andaluz bar and tapas. Finally my lovely, I get to write about you.
Given the good things I had heard about this place, and the fact it doesn't take bookings, I was a little apprehensive about going for dinner as a group of five. Luckily however, the cool young thang density at 8 on a Thursday isn't too thick and after arriving to find no free tables, and resigning ourselves to sitting outside in the alleyway we were informed by our helpful waiter that a sofa had just become free up the back! Quickly we scurried to secure said sofa before any particularly opportunistic hipsters beat us to it, and then sent text messages to the missing members of our party of five that we were actually in andaluz, it just took a little hunting up the back reaches to find our little corner.
I loved the decor up the back - old leather and velvet sofas, leather stools, bookshelves holding old encyclopaedias and empty bottles from the bar, all tucked away in nooks and crannies. We debated whether our particular little corner was actually under Howard Street, but I think we decided it was not.
Looking at the menu, I was excited and I just couldn't hide it. As we were soon informed by our very friendly and informative waiter, the dishes are designed to be shared by two people but if we wanted them to they could easily bring out enough of each dish to be shared by five people. Excellent, first tick. No having to haggle over tasty morsels ("you have the extra prawn cos I had the extra tuna.. no really, I insist... oh alright then") , or ordering more than we wanted to just so everyone could have a try of everything. The most expensive tapas dish was the tuna belly at $12.50 but the average price per dish was around $8.
As we were at andaluz to celebrate an engagement, a bottle of sparkling was in order. Whilst pouring our five glasses, a slight miscalculation meant that the bottle ran dry half way through filling the fifth glass. To our surprise our waiter promptly apologised, and went to top this glass up at the bar. Another tick. Not only would we not have to haggle with each other over sharing awkward servings of food, noone would have to martyr themselves by having a half-empty glass of sparkling!
Happily sipping our wine, we decided upon our first round of tapas dishes. We settled upon "white Ortiz anchovies, lemon and parsley $8", "shredded ham hock, saffron braised leek and manchego croquettes, red pepper and chilli jam $10.5" and "seared scallops, Berkshire pork cheek confit, sticky Alvear PX and muscatels $9.5".
The lemon and parsley gave the anchovies a fresh tang, with their soft texture pairing nicely with the crunch of the crostini. The croquettes were amazing! Biting into the outer crunchy layer revealed a deliciously gooey centre that was so full of flavour. Definitely a standout dish of the night. The scallops were cooked with care, and thus very tender, and the chefs clearly know their way around pork as the confit was absolutely delicious.
After enjoying these dishes so much we were keen to try some more, choosing this time to try the "grilled sourdough bread, marinated labna, oven dried vine tomatoes $8", "wild caught Exmouth tiger prawns, moorish spices $11.5" and "braised baby goat empanadillas, spiced sofrito paste $9.5".
Again, happy chomping all around the table. The sourdough was fresh and warm off the grill, the labna soft and creamy, and the tomatoes were absolutely filled with flavour - they packed a punch despite their meek appearance. I admit that I licked my fingers after picking my prawn off the serving plate and settling it on my own plate, and found the "moorish spices" so tasty I had to get stuck into the prawn immediately. It was nicely cooked, and I could easily have eaten more than one. I do after all have my father's genes, which not only gives me the ability to expertly peel prawns but also to eat my weight in seafood. A winning combination, particularly at a buffet as my Dad has proven many times. The braised baby goat was as tender and juicy as it sounds, and apparently the wikipedia definition of sofrito as "a Spanish word for a well cooked and fragrant sauce" is on the money.
Our final round of dishes took a little more decision making, finally selecting the classic "Tortilla Espanola $8" and the "raw blue fin tuna belly, mojama and piquillo peppers $12.5" and also venturing into the cheese section of the menu. They have four different cheeses on offer, and you may choose one (25g) for $8 or all four (100g) for $25. All come served with Marmelada Caseira quince paste, honeyed walnuts and candied fruits. Our resident cheese selectors went for the "Bleu de Basque AOC".
The tuna belly was succulent and fresh, though I've had nicer tuna sashimi. The tortilla Espanola was also very nice but seemed a little bland in comparison to the onslaught of powerful, interesting flavours and textures we had just experienced. The cheese was fantastic, beautifully creamy with a lovely blue bite to it without overpowering the palate. The crackers, quince paste, nuts and fruits served with it were also lovely.
In summary, the service, ambience, food and drinks were all impressive. In addition to the bottle of sparkling there were also a couple of other drinks (perhaps a glass or two of wine and a spirits of some sort) enjoyed, and the total per head was roughly $40 which seems very reasonable for the quality of the food and how much we enjoyed the experience. Admittedly, I did not leave feeling full, but this is to be expected when enjoying tapas (in Australia at least) and I guess it will do me good to occasionally leave a restaurant without feeling pregnant.
Having enjoyed andaluz so much during this first visit, I returned a couple of weeks later to have some dessert after getting my fill of culture at Mozart's Requiem. We arrived around 10pm on Friday evening, and the place was packed. Luckily we nabbed a table (this time outside) and I chose the "bittersweet dark chocolate torte served with creme fraiche and sour berry compote $8" whilst my friend chose the "pistachio and vanilla nougat $7".
It is during dessert that the tapas size of the dishes really shines, with just enough of the delicious morsel to sate you without leaving you overfull. The torte was soft and creamy with just enough firmness to the base, and perfectly matched with the coolness of the creme fraiche and tartness of the berries. I didn't get much of a review of the nougat but it was polished off fairly promptly so I can only assume it was enjoyed!
Although you must be willing to contend with potentially large crowds and the possibility of feeling a little underdressed, I highly recommend andaluz and will definitely be heading back there in the near future. I may even treat myself to the $25 Bernardo Hernandez Jamón Ibérico Gold Label 30g (Pata Negra).
andaluz bar & tapas
Basement level, 21 Howard St, Perth CBD
Ph: 08 9481 0092
Hours: Mon-Thurs Noon-midnight; Friday Noon-1am; Saturday 6pm-1am