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Andaluz Bar & Tapas

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Scallops & Pork belly @ Andaluz Pouring Vouvray @ Andaluz

This post is a timely reminder that context is everything in dining.

So I’m just going to come out and say it. I really did not enjoy Andaluz the first time I went. It was a Friday night, it was busy, full of well suited business types and lawyer lookalikes. The people who no doubt keep most of the inner city bars afloat, but whose presence inevitably makes me cringe as their conversations turn to the share market, Bali, getting tickets to Pink for their missus, and whatever else it is that cashed up bogans and stockbrokers like to talk about.

I was squished into a small table and had to shout to be heard above the din. The waitress was sweet but clueless and felt like she needed to explain what jamon was to me. And here was me thinking my “I know what jamon is, where it comes from, and can quote you a thousand facts about it” face was so obvious. In short, I wrote it off as one of those places that people with too much money who work in the city would go to in the hope that some of its coolness will rub off on them.

Skip forward a few months and a friend was going out on a Thursday night and invited me along, “Sure I’ll give it a another shot” I thought. The crowd had suddenly changed into a group of people who looked like they could all have their own restaurant review blogs if they weren’t too busy being good-looking and having intellectual conversations with musicians and artists. Suddenly the menu had come to life as well. Looking at it in a new light, it was so much more interesting, the wine list extensive and thoughtful, the food more interesting. Clearly I still didn’t fit it, but we were heading in the right direction.

You see, I had thought Andaluz was yet another in a long line of places to join the awful tapas band wagon. So many places in Perth (and around the world) have popped up calling themselves tapas bars, when they are in actual fact nothing more than schlocky Spanglish joints with little to no creativity, some mention of chorizo on the menu, and prices through the roof for tiny plates of nothing special.

My general reaction to hearing about a new place serving tapas or tapas-like dishes is one of casual skepticism. I actually don’t mind eating that way if it’s done well. Being greedy and adventurous by nature, I love being able to try 8 things on the menu instead of just one. But so often the combination of those 8 dishes does not add up to the value of one very well made dish of the non-tapas variety.

Andaluz Lamp The chaise @ Andaluz

Suffice to say however, I’ve changed my mind. Many subsequent visits to Andaluz have been excellent nights. Interesting seasonal changes abound with solid staples. The seared scallops on confit pork cheeks are outstanding and have been getting better every time I’ve been, and the duck albondigas (meatballs) are sublime. If you’re feeling rich you can splash on freshly shaved jamon by the gram (a dangerous road to go down because you’ll just want more).

The wine list is parochially Spanish without resorting to the same boring bottles you find all over town. You can still find the few odd Australian/French/Italian wines that fit into the style of the food they’re doing, but it’s pretty much Spain all the way. Thoughtfully chosen interesting expressions from a wide cross-section of Spain’s best wines.

So next time you find yourself in a place that doesn’t float your culinary boat on first glance, take a step back, think about the night, think about the crowd, think about the menu. Whilst you can’t always expect miraculous changes, it’s amazing what a difference a day can make.

Andaluz Bar and Tapas
Basement level
21 Howard Street, Perth
T: 08 9481 0092


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17 Responses to “Andaluz Bar & Tapas” (1,735 views)

  1. Liz

    I had a good laugh reading this… I love sarcasm in all it’s forms.

    Good to hear you went back and gave it another shot. I am yet to try this place and have been reluctant due to the reasons mentioned in the first couple of paragraphs, but now I will definitely make an effort to drop in.

    What do you use to take your food photos btw? They are so good!

    September 28, 2010 at 11:50 am Reply
  2. what a great story, its amzing how many people get a bad experience and will never return. but good for you that you gave it another shot. i loved your photos

    September 29, 2010 at 8:31 am Reply
  3. Hey Liz, definitely check it out. Take some good company who are into trying interesting food and don’t mind buying decent wines and you’ll be sure to enjoy it.

    What I didn’t mention in the post is that they also have the worlds most powerful hand drier in the bathrooms. I’ve yet to figure out a way to put them to good use (other than drying hands), but one day it’ll hit me.

    As for my photos, those shots were taken with a Canon 350D and a Sigma 1.4 lens. As was my standard setup for about 4 years. But i’ve just upgraded my camera and lens, so look for more photo goodness from now on :)

    My Rest Melb: Thanks for the comment, tho maybe try leaving a name in your comments to curry some personality. I like to think I’m open minded enough to try anything at least twice.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:11 am Reply
  4. After a visit to Ortiga in Brisbane, my husband is now refusing to go to any more restaurants advertising tapas and shared plates. And yes the waitress felt the need to explain Jamon to us. I so wanted to tell her I’ve been to Spain.


    September 29, 2010 at 9:25 am Reply
  5. Hi Barbara, I guess it’s highly possible in the nouveau riche cities of Australia (like Perth) there’d be a lack of understanding of all of those kinds of foods that Europeans take for granted.

    The bit i find annoying is that they aren’t all mind readers who instantly know what to talk to me about. But that’s time and experience I guess.

    We might need to get some “Hello, my name is …… , and I’m a food nerd” badges made up.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:31 am Reply
  6. Scott Grieve

    The scallops with confit pork cheeks are a favourite, especially matched with Ventisquero Carmenere!

    September 29, 2010 at 9:39 am Reply
  7. Hey mate. Having been a waiter myself, I can empathize with them. Wait staff are often between a rock and a hard place in terms of explaining what’s on offer. Finding a balance between informing your guests without patronising them is a real art. Sometimes as an informed customer, it’s better just to suck it in and let them deliver their spiel despite the fact that “you’ve heard it all before”. Maybe you could do what folks do on an aircraft during the safety demo and read an inflight magazine. ;)

    September 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm Reply
  8. Scott: Will have to try the Carmenere next time. I’ve had a couple of dodgy ones in the past so my eyes generally run past it on a menu.

    Alex: Trust you to pull me up :) I agree that it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to explaining a menu, and I will work on perfecting my inflight magazine reading face next time :)

    September 29, 2010 at 5:30 pm Reply
  9. Nice post and cool pictures! You should make your reservations as “food nerd”, would save you time & energy…

    September 29, 2010 at 6:15 pm Reply
  10. Mum

    You can use a hand drier to dry your hair, especially if you are in an airport bathroom with no towel!

    September 29, 2010 at 6:51 pm Reply
  11. Having leapt onto my waitstaff defense hobby horse, I completely forgot to mention how stunning your Andaluz photos are. The pics of the seared scallops and white wine mid pour gave me such vicarious pleasure I almost don’t need to go there. That said, I’m checking the diary now. :)

    September 30, 2010 at 10:34 am Reply
    • Alex: Cheers mate, I’m sure we’ll find a reason to stop by again soon :)

      Linda: Yes it is indeed good. So nice to find something that’s consistently worth visiting, and yes that was me at Mondo Markets, though I’m not sure lurking is the word I’d use :) Look for more info about that around these parts soon.

      Orpheus: Thanks for stopping by and nice work on the blog, agreed on the air dried beef, any form of cured meat holds a special place in my heart when done well.

      October 2, 2010 at 6:52 pm Reply
  12. Linda A

    Yeah, it’s good isn’t it? I’ve eaten there twice in the last couple of weeks, and both times it was sublime. We even managed to score armchairs the second time! By the way Matt – was that you lurking at Mondo Markets last week……?

    September 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm Reply
  13. I’ve been there twice now and I really like the place. Definitely visit on any nights except Fridays and Saturdays. The wine has been good. Air dried beef excellent and most definitely try the anchovies.

    September 30, 2010 at 7:42 pm Reply
  14. Linda A

    The empanadas are superb!!

    October 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm Reply
  15. I finally got there! I went on a Saturday night and by 7:30pm it was full and the clientele was mainly couples getting a bit to eat before moving on elsewhere (as were we).
    I imagine there’s a set that hangs in for the rest of the night too but the place isn’t (to me anyway) somewhere you can sip your wine at leisure and chill out. I’m sure it would be different mid-week. The food was glorious. On par with my fave, Amphoras Bar.
    The benchmark for tapas bars in Perth is getting set higher. Hope other places that serve ‘tapas’ (ie – deep fried seafood and wedges) consider upping the ante (or stop using the word tapas!):)

    November 15, 2010 at 10:55 pm Reply
  16. I found your blog and was enjoying reading your posts – as a Sandgroper who moved to Sydney 7 years ago I have started making a list of places to visit when I return home to see the family. Then I came across this post where you made reference to the topics of conversations from cashed up bogans, and it sealed the deal – I love the blog!

    Have subscribed to your feed and look forward to reading more.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:16 am Reply

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