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I had made my way to this trendy strip in Mt Lawley the week before when I had brunched at nearby Mrs S, and I had enjoyed the vibe so much that I decided to return. Soon. It was the ostentatiously oriental Chapels on Whatley, also on last year’s top 100 places to eat list by STM, that especially caught my attention, with its Chinese lanterns hanging out the front and the large vibrant red umbrella by the main door.
The interior, as viewed in this photo from the al fresco courtyard at the back, is like a cave of wonders filled with an eclectic mix of oriental knick knacks and Wedgewood china tea sets, some of which are for sale. A large portrait of a lady looking somewhat like a cross between a Mucha and a Frida Kahlo art piece stands guard over this treasure trove while Chinese music from the 60s plays in the background. Some may find the different styles jarring, but as someone who delights in rummaging through vintage flea markets, I loved it all!
I started by ordering the alligator strawberry frappe ($8.75 including 10% public holiday surcharge), a refreshing blend of lychees, apple juice and vanilla ice-cream. The lychee flavour was quite subtle, but I was pleased that the drink wasn’t overly sweet. One of my dining buddies ordered the mango iced tea ($7.65 with surcharge), and was not overly impressed with her drink.
The menu boasted an exciting range of dishes with influences from Vietnam, Korea, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and India, many of which piqued my interest. I found it difficult to decide what to order.
After tossing up between 2 or 3 dishes, I decided I couldn’t resist the allure of crispy mantous (steamed and then lightly pan fried Chinese buns). These came with a pulled pork and beans dish ($32.95 with surcharge), like a Chinese take on huevos rancheros.
The dish was tasty and the pork was succulent and tender. The only let down was that the egg on top was overcooked in my opinion. A delicately poached egg with a molten centre oozing over the pork and beans would have added creaminess and a slight sweetness that could have taken the dish to a whole other level. Instead, the hero of the dish for me were the 2 mantous on the side. They were crisp and golden on the outside with an extremely satisfying crunch, yet pillowy soft inside. They would have been perfect for mopping up a runny yolk.
One friend ordered the Peking duck salad (somewhere in the mid $20s with surcharge). As someone who identifies as being a “banana” (yellow on the outside, white on the outside – it’s not racist if I’m describing myself, is it?), I surprised myself when I took visceral offence at seeing the chopsticks stuck almost vertically into the bowl. This is considered bad luck by the Chinese because of the resemblance to joss sticks stuck into an urn on an altar. I am neither Buddhist nor am I superstitious, but I guess some things are more deeply entrenched than I realise.
The dish itself was again tasty with tender pieces of duck and juicy orange segments adding freshness, sweetness and tanginess. The expectation though, when something is called “Peking duck”, is that the skin would be crispy. There was, therefore, some disappointment when this expectation was not met. It would have been better if this dish had simply been called a duck salad.
My other friend ordered the Korean style salmon salad (mid $20s with surcharge). I’m told that it was tasty but didn’t have a particularly strong Korean flavour, though this may have been because my friend had asked for the dressing to be on the side.
We finished by sharing the gluten free chocolate quinoa cake ($10.95 with surcharge) between the 3 of us, and I cannot rave enough about this dessert! It was just the right amount of sweetness, not too rich, delectably moist but with a slight nuttiness both texturally and in flavour. The chocolate shavings on top were smooth and melt-in-your-mouth thin, and the chocolate syrup had a perfect viscosity. Best of all, it’s made with quinoa, so it must be healthy and good for you, no? On my to do list, I have now added “google chocolate quinoa cake recipes”.
I also ordered a long macchiato ($4.95 with surcharge), which tasted weak and decidedly underwhelming. My fault, really. With the vast selection of teas available ($6.05 a pot with surcharge), I should have figured that their strength probably lies elsewhere.
The staff were helpful, friendly and attentive. The dishes came out impressively quickly, but a rapid turnover did not seem to be on the agenda. Instead, the staff seemed to genuinely wish patrons to enjoy a relaxing meal, however long it took.
I love it! Stepping into Chapels on Whatley is like being transported to another country or even era. The atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed, especially in the al fresco area, which, despite being outdoors, is well shaded and enjoys a light breeze.
Fairly standard for Perth.
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 8am-4pm
Friday and Saturday 8am-10pm
Bookings essential for breakfast and lunch on weekends
There were a few small misses, but overall, we enjoyed the atmosphere, meals and drinks, and there are plenty of other options on offer to entice me to return. I would especially love to try their $50 high tea!
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