Miss Perez, Stirling

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disclaimer: I was a guest at the Miss Perez launch party.

date of visit: Saturday 23 November 2013

The Hills is somewhere we don’t get often enough. Places like Stirling are almost on our doorstep and yet they are usually overlooked as either being too far away or somewhere we pass through on our way to a winery. So when the invitation for the Miss Perez launch party arrived, I was keen to check it out. Yes, we were hosting a party for five three year olds the following day but really, what would we be doing from 6pm other than sitting on the sofa feeling shell shocked in anticipation?

With bullet proof logic like that, Andy and I headed to the Hills to see what it was all about.

Miss Perez is the baby of Che and Rebecca Zahra. The names may be familiar to Hills locals, as the owners of Jimmies at Crafers. The restaurant is named after Rebecca’s mother, who was famous for her warmth and hospitality. It is this spirit that they hope Miss Perez (the restaurant) embodies.

Che, Rebecca and a gorgeous, curly headed, but very shy, five year old greeted guests on Saturday night and it wasn’t long before drinks and food were heading out of the bar and kitchen in a steady stream. After some bubbles, Andy rated the Cristal (Cuban) beer very highly – served in very funky combination jar/pitcher glasses. Also on offer was Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc and Spanish Tempranillo. In the background, a Mexican mariachi trio provided entertainment.

This drink selection really gives you a good idea of Miss Perez’s theme. In the brief opening speeches, Che noted that the restaurant wasn’t Spanish or South American or Mexican but a fusion of all those Latin flavours. So just as the drinks are eclectic, the canapés worked in a similar vein.

On the deck, a chef braved the cool (it’s hard to believe I’m typing that – it’s not quite 11am today and we’ve already hit 34°C!), putting together a huge seafood paella on a very smart looking dedicated paella barbecue. Inside, we were snacking on delicious aubergine (eggplant) croquettes that had just the right hit of heat to them and they were beautifully crispy too. There were roasted scallops with pea puree and a coconut and chilli sambal, a salsa served in witlof leaves and prawns served with a pineapple chilli chutney. Well, at least that’s what I tried! For me, the scallops and the croquettes were tight contenders for my favourite. With the scallops I loved the play between the very traditional (the pea puree) and the coconut and chilli sambal, but those croquettes were really really good too …

The formalities were very brief with Lady Rose doing the honours. Lady Rose was also in one of the rooms writing love letters, as required and in the Peacock Room, a mind reader and mixologist were both on hand.

We left the party quite early (but hey – we went home and cut out animal masks for the birthday party! It’s all rock and roll) but I’m sure that the remainder of the guests kicked up their heels.

For us, the launch party did its job and we definitely want to head back and check out Miss Perez’s full menu. Perhaps the weather will even be good enough for us to sit on the deck!

Miss Perez Restaurant & Bar
2 Druid Avenue
Stirling SA 5152
phone: (08) 7225 1932

Miss Perez Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Mesa Lunga

Mesa Lunga Chandelier
photo of Mesa Lunga’s chandelier by Theen Moy

date of visit: Wednesday 22 May 2013

It’s been just over a year since my last visit to Mesa Lunga and I actually had no intention of writing about this visit (so no photos), but, in retrospect, I also think it’s fair to update my opinion.

I popped into Mesa Lunga before the Loft launch party. My friend suggested it because it was somewhere she wanted to try and, fortuitously, it was right next door to Loft. I kept my mouth shut about my last visit and arrived with not only an open mind but a determination to avoid churros at all costs!

Being super early on a weekday, we had no problems being seated in the restaurant without a reservation. We started with glasses of The Lane Pinot Gris while making our decision about what, and how much, to order.

We decided to order a few small plates, as well as a carciofi pizza (I really love artichokes). I still think it’s weird for a venue which styles itself as Spanish/tapas to serve pizza, but the pizza was actually pretty good, with a crispy base and enough topping but not so much that everything sagged.

We also ordered the prawns with garlic, chilli and sherry vinegar, the pork belly with quince aioli and the patatas bravas. We might have ordered a bit too much …

For me, the pork belly with the quince aioli was easily the stand out dish. The crackling was really crackly and the quince aioli was amazing. I would have been quite happy to have some crusty bread and that by itself. It was a lovely combination of sharp and garlicky with a texture that was somewhere between thick mayonnaise and a sauce. The sharpness worked really well with the pork and made me wonder why we don’t see pork and quince as a more common combination.

The prawns, and in particular their sauce, got a big thumbs up from my friend and we both liked the patatas bravas, although the chilli heat of the tomato sauce seemed a little inconsistent. The potatoes themselves were super crispy and the aioli was suitably garlicky.

The bill came to $84 which, while we had ample to eat, I felt was a bit on the pricey side. As with my last visit, I also felt service was a bit uneven. It’s definitely something that needs tightening up, especially around the end of the meal. I think it’s reasonable to assume that people who are dining early (and who are all dressed up!) are probably on their way out to something else, so being sharp with both bringing the bill AND collecting it, is important.

The visit definitely improved my opinion of Mesa Lunga, but it’s still not somewhere I’d be suggesting as a destination venue.

Mesa Lunga on Urbanspoon

Mesa Lunga



date of visit: Saturday 3 March 2012

After our very happy start to the evening (at Cork) we headed off to our 8:30pm dinner reservation at Mesa Lunga. I’d rung to book at the last minute and been offered a choice of 6pm or 8:30pm. I’m always a little bit nervous about later reservations (even though that’s when I prefer to eat) because there’s plenty of opportunity for tables not to turn as quickly as the restaurant expected and that will mean I’ll end up standing at the bar.

While this wasn’t the case for us, it was for the couple in front of us who, reservation-less, were offered the chance to hang around and wait for a table that might be 30 minutes or so away. All credit to them for doing that (I certainly wouldn’t have!) but it did mean that front of house took far too long to acknowledge us and get us seated.

Mesa Lunga’s layout is based around two long tables which can be divided by low pot plants. I guess that what they’re aiming at is the Spanish communal style of eating while acknowledging that people can be a bit funny about being sat next to strangers. Be aware that this means a reservation for 2 will mean you’re sitting next to each other. Some people can find both of these things a bit off putting … but not me, I like it.

From the outset (that’d be the hanging around to be seated part) service at Mesa Lunga was best described as chaotic. I’m not sure whether they were short on waiting staff or just really disorganised. We had to wait quite a while to place a drinks order (not only bad service, but also bad for the bottom line) and when we did order our bottle of Albariño it couldn’t be found … The waitress explained that they either didn’t have it in stock, or they couldn’t find it and the Spanish wine manager (not sure if the individual was Spanish or perhaps he/she manages only the Spanish wines) was on holiday. But we could have the other Albariño at the same price. Absolutely fine (of course!) but we probably didn’t need the complicated story …

The internet reports that the tapas at Mesa Lunga is very good but we were hungry and went the entrée-main course route. We started by sharing some charcuterie and boquerones which was very good. Obviously, it’s quite hard to stuff up slicing some sausage but the anchovies were served layered between some house made potato crisps with some salsa and they were really very good.

For main course, Andy chose the seafood paella and I opted for the fideuà. Fideuà is sort of paella but made with fine pasta instead of rice. I’ve only had it once before, in Barcelona, where the dish was a lot drier than that produced by Mesa Lunga. Mesa Lunga’s had the sloppiness of pasta coated in a tomato sauce. I have no idea which is more authentic (I’m sure there are tons of chefs in Spain who produce less than authentic dishes) but at Mesa Lunga I felt a bit like I was just eating pasta. If I’d wanted Italian I would have ordered a pizza (yes, bizarrely, Mesa Lunga does offer a pizza selection) or even gone to an Italian restaurant. On the plus side, the dish was topped with 3 or 4 massive scampi that were perfectly cooked, juicy and sweet.

There were no complaints about the seafood paella. I will say that both of us could have done with a finger bowl …

Wrapping up our main courses our thoughts turned to dessert and coffees. To be honest, I’d been lining up the churros from the time we looked at the menu. Unfortunately, dessert really was the icing on the bad service cake.

We ordered and our coffees arrived while we were still finishing our wine. And then we managed to finish our coffees before the churros arrived. Then there was the exciting first bite into the churros – the expectation being a gorgeous crispy hot doughnut, with a delicious chocolate sauce. Oh dear. Even with my piece of churro being doused in chocolate sauce I could tell that these little babies hadn’t been cooked in clean fat. In fact, Andy pronounced it positively fishy. We looked at each other in dismay. Andy had a further mouthful, I tried another mouthful or two both with and without the chocolate sauce … and then we gave up, leaving all but one of the churros untouched.

Well, the meal was over. Service around us was as chaotic as it had been at the outset and Andy had to wave someone over to get the bill. She saw the untouched dessert but I guess she didn’t notice it because she never asked if there was a problem. When the bill arrived, our card sat on the table for what seemed like an age, as unloved as the churros. Finally, Andy decided we needed to just get up, pay and leave.

Our main waitress was at the till and took our account. We commented that the churros had been cooked in less than fresh oil. She looked disappointed and said we should have said something and she could have dealt with it. But how long would we have had to sit, staring at our churros before someone checked if everything was OK?

We left full, but not particularly happy. While there are things to recommend Mesa Lunga (an interesting wine list is definitely one of them) we’re not in a hurry to go back. And if we do – I’ll be sticking to tapas and steering clear of dessert.

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