The twinkling lights in the busy courtyard entrance of Trunk Bar & Restaurant boded good things for our Friday night dinner. Inside the dimly lit, high-ceilinged restaurant, the crowd was just as bustling and everyone appeared to be enjoying their food and wine in the relaxed surroundings.
We had high hopes for Trunk’s Italian-influenced menu. It was difficult to whittle down our selections of antipasti, entrees, mains, pastas and pizzas, so in the end the four of us decided to share three entrees and order a main course each. After a long while, our entrees arrived – escabeche of WA sardines ($12), Sicilian stuffed calamari with romesco sauce and radicchio ($16) and a Wagyu carpaccio, celeriac remoulade and capers ($18). Everything was reasonably well-presented and well-made, although I thought the seasoning veered about two degrees towards bland (and I don’t think I have a particularly salty palate).
For mains we diversified into a pappardelle with braised rabbit and green olives ($27), a saffron risotto with peas, prawns and preserved lemon ($26), pizza no. 9 of Italian sausage, broccoli, tomato, mozzarella and chilli ($15.50) and Western Plains pork belly, heirloom tomato and bread sauce and confit fennel ($36). They arrived after another long wait.
Now, despite my often hyper-critical approach to food, I have actually very rarely returned a dish to the kitchen. But I felt I was justified to complain about my pork belly. I realise that pork belly is a fatty cut of meat, but my serving contained a sliver of meat attached to a gelatinous mound of fat and a chewy skin. Not only was it possibly the worst cut of the belly area but I don’t think it had been given enough slow-cooking time in the oven to render away some of the fat. Also, despite the large quantity of fat, there was not a hint of crackling. I politely informed the manager of the under-par dish and he was very professional, calmly asking me what I’d like instead.
The sense of short-cut cooking and poor timing in the kitchen was heightened by the other dishes. The saffron risotto was again bland, and the paucity of prawns were tasteless morsels of obviously frozen crustaceans. On a blind tasting, I would never had known that prawn was involved. The pizza was cold and the cheese had not been melted properly. The pappardelle fared better, with large fat ribbons of pasta supporting generous shreds of meat. My replacement pizza no. 8 of prawns, calamari, chilli and smoked tomato ($18) was freshly made with a good crisp base, a definite improvement on my previous choice, but again a little on the bland side.
Overall we were disappointed with our experience at Trunk. The space is inviting and the service was friendly. However, I got the sense that on a Friday night it was better catered for drinkers, with the kitchen having to play catchup with the food orders by hastily delivering sub-standard dishes.