Andaluz has been around for about 6 years – it was one of the first of the small bars established in town, and is still one of the best. When I worked just around the corner in the Terrace about the time it opened its doors, I frequented it often – but since moving on from that job I have only been an irregular visitor, more fool me.
We went along on Wednesday for lunch and it brought back to me why I used to go so often – the food is excellent, the wine list brilliant, the service friendly and attentive, soft lighting creating a moody and compelling atmosphere. When it first set up Andaluz was often said to be “like a Melbourne bar” – it probably was, but since then the Perth small bar scene has become so developed, different, edgy and simply great, perhaps some new Melbourne spot could soon be termed “like a Perth bar”. Whatever, Andaluz is at the top of its game.
In the basement of an old law chambers building, it is decorated with leather couches and wooden boxes as tables in some rooms, high benches and stools as you enter the place, and tables and chairs in other areas of the space it occupies. It all looks and feels comfortable and welcoming.
The menu is small and tapas style – you could probably gauge that from the name – and includes oysters, olives, smoked almonds, chicken and duck liver parfait, polenta chips, pork belly and roasted pumpkin with pickled beetroot and goats curd. There is a jamon list, as well as a selection of cheeses. Desserts such as rum and raisin ice cream sandwich and chocolate and ricotta mousse round out the menu.
We chose 4 dishes – white anchovies on black bean toast; carrot, mint and queso di Murcia croquettes; asparagus; and spiced chicken skewers. I should alert you that the serves are quite large and we couldn’t finish them all – so 4 tapas is certainly enough for 2 people, unless you are particularly big eaters.
The anchovies were piled high on three slices of bread that had been smeared with mashed black beans, with roasted capsicum draped over. The white anchovies were mild, less salty than the usual dark fish, and the sweetness of the capsicum and earthiness of the beans complemented these flavours.
The croquettes, four golf ball sized, rounds were crisp skinned and filled with salty, creamy, melted cheese that had been combined with sweet, earthy carrot. A velvety mint dressing accompanied them, adding more flavour elements. These were quite delicious.
A mound of thin asparagus spears, char grilled, drizzled with oil, with dukkah sprinkled liberally over, and with pieces of crunchy, tart, pickled asparagus intermingled and a romanesco sauce made up the next dish. The spears were sweet, tender, firm to the bite; the pickles a lovely contrast, and the nutty elements contributed by the dukkah added further dimensions. It was a light, rustic dish, well presented, and very tasty.
Three spiced chicken skewers comprised the final dish. The grilled chicken was juicy, tender, and with quite a zing from the spices. A green harissa aioli provided a creamy, mild dressing that helped cool the spiciness. It was a generous serve and a fitting end to our meal.
But not quite – as we sat back to finish our drink, a complementary serve of chocolate salted caramels with smoked chilli salt appeared before us. And what a delightful conclusion these were – smooth creamy caramel, encased in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a chilli salt that gave a very nice kick. Next time we will make sure we save room for this dessert.
As I said the wine list is great – not huge but containing some interesting and different wine choices – as you would expect there are a number of Spanish wines and there is an excellent champagne list; the only drawback of the list overall is that it would be nice for more “by the glass” choices; however that didn’t impose any undue constraints on us.
We started with rosé from the Adelaide Hills, the Pawn Wine Company’s El Desperado. A beautiful pale salmon colour, this wine has aromas of rose water and Turkish delight. Made from blend of sangiovese and tempranillo, it has lovely strawberry tones, is delicate, fresh and is a great example of the light, dry rosé style. It is perfect for summer days quaffing, and with food.
Next another rosé caught our eye, this one French from Languedoc; Pierre et Papa Rosé 2012. This is quite different – made from cinsault it is bright pink, with lifted strawberry notes on the nose; has a touch of sweetness on the mid palate, but finishes quite dry with raspberry notes predominating.
Our final wine was something I had never encountered before – made from an Italian black grape, aglianico, the 2013 Hither and Yon from McLaren Vale. It is dark red; has quite distinct cherry, white pepper and allspice elements on the nose. The palate exhibits firm tannins, with sour cherry and dusty notes, with good levels of acid. It is a very interesting wine from a little grown grape (at least in Australia).
Andaluz maintains its place at or near the top of the small bar scene in Perth. It is very popular, especially on Friday evenings when you would struggle to get a seat – but it is definitely a spot you need to experience. If crowds aren’t your scene, go at lunch time or on another night and you will see just what a great place it is without the crush.