Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Laundry 43, Busselton, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

My Father's previous job had him travelling to Bunbury and Busselton fairly regularly. My Mother would tag along and spend the day exploring the many shops and cafes before meeting up with my Father after work for dinner. One of their favourite places to eat was Laundry 43, a restaurant they would often rave about long before we picked up a copy of the Good Food Guide and discovered it to be the best rated restaurant in Busselton. While Alissa and I travel down south at least twice a year we are never in Busselton for dinner, so when planning our January 2015 trip we decided to stay the night in Busselton partly (but let's be honest, largely) for a chance to finally try this much celebrated local favourite. 

Located on Prince St just off the main drag, Laundry 43 is a small bar and modern share plate restaurant in the super hip vein of Perth venues like Varnish on King, The Standard and Pleased To Meet You - yet predates all of these, having opened in 2012. The main dining space is fairly long and narrow but comfortable, with plenty of on-trend features such as exposed red bricks and an exposed tin roof. Towards the rear of the venue is a large image of washing machines which, along with the constant use of pegs, ties the venue's theming together quite nicely and are apparently a reference to the space's life long ago as the Busselton Dry Cleaners.

While most diners probably choose for the a la carte menu, there is a degustation/tasting option available for a very reasonable $60 per person. This is what we had initially intended to try, however having mistakenly booked a degustation lunch at Wills Domain on the same day, we decided that a la carte was probably the best way to go.

We started with the Duck Liver Parfait, Onion Jam, Crisp Toasts & Sourdough, Pickles. Compared to some particularly composed versions of Liver Parfait we've had in Perth, the presentation here was a bit more conventional. The quality spoke for itself however, with a deliciously creamy and rich flavour and texture that was so good we were happy that it came in such a generous serve. The Onion Jam it was served with had a nice sweetness and acidity, providing a nice complement to the Parfait. With the bread nice and crusty while being super soft on the inside and the bread crisps nice and crispy, this was a strong start.

The parfait was followed by the clunkily named but beautifully presented Margaret River Wagyu MB 6-7+ Score Carpaccio, Truffle Mayonnaise, Crisp Potato, Green Beans, Macadamia. I don't particularly love beef, but this was a really nice dish. It didn't taste overly beefy at all, having something of the quality of bresaola but with a mild, almost creamy texture. This was well matched by the creaminess and deliciously umami flavour of the Truffle Mayonnaise, while crunchy shavings of macadamia, peppery leaves of rocket and green beans provided textural contrast. Special mention must go to the square of Crisp Potato - basically small chips, these were well made and were the perfect size and ratio for perfect little bites with the other components on the fork.

One of the daily specials, Alissa and I agreed that Grilled North-West Prawns, Spanish Jamon, Romesco, Fennel, Olive, Toast and Squid Ink Aioli was without doubt the best dish of the night. Large prawns are overcooked far too often; these on the other hand were cooked perfectly, while the pairing with the salty-umami hit of the Jamon was a perfect example of why pig and prawns are a classic combo. The other components were equally complementary - a paprika flavoured sauce and the roasted peppers providing some mild heat, a hit of anise coming through from the shaved fennel and the Squid Ink Aioli displaying a lovely combination of the taste of the sea with aioli's creaminess. This was a really awesome dish, and Alissa and I were fortunate that we got a chance to try it considering its a special and not a mainstay of the Laundry 43 menu.

Our final savoury dish of Margaret River Fallow Deer Loin and Boudin, Smoked Yoghurt, Rustleberries, Home Made Granola was an interesting dish - it almost felt like it was two separate dishs being served on the same plate, and thus felt like it was perhaps a dish on the way to something great rather than a complete idea that had reached its final form. The Venison itself was cooked wonderfully to a perfect medium rare, and the pool of jus on the plate was very tasty, with the tartness of the accompanying Rustleberries - a local hydrid of raspberry and blackberry Alissa and I first tried at Restaurant Amusé - went well with the gaminess. The second part of the dish was also very tasty; the Carrot Puree had a lovely sweetness with the smokiness of the Smoked Yoghurt accentuating its earthiness, and the Boudin (sausage) being so delicious I ended up saving it for my last mouthful. The Granola was the only dud component, and Alissa and I felt it tasted a bit raw and breakfasty, and that a more toasted and perhaps more savoury Granola would have been better. Overall, I felt the slightly 'two dishes in one' feel was not a problem since it was a tasty dish at the end of the day, however the disjointedness suggests a developmental opportunity for fine tuning.

Alissa and I had differing preferences for dessert, and we decided somewhat foolishly to order individual dishes in spite of being already quite full. Alissa's choice of the Warm Vanilla Rice Pudding, Crushed Green Apple, Pedro Ximenez Raisins, Vanilla & Green Apple Doughnuts, Almond was the lesser of the two desserts, and left Alissa a little disappointed. The Rice Pudding itself was well cooked, being neither overly sweet of gluggy, and have a good vanilla flavour and bits of apple that made Alissa think of Holland. The doughnuts were less successful. While the piped in green apple was a good idea, the doughnuts themselves having a bready flavour instead of the lightness of the best doughnuts Alissa and I have had. The biggest disappointment for Alissa however was that the dish didn't seem as modern or as finessed as some of the others we tried, and we drew comparisons between this dish and the lighter and yet more memorable Coconut and Cardamom Arancini, Burnt Lychee Sorbet and Poached Rhubarb we were served at Pepper & Salt in Denmark. That dish did something a bit more interesting with the idea of a rice pudding, while this felt a lot more safe and predictable.

The Tasmanian Pepper Berry Pavlova with Summer Berries, Lime, Yoghurt and Vanilla Ice Cream was a lot more successful, and I really enjoyed it as a dessert. The Pavlova itself was really good with a nice fluffy texture and crisp shell, though the Pepper Berry flavour could have been amped up a bit more for my tastes. The use of the tart Rustleberries helped balance the dish out, as the Pavlova by itself might have been a little overpoweringly sweet. The Vanilla Ice Cream was good if generic, but I enjoyed the coldness against the rest of the flavours and textures present. 

The Verdict: Excellent
Considering the hype from my parents and the positive write up in the Good Food Guide, Alissa and I were happy that Laundry 43 lived up to its reputation, with share plate food that was every bit as delicious and as interesting as similar restaurants in Perth. Other than the Rice Pudding and the Venison to a lesser extent, all the dishes felt like solid concepts that were well executed, and I can see why this place is such a hit with locals and tourists alike. With Alissa and I sitting right in front of the pass, it was impressive to see how calmly and effectively the kitchen operated, and the service we received from the front of house team was exemplary. This is definitely a star restaurant in the region, and one that is required eating if you've got a night in Busselton.

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