Last Saturday was Mount Lawley’s third annual Beaufort Street Festival. This year’s boasted to be the biggest one yet, with roadblocks up from Queens Crescent all the way down to Lincoln Street. Needless to say, parking was a nightmare, and the glaring sun of the first uncomfortably hot day we’ve had this Spring made the walk feel more like some sort of pilgrimage to a land of promised icy refreshments, tasty morsels and exotic wares. I was excited and ready to eat my way through Beaufort Street.
First up: Fat Dragon. This establishment recently opened up in that ‘dead zone’ behind the Astor theatre on the corner of Beaufort and Walcott streets. Fat Dragon especially un-tickles my fancy because it’s what I affectionately call a gwei-lo trap: an Asian eatery (of vague origin) for white people – where actual Asians never eat. But they were selling pork buns at their festival stall, and I sure as hell can’t say no to a pork bun.
The buns at Fat Dragon were $6 each or $10 for two: expensive, but unsurprising by Perth standards. The bread was done in the open-sandwich style: a modern twist on the traditional ‘bao’. Unfortunately, as a result of sitting in the bain-marie instead of the steamer, the bun was dry and lukewarm. The pork filling had been roasted, pulled, and seasoned with a Chinese barbecue style marinade. While the meat wasn’t as juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender as pulled pork can be, it was still tasty and satisfied my craving. Another redeeming feature was the bottle of Sriracha chili sauce offered to me by the server. Of course, abiding by social etiquette, I squeezed a small glob onto my plate – but I gladly would have emptied that bottle.
Next up: a Spanish Quesadilla by Chef Nimrod Kazoom (what a name!). It’s amazing how quickly Spanish and South American cuisine has infiltrated Perth in the last few years. I remember a time not so long ago when Old El Paso taco kits were the only option. Thank god we’ve seen the light.
The quesadilla was nice, but it’s hard to go wrong with melted cheese and fried tortillas, so my expectations are understandably high for $12 a serving. The chicken part consisted of thinly sliced smoked breast, which was delicious despite its resemblance to ham (or even worse – chicken loaf!). Unfortunately they were a bit light-handed with the amount of cheese and the cooking time, which meant that we didn’t get that stringy molten cheese oozing out between two crispy layers – the true joy of a good quesadilla. Nevertheless, the bf and I scooted over to a shaded part of the street and wolfed it down.
After walking through the growing swarms of people on the street, under the glaring Perth sun, I was in need of something cold. Luckily, I stumbled across Delish Ice. I was intrigued by their kitschy blue caravan and their inventive icy pole flavours. It was hard deciding on just one, but I couldn’t go past the Rum Boat Float, featuring a ‘rum inspired syrup’, lime and passionfruit. It was everything I’d hoped and more – the rum syrup had a cinnamon-y, almost cola-like flavour, and the citrus fruits cut through the sweetness, making it the ultimate icy palate cleanser. The bf went for the ginger beer, mint and lime, which he also highly rated.
A bit further down the street I ran into Jumplings, a mobile dumpling shop. Again, I can’t say no to dumplings; it’s probably in my DNA. I opted for three (two prawn, one duck) for $5, and tried my best to suppress that nagging feeling that I was paying too much. The boiled dumplings were fresh and well-cooked, but the skins were a bit thin, unlike the thicker, chewier ones you get on potstickers and some gyozas. The fillings were nice enough, though you had to dig deep to find much prawn at all in the ‘prawn’ dumplings. The duck filling was held together by a delicious five-spice sauce, much like the kind you get in little tubs when you buy Chinese roast duck and BBQ meats. Each serve of dumplings had a generous topping of chives, coriander and soy sauce – a winning combination in my book. But Jumplings seriously lacked one thing: chili sauce. I probably would have settled for chili flakes. But no, nothing.
At this point I felt pretty full, and the searing heat was definitely not helping me regain my appetite. So I walked across to the Raw juice tent looking for something my stomach might appreciate. The lovely chaps behind the ice-filled barrels offered me some free samples. The first I tried was made of blended kale, banana, apple and lemon. I have no idea how, but it worked; it was delicious. The kale was subtle, even though it stained the juice a deep, healthy green. The second I tried was made from carrot, lettuce, beetroot, spirulina and wheatgrass. This one was considerably less tasty, as I expected. It had an intense earthy flavour and sat unpleasantly on the border between sweet and savoury.
Despite the huge volume of food stalls, a lot of the offerings were repetitive and uninspired. I lost count of the number of Bratwurst/sausage stalls, and I swear every second stall was serving paella. I decided to skip these to save room for things that really piqued my interest (I have this compulsion to always try strange and novel foods). Most stalls would only sell full servings too, which made it hard to justify trying a lot of different things for $10-$15 a pop.
My last meal (which I ended up taking home and eating for dinner) was a Moroccan chicken tajin (or tagine, as it’s more commonly known) from Shak Shuka Authentic Moroccan Food. I’ve recently fallen in love with Middle Eastern and North African food, so I couldn’t resist trying this tajin. I’m so glad I did, because it was freaking delicious. The couscous was fluffy, well-seasoned and ‘to the tooth’, while the stew had a terrifically balanced flavour profile. The chicken was bite-sized and tender, and the smattering of chickpeas and raisins complemented the thick, spiced (but not spicy) stew. At first, I thought $13 for a small container was a bit much, but I changed my mind after the first forkful. A definite highlight of the day.
So there we are – a bit of a taster of this year’s Beaufort Street Festival. Note: there were main food attractions such as the Roving Dinner ($160, hopping between five different restaurants), the Food and Wine Micro-Festival ($10 for limited wine and cheese samplings) and the Beaufort Street Festival cookbook ($20) that I simply didn’t have the money and/or desire to experience. I’m much more of a street food kinda gal. And hey, why give up the joy discovering things for yourself?