trademark thick beef patty, cooked to medium perfection, along with a nice helping of quality chorizo for extra meatiness you can really get your teeth into. The roast peppers add a wonderful sweetness for something different to your run of the mill fast food.
2. Sayers Big Breakfast
Sure, you’ll be $22 poorer at the very least. But you’ll get arguably Perth’s best big breakfast in return, with a little bit of everything to fill that empty stomach. Bread, eggs done your way, potato cake, sausage, bacon, mushrooms with pesto and grilled tomato… it’s everything you want, with the option of more too. I like to add extra Italian sausage. Sayers is proof that sometimes, wholesome, quality food is the answer to your deadly headache and regrets…
1. Hungry Jack’s Ultimate Double Whopper
…and sometimes it isn’t. With the dubious honour of being Australia’s most unhealthy fast food item, the Ultimate Double Whopper has been a favourite of mine since its questionable introduction as a permanent menu item many years ago. And while its negative effects on the human body can’t be ignored, neither can the sheer flavour bonanza it somehow packs between two pieces of dodgy bread. Two pieces of beef, two pieces of cheese, a few rashers of bacon and some token vegetables smothered in that trademark blend of mayonnaise and tomato sauce; it’s everything Hungry Jack’s stands for, crammed together for you to subsequently cram into your cramhole.

Review 3 – Jamie’s Italian

Jamie’s Italian (140 William Street, Perth)
http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/australia/perth
https://twitter.com/jamiesitalianau
https://www.facebook.com/JamiesItalianAU?ref=ts&fref=ts

You have about $30. You’re wandering down the Perth side of William Street. At this point you have two options – get a Supremo Chicken Burger with a regular side, drink, Perinaise and chocolate mousse from Nando’s. Or you can go to Jamie’s Italian, get a selection of cured meats, cheeses, pickles, a crunchy salad and black truffle risotto. A hangover might tell you otherwise, but trust me, you want what Jamie’s got to sell.

Unless you booked months ahead, your time at Jamie’s Italian will inevitably start with a wait. This isn’t a “waiting through trailers at the start of a movie” sort of wait. This is “I went to Disneyland during peak season at peak hour and tried to ride Space Mountain” stuff. My dining partner, Fairy Lamington, and I rocked up at about 11:45 on a Friday morning. It was a working day, so surely we’d be in within minutes? Looking at the line that started at the counter, went out the door, continued around the restaurant and meandered into the alley by the sushi place next door told us otherwise.

We ended up waiting 45 minutes to get to the counter after being told it would be 20. We put our names into the queue and were informed we’d be called for a table after a one and three quarter to two-hour wait. Two hours and fifteen minutes passed… still no call. We decided to go back and ask what was wrong. We were told we’d be the next table, then had to wait at the bar for another 15 minutes. So, after being informed we’d have to wait a total of two hours and twenty minutes, then in fact waiting three hours and fifteen minutes, we were in a cold, dark, hungry place.

But it was all sunshine and lollipops when the food arrived.

Things started with, quite literally, a plank: a piece of wood covered in cured meats, cheeses, pickles and a crunchy grated vegie salad. It was ever so simple, but the produce has obviously been carefully sourced, sliced and prepared – delicious. We also sampled some mozzarella and porcini arancini balls ($9.50) and squid ($12). Both were crispy on the outside, cooked to flavoursome perfection on the inside, and accompanied by a tangy tomato jam and smooth garlic mayonnaise respectively. No faults here.

We stuck to the famed pastas for our main courses. I had a main-size Black Angel Spaghetti ($22), and Fairy had an entrée-size Sausage Pappardelle ($12, no bullshit). All pastas are made in house, generously portioned, perfectly seasoned, and cooked al dente: with that little bit of bite that tells you it’s just the way the Italians like it. The squid-ink pasta, scallops, anchovy and caper blend of the Black Angel Spaghetti was an awesome take on the classic seafood and caper combo, wonderfully salty flavours offset by the zing of the berries and the sweet scallops. The Sausage Pappardelle was straight out of a Jamie Oliver cookbook, with a super fennel sausage braised in a rich ragu – fresh, wholesome and as Jamie would say, packing “bags of flavour”. The crunchy herbed breadcrumbs were a unique touch that added a welcome crunch.

The side we ordered was so good I could’ve ordered three and just eaten them as the main: Polenta Chips ($8.50). These little polenta pillows were like clouds on the inside, Heaven- flavoured clouds. Outside they were crispy and topped with a touch of grated Parmesan. You won’t ever want normal chips again.

We opted for a Chocolate & Vin Santo Pot ($9) and a Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue Pie ($8.50) to finish. The Pot was probably the weakest dish of the night, which is fair… it is, after all, chocolate mousse, and tasted exactly like a chocolate mousse should: chocolatey. It was well-executed though, but the Vin Santo, the Italian wine which features in the dessert, wasn’t apparent enough to make the dish anything other than a superb mousse. The Lemon Meringue Pie, on the other hand, is up there with the best pie desserts you can find, and for it’s price, I can just about guarantee it’s the single best sweet food you can buy in the world for under a blue note. The meringue was fluffy yet perfectly caramelized to give it that little touch of bitterness, the lemon component was sharp but sweet, and the crunchy pistachio and limoncello biscuit on top of the meringue (the Tutti Frutti) was the unique twist that set it apart from the rest. Texture, balance in the flavours and presentation to match.

