Varnish on King – 5 Dec 2013

Cuisine: American, (Whisky) wine bar, pub food
Location: Perth CBD, King St (basement level)

After last week’s visit to Varnish on King I had to come back to try some of their other menu items, and definitely get some dessert this time. I’ve heard that the ribs are much talked about so I made a booking, worked hard at the office, cleared some time for a longer lunch than the quick 10 minutes chow down of lunch at my desk and ventured outside for the first time in a long time. When I walked in, I was the first person through the doors at the stroke of midday and I was greeted by the bar man. Obviously being the first in gets you a choice of any tables so I chose a spot on the comfy benches. It’s really nice seeing all the tables neatly laid out, all aligned perfectly, wine glasses shimmering, waiting for the arrival of patrons. And after a short time, they started arriving. Many started arriving.

One of the waitstaff came over to present the menu and ask for my choice of water. After I had a look through, there’s so much to choose from, I knew I was settling on the ribs. I also asked about the desserts and also about the chef’s hook up. The chef’s hook up is $50 per person (minimum of 2 people) and you get 5 courses and cheese at the end. I think this is a great option because there’s a lot of dishes I would like to try. I guess you get to have the variety without having to make 5 visits sampling 5 separate dishes on each sitting. Of course, I was dining solo so that will be for another time. Ribs it was and so I patiently waited.

Twice cooked short rib with treacle reduction & candied rosemary $27

Varnish On King - Twice Cooked Ribs

Varnish On King – Twice Cooked Ribs

The ribs were served and they looked amazing. Long slender bone with big chunks of juicy succulent meat, Brussels sprout leaves, and a serving of chimmi churri to the side. The ribs were ridiculously tender, the knife seemed redundant. The flesh was ultra tender, moist, succulent and full of flavour. The rosemary provided a lovely earthy dimension and seasoning was perfect. Having said that, the three different salts (see pic – far left corner) add a different dimension to the dish while not over salting the flavour. The chimmi churri is the perfect accompaniment providing an acidic kick to cut through the meaty ribs which becomes very filling. The Brussels sprout leaves also compliment the dish by providing an ever so slight bitterness and a textual difference by being slightly firm to the bite. Another example of a cleverly put together dish, execution perfect, I promptly cleaned the plate to do the justice it so thoroughly deserves. In hindsight, I could have ordered a side of vegetables but I purposely chose to omit this in the hope of getting a dessert.

In the midst of admiring the ribs and after I had finished, the owner, Andy Freeman came over to introduce himself. He’s the operator of Luxe Bar and member of this year’s Top 50 Most Influential List. He presents as pretty laid back, affable, and friendly, but he seemed rather amused at me – I guess it must have been the very contented and satisfied look on my face after polishing this dish off. I told him these slow cooked ribs were delicious, so tender, the meat just falling off the bone. When the waitstaff came to clear my plate she also remarked at how I’d cleaned the plate. Just what the chef likes to see.

Boy was I full but there’s always room for dessert. I’m not leaving for a second time without dessert. Whiskey sweet and sour was the order of the day. I inquired what this was and told it’s akin to a trifle. I was intrigued.


Whiskey “Sweet & Sour” $14

Varnish On King - Whiskey "Sweet & Sour"

Varnish On King – Whiskey “Sweet & Sour”

When the dessert was presented, a metal container turned upside down like making a cocktail, enclosed the glass housing the contents. It was all smoke and daggers. I was wondering what was hiding underneath. Once the metal container was removed, white smoke emanated from the glass. The top layer of the dessert contains an Italian meringue, obviously bruleed to give that  charred look. The meringue was smoked. The next layer down was a smoked crunchy meringue, then the next layer a very sweet lemon curd, whisky jelly, and cherries. The first few spoons deep into the centre had a distinctly smoked taste like I was eating a mouthful of smoke. A rather unique dessert, I can’t say I’ve eaten anything like this before. I thought the dessert showed promise but was spoiled by the overly sweet lemon curd, although the curd was delicious. The tartness of the lemon curd, crunch of the meringue, softness of the Italian meringue, slight acidity and sourness from the cherries, and smoothness of the whiskey jelly, and it all came together in to a tasty dessert.


Varnish on King Food Review Summary

Verdict: Back for another visit and the twice cooked ribs were ridiculously tender. A very generous serving of tender, juicy, succulent meat, with a lovely flavour of rosemary to present a really hearty and earthy dish. The treacle reduction adds so much flavour to the meat, slight bitterness of the Brussels sprouts adds another dimension, and the acidity from the delicious chimmi churri helps cut through the meatiness. I really loved this dish and it’s very filling. I passed on a side of vegies which is in all likelihood needed, but I instead opted for the Whiskey “Sweet & Sour” dessert. Unique, interesting, creative. A promising dessert with different layers and textures let down by the overly sweet lemon curd. However, the tartness of the lemon, strong smoked meringue and Italian meringue, whiskey jelly and acidity from the cherries made for a tasty finish. The mains were once again perfection in execution, the dessert, not as well executed in balance but I really enjoyed my lunch. I’ll have to return to try their other imaginative, creative, and flavour packed dishes.
Price: Reasonable
Taste: Delicious
Value: Excellent
Recommendation: Highly Recommend

See my prior blog post:
Food Review of Varnish On King – Nov 13

Varnish on King Restaurant Details
Varnish on King on Urbanspoon


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Varnish on King - 5 Dec 2013, reviewed by Shaun on 2013-12-05T21:46:35+00:00 rating 4.7 out of 5

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