It is always a complete delight to be invited out for a meal and a recent opportunity to attend the first pop up dinner of RiverMint Dining at the Salt & Co Cooking School was set to be a very memorable evening.
Head chef of RiverMint is Robyne Low and here’s a bit about her background….
After working all around the world, what was it that brought you to Perth?
I worked throughout the Caribbean, Canada and Europe for a total of 12 years. I have been in the hospitality industry since 2000, starting in front of house. After retraining as a chef and working in restaurants in the UK I worked on superyachts mainly in Spain and Italy. The slow food movement, foraging and sourcing from small producers was an inspiration to me. I wanted to return to Australia after retiring from yachting and my husband got a job based here, so that’s how we ended up in Perth. I am originally a Queensland girl and love Australia.
How was it that you started cooking with native ingredients?
I have always had a sense of native ingredients having grown up in Queensland where the tropical native fruits are widespread. I first took an interest in cooking with native spice mix when I came across them in a random food market called metro on the outskirts of Bodrum, Turkey. I realised that there is more to Australian cuisine and started investigating.
Do you have a favourite native ingredient you work with?
I really love Davidson plums from Queensland. They are very tart, versatile and the colour is beautiful. I am also very fond of River mint which has such a strong refreshing spearmint thyme flavour.
Is there a native ingredient that you would recommend that everyone tries at least once?
I think everyone should try kangaroo at least once. It is a lean and versatile meat that represents our game meat industry. The Paroo red kangaroo meat is the best- hunting is strictly monitored and the quality of the meat superior.
Such an interesting background, clearly plenty of experience and now with a real focus on celebrating native ingredients. I couldn’t wait for dinner! The RiverMint team had beautifully transformed the space in West Perth with bright floral arrangements, the careful placement of striking blue green emu eggs and a selection of stunning prints from photographer Salty Wings showcasing beautiful ocean images.
The evening commenced in the kitchen area with a selection of tasty and creative canapés. Crocodile and herring featured as the hero ingredients, well paired with interesting native herbs and spices. Crocodile in particular is not something I get to eat often, so I welcomed the chance to revisit it. To me, it has the consistency of a firmer chicken, with a slightly saltier taste, and was been beautifully seasoned. It was a whole lot of yum on a dainty wooden spoon.
Onward to the beautiful dining room. It was pretty as a picture! There was no assigned seating so different groups joined together to form tables and strangers were soon new friends. I studied the menu and suspected I’d need to google a few ingredients. There were a few that were completely new to me and that made the meal ahead all the more exciting. Thankfully for our table we had the man behind Tucker Bush at our table so he could identify the ingredients for us and I was excited to hear there were a few we could even grab from Bunnings and plant at home! They would definitely give our home cooking a bit of native flair.
Now the menu for this dinner was designed to celebrate the aboriginal season of Djeran. The season of Djeran is also known as the Season of Adulthood and falls in what the western world regards as Autumn.
Native rosemary and lemon myrtle infused Kyten’s goat’s curd, duck egg, local eggplant, wattleseed wafer, Southern Forests honey, quongdong
Sandalwood smoked kingfish, boab pulp, red centre lime pepperberry cultured cream, finger lime pearls, bush grapes, sea rocket, samphire
Pink pear and cinnamon myrtle puree, compressed nashi, river mint sorbet
Emu flat rump, heirloom corn, mushroom, artichoke puree, vanilla flower, warrigal greens dumpling, pink berries, native game jus with Pigface, water spinach, old man saltbush and Beets, radish, black barley, outback lime
Pandanus bavorois, Northcliffe blood plum, Davidson plum gel and meringue, chocolate cremeaux
Sandalwood nut rosella puffs, sweet marri blossom and native lemon grass tea
Each dish expertly balanced uniquely indigenous flavours with some western cooking techniques and produced beautifully presented plates. Careful consideration had been given to contrasting textures and as if plates were a canvas, each incorporated striking splashes of colour, like the bright yellow duck egg in the first dish. There were some really strong flavours and with the first dish the contrast between the wonderfully sweet West Australian honey and the creaminess of the goat’s curd with its delicate herbal infusion was a great combination, only further enhanced by the other tasty elements on the plate.
I loved that fingerlimes had been included too! Such a special fruit, like citrus caviar. It is such a unique culinary experience and it is great to see people try it for the first time and enjoy their zesty flavour with their magic pop pop.
And speaking of new flavours, river mint is amazing! It made for such a powerful minty sorbet and I was so pleased to hear that this was one of the plants soon to be available at Bunnings. I’ll be hunting it down!
The emu dish was a real standout for me. The meat had been expertly cooked, tender with a strong but pleasantly gamey flavour. There were many interesting new tastes on that plate, some more familiar than others, like the vanilla and mushroom, but great to get to try new things like the pink berries and the richly flavoursome native game jus. I really enjoyed the dumpling too, it had a bit of a grassy taste with those local warrigal greens.
The two accompanying side salads were interesting additions. The grainy, black barley salad with its roasted beetroot was delicious, but I have to say that I’m not sure if I’m won over by pig face just yet. I gave it a go, but the taste and texture wasn’t quite for me.
The dessert was quite the delight, like a canvas dotted with different shades of mousse and sauce. And it is always hard to go past anything chocolate. And it was great that this dish included one of Chef’s Robyne’s favourite ingredients, the Davidson plum. Such an interesting blend of flavours, a little fruity, a little chocolatey, all marrying together for a winning sweet conclusion to this meal.
It was one of those special evenings where GG and I arrived only knowing each other, but we both had such a lovely time chatting away with everyone around the table. It’s a great thing where a common love of food brings people together. Do sign up to the RiverMint newsletter here for details of future dinners and events. Nothing like the chance to try a few new flavours and native ingredients you might have seen before but not known you could eat. There’s actually a dinner for the new season, Makuru, scheduled for July which you can book for here.
My thanks to Chef Robyne for the invitation to come along to this very special dinner.