On the first of our now many visits to this beautiful dining room, just after it opened in 2018, one gesture at the beginning of the meal told us everything was going to be fine, perhaps exceptional.
We wrote at the time about the waiter who arrived at the table and “reverently ladled jet-black squid ink risotto from a small copper pot on to a pre-warmed plate” because, it transpired, chef Nic Wood wanted his risotto served at its peak of creamy, warm perfection. His risotto wasn’t going to sit under heat lamps for even a minute. Now, that’s attention to detail.
The Santini experience stunned and delighted then and, in the past year, the restaurant has evolved further into a magnificent dining room, serving classic dishes and a destination for Perth eaters of all persuasions: business folk, special-night-outers, romantic couples, tourists and those who just love lunch and a terrific wine list.
It is sophisticated and impeccably turned out, but with just the right touch of casualness and pared-back sleekness.
You can buy a pizza here, for heaven’s sake, which puts Santini at the vanguard of the new Posh Casual Movement which is seeing off the last vestiges of stiff, white glove, fine dining, so loved by hotel dining rooms past.
Its service was a little scratchy in 2018, as untrained staff delivered mishaps and missteps, out of kilter with the seamlessness of the food service and the very adult interiors. The service has improved. The large menu is enticing and designed around food you want to eat, not food a chef wants to cook to impress other chefs.
Start with a plain plate of 20 month-aged pecorino, spotted with unfiltered fresh virgin olive oil. A massive wheel of the cheese sits prominently on a marble table at the front of the restaurant, from where chunks are levered off when ordered. Or you might choose the warmed mortadella with pickles.
Perhaps you could move onto a pasta dish (cut straight to the squid ink risotto) before gearing up for an assault on to an impressive wood grilled bistecca Fiorentina or the ludicrously large veal parmigiana, advertising as being for two, but which would stop four trenchermen in their tracks.
Pig and Pinot Fridays see the best suckling pig in WA served with a pinot of your choice. It’s booked out every week.
Desserts are not their metier, but the tiramisu is the best of the bunch. If you haven’t been, put it on your to-do list. Santini is a truly delightful dining experience.