It's been a while since I've seen a doily in a restaurant. As a branding exercise, the paper version speaks of a fussy attitude that most modern Australian restaurants jettisoned in the 80s. Yet as for my nana's, they can also trigger memories of generous, lovingly cooked fare.
Penny Garden cafe-restaurant in the Swan Valley certainly has heaps of the latter, albeit plated on top of the geometric paper mats. And like the old Australian pennies uncovered during construction, for which the restaurant is named, you can unearth some unexpected treats at this rare stand-alone valley diner.
On a cold, blustery night we braved downpours and plonked ourselves in the warm, but bright, cafe-style long room. Chef Earl Mashmett and his team prepare most of the food on site, including pastries and cakes. The pay-off is food with surprising depth - substance over style, if you will.
A creamy, rich potato, leek and bacon soup of the day ($9.60) was chock-full of pork hock and peppery flavours. And another throwback to the 80s - prawn cocktail - was rescued from the standard wodge of shredded iceberg lettuce by a cayenne-chilli hot thousand island dressing.
Spice is clearly one of the strengths of the kitchen, given the dish of the night was a pork vindaloo ($31.50). Notoriously hard to stop from drying out, the pork was luscious and pull-apart, subtly spiced with a just-right hit of vinegar, and flecked with toasted almonds. While not as fiery as a traditional Goan version, it came plated with a thick red onion and cucumber raita (yoghurt-based sauce), basmati rice and flatbread.
Less successful was roasted vegetable pasta ($25.20); despite sweet fudgy parsnip, the accompanying pesto sauce rendered the dish too oily. Befitting the wintry conditions, a pot roast of well-rendered beef cheek came atop a pile of creamy mash, although a thatch of semi-braised onions struck a jarring note.
Servings are generous, so dessert can be a stretch but it's worth it. A cherry and rhubarb crumble ($14.50) was well-baked with a cinnamon hit, and a thin, chocolate-lined banoffee tart shell cradled nicely dark, well-reduced gooey condensed milk.
Sitting next to a separate coffee roastery and perched near a lake, this licensed corrugated iron-clad venue, run by the Patten family, is not the cheapest in the area but is good value for money. And it's open for breakfast and lunch except on Tuesdays.
Penny Garden Restaurant
Address 4752 West Swan Road, West Swan
Phone 9274 7277
Open Breakfast and lunch, Wed-Mon; dinner, Wed-Sun 6pm (last order 8pm)
The buzz Like the old Australian pennies uncovered during construction, for which the restaurant is named, unearth some unexpected value at this generous Swan Valley diner.