Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Semantics: disappointment, expectation and hardening the F up in Perth.
Bar & Tapas
Tell me, what does that suggest to you?
If you are European, especially Spanish or Catalonian it will be a strong suggestion, if Australian-Who-Has-Traveled it will be another thing, if it is Perth-CBD-Worker-Looking-For-A-Bar-And-A-Bite-After-Work it will be another.
Me - I'm a mongrel with my roots in north London, a few visits to Northern Spain at the very least. But I live in Perth.
So.... the chief thing I expected at http://www.andaluzbar.com.au/ was a) not to be kept waiting for 12 minutes for a glass of Tempranillo; one extra-odinarily pompous waiter took my order mutely, one inert bar-man and several intermittent staff later and I was forced to walk the 5 metres to the bar and pick up the glass myself. I know that this is hardly a hardship in the real world, I'm not waiting for clean water in a Haitian post-earthquake camp or anything, but still....
Bar AND Tapas.
This is a Bar
They choose to serve small portions of Mediterranean styllee food on mis-matched saucers and call it tapas (no baccalau, however the Berkshire pork cheek confit and scallops were good as were the chick-pea battered prawns - I presume that the chickpea element was besan flour).
But a Tapas Bar it is not.
This is a Tapas Bar
(I don't know who the pasty middle-aged woman at the end is)
The goods are on display, the dog can see the rabbit. There is no menu, one trusts the chef.
The wine is in tubs on the counter. One could help oneself, but one has an agreement with the Host; the customer will ask and the Host will pour at once. Not wait 12 minutes while the staff faff about.
This is tapas, this is what it looks like;
It ain't fancy, it's just the best of what the Host likes to serve.
That, mi amigo, is a plethora of fried protein coated in refined carbohydrate on sticks. Salty, crispy, delicious, honest. In the illuminated cabinet below is a selection of less robust items: vol-au-vents ( yes, vol-au-vents because they are popular and people like them and they contain a creamy, vinegary, filling perfectly) filled with crab remoulade, salami and potato salad, elvers and mayonnaise, need I go on?)
So, it is with initial trepidation over spoiling our evening yet resulting in the purity of an informed debate, that I suggest to my dinner date that either the term "bar and tappas" is misleading or that my European -flavoured expectations are simply out of place in this town. My dinner date works with words and concepts and design. He tells me the clue is in the punctuation; Bar amperzand Tapas. It is not a Tapas Bar. Well quite, I say, otherwise they would have had the cojones to put the tapas on display, right there in front of the booze whetting the appetite and assaulting the senses like a common street walker rather than coyly nestling between the leaves of a flock-wallpaper covered menu. Nor would one be at the mercy of the waiting staff but in the care of a Patron (pimp?) who is unashamedly displaying his wares.
Andaluz could be taken as a gravely disappointing misnomer, but as my dinner date reminds me,
this is a bar that does food in the middle of the Perth CDB. It is Wednesday night and it is buzzing: Job Done.
However I would be extremely interested to know how the seed of the vision of Andaluz started out in the owners' eyes. Seriously, I am very willing to have my European smugness knocked out of me. But I would advise that the owners tell the pot-wash guy not to leave the mop and tea-towel drop right outside the kitchen door. A small detail but nothing puts one off ones' head of veal and truffle oil dish like a dirty mop-head standing sentry at the kitchen.
I must share my delight at the growing numbers of Bars in Perth. Yes, a Bar. Where a grow-up can enter, sit or stand and buy a drink. It is heartening to see the stealth licensing laws are being used. And the interior decor of Andaluz is right on the pulse. The dark, bold hues of the walls and colour accents from vintage bric-a-brac is all the rage in the front parlours of Kensal Rise. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/23/anatomy-of-style-vintage
At the risk of sounding deeply condescending, and I really don't want to be that person as I do realise how fortunate I am to have got a permanent foot in the door of this country, I wonder if the owner's vision matched the end product his wait-staff supply. This is a mis-match I see time and time again in this city and I truly wonder why these gaps need appear. I am 99% certain the designer did not mean for the bar-staff to stash the paper wine lists on the lip of the gun-metal grey girder which frames the bar. Small details and hardly life nor death, but they must have mattered to someone somewhere along the line.
And speaking of lines, the bottom line is that I have to drive in from the 'burbs to Andaluz, I am not the tie-loosened white-shirted ideal customer looking for drink after work with a boudin noir rather than a pie for sustenance so really, what do I matter?
I would give Andaluz another crack, but with vastly different expectations.
Perhaps I just need to Harden The F* Up, Stefan