Saturday, November 12, 2011

Andaluz


Andaluz Bar & Tapas
Basement Level, 21 Howard Street 
Perth 6000
(08) 9481 0092
www.andaluzbar.com.au




Figure 1: Andaluz cocktail menu.

I've been a food blogger in Perth for just over a year now, but I never began with the intention of being one. Initially I thought a blog about food was a completely original idea... months later I discovered that food blogging is actually a hobby of thousands of people around the world (the first time I found a Parisian food blog I lost my head). I started Why yes, I do eat constantly last year when I accidentally stumbled across a café I'd never been to before, really enjoyed my SLMXH, and then just decided to write about it. I didn't think anyone would actually read it. Who would care about what a coffee and slice of cake tasted like, anyway?

I kept writing anyway, and after the first few posts I started to realize why I found it so enjoyable. It wasn't just the eating part, it was the entire sensory experience, unique to each place: the sounds, the relaxed chatter, the kitchen madness, the busy city street outside or the tranquil quiet; the scents, freshly ground coffee beans, chilli, garlic and lemongrass, freshly baked bread; the sights, the sunlit beachside cafés, French furniture; the feel of the place, the atmosphere, the little secrets, the mood, the tone. I love observing, figuring a place out.



Figure 2: Gorgeous little red candles on every table. 

On a cold and rainy evening, Angela and I finally made it to our long-awaited food adventure to Andaluz. The restaurant is hidden out of sight from St George's Terrace, in the basement of the heritage listed Parker & Parker building. We got there at 6:30pm, and waited about 20 minutes in the line, which was pretty good considering just how popular the place is for Friday night drinks. To get inside, you walk down this sloping, narrowing, brick alleyway lined with these quaint little lanterns, and push open the heavy glass door on your right, emblazoned with the red Andaluz banner.

The atmosphere inside is incredible. The decor is burgundy, chocolate, black, leather and velvet, rich red. There is barely any lighting, which mostly comes from the back-lit bar and the candles scattered all over the restaurant. Oh, and everyone wearing a suit. The sound of loud conversations, clink-ing  glasses and cutlery, and tipsy laughter fills the whole restaurant. Andaluz has used its space very well: the section on the right decorated with antique couches, curtains, little tables and side lamps, perfect for conversation and cocktails; the centre is a standing bar with people crowding for a drink; and on the left is a tiny area for seated dining. 



Figure 3: Santa Vittoria Italian mineral water. 

Andaluz is table service, but you have to be quick about it (I discovered this only after attempting to order at the bar and looking like an ass). The waiters that night were swiftly walking around the place, making beelines for tables, clearing martini glasses, heading to the kitchen. But once you got their attention, the service was welcoming and engaging. They also gave us a tab card to keep track of any extra drinks we ordered at the bar, which I'd never used before. I’m still a baby in the foodie world, learning all the time, and I love it!

A rule of thumb is, if the menu for alcohol is longer than the menu for food, then chances are you are in for a decent meal. Andaluz presents a contemporary Spanish Tapas menu, just two pages long. And it was all. Ridiculously. Delicious. 

Note: As this post is so overdue, I can't precisely remember the prices and names of all the dishes... so Andaluz lovers and fellow food bloggers, please forgive me when I give them all the wrong names!



Figure 4: Pandemonium cocktail

First thing first, we ordered our liquor. After flicking… and flicking… and flicking through the cocktail encyclopedia for a good 10 minutes, I chose the Pandemonium ($20). It was sharp, citrussy and clean to begin with, followed by a gentle alcoholic hit shortly after taking a sip. The singed leaf on top added this pleasant earthiness to it. I really liked this one, and made it last all the way til the end of the meal (drinking cocktails as slowly as possible – something I’m extremely good at, being a professional cadbury). Angela's was a cloudy pineapple concoction made with Malibu, garnished with a cute little pineapple skirt around the edge, also around the $20 mark. Really refreshing.


Figure 5: Pineapple-tastic.


Figure 6: Slow cooked octopus.

Our first order arrived: Slow-cooked octopus with shallots, preserved lemon and chilli ($10). I could have eaten another jar, and then another. The lemon taste was not that usual sharp, sour tang, but a milder, sweeter taste. Depth of flavour was added by the good quality, well-seasoned oil. The texture was curious to me, having eaten only rubbery and bouncy octopus on other occasions. Andaluz’s octopus was tender to bite, almost like al dente spaghetti. Delightful. 


Figure 7: Delicious parfait. 

Next up was our Chicken & Duck Liver Parfait with Chargrilled Baguette ($12). I have to thank Angela for coaxing me into trying this one. Usually, any matter inside the ribs of an animal is strictly off bounds. But amazingly, this dish was my favourite of the night. Wrapped in whipped butter, it was this incredibly rich, smooth consistency and it melted in your mouth like some luxurious kind of ice cream. It came served with this honey-sweet sauce, which really complemented it well. I was hooked. We even ordered extra baguette. Definitely give this one a try!

Figure 8: Crusty baguette loaded with butter. 


Figure 9: Pork Belly with Cauliflour puree, dates and morcilla. ($32)

Angela & I didn’t even have to discuss our choice of main. We quickly agreed from the outset that we would settle for nothing less than the pork belly. When it came, it was one of those dishes that you’re scared to start eating because it’s so beautifully presented. And so well balanced – the creamy puree, the sweet dates and the succulent slices of meat.

I would still maintain that the best pork belly I ever had was at the Mad Monk in Fremantle a few years back, which came served with the beautifully fresh scallops and apple sauce. I felt that perhaps Andaluz’s cut of the belly was a little on the fatty side, and a tad pricey considering there were only two pieces, but it was still delicious nonetheless. 

Figure 10: Nothing beats warm apple crumble in winter. 

For dessert, me and Angela passed on the chocolate-flavoured dessert for something a little lighter. Instead we ordered an apple and blueberry crumble with vanilla bean ice cream for around $15, which came served in a hot iron dish, straight from the oven. The crumble filling had some cinnamon through it, which was lovely and warming to eat with the rain beating on the window outside. The topping wasn’t packed in, but rather loosely scattered on top, which added to its lightness. A gorgeous way to finish our Andaluz meal.


Figure 10: Cocktails by candlelight. 

I love going to a new place and experiencing this little world that's been created within four walls. I'm addicted to that feeling of discovering something special, and sharing it with others (or being so in love with the place that you'll never, tell another soul about it). Whenever I take someone out with me to eat, I call it a 'food adventure', And although it might be a silly name for what is essentially going to a restaurant for dinner, to me, I think it fits. 



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