As I drove into Maylands, the sun burst through the dark clouds, turning raindrops on car bonnets into gleaming works of art.
It was a pretty introduction to a pretty suburb, and as I parked on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Whatley Crescent, I marvelled at the art deco buildings, leafy trees and sunlit awnings.
My reverie was soon destroyed by a man gnawing a KFC bone outside my car window; he then picked his nose and let out a raucous fart.
Ah well, if only life was like a Merchant Ivory film.
My destination was Smoult’s Larder, a popular deli that has been getting rave reviews from locals.
With the sun finally getting a workout after days of rain, the cafe strip on Whatley Crescent was pumping and people were eating alfresco at stylish cafes and popping in and out of chic boutiques.
Unfortunately there wasn’t any tables left in Smoult’s, so I abandoned my plan to get something from the small breakfast/brunch menu and went for a toasted chicken panini instead ($11.50).
The star of the panini was the delicious citrus and herb dressing.
It had a sophisticated tang, complementing the soft tender chook and the tomato and rocket garnish.
The panini was tasty and light, but it needed a few more ingredients – perhaps olives and sun-dried tomatoes – to make it more interesting and promote it from a B to an A.
Smoult’s display cabinet was a thing of beauty with rows of dainty treats creating a kaleidoscope of flavours and colours.
There was everything from tarts, cheese, sausage rolls and kebabs to salads and pies.
I couldn’t resist and got a selection to take home for dinner. Coming in joint first was the chunky chicken kebabs ($8.50 each).
The minced chicken had a lovely smooth texture and was perfectly seasoned with the mixed herbs adding complexity to the flavour.
The mild chilli kept things lively and gave the kebabs a latent heat that snuck up on your palate at the last minute.
It was a pleasant spiceness and my two young kids wolfed them down without any convulsions or cries for help.
Also joint first was the mushroom risotto cake ($8.50) which had a super intense funghi flavour.
No tins of condensed mushroom soup here with fleshy slices of funghi and spinach creating a delicious and potent treat.
The risotto was well cooked and created a nice gloopy texture to bind everything together.
Across the table my wife was enjoying her roast vegetable frittata ($8.50).
“It’s very creamy with the feta going nicely with the tomatoes and Mediterranean vegetables,” she said.
“All the ingredients taste super fresh and it’s a nice hearty dish for a cold night.”
The Thai chicken cake ($8.50) was enjoyable, but didn’t hit the heights of the other dishes.
Maybe my palate was fatigued by that point, or slightly impaired by the chilli, but I didn’t get a strong overriding flavour and it was all a bit ambiguous.
The individual cakes and kebabs were very filling and my family were struggling to finish it off, so you won’t break the bank if you buy enough for a meal, especially lunch.
The deli also had a larder stocking gourmet provisions.
I enjoyed my takeaway from Smoult’s Larder and will be back to try their sit-in meals.
By STEPHEN POLLOCK
186 Whatley Cres, Maylands