I’m a big believer in celebrating romance even when there’s no occasion for it. Who says it has to be Valentine’s Day before you’ll fork out for some fine dineyness with your bonny belle or beefy beau? Mmm, beef…
Last weekend was one such non-occasion, and I booked the Welshman and myself a table at Must Winebar in Highgate. I’d never been to Must despite having lived in the area, although I’ve had many a rowdy night and lazy lunch at the Queens across the road.
The Welshman and I spent the afternoon watching the Wales v France Rugby World Cup semi-final, and were both quite devastated when Wales lost by just one point. Talk about bandwagon-jumping – I’d never watched a game of rugby in my life before this year’s World Cup, but I applied myself with fervour just for the hell of it, and now can talk converted tries and knock-ons like a seasoned old punter who shakes their fist at the cracked old pub TV, not noticing their mug of beer has upended and has sloshed amber liquid down their faded rugby jersey.
But I digress. We were a bit down after the heartbreakingly close match (me, feeling down about a sports match! Feels strange just writing it) so going out to dinner was a pleasant cheer-upper.
Must is a regular on the best-bar/restaurant-in-Perth lists, and you can see why when you walk in – the lighting is dim and moody but not dingey, and the décor is stylish and neutral, with lots of dark reds and creams. The lower part of the room has a bar running down one side and a parallel wine rack partition in the centre, with dining tables clustered on the other side of that. Overlooking all this is another dining area with a gallery-style railing, and we were seated at the edge of this. Ours was a fantastic spot, especially as I have a sniper-like need to survey the whole room from where I’m sitting.
Despite the people milling and chatting around the bar, the noise level was just low enough for us to talk comfortably. And the menu was certainly one to be discussed, with plenty of rich-sounding dishes to try. We started with the Chicken Liver Parfait with Grenache Jelly and Melba Toast for $18, as well as the Twice Baked Porcini Mushroom Soufflé and Mushroom Crème Sauce for $25.
The parfait was basically a pâté, and I felt it was only marginally better than one from the supermarket. I’ve been spoilt by Cream Restaurant’s pâté, which is so incredibly morish, and now I expect that from every restaurant. But at $18, you do, right? In contrast, the mushroom soufflé was light, creamy, and simply delicious. I would never associate mushrooms with soufflés, but this combination was incredible.
For our main meals, we chose the Rabbit Pie and Carrot Puree with Braised Black Pig Bacon and Lentils with Madeira Jus for $39, and the Chargrilled Butterfield Sirloin Stead (270g, dry aged for 28 days) with Béarnaise Sauce, Frites and Watercress Salad, $46.
The rabbit pie was very thick and wintery, with good solid pastry and nice slivers of meat inside. And the steak was fantastic – very tender and juicy.
We were both pretty full, but that didn’t stop us from ordering a dessert each. All five of the menu choices sounded equally scrumptious but we settled on the Hot Fudge Sundae with Honeycomb, Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce, plus the Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake with Wild Strawberry Sorbet, Blackcurrant Coulis and Strawberries, both $16.
I always wonder about claims that an ingredient is ‘wild’. Does that mean some poor schmo actually treks out into the wilderness with a basket?
The hot fudge sundae sounded great in theory, but then again, so do lingerie parties and wearing glittery pink veils on hens’ nights. In practice, not so fabulous. The honeycomb didn’t taste light and sugary, but… burnt. And the rest was just cream and ice cream with some chocolate sauce poured in; not exactly a flavour sensation.
The lemon marscapone cheesecake with its accompaniment of berries, however, actually was fabulous. The cheesecake was sweet, fluffy and smooth, and the sorbet and coulis complemented it really well. I wish I’d ordered two instead of the sundae!
I can see why Must has a great reputation; the wines we ordered were lovely, the ambience was busy but stylish, and the service was excellent. When the food was good it was very very good, but when it wasn’t good it was… not bad, just mediocre. I’m a little surprised there was mediocrity at all, given how much people rave about the joint, but perhaps it was just one of those nights?
I’ll definitely go back to Must, though I don’t think it will make it onto my list of staple fine dining destinations. There are too many others in Perth to check out before this one gets a top spot.
519 Beaufort St
Highgate, Western Australia
(08) 9328 8255