Welcome back, Darlings. Darlings Supper Club was one that was opened with a bang that slowly fizzled out. Rest assured, it's back now, hand in hand with Sam Astbury's voice booming "Warm Sake!"
For many of us in Perth, the notion of a late night eatery that actually serves good food is laughable and an idea that never eventuates past late night talks at McDonalds going "wouldn't it be great if an actual restaurant was open until 3am?" So when Darlings Supper Club first came on the scene, many of us were excited and eager to try this new late night eatery that boasted dumplings until the wee hours. The appeal was there but the flavour in the foods served was not.
I had gone to Darlings with Iris a few months before their menu makeover and although the food was sub-par, I am now glad that I had visited. The review was never posted because I didn't feel that it was worth posting about - it was a check in on Facebook before the night began and nothing else. The dumplings were watery, flavourless and didn't have that little pocketful of juicy goodness that exploded into your mouth as soon as you bit into them. The squid was too salty and tough and the chicken and mushroom noodles, although possessing all the right ingredients, just didn't get past bland on the tastebud scale. We didn't stay there for dessert.
After a complete revamp and an almost 180 degree turn around, this late night Asian Fusion eatery now welcomes new Head Chef Joel Robert, Thailand Iron alum by the nickname "The Chopper" and Youngwoo, "Sashimi King" from South Korea. The food is rich in flavour and character, beautifully presented and wonderfully done. Darlings is finding its feet again.
Don't let their previously poor reputation deter your, you'll be missing out on their lovely outdoor alfresco area and their new and delicious array of dishes. The blogger's lunch was kicked off with a new take on the Japanese Slipper - the Hanzo, a mix of whisky, lemon, dandelion bitters, orange oil, midori, absinthe and lemon. Simon Hough, the resident mixologist, handed me the Hello Kitty Spritz, a tasty and girly mix of sake, coconut and blueberry jam, citrus, peychaud bitters and prosecco. Even teh tarik came along for the show.
The first dish was a deep fried quail egg with a thin layer of crisp crumbs on the outside, starkly complementing the softness of the purposely half cooked egg inside. I would have loved a bit more runniness of the yolk though. The lap cheong provided that bit of saltiness it needed, but it was sadly gone in one bite. After the egg, the dishes flowed smoothly. The sashimi was good - I love sashimi, but I was a little disappointed that there was only one type of fish on the plate and no wasabi. However these minor things aside, the wakame salad was delicious and the atlantic salmon itself was expertly cut into heavenly slices.
I'm not used to eating Vietnamese spring rolls in peanut sauce, I'm more a hoisin kind of gal but nonetheless it mixed together well enough. The scallops were cooked beautifully, the flesh being tender and smooth. The coriander and blood pudding gave the contrast in taste and colour it so desperately needed. They worked very well in terms of texture and flavour, complementing the scallop but I wasn't convinced with the potato foam.
The octopus was cooked well, crunchy and just the right amount of salt if you picked it off the rest of the dish and ate it alone. However, as I got to the noodles I found them a bit too salty for my liking. The pork belly came out in ribbons atop of a coconut, lychee and beansprout salad. Luckily for me, Jenelle and Em weren't too fond of lychees so I got to ravish those up. The pork meat was soft but taught at the same time, the fat almost melting in your mouth, I found myself trying to discreetly wriggle off the stuck pork crackle that had somehow opted for a career change and had become stuck candy.
Almost everyone went quiet as the braised beef cheek came out and was placed on our respective tables. We waited patiently as each took photos and then slowly picked up our chopsticks, armed and ready to dive into the meat before us. And did we dive. The braised beef cheek was layer upon layer of interesting flavours that simply worked with the coriander pesto and red cabbage marmalade. The meat seemed to fall off of itself when you so much as prodded it with your chopsticks, collapsing in a tender heap of deliciousness that was devoured almost instantly.
Almost everything is designed to share (although let's be real here, I'm probably able to have an entire plate of the braised beef cheek to myself - it's almost too good to share) and I would recommend each person ordering 1 - 2 dishes, but this depends on how many of you there are and how much you can eat collectively.
With the mains done, a cart of macarons and the Darling's take on the Snickers bar was wheeled out before us. The salty sweet peanuts in the middle of the bar with the spiced condensed milk were a highlight, however the bar was a bit rich for my liking. Matthew ate the whole thing so he must have liked it, he then took my peanut butter macaron out of my hands and in one fell swoop scoffed that down too before I could take my second bite. From what I had taken though, the macaron was a nice sweet crafted by ex Vue de Monde pastry chef Brendan Owen.
I'm really pleasantly surprised at how keen the driving force behind Darlings were to reset their eatery back on track. I'm happy to say that it's definitely taken a step up since the last time I visited. Although I haven't been able to try any dumplings, I have been assured they've also had a sincere revision. The team have done a good job. Do be aware that it's very Westernised. You won't be finding authentic Asian cuisine the way the locals do it, perhaps a forewarning for any taking Asian families to Darlings. But if anyone needs me, I'll be at Darlings, a plate full of braised beef held in my hands.
47 Lake Street, Northbridge
Wednesday - Saturday: 3pm - 3am
Sunday: 12pm - 10am