I’m sure that I’ve made my obsession with the dinner table quite clear on this blog so far, so… why stop now?
The dinner table has always been about a celebration: weddings, holidays, promotions, anniversaries, good business deals…
Most of these commemorate specific events or achievements – to mark a certain date that has occurred, or of a job well done. But the best celebrations are ones that celebrate the best people, the ones that are truly deserving of every happiness in the world, and this dinner celebrating P’s birthday was exactly that. Multiple tables were dragged together. Plates were shared and wine glasses passed around. Constantly overhearing (or even saying it myself) the words “I haven’t seen you in so long, let’s catch up!” It was a coming-together that promised even more coming-togethers, and Chesters Restaurant in Swan Valley was a great place for it.
As someone with a general aversion to crowds and queues, I tend to avoid dining out on Saturday nights, preferring a quiet cosy night whipping up a home-cooked meal instead. Our Saturday night at Chesters felt like a relaxed intimate dinner at home, minus all the trouble of cooking and washing up. There was a good mixed crowd of diners that filled up almost every table, but it never got too noisy or busy that you felt like you couldn’t have a good conversation with the people across you.
I’d previously seen photographs of the interior taken during the day, and wasn’t that impressed – but it’s a whole different story past sunset when the lights have been dimmed. According to its website, the restaurant was originally a fruit drying shed, then later a stable quarters for a local riding academy, and this sense of history really shines at night. All of their tables, cabinets, and walls are handcrafted from the original timbers, and the restored stable door at the back of the restaurant is a breathtaking centerpiece. It’s both elegant and rustic, and perfect for a great dinner date or even a small wedding dinner, especially in the middle of Winter.
We had a large group of 15, so we got to try a good sample of their menu. I was feeling pretty full from a day of eating out, so I split an entree and main with N.
Our entree is a mouthful to say – Crispy fried falafel cakes served with smokey eggplant baba ghanoush, pomegranate muhammara, and a mint & za’atar tzatziki ($16). The falafel cakes were little flavour bombs without being too dense: crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. They remind me of this recipe from Michael’s Genuine Food, which I definitely have got to try soon. The three dips added their own individual flavour to the dish, with the pomegranate muhammara having a winning combination of tartness from the pomegranate and the sweetness of the roasted red peppers. N and I could have eaten several more of these babies.
The main we ordered – Vodka, Lime & Prawn Risotto ($43) was somewhat of a disappointment compared to our gorgeous starter, and definitely sounded much better described on paper than delivered. While the risotto was nicely cooked, the entire dish was dominated by a very strong shellfish taste that blotted out any subtleties from the lime or mascarpone. There was a good amount of vodka-flamed prawns, but they lacked the firm bite of fresh seafood. An edible but not mind-blowing dish.
A better choice would have been the three meat dishes our friends ordered – the melt-in-your-mouth Confit Duck Leg (you can never go wrong with anything cooked in duck fat), the Duo of Beef (I tried a bite of beef cheeks on balsamic glazed beetroot and made this statement, insert lipsmacking and eye dimming: “It kinda reminds me of Char Siew, but ngggggnnh Char Siew.”), and the Chermoula Lamb Cutlets, which was gorgeously presented on a grey granite slab with a bright pink beetroot labne, and was cooked exactly how my friend had requested it.
We also had the pleasure of being served by an excellent waitress, who handled the task of dealing with a big group who were sharing lots of dishes very well, and went beyond the call of duty at helping us with serving out slices of birthday cake.
Overall, a lovely evening with friends in a place full of soul and warmth. Worth the long drive to Swan Valley, made even better by an Entertainment Card discount and personable and accommodating staff. Slightly uneven menu with a few misses, but a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night out and to celebrate a person truly worth celebrating.
Food/Drinks – 7.5/10, Service/Ambience – 8.5/10
Chesters Restaurant, 8691 West Swan Rd, Henley Brook.
Open for Lunch Wed-Sun, and Dinners Fri – Sat. Bookings recommended.
Guest photos by Phryne Lau Photography