There are plenty of good food spots piled up around Perth’s CBD, so visiting more than one in an evening was clearly a logical step. “A Tale of Two Cities” was an event to show off sister restaurants Public House and The Bird Cage. I’ve only been in Perth for a few weeks – my lack of great expectations was purely down to unfamiliarity with the venues – and I was intrigued by the idea of swapping one cuisine for another.
We began with a ceviche masterclass at the South American-influenced Public House, where the chance of a new beer was a positive start. I’ve not seen Aguila stocked anywhere else, and the crisp Colombian brew was a cut above some well-known Latin lagers. In between mouthfuls of moreish won-ton chips – served with pleasingly lime-heavy guacamole – we listened to cheerful instructions from head chef Josh Pearce. Each place was set with a precise arrangement of fish and assorted flavourings, which we mixed as Josh explained how the acidic lime juice effectively “cooks” the chunks of fish to create this traditional Peruvian dish . The chemistry-lesson element was enhanced by the pair of blue gloves each diner received, to help prevent unfortunate incidents stemming from accidental eye contact.
I’d never tried ceviche before, but enjoyed the clean flavours and pleasantly surprising texture. The white groper tasted really fresh, but without the full-on “fishy” tang you can get with sashimi. The idea was well executed too; the separate containers mean more reserved dining companions can hold fire with the vibrant ricoto sauce, while others are free to lash it on with abandon. Equally, the whole “cooking” process took about 15 minutes, so I reckon that with a drink on either side, a ceviche session would be about the right length at the start of a party or works night out.
Our itinerary meant we only tried the one course at Public House, so I can’t comment too much on the overall standard of their food. The slick surroundings and separate bar area were an ideal environment for the masterclass, though. The ceviche option is a new addition to their roster – which already includes a class on the classic Pisco sour – and it’s due to run on Mondays from October. At $10 per person, it struck me as reasonable for a novel way to kick off an evening in the city.
On ascending into The Aviary, I was impressed by the layout in the Bird Cage restaurant, where the East Asian vibe continued in the shape of an aperitif. The “Infused Gin Lady” (I’ve met a few in my time) was a sharp and sour treat, combining kaffir lime and lemongrass with Tanqueray and Cointreau. The “Flamingo” that followed was firmly towards the sweeter end of the spectrum, but the way it materialised was undeniably cool: a prosecco and elderflower mix was poured over cotton candy, which fizzed into oblivion before floating a flower petal to the top of the glass. Yes, I’m comfortable with my masculinity.
The selection of dishes looked promising on the menu, and thankfully even better when they arrived in a flurry in front of us. Some of the staff had enthused about the chicken, and they were bang on. I normally think of that bird as a bit of a dull dinner choice, but this was full of flavour, with the smokiness of the meat backed up by an excellent celeriac sambal (I don’t know what the last word means, but it was very tasty).
I’d never tried barramundi, and the flaky fish was perfectly satisfactory by itself. However, when I followed head chef Alex Baglin’s suggestion and poured over some Tom Yum soup – stylishly served in oriental teapots – the liquid launched a raft of new flavours. It was interesting to hear Alex talk about why he’d chosen the fish for the menu; Josh at Public House had been similarly happy to discuss his dishes, and I thought their enthusiasm showed in the food
Back on the table, the duck fried rice was a welcome addition; satisfyingly fatty and festooned with crunchy prawns. Like all the mains, that platter reflected the Bird Cage’s emphasis on passing plates round and sharing. The standard – and our cholesterol – was raised again with the dessert. I swiped a couple of spoonfuls of the roasted banana and white chocolate parfait, which reminded me slightly of banoffee pie: never a bad thing.
With that said, I was instantly won over by the chocolate pave. Dark cocoa depths were offset by a smooth, light – but not mushy – texture, and an excellent sauce. If you like rich desserts, this one is well worth dropping your dollars on. On that note, I was told that a similar menu to the “Asian Feast” we enjoyed would set you back just shy of $50, which seemed fair to me given the quality.
Before the evening, I’d wondered if the food at The Bird Cage might be ever so slightly by-the-numbers, as can happen when a restaurant sits in a prime location and doesn’t have to push quite as hard for business. I was very happy to be proved wrong, and to me The Bird Cage seems well-placed in the central Perth pecking order.
Public House, 263 Adelaide Terrace, is open 11.30am until late Monday – Friday, and 2pm until late Saturdays. The Bird Cage, Level 1/140 William Street, is open 5pm until late Tuesday – Thursday, and 12pm until late Friday to Saturday.
Disclaimer: Foodie Cravings attended as a guest of Public House and The Bird Cage. See disclosure policy for further details. Images were provided by DGPR.