This new casual eatery on Beaufort Street more than fills the big shoes left behind by Jackson’s. But to call it ‘relaxed dining’ is an overstatement.
When Jackson’s ended its 15-year reign on Beaufort Street, it felt like the death knell of degustation dining in Perth. Just further proof that diners were over the pretension – and stomach stretching – that can come from multi-course meals. They want casual digs. They want share plates. And what they don’t want are food comas and empty wallets.
Enter St Michael, and its nod to the archangel patron of grocers. Few restaurateurs would have the guts to take over Neal Jackson’s iconic venue, but Scott and Hazel O’Sullivan (owners of Red Cabbage), along with Petit Mort’s Todd Stuart, were up to the task. While the renovations were underway, Perth diners were promised cheaper food and a casual, edgy interior.
But let’s get real. With an envelope-pushing head chef like Adam Sayles, ex-sous chef of Red Cabbage, ‘casual’ was never going to happen. Even my visit for a relaxed Friday lunch becomes a fine dining affair. Then again, that might be my fault. Instead of share plates, I opt for the seven-course lunch degustation. There’s just something about this place that encourages indulgence.
Small aesthetic changes have made the venue more relaxed. Gone are the white tablecloths and multiple pieces of buffed cutlery. A giant mural adorns the exterior wall, a barbed-wire pendant light hangs from the ceiling, and behind our table is a faux stained glass window of St Michael himself.
But we have more than just a saint looking after us – our servers are a French couple with thick accents and a knack for friendly banter and impeccable service. Who cares that I understand only a quarter of what they say?
But to the food. Oh my, the food. Each dainty, exquisite course, artfully displayed on beautiful crockery, celebrates WA produce: marron from Margaret River, Swan Valley honey and mandarins, lamb from Boddington, and veggies from the Mt Claremont Farmers Market. The flavours are balanced, delicate and refreshingly different.
One dish comprises sweet marron flesh in an umami-packed shiitake dashi broth with fermented baby turnips. Another is slow-cooked lamb belly with mandarin puree and pickled yabbies, the citrusy sweet punch of the fruit cutting straight through the richness of the meat. But it’s the last few dishes that wow us. First, the most bizarre yet stunning cheese course I have ever tasted. It’s a smear of white chocolate ganache topped with a quenelle of sweet tomato sorbet, crumbles of blue cheese and cheddar biscuit with a sprinkling of olive bits and radicchio leaves. It’s sweet, savoury, tart, cold, warm, smooth and crunchy. Instead of a cacophony of flavours and textures, it’s a symphony.
It’s followed by a sensational dessert that also walks a fine line between savoury and sweet with its parsnip ice-cream, parsnip sponge, caramelised cornflake crumples and honey. It’s extraordinary.
This adventure of a meal has my tastebuds singing. Whether it’s a blessed kitchen to thank or Neal Jackson’s lingering presence, one thing’s for certain – chef Adam has been praying to the right culinary powers. Could it be Saint Lawrence, patron saint of cooking? Let’s hope Michael doesn’t find out.
483 Beaufort Street, Highgate (08) 9328 1177. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, and lunch on Friday.