Hubby and I are massive fans of tapas, or indeed any form of dining that involves small portions of very delicious food. Other than being able to order as little or as much as you like, it kinda solves my own personal conundrum of not being able to choose just one dish from a superb menu. I’ve been known to choose entree portions of two mains if I can’t decide between them!
So as our anniversary rolled around, I was determined to introduce hubby to a new Perth tapas find but as I started to explain whereabouts we were wandering off to from our boutique hotel, it became clear that hubby was already well acquainted with Amphoras Bar. Drat! Fortunately, the other beauty of tapas is that the menu can change fairly often and provide new delights to savour.
Amphoras is a sign the Perth is catching on to the concept of small bars and eateries. The more the merrier in my view. I really enjoy the intimate atmosphere of smaller venues, which paradoxically give you the ‘Big City’ experience more so than cavernous dining halls that were the hallmark of most Perth restaurants established in the 80s and 90s. We certainly don’t have the sort of real estate (cost and space) restrictions of New York, Paris or Tokyo here, but restaurateurs would do well to consider a micro approach to any new inner-city food ventures.
I already had a sneak peek of the menu via their website but Amphoras Bar provided some extra surprises via their daily specials. A lovely haloumi dish and a salad of Serano ham to name but a few. We however decided to choose from the menu which was no easy feat. As much as we say that we can order more later, we know that the first round usually floors us. At any rate we ordered chorizo (what’s a tapas feast without these fiery morsels?), tuna carpaccio, pork belly and croquet of the day (ham and almond dressed with a lovely pea puree).
The chorizo was unbelievably good. Glazed with Pedro Ximenez, the smokiness of the sausage was accentuated by the sweet sherry. A squeeze of lemon and perfection achieved! The croquets were a treasure. Golden brown on the outside and an explosion of textures on the inside: chunky ham, crunchy almond and smooth, fluffy potato. The tuna carpaccio was subtly dressed with dill, capers, chili and lemon: a light yet delicious offset to the deep-fried evil of the croquets!
The Plantagenet pork belly needs a paragraph of its own. A lot of places (tapas bars and otherwise) are offering pork belly these days but it’s a dish that can go disastrously south in the wrong hands. Thankfully we’ve enjoyed excellent pork belly dishes mostly but at Amphoras Bar, we discovered a new level of excellent. Certainly, at $28 a plate you’d want the pork belly to be good but even if it ends up being the only substantial tapas item you order, it’s well worth it. The pork is cooked beautifully with every layer of the belly treated accordingly. The skin is crisp but requires no more than a few bites to get through it (ie – it’s not chewing gum!). The meat is tender and flavoursome, and the fatty portions had that marvelous consistency that is a joy to eat. Sadly some offerings of pork belly elsewhere require you to play surgeon and separate the cloying gunk from the edible areas. Not this one! If the pork wasn’t perfect enough on its own, the accompanying aioli and sour orange jam just turned it up yet another notch.
Sadly we didn’t make it to round two as expected so missed out on ‘Rogers’ battered prawns with saffron aioli and griddled asparagus and goats cheese with zucchini, romