MAG­NUM OPUS

Vic­to­ria Lau­rie joins the boom­ing en­ergy sec­tor’s high-fly­ers for a feast of flavours at a stylish new West Perth eatery

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

WHEN tak­ing your part­ner for a slap-up meal at Opus restau­rant in West Perth, you might like to cast a quick eye over his out­fit be­fore set­ting out. The list of at­tire not al­lowed is ex­ten­sive: no sin­glets or sleeve­less tops for men, no shorts or three­quar­ter pants, no sports­wear, no thongs or men’s san­dals, no work boots or sneak­ers, no jeans with holes or cuts.

West Perth is full of min­ing ex­ec­u­tives mak­ing a killing out of the re­sources boom, and there’s not a sin­glet or thong in sight at their favourite eateries such as Black Tom’s or Perug­ino. But Opus is all about stan­dards, and they are as high as the new eight-storey, fives­tar ho­tel that houses the restau­rant.

The Richard­son opened last Novem­ber as a bou­tique ho­tel so hip (it’s a three-sided build­ing) that rock stars and se­ri­ously rich tourists be­gan opt­ing for this ex­pen­sive hideaway.

The en­trance to Opus sits to the right of the ho­tel’s cob­ble­stoned en­trance and glam­orous mar­ble-and-glass lobby. And it’s ev­ery bit as el­e­gant: from the mo­ment we en­ter its red­car­pet lush­ness and lower our­selves into the brown cor­duroy chairs, we en­counter the most im­mac­u­late ser­vice, chal­leng­ing al­most any restau­rant in Perth.

Man­ager Kurt greets us and beck­ons to Anna, who leads us to the ta­ble. She in turn in­tro­duces An­thony, our waiter for the evening, who ex­e­cutes his du­ties with gen­tle hu­mour and cour­tesy. He glides off with coats and reap­pears with the two mar­ti­nis we’ve or­dered, in gen­er­ous glasses ($19 each).

The ex­tra-dry cock­tails are wel­come and we don’t mind that we have been rel­e­gated to the out­side palm court rather than the plush in­te­rior on this busy Satur­day night. The cream ter­razzo court is par­tially draped with white sail­cloth; there are glass walls and foun­tains bub­ble softly.

Po­si­tion­ing my­self near an over­head heater keeps the night chill at bay. It’s easy to imag­ine that dur­ing Opus’s ap­proach­ing first sum­mer the court­yard will be­come a pre­ferred spot for din­ers en­joy­ing Perth’s balmy nights.

An­thony reap­pears with tiny saucers of Asian mar­i­nated tuna, a com­pli­men­tary amuse bouche that my din­ing part­ner, Fish Boy, en­joys for the driz­zle of light olive oil. French but­ter and grasss­cented Dan­dara­gan olive oil from the state’s south­west are placed in front of each diner in lit­tle glass dishes. A waiter ar­rives with an at­trac­tive bas­ket of com­pli­men­tary bread: dark rolls with light slashes, lumpy whole­meal buns and fine white petit pain, all made on the premises.

At nearly 30 pages, the im­pres­sive wine list takes us a while to pe­ruse. Opus im­ports ex­clu­sively some of the 300 in­ter­na­tional wines in its cel­lar and in racks on a dis­play wall. Napa Val­ley wines fea­ture promi­nently, at an av­er­age of $150-$200 a bot­tle, or there’s a 1998 Chateau La­tour from Bordeaux at a mere $873.

I sus­pect this is where Opus makes a killing, cater­ing to wealthy mag­nates (of­fices of the Han­cock fam­ily em­pire are a few blocks away). As we are cel­e­brat­ing noth­ing more than a rare night out to­gether, we settle for the 2006 Jim Jim Hang­ing Rock Sauvi­gnon Blanc from the Mace­don Ranges in Vic­to­ria ($73).

Our en­trees ar­rive: black se­same-crusted tuna and a sliver of boc­concini for tex­ture, rest­ing on a bed of zuc­chini strips ($25). It’s a lovely bal­ance of flavours, four squares of yel­low-fin tuna seared to per­fec­tion but re­as­sur­ingly pink in the mid­dle. My grilled mar­ron sit on a bed of car­rot ginger puree, with a pancetta and date mini-stack ($27), and while it’s de­li­cious, the com­plex­ity of the dish is more mem­o­rable than the ac­tual taste.

For mains, I choose duck breast ($42), which is sat­is­fy­ingly lean, melt-in-the-mouth ten­der and gen­er­ous in size. It comes with a creamy parsnip puree, chorizo and braised savoy cab­bage, and a splash of ju­niper berry sauce.

Fish Boy’s choice is the tea-smoked Huon Val­ley salmon fil­let, with an as­para­gus and baby leek risotto that is beau­ti­fully pearly and fine tex­tured, served with a re­duced red wine sauce ($39). Meals are gen­er­ous enough for two small dishes of quar­tered roast pota­toes and wilted baby spinach (flown in from Vic­to­ria and per­fect in its sim­plic­ity, cooked with a hint of gar­lic and nut­meg) to more than suf­fice as side or­ders.

Cana­dian-born chef Todd Cheav­ins is cater­ing for a clien­tele look­ing for fash­ion­able dishes that still sat­isfy. A pop­u­lar op­tion is the six­course tast­ing menu with wine se­lec­tion at $165 a head which serves bar­ra­mundi fil­let or char­grilled stock­yard beef ten­der­loin and braised beef cheek ravi­oli matched with 100ml glasses of var­i­ous Mar­garet River wines.

If you stick with a la carte, the ten­der­loin dish alone will set you back $42, as will Cheav­ins’s spe­cialty com­bi­na­tion of red em­peror fil­let filled with ox­tail ragout, an as­ton­ish­ing com­bi­na­tion wholly un­ap­peal­ing to me but which a col­league has tried and praised highly.

The choice of desserts (about $15 each) is lim­ited, but A Tast­ing of Pears, which in­cludes pear poached in saf­fron, pear wrapped in filo and a fizzy pear sor­bet, is highly sat­is­fac­tory. More pre­dictable is the choco­late tril­ogy served on a three-pan­elled glass plate, of which the white ice-cream with white choco­late chunks is de­li­cious. As is the tiny dark choco­late tart, dense and bit­ter­sweet in flavour.

For­ays inside the restau­rant to check out the am­bi­ence con­firm my over­all im­pres­sion, that Opus is out to im­press in ev­ery de­tail, down to the black gran­ite, wave-shaped hand­basin and piles of tow­els in the re­stroom.

I re­turn to my seat in time for An­thony to gen­tly pull out my chair and re­store my nap­kin, while dis­creetly plac­ing a lit­tle sil­ver box of wrapped tooth­picks on the ta­ble.

If you are pre­pared to pay for qual­ity, Opus is a truly fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. All Ta­bles vis­its are unan­nounced and meals paid for. Opus The Richard­son Ho­tel, 32 Richard­son St, West Perth; (08) 9217 8880; www.therichard­son.com.au. Open: For break­fast, lunch and din­ner, seven days. Cost: $60-$95 a per­son for three cour­ses; set menus avail­able for groups, three cour­ses $75, four $90. Six-course tast­ing menu $110 a head, $165 with wine. Drink: Ex­ten­sive, ex­pen­sive cel­lar list; less ex­pen­sive op­tions are Mar­garet River whites from $43. Im­ported French, Span­ish, Chilean, US and South African wines from $100. 2000 Moet & Chan­don, $173; Krug Grande Cu­vee, $353. Aper­i­tifs and beer (seven va­ri­eties), about $9 a glass. Rea­son to re­turn: Ex­cel­lent ta­ble ser­vice.

Check­list

Pic­ture: Andy Tyn­dall

Ser­vice with a smile: As­sis­tant man­ager Nanda Jay­ati­lake dis­plays the friendly, dis­creet at­ten­tion that is a fea­ture of the glam­orous Opus restau­rant at the Richard­son Ho­tel

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