To drink I got beer. Castello to be exact. It’s a solid Italian beer, not the best, or the worst. Moving right along.

Fairy got a couple of cocktails. The first was a Rosemary and Grapefruit Collins ($15). Packed with fresh rosemary, ginger, grapefruit and spirits, it was the best punch in the face I’ve ever sampled, an explosively amazing mix of powerful ingredients. The Amalfi Punch ($15.50) on the other hand was a gentle caress. It was a smooth, sweet zesty blend of strawberry and lemon flavours.

The ambience was eclectic. Exposed pipes, multi-coloured tiles, natural woods… it was all clash, but warm at the same time, creating an undeniably happy environment. This was complemented by the staff, who dance and sing between giving casual but effective and friendly service. The music they were dancing and singing to was atrocious though. I heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, Rihanna’s Diamonds, and even some Jet (remember them?). It was a diverse playlist to say the least, but one unified in the crapness of each song. Please, Mr Manager, turn it down or off.

Italians will say it’s not Italian enough, foodies will say it’s not inventive enough, but I’m as average as Joes get, and I say this. If you can get past a shocking playlist and near-crippling wait times if you don’t book, you’ll find a diner that’s just about flawless across the board, from start to finish. And as an added bonus, it’s so cheap you practically profit when you dine there.

I give it 8 newly closed down Perth restaurants out of 10.Image

Review 2 – Toastface Grillah

Location: Grand Theatre Lane, Perth
Web: http://www.toastfacegrillah.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ToastfaceGrillah
Twitter: @TFgrillah

You know what I’m sick of? Burning a hole in my wallet due to overpriced, sub-par food. You know what I love? Cheese… and lots of it. So you can probably understand how stoked I was when I learned that Mike O’Hanlon and the team behind The Bird had opened an eatery that specialises in toasted cheese sandwiches that don’t cost an arm and a leg to nibble on.

Toastface Grillah is located in what is arguably Perth’s most “Melbourne” alleyway, Grand Theatre Lane. It’s a prime location smack bang in the middle of the Perth CBD, just opposite the train station, right near the corner of Wellington and Barrack Streets. Anyone who’s frequented The Bird will recognise the vibe instantly; the decidedly rustic alleyway and façade are what I would describe as “street-smart”. It’s a place that’s low key, low maintenance, and packs flashes of wicked graffiti, but it doesn’t come across as pretentious either. It’s intimate, warm, full of character, like being in a friend’s living room. The service ain’t half bad either, with the same cool, collected, efficient and above all friendly team that helps make The Bird stand out.

Limited to a 30-minute lunch break, I was initially worried when my friend (let’s call her Kofi Dawkins for the sake of anonymity) suggested we eat there. It’s a five-minute CAT each way, or a 15-minute walk according to Google Maps, transport methods that would leave 20 or 0 minutes for actual consumption of food respectively. We went with the CAT, and I was amazed by the fact that we could get in, order a sandwich and coffee each, and be consuming said sandwich and coffee within minutes. I was blown away when said sandwich and coffee came to just $11.50; I got to go back to the office with more than lint, receipts and my Smartrider in my wallet. But most importantly of all, it was a meal that satisfied.

I went with the Apple & Gouda ($8). It was simple – cheese, ham, onion and apple – but it was oh so delicious. The bread was coloured and crisp, the cheese was perfectly melted and stretchy like you see in the cartoons, the ham was rich and meaty – throw in the apple and you’ve got a classic combo that works. The on-the-house chutneys were packed with tang, with five options on offer. The two we sampled were delicious – the first a yellow pickle concoction and the other a robust, oozy savoury jam. Other options start at just a fiver (for the Vegemite and Cheese), and cover a host of favourite cheeses like Brie, Blue, Cheddar, Gruyere, with other fillings and vegetarian options available too.

The coffee was a bargain at just $3.50: a flat white nailed to perfection – smooth, balanced, frothy. It’s just a shame that competing outlets feel they have to charge many dollars more than that for an inferior brew. But hey, now you know where to go instead of your shitty local café that charges in excess of a pink note for dirt, milk and water in a polystyrene cup.

Eaters on a budget, busy city workers or anyone simply looking for a delicious bite… rejoice – Toastface Grillah is a masterstroke. I’m sure imitators will spring up, but they’ll struggle to match the vibe, price point and quality Mr O’Hanlon has on offer here, and you can guarantee there will never be a better name for anything than Toastface Grillah, whoever coined that should be given the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. I can’t fault this for what it is, and it’s only been open for a handful of weeks, so can only get better.

I give it nine members of the Wu Tang Clan out of nine.