Beluga | Claremont
Fact: I’ve eaten at Beluga twice in two weeks. This is definitely my new favourite restaurant in Perth. Once for dinner & we were overwhelmingly blown away by the food. Unfortunately my photos in the dimly lit interior are too poor quality to post here. We couldn’t resist a return visit for lunch less than two weeks later, just to make sure the food really was that good. Thankfully we were right the first time around!
When I learnt that Chris Cheong, former chef of Must Winebar in Highgate & Margaret River, was the head chef of the relatively new Beluga restaurant, it was enough reason for me to head into Claremont Quarter. Must is one of food sponge’s favourite places to dine for their bold French bistro flavours, emphasis on quality fresh produce & consistently executed dishes. Chef Cheong was also on the pans during the quiet weekday lunch service.
One early challenge was how to decipher the menu. Divided into sections such as ‘The Oceans & Rivers’ & ‘The Farm’, we could not work out whether the menu set up was small sharing plates, traditional entrée/mains or something else. The different categories were clear enough, but it was the astoundingly reasonable prices of all dishes that caused the menu confusion. The Exmouth fresh prawns, avocado, tomato & shaved iceberg lettuce for $25 was no tired prawn cocktail. Arranged in a linear format stretching almost a foot long, it was a glorious medley of fined diced fresh tomato, avocado slices topped with a generous serve of six giant chilled prawns & crisp lettuce.
Pork & pistachio terrine with toasted sourdough & peach chutney
The most chunky & textural terrine I’ve ever tasted, but loved every bite. On a side note, I was just flipping through Matt Moran’s new cookbook Dinner at Matt’s & came across an appetiser entitled ‘Pork & Pistachio Terrine with Peach Chutney’! Mere coincidence or inspiration source? By the way, this new cookbook is brilliant & full of the kind of hearty, honest, clean flavours that I want to eat & eat now. Exquisitely styled by Michelle Noerianto & photographed by Chris Chen, I promptly added Chris’ website to my links of food stylists & photographers for future edible escapism.
Grilled dhufish on preserved lemon risotto & Torbay asparagus
I think I’ve mentioned before on food sponge that I very rarely, if ever, order fish in a restaurant. Too many restaurants charge over $35 for a lump of possibly-fresh-but-not-anymore disappointingly-dry fish. So I took a gamble on this special of the day & was rewarded with a beautifully moist portion of dhufish (one of my favourite species for its meatiness, if there is such a word) & a creamy risotto uplifted by the tartness of preserved lemon.
Duck leg confit, roast parsnip & apple with radicchio salad
No photograph, but one of the best duck confit dishes in town. Confit has a tendency towards excessive saltiness, thankfully not the case here. Fragrant, succulent duck meat interspersed with bitter radicchio leaves & tender apple pieces. Magnificent.
Citron tart with mascarpone whip
The Beluga team have absolutely nailed their desserts. The perfectly set filling had just the right balance of lemon tartness & sweetness all lovingly enveloped in a thin, crisp shell.
Have you ever seen the proverbial Aussie pavlova as elegant as this towering creation? No further words are necessary.
Food The food at Beluga is priced way below its competitors. These prices became more unbelievable once the dishes were served. In addition, portion sizes are, for once, not enormous & a typical adult diner could comfortably enjoy a starter, main dish & dessert without feeling grossly over-fed.
Service It was a pleasure to see a waitress passionately describe the six specials of the day purely from memory. On both visits, all my dishes were selected from the daily specials.
Design This is where I was let down. Serious money was clearly spent on the fitout & the focus is undoubtedly on the open kitchen. Muted grays, marble, black leather, polished glass, chrome, aluminium, floor-to-ceiling chain-mail curtains. It all felt monochromatic, cold & a bit sterile. Having experienced the space during both night & day, Beluga definitely is a more comfortable environment during the evening with the addition of warmer lighting & table tea lights. Perhaps more inspired ceiling pendants or lighting design could be of benefit to the interior design.
Highlight The food. Every last crumb.
Lowlight If anything, the interior design.
Rating 4 fluffy pavlovas out of 5
Will we be back Eat & enjoy.