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