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Neal creates culinary magic

THE food is exciting, the service friendly and slick and the wine list impressive. All the excellent ingredients that went to win Jackson’s a recent Gold Plate and a spot as a finalist, in the national Gourmet Traveller restaurant awards.

But, the adjudicators of these prestigious accolades must suffer from a hearing problem or alternatively dined at Jackson’s on a very quiet night (forgive the pun).

Quiet, the 70-seat restaurant is not and it is a problem for diners in the main room, particularly if the place has a house-full sign up or it is close to brimming.

Exciting culinary experiences inspire conversation at the table and Neal Jackson’s cooking certainly encourages discussion – but alas, the tempo of chatter that echoes off the bare jarrah floor boards, then bounces around the room, is deafening and spoils a superb dining room.

Chat across the table is difficult.

Jackson’s is a room of multi-levels. Take my advice on making a reservation.

Ask to be seated at the highest point in the timber-lined passageway close to the kitchen. Here there are some very intimate tables and the clamour of the place fades mainly because it is carpeted.

I always think of Jackson’s as this talented chef’s studio where he exhibits his creative masterpieces, which, by chance, just happen to take the form of dishes.

Visually, the composure and structure of his works is eye pleasing, perfectly balanced with colours that combine to tease your senses.

Then come the tastes.

Expect nothing absolutely traditional from the kitchen – but you will receive excellent quality ingredients brought together in impressive combinations.

A typical example was an entrée of fresh, plump, asparagus, which had been swiftly steamed. A perfectly white poached egg broke the bold green of the vegetable stalks.

Nothing spectacular about that, you might think.

But then the cleverness of combining flavours to make a dish came to the fore.

The stalks had been hardly kissed by a salty, delicately flavoured and textured Persian fetta.

Then, with a small quantity of drizzled oil were light dobs of dark, ripe olive tamponade.

With the chook fruit poached just enough to allow the yolk to run, the quartet of ingredients came together like a dream.

This dish I selected from the set price lunch menu on offer for $26. for two of the three groups of dishes or $34. for a trio of choices.

Certainly, the latter is the one to go for because once you begin to taste the food you have to go all the way.

Other starters included, chilli salt squid with a lime dressed watermelon salad, warm salad of pan fried duck liver, bacon and peach, pumpkin and coconut soup, grilled corn and coriander or smoked chorizo sausage, scallops with an apple and celery salad.

With great strength and reluctance I managed to ignore the dish of crispy duck leg, jasmine rice, carrot and chilli from the five principal course selections and turned instead to a seafood combination.

Again the culinary magic happened.

An extraordinary amalgamation of Tasmanian salmon, watermelon and pak choy. This could be seen as a flimsy combination at first sight on the menu, but I had confidence in this chef’s creativity.

He had roasted the salmon to a point where the fish flaked at the touch of the fork and there was a slight crispiness to the exterior of the fillet, the textures were fantastic.

Steamed leaves and stalks of dazzling green pak choy added balance and then came the watermelon touch.

Here, a triangle of seedless watermelon cut to the thickness of the fish fillet wearing the scars of the grill where the melon had been lightly seared.

You can imagine the delicate, unadulterated flavours, which went delightfully with the Howard Park chardonnay.

I can see the lightly grilled melon joining many Festive Season barbecues as an inexpensive accompaniment to seafood.

Jackson’s menu temps with puddings, a lovely old-fashioned term for some very exotic desserts that include one of cassis poached fig with a cinnamon ice cream, roasted peach with ice cream, mango meringue with a mango sorbet or baked nougat ice cream flamed in brandy.

At dinner, the food adventure continues with an a la carte menu of exciting dishes with starters averaging $17 and principal courses at $30. Side dishes add $6. But they are very different such as truffle and bacon potato mash.

As you will have guessed this is a foodies restaurant and in the evenings there is a tasting menu at $72.50 and if you include the suggested wines $105.

I have always taken an interest in these premises ever since I owned it with partners many years ago as the Spanish Onion Winehouse, it was excellent as Corzino’s Restaurant but as Jackson’s its at its finest.

Take a gold credit card this isn’t a house of bargains.

Jackson’s

Beaufort Street, Highgate,

Reservations: 9328 1177

Fully licensed

Festive season lunch Tuesday to Friday (normally Fridays)

Dinner Tuesday to Saturday

Parking in the street

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