First things first: the Goolwa cockles on the menu at West are pretty much everything exciting about the venue, distilled into a single dish.
Starring shiny South Australian cockles (perhaps you know them as pippies) stir-fried in a chunky house-made XO sauce – a gently spiced, sweet and savoury condiment made with dried seafood and pork belly that starting appearing in high-end Hong Kong restaurants around the ’80s – they’re the stuff of finger-eating dreams.
West sits somewhere between the Italian-ish food of the high-volume Deck and the more ambitious offerings of Ku Dining – the other two venues at the Ku De Ta waterside precinct.
Distressed timber defines the space while all tables enjoy sightlines to the open kitchen where pristine Australian seafood (tins of intensely fishy, hand-milked “virgin” Yarra Valley salmon roe; Akoya pearl oysters from Western Australia’s Shark Bay) and smallgoods are proudly displayed.
Rather than legs of Spanish jamon and Italian prosciutto, Australian smallgoods are the star of the show, so expect to hook into porky winners like mortadella from Sydney’s mighty LP Quality Meats and eastern European treats from Mirrabooka butcher par excellence, Paul Marinovich from Adrian’s Continental Smallgoods.
As far as other must-do dishes go, the crab “sandwich” – a jumble of dressed crab meat heaped onto a thick brioche domino – is just as essential as the cockles, while Frank’s fries (crunchy-out, fluffy-in baby potatoes alongside a puddle of chilli-spiked mayo) and puffy flatbreads make fine ballast. Frisee leaves, a gooey egg and swatches of fried pork cheek make for a moreish – if not especially health-minded – salad, while a fudgy chocolate cookie crowned with milk ice-cream brings things to a pleasing finish.