The West

Tries hard but could do better
Picture: Michael O'Brien

Let's get the obvious jokes out of the way. Yes, we had dinner in Midland. No, it wasn't Hungry Jack's. No, our car didn't get vandalised. And yes, we had a good time.

Midland has suffered from its reputation as a hard-drinking industrial hub, anchored by the Railway Workshops (which are being renovated into a new medical-based precinct).

But the reality these days is much different. Perched at the foot of the Darling Range and within striking distance of the Swan Valley, Midland is enjoying something of a revival - even hosting a Fringe Festival night market for the first time this year.

The Principal is the renovated turn-of-the-century digs of the former principal of Midland Tech, which helped to train those long-departed railway workers. It has an up-market bush-pub feel, tissue-paper gardenias and all.

The food is generous, fresh and in the main rustically plated, albeit with nice flourishes. The kitchen's extra effort, compared with most similar venues, shined through in a trio of dips ($13) of guacamole, hummus and cream-cheesy capsicum; all house-made.

An accompanying dice of chorizo was full-flavoured but oddly lacking in usual "char". Not so, four tight, grilled, lamb skewers, with an excellent fresh and zesty lime, corn and tomato salsa. A main of overcooked salmon ($33) was caught between modern MasterChef fads and 80s food fetishes - an arty smear of pesto added a jarring note.

Better - and excellent value - were two ultra-tender beef cheeks. Braised for eight hours in a rich red wine sauce, they were served with a chilli corn rosti (potato cake), with crunchy baby cos lettuce leaves jutting to one side. All crowned with crispy pancetta and a perfectly poached egg.

On a busy night, friendly staff put to good use the speed walk you develop as a waiter, although there were occasional slips with the timing of our dishes.

The kitchen's creative rein was loosened with vanilla yoghurt panna cotta ($11). A flavoursome but too-firmly set timbale came topped with strawberry and mango jelly, and served with honey, blueberry ice-cream, pistachio "soil" and an orange glaze. I still don't get how "soil" sells.

A tie-up with wine producer Mandoon Estate, and house- brewed beers, ensure fine

tipples. A tweak or two of the dishes, and the Principal would deserve an A.

The Principal

Address 23 Cale St, Midland

Phone 9250 2995

Open Seven days, 10am until late.

The buzz School was never this much fun. A lovingly restored former principal's quarters pumps out its own brews (and other drinks), plus generous serves of fresh, mostly premises- prepared, food.



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