Cafes, Restaurants and Dining in Perth, Western Australia.

Orecchiette Café – Restaurant

Unit 5, 10 Victoria street, Bunbury

Ph: (08) 9721 3866

www.orecchiettebunbury.com

A Tasty New Portal to Rustic Italy

ON the main street of Bunbury an old favourite has been transformed, and it’s now offering a generous slice of regional Italy, in a funky Melbourne-esque environment.

The day at Orecchiette starts early, with full breakfasts available from 7.30am to 11am. The breakfast menu includes seven different egg options, corn fritters,muesli, smashed avocados and pancakes, with the list of extras including polenta chips, mushrooms, smoked salmon and bacon. Along with strong Italian coffee, they offer fresh juices each day with combination options like beetroot, apple, orange, celery and ginger.

The lunch menu is similarly varied and tempting, with light options including arancini, calamari and bruschetta, while the more substantial meals include parmigiana, pizza, huge open burgers and pasta.

Orecchiette is relaxed and comfortable. The dark floors and furniture are offset by flashes of colour from bright placemats, ceramics and flowers. Rustic touches like baskets, wooden shelves and a rusted metal wine rack keep the vibe humble and homely.

Situated near the lighthouse end of Victoria street, the café’s outdoor area opens onto a small leafy park dominated by an impressive flame tree. If the location sounds familiar, it’s because owner and manager Danny Drummond has been there for while. the restaurant used to be called Danny’s but things are different now.

Danny said the transformation is far deeper than just a name change. Mindful of the ever-evolving nature of hospitality, he was tuned into the industry-wide statistics that indicated that evening a la carte dining is rapidly being replaced by casual/easy dining and appetites were also increasing for breakfasts and lunches.

Keen not to make hasty or shallow decisions, Danny and his wife Jennie headed off to Europe to taste their way around regional Italy in search of ideas that were ahead of the game in Australia. While travelling they attended cooking classes, spoke to chefs and venue owners and took photos of every meal and menu they came across.

Danny explained: “My mother was from the Amalfi coast, so part of me has always aspired to owning an Italian restaurant and this was my chance, but we knew we had to think carefully and get all of the ingredients that go into running a successful venue in place.” He said Italy was interesting because in each region the menus are very similar but region to region there is huge variety, for example, in Amalfi it’s all seafood, in Bologne it’s all bolognaise, but what stuck him overall was the elegant simplicity of the peasant style of cooking and that’s the kind of food Orechiette is now serving in Bunbury.

Continuing on about the decision to go Italian, he explained that one of his favourite things about Italian food was the variety. He said you have so many different sauce styles: creamy, olive oil based, tomato, wine or spicy, and then you have great fresh produce like amazing vegetables, seafood, beef, lamb, pork and poultry so there really is something for every taste. The other key element of the transformation was to shift it from being the ‘special events venue’ that Danny’s was seen as, to being a comfortable local come-anytime, come-often eatery. This meant looking hard at the price list and adjusting it so that two people could pop in for a hearty meal and some wine and leave paying as little as $30 each. To illustrate this point he indicated on the menu that three entrees between two plus a carafe comes to just that, as do two mains plus wine.
the carafes were inspired by the Italian experience. When he and Jennie got back to WA they tasted lots of local drops before settling on a lovely crisp sem-sav and a complex spicy cab-merlot, both cleanskins from a Margaret River winery. They decided that serving them up in half or full litre carafes, for $13 and $22 respectively, better than matched bottle shop prices for wine of the same quality.

While well priced bottled wine is available, Danny thinks the casual style offered by the carafes adds some simplicity to the lunch and dinner experience.

The day we visited we sampled three entreés. First up was the chorizo and warm local olives, served with a small pot of rich home made tomato sauce made with a dash of chilli from Danny’s garden, and polenta chips. If the latter has you confused, imagine a solid block of cooked polenta, sliced into chip shapes, lightly fried in a quality olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary-infused flaky Murray River salt. This dish is a classic example of the regional Italian love of simplicity based on quality ingredients.

Next we tried the calamari that was cooked to perfection and served with a light crisp salad dressed in nothing but balsamic and olive oil. The third entreé was garlic prawns that rival WA’s most famous. They were served sizzling in a small cast iron pot, swimming in garlic butter, alongside a few slices of freshly sliced soft white bread. The carafe white was a fine accompaniment to all three and served all together they’d make a tasty grazing lunch for a couple of people.

Looking to the mains we sampled the fig and pig pizza. In addition to bacon and pancetta, gorgonzola and mozzarella, it features a fig sauce that Danny makes from his Ferguson Valley Farm, first by turning the figs into a jam, then reducing it with port and mixing in a dash of their home made tomato paste. The result is a flavour that harmonises beautifully with the blue cheese and bacon flavours and that is pleasantly amplified by a sip of the carafe red and a squeeze of the lemon slice it was served with. Like all the pizzas, it was made with a homemade dough base Danny has perfected over many years.

The fish of the day varies according to what is available, but the serving style stays the same, it is covered in a delicate Burre Blanc and served on a creamy potato mash with spinach and cherry tomatoes lightly blistered in a pan of olive oil and balsamic.

The Masala Maiale was the other main we tried. It’s a pork rib-eye on the bone served with mushrooms and prosciutto in a masala cream sauce, on a bed of roast vegies. The result was a hearty, rich and tasty meal that would suit a big appetite.

It is worth noting that the menu includes vegetarian and gluten-free options in every category, and that Orecchiette also caters for functions. When you arrive, look out for head chef Danny, his wife Jennie running front of house, and their daughter Christie, the sous chef. Their other daughters are also involved. Kate works FIFO but steps in as front of house when she’s home, and accountant Jessica looks after the books and offers financial advice.

While this is a restaurant that would not be out of place in Perth or Melbourne, it’s in Bunbury because Danny loves the country life, and as he says, “it’s all about family”. Orechiette is inspired by his mother, and the meals they shared around the family table in good old-fashioned Italian style, and that’s something the Drummonds now want to share.

By Dr Kayt Davies

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