Time is a pretty limited thing for me at the moment. I find myself working two jobs as well as studying, so most hours of the week are pretty full.
It’s my choice to do all these things of course, so my intention is not to seek sympathy or validation, merely to state a fact.
Somebody once told me that it’s important to still find time to relax, however busy you are, so that the important things you are doing are done in the right frame of mind. Justification for enjoying yourself, that sounds plausible, right?
I’ll take it.
With that perfectly valid excuse in mind, Amie and I found ourselves dining at Cecchi’s restaurant in Inglewood on last Friday evening, despite (or perhaps because of) the depressingly large and important amount of study I should have been doing.
Cecchi’s, relatively new, having been open for just five months, is situated on premises of previous local fine Italian institution, Da Bruno’s, which Amie and I had visited regularly.
The first thing we noticed as we entered the building was how the new owners have opened up the space of the premises. The restaurant building is an old house that has been converted, with the front rooms the dining area to either side of the main entrance/hallway. Three months of renovations before opening have definitely paid off.
French doors open up to the courtyard to create a real feeling of room that was absent in the restaurant’s previous incarnation, with the breeze offered by such a renovation alleviating what had, on previous experiences, been a warm and stuffy atmosphere on summer evenings.
Cecchi’s is family owned, with patriach Dino greeting everyone at the door in a friendly, comfortable fashion. We found our seats and the waiter appeared warm, friendly and attentive, offering to decant the bottle of wine we had brought. This may seem trivial, but it is all too rare in Perth BYO restaurants that the corkage fee pays for anything more than a waiter undoing the lid.
We took time perusing the menu and generally enjoying each other’s company. Amie’s time has been as limited as mine recently, so the opportunity to just spend some together is a welcome one.
Our waiter brought out unexpected and complimentary serves of cold cauliflower soup. I have a friend who makes this dish expertly, and Cecchi’s version is very much up there with it.
Amie is a sucker for oysters, so ordering some for an appetizer was a given as soon as we saw them natural on the menu. I usually enjoy them, but wasn’t in the mood on this occasion, so I ordered bread and olives and left the shellfish to her.
The oysters received a definite thumbs up from my wife, the one I did try tasting fresh to my palate. I initially thought the bread was a little doughy (I’m a sucker for light, crusty bread) but, when I tried it with one of the olives, the textures complimented each other very well.
The wine we had brought with us was the last bottle from a winter trip in 2012 to Western Australia’s great wine region, Margaret River. We had come back with samples from many wineries, but a great many had come from Willespie. The last bottle was a 2005 Shiraz, which was perfect for our tastes on this evening.
Entrée was a tough choice; I nearly went with the Spaghetti with fresh sausage, artichoke and pine nuts, but decided instead on the pappardelle with lamb ragout, ricotta and eggplant. This dish did not disappoint, with a rustic flavor that belied it’s delicate nature. The bread-crumbed eggplant atop the pasta was a nice touch.
Amie’s quail with pearl barley, chestnuts and summer greens was equally well balanced, the smoky flavour of the bird combining with the other ingredients in a very simple, but extremely delicious way.
Our mains were just as enticing. Amie’s duck breast with watermelon, pine nuts and watercress was exceptional, the duck meat perhaps the most lean and perfectly cooked that I have ever tasted. The salad provided the perfect accompaniment, a fresh-sweetness that melted together with the duck in your mouth.
I had chosen the fresh fish fillet with cannalini beans, confit cherry tomatoes and stuffed squid. The fish, charred well but firm and moist, was very tasty, with the stuffed squid that accompanied it proving both interesting and surprisingly delicious. Needless to say, neither of us took long to finish the seemingly small, but actually perfect sized serves.
We had had a great evening by this point, with the food of a quality beyond what we had hoped. There is always a risk with trying a new restaurant that it will be a terrible experience and we really wanted this one not to be so. We live within walking distance, so to have a restaurant of this quality so close is a luxury we are keen to exploit.
The only problem was that the wine had run out. Cecchi’s is not licensed, so miscalculations on correct amounts of pre-purchased alcohol can’t be remedied by the restaurant’s own wine list. It is, however, not two minutes walk from a local bottle shop so, after ducking out to grab a fresh bottle, our problem was solved.
The atmosphere the staff and surrounds present is one of comfort and friendliness, and this rubs off on the patrons. We found ourselves chatting with the diner’s seated at the table across from us, two amiable young men who were sharing dinner before a big night out. I enjoy this open style of dining, expressions of shared experience adding to my own enjoyment of a meal.
I don’t usually order dessert when Amie and I eat out. Amie always does, but, more often than not, I have usually had enough to eat by then and I have never had a particularly bad sweet tooth. The proportion and quality of the meal to this point caused me to break with previous behaviour, however, and eagerly peruse the dessert menu.
I settled on saffron pannacotta with fruit compote, while Amie had no hesitation in choosing the cinnamon doughnuts with rum chocolate glaze and vanilla parfait. Both our choices proved to be excellent ways to end the evening, the sweetness not overpowering nor heavy in the stomach.
Our evening turned out to be as perfect as we might have hoped and was especially enjoyable considering the diversion it offered from our recently busy lives. We strolled home, perhaps a little unsteadily, comforted in the knowledge that we would be back soon for another diversion to what could quite easily become our favourite restaurant.
Cecchi's is open Tuesday - Saturday for dinner.