US firm California Pizza Kitchen arrived in Perth last week, as the brand’s first Australian restaurant bids for a slice of WA’s food trade.
The international venture certainly occupies a prime piece of real estate, sitting on a jetty in Sorrento Quay at Hillarys Boat Harbour. The new space – apparently the world’s largest CPK – makes the most of the location, with an ample veranda that allows diners views of clustered yachts bobbing in the breeze. I imagine this place would be an ideal mooring spot during summer.
It’ll be interesting to see whether it can pull in the punters year round, because CPK seems to be aiming for a more upmarket vibe than some of the other options in the vicinity. A buzzing launch event made clear that the company bosses place their pizza well above the likes of Dominos, but it’ll ultimately be the locals that decide whether CPK provides a better experience.
Clearly, the pizza itself will be of primary importance. A tasty prawn and caramelised onion offering occupied a decent slice of my pie chart, but I was most impressed by the “Carne Asada”. Chunks of flavoursome steak teetered on a bed of pesto and brown onions, with coriander and salsa verde hanging on for the ride. The combination worked perfectly, and immediately left me wanting more of the same. (Most of the people nearby seemed to agree, which is why I didn’t get a photograph of that particular pizza.)
While a BBQ chicken option was slightly more everyday, all three pizzas displayed the same quality dough. I think there’s always a distinction to be made between pizza bases you actually want to eat, and those that merely exist as a delivery service for toppings. These samples fell firmly into the first category; hot, non-greasy, and soft without being soggy.
I was able to try a handful of the other options available at CPK, where the menu seems keen to shout out its global influences. The avocado club egg rolls and Mediterranean veggie spring rolls were stuffed full of filling – the latter reminded me of cannelloni, though was considerably more convenient to eat without cutlery – but the spicy buffalo cauliflower was the pick of the bunch. The florets were wrapped in buttermilk batter and sriracha buffalo sauce, making them more distinctive than the (ever-so-slightly interchangeable) spring roll variants.
As well as noticing the span of CPK’s geographical inspiration, I was also struck by the sheer amount of choice on the menu. I’d expected plenty of pizzas and a few sides, but there’s a raft of sharing dishes and pasta, along with mains for those who don’t want their dinner held together by mozzarella: roasted swordfish with asparagus and pumpkin sounded particularly tempting. I wasn’t able to discern any of the dessert options on this visit, though “banana peanut butter brownie bread” sounds like something any sophisticated diner would enjoy.
Some friends at the launch also said that while CPK sits towards the top of the table in the pizza price index, they didn’t think the cost was unreasonable. I haven’t tried many of Perth’s pizzerias at this point (Crust in Mt Lawley is the standout so far), but on this evidence I expect Hillary’s latest landing to be a popular option as the weather warms up.
California Pizza Kitchen, Shop 223, Sorrento Quay Boardwalk 6025, Hillarys Boat Harbour, is open 10am-10pm Monday – Thursday; 10am-12am Friday & Saturday, 10am-10pm Sunday.
Disclaimer: foodie cravings was invited as a guest of California Pizza Kitchen. See disclosure policy for further details.