The Pearl, Darwin

The Pearl serves one of the best brunches in Darwin. The Parisienne bistro may be distinguished for its dinner prix fixe offerings, but its brunch was most outstanding. I was actually surprised, as I didn't expect to eat Melbourne-quality brunches in Darwin, arguably Australia's most disparate city. The food was exquisite yet hearty, and pretty everything was a must-try.

Service, while lean in number, was cheery and efficient. Do note though, that in spite of its relaxed ambience, the restaurant enforces a smart casual dress code.

A vegetarian option that was so delicious I near-forgot it didn't have any meat, the melange of Roasted Mushrooms & Grilled Haloumi (A$18), poached egg, roquette, grilled tomato, white bean puree, and salsa verde was nuanced and rustic. I'd never been a fan of haloumi until this, the grilling treatment searing a beautiful golden off its chewy meatiness.

The Croque Madame (A$19.50), a confection of sourdough toasted with a thick slice of barossa leg ham, melty gruyere, chive bechamel, roast roma tomato, and topped with a poached egg, was wonderfully cheesy and gooey.

The Bubble & Squeak (A$18.50), Aussi-speak for rosti or potato hash, was spiked with truffle for added fragrance, and accompanied by a full English breakfast of streaky bacon, poached egg, slow roasted tomato, rocket leaves, and crusty sourdough.

The Sweet Corn Fritters (A$16.50) was laced with dill, and topped with sublime fennel & orange cured ocean trout, creme fraiche, and a poached egg.

Because we love our eggs, we supplemented with the Scrambled Free-Range Egg (A$4), perfectly fluffy and creamy and scrumptious.

The Latte (A$4.50), brewed in-house with beans that were ground in-house, was potent and rich. An excellent wake-up call.

The cafe is located inside the courtyard of a shopping mall, The Vic, along the main shopping thoroughfare of Smith Street. The "alfresco" is sun-drenched and warmed by the greenhouse effect, but the "indoors", a chic monochromatic space, is low-lit, intimate and cool. No prizes for guessing where we sat.

The Pearl
27 Smith Street, Unit 9, The Vic Complex
Darwin 0800
Tel: +0435 821 648
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 12noon to 12midnight;
Fridays to Saturdays from 11am to 12midnight
Website: www.thepearl.com.au

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