Taking up chef’s challenge

THE renaissance of hedonistic feasting has arrived in South Perth with the “Chef’s Table” at the Charthouse Restaurant within the Windsor Hotel.

A loaded table of mouth moisturising excesses, appetite massacring meals and oodles of fine wines overseen by the irrepressible chef, Nick Wilton.

The Wilton kitchen is legendary. Even if the site of the cooking factory has visited many restaurants, taverns and hostels over history, he appears, in his gregarious manner, to have grown roots at the South Perth pub.

If Nick has a freehand at the Windsor, he is entirely unleashed when it comes to the “Chef’s Table.” But, accept my warning! Pack two spare appetites when attending this personalised feasting. Somehow, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a pack of baying wolfhounds waiting at the table for bones.

The Chef’s Table is a micro-study of the entire restaurant focused around a menu of any food chosen by those at the table.

This is all pre-planned of course and nobody loves a challenge like this chef. The truth is, Wilton can turn his hand to most cuisines and do it with credibility.

Remember his work in the halcyon days of Pierre’s with the French cuisine, The Royal India and the list goes on. I have described him in the past as a “Flavour-Master” and he proves me right every day of the week.

Ten people are the maximum for the chef’s table, but in truth eight would be more comfortable. This is not an experience where you should be shy, this is where your most elite food fantasy can be indulged in and it all begins with a consultation with the chef.

By all means listen to his advice, but document the menu required to ensure that only the lack of avail-able ingredients could defeat him.

Price entirely depends on market price of ingredients. Our price was $85 per head including wine, but we were fortunate to have been visited by Ed Green, a weatherman turned vigneron, who showed his Green Valley range from Margaret River.

The pinnacle of our meal was the whole, boned, roasted and stuffed piglet that made for a huge serve for each table guest. Yes, we had apple sauce and a light but immensely full-flavoured jus, roasted vegetables and whole baked potatoes. Extra gravy boats floated around the table and there was crackling galore, making a fine pig-out.

To kick-start the meal, Wilton served a delightful smoked salmon in the traditional manner. One of those ageless food combinations that are unbeatable and go together in a seamless way. Thin slices of the bright pink salmon draped over refreshing, iceberg lettuce, sweet salad onion rings and the sour, unique flavours of capers.

Course number three also had tradition in it, the classic crepe suzette, direct from the annuals of the haute cuisine and perfectly executed.

Like a pilot who executes a perfect landing in cross winds and is applauded by relieved passengers, those bloated beings around our table lauded Chef Wilton.

We had landed another long, fulfilling lunch.

This exceptional table is in a quaint alcove off the restaurant proper, with direct access to the kitchen.

Book shelves loaded with mind boggling volumes brought from the University of WA and will never be read, give a nice textured feel around the exalted table.

Not read, because most of the library are sawn in half to make them fit their decorative role in their second life.

The Charthouse Restaurant was the Duchess Room, which was renowned for call-out-your-number-grills and self-serve salads.

Take my word – all this has changed.

A la carte service by friendly, happy staff has a casual feel to it. The town’s largest winelist physically, a volume known as the bible, is backed up by the enormous stocks in the recently expanded Windsor bottle shop.

One entire wall of the beautifully timber panelled room is of wine bottles, all filled with the house red, a Margaret River blend of pinot noir, grenache and shiraz. This easy drinking red is easy on the pocket at $18 in the restaurant.

Of course you don’t have to reserve the “Chef’s Table” to taste the Flavour-Master’s fare, nor do you require a gold credit card. You will need a hefty appetite. The portions would feed giants and the flavours match the size of the serves.

Chef Wilton brought lamb shanks, roasted and braised, back into Perth dining rooms and these delicious off-the-bone morsels are a speciality and I recommend the dish.

He is a remarkably resourceful chef with his ability to source forgotten ingredients and resurrect them. His huge cauldron of stock that bubbles away in the kitchen is the foundation of his source of flavours.

The ever-changing menu offers deep-pot pies, wonderfully tempting soups, there is always some form of offal available and huge rib steak cuts.

The mysterious judges of the Gold Plate have visited the Charthouse Restaurant and been impressed enough to present the dining room with a Gold Plate Finalist 2000 certificate.

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