Food / Pork / Review / Sweets & Treats

Cider @ Five Bar

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(That’s PJ Harvey wearing the Opera House, right? Back me up here.)

How lazy have I been? Took forever to get these photos to TBC because I’m just too lazy! Anyway, had a great night and I’m in love with the decor of the Five Bar. I mean an opening roof for summer? Can you imagine? Sometimes I wish I could just rip off the tin in our house so I could lounge on my day bed lounge in the warmth and light of summer. – TBP

A few weeks back I was stuck in a mid-afternoon day-dream about pork belly. This is not uncommon. As I was discovered the hard way soon after when I was asked to prepare a poster on homosociality on the spot I, should have been keeping my eye on the prize – instead I was busy on twitter talking TBP into coming to Five Bar’s Spring Into Cider tasting. TBP was sure she could get home, dressed, and find her camera in under an hour so we snapped up two tickets. As it turned out traffic conspired against us, but we weren’t the last ones there. And only the last one there counts as late, right?

The event was tucked up the back of the venue under the opening (but sadly closed that night) roof while the rest continued on normal service. I hadn’t expected it to be standing and since we got there too late to stake out a spot on the platform-sorta-business we ended up awkwardly perching on the end of a handsome sideboard doing a self-conscious side-shuffle every time the staff needed to get at the cutlery. They were very kind about it though and reassured us with a pithy anecdote about a more difficult customer and a beef tartar.

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My initial anxiety on realising that it was a standing event and my dream of soothing my woes in a comfy chair with some pork belly needed some adjusting started to calm down when I was handed an icey pint of James Squire Orchard Crush. Drink responsibly friends. It was a full-strength (4.8%) scrumpy, a little cloudy from the yeasts and had a distinctly apple-juice scent. It was neither too dry not too sweet and was a refreshing way to kick the evening off. Being a James Squire it’s pretty easy to find reasonably priced in your local bottleshop too. Since we arrived so late there was only one piece of the chorizo sauteed in cider left in the building and TBP boldly stole it from under the descending hand of a stranger. We’re sorry about that. She made me have it because she says she can’t talk about food but in the end all I can tell you about it is that was indeed a piece of chorizo and it did have a slightly sweet note. The guy we stole it from sure seemed to be enjoying it and one piece wasn’t really enough to get a good idea of how it worked together with the cider.

Macca, the night’s booze expert, did a great job of explaining what we had to eat and drink – he gave us just the right amount of information and in just the right way that we felt we were learning but not being condescended to. He welcomed feedback and seemed genuinely concerned that everyone enjoy the experience. The contrast between Macca and the beer degustation at Elmar’s couldn’t have been more stark and we really appreciated it.

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The second cider, the Napoleone Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider, was a really interesting one. It’s made in the same style as Champagne, the methode champenoise or methode traditionelle, with two fermentations and a spell aging on lees. The ciderhouse was aiming for an Australian twist on a classic European style and used 60% Packham and 40% Beurre Bosc pears. The finished product is dry for a pear cider with small tight bubbles, a toasty feel and vegetable notes. It was paired with crumbed and fried artichoke hearts on a goats smooth goats cheese base with a little slivered red onion. I love artichoke but I’m essentially a lazy person and the work involved in preparing and eating fresh ones is usually beyond me. I appreciated the amount of effort that went into the preparation as they were tender and delicious, a great seasonal nod. All together the dish was savoury with a bit of tang provided by the goats cheese but the cider complemented the dish by adding a note that seemed missing in the food and taken together it was a great combination.

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The Kelly Brothers Sparkling Apple Cider is a classic Australian style cider. We thought it smelled a bit funky, but it tasted nice – a sort of hint of apple sweetness with a crisp dry finish. We were given a whole stubby each, which at 7% alcohol was pretty generous. The Linley Valley pork belly served with it was good, if a bit tricky to eat while standing up and chatting. The applejack sauce had a bitter note which stood out and confused us, until we learned what that actually was and everything made sense. I’m well known in the family for my love of potato bake and so my cravings were perfectly satisfied by this dish. By the time we had plates, stubbies, glasses and cutlery we’d pretty much commandeered that sideboard. Sorry guys…

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Our palate cleanser was a deconstructed ‘Stonefence’ cocktail, a glass of Domaine Dupont Cidre Reserve served with a glass of Laird’s Applejack. Drinking the spirit first allowed the cider to serve as a palate cleanser for both the pork belly, and the applejack. And when I say palate cleanser, we’re talking a scorched earth policy. Applejack is made from 30% apples and 70% grains, described by Macca as being like those that make up whiskey. So despite being warned this was basically whiskey I was still thinking about it as some sort of delicious sticky apple-based dessert liqueur. Obviously I was wrong and it hurt in the way being fed a spoon full of vegemite when you think you’re getting jam hurts and now you can all laugh at my folly. The cider, on the other hand, was lovely. It had been aged in Calvados barrels and was honeysuckle sweet with small bubbles, not as tight as the methode traditionelle, more foamy. I really enjoyed this cider, so inevitably it turned out to be a premium one which sells by the bottle (at $50) rather than the glass.

The cider I enjoyed against all my expectations was the Cidrerie D’Anneville Cider Doux Binet Rouge. It was a sweet cider (a cidre doux) made from binet rouge apples, which are traditionally used in the making of Calvados. I’ve had sweet (sickly sweet) ciders before, like Rikorderlig, and never enjoyed them. This was definitely sweet but it didn’t gang up on you, it had a red apple flavour with soft foamy bubbles and was very pleasant to drink. I don’t know if it was the way the tasting was structured and this was just what I was ready for but I really enjoyed it. Macca said he’d happily drink it all day, except at 2% the alcohol content is too low for that – given my track record with cider that actually makes it even more appealing. If I find one I really enjoy I don’t want to put it down. It looks as though this cider is occasionally available for retail in Perth so I look forward to hunting for it.

The dessert was cute, mini palmier pastries with fresh strawberries, a vanilla-flecked creme fraiche and a square of foamy strawberry gel. The gel was particularly interesting because it was clearly solid enough to be cut into squares, but destabilised while I was distracted with the cider so by the time I got to eating it made a foamy sauce. The sweetness in the dessert was well balanced and sat well with the cider. We weren’t really clear on how to go about eating the dessert, I picked it apart and TBP ate it like a tiny bruschetta. I hope that was the intended method because it was adorable.

So, Five Bar – definitely going back. I don’t know what did it for me – the service, the food, the drinks, the roof. I’ve managed to link that roof and cider in my head and now I just want to spend all summer there. It’s like outdoors…. but indoors.

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