When I heard the name “Penny Garden”, I thought a little cottage style cafe in the swan valley where you would eat home style food surrounded by rose bushes….there might also be a bird bath there somewhere too. What Shirley Adams and I found on Saturday morning was a cold and clinical restaurant that looked like you could hose it out at the end of service. There are tables outside that over look a grassed area down to a dam and paddocks but inside was void of anything “garden like” at all. There was something missing; it had no “feeling” and it was grey.
After being seated my coffee order was taken straight away. I thought this was going to be where the amazing service and food would make me forget about my surrounds. After this initial display of top service it was hard to get the wait staff’s attention. They never seemed to look up and make eye contact. Shirley Adams found she had to say loudly “excuse me” several times to get some attention to order a coffee when she arrived. We had to do the same again when we wanted to ask for some sauce later on.
When the coffee came out I knew it was going to be ordinary. I could almost see the milk still boiling in my cup with the amount of steam coming off it. Then there was the solid milk froth. Another tell tale sign of over heated milk. I waited for my coffee to cool so I could try and get some idea of flavour but it was ruined. I was surprised to learn that they use Bruno Rossi coffee and not the locally roasted brand Yahava, which is only next door. I thought it would be good promotion of local business to use their coffee and I almost expected it after Yahava recommended Penny Garden to me when I asked them about breakfast. Shirley Adams had better luck with her coffee it seemed. She said hers was a good temperature and had good flavour.
The menu is fairly standard although there is a nice selection of several types of pancakes. The prices range from $7 for toast up to $26.70 for the “Gourmet Brekky” – poached eggs, asparagus wrapped in bacon, wilted spinach, smoked salmon, toast and hollandaise sauce. There was also a kids choice for $14.50 – 1 slice of bacon, 1 slice of toast, 1 egg and an orange juice.
I decided to have the “Brekky Bruschetta” – toasted Turkish bread, Spanish chorizo, sheep milk feta, mushrooms, Spanish onion and wilted spinach ($19.90) and Shirley Adams decided to have “The Works” – eggs, bacon, chipolata sausages, mushrooms, hash browns and toast ($24.20).
My bruschetta was flavoursome but it seemed to just be one flavour. I couldn’t taste the different parts of the dish coming through. I tasted them separately and the feta had a very pungent flavour and the onion was soft and sweet. The chorizo seemed to lack a the spicy flavour you’d expect; it tasted more salty than of any thing else. The spinach added some crunch and the mushrooms were soft. I definitely liked the dish but the flavours could have been more defined. I also ordered a poached egg as an extra ($3.50) and it was lovely and runny but I didn’t really need it considering the size of the dish.
For $24.20 the big breakfast was a disappointment. We thought it would have home made beans and hash browns, maybe some chipolatas from Princi or Mondos. What was served was tinned beans, hash browns from the freezer and standard sausages. However…The scrambled eggs were cooked nicely. They were creamy and soft. Slightly crispy bacon was sliced thinly and the mushrooms were soft but not soggy. The tomato had a bread crumb gremolata which seemed to lack seasoning but was a nice touch.
I have to admit that the menu prices really shocked me. $7 for toast? That is probably the most I have ever seen. If they used all organic and local produce I would accept those prices but based on what we were served, I could not see how they are justified.
The service was very quick and the food came out freshly prepared and was of decent size but you can get better produce and more interesting food for cheaper at a lot of other places in Perth.
Penny Garden had been recommended to me several times and I feel like I missed something about this place. I tried to look at it from the point of view of “it’s a family business”… nope couldn’t see it. I tried to look at it as a local business trying to do something different in the Swan Valley… nope, still couldn’t see it. I think Penny Garden really has the opportunity to step up and offer both of these things to visitors to our wine country yet sadly it misses the mark.4752 West Swan Road, Swan Valley
Breakfast served every day except Tuesday. 9am – 11am (8.30am weekends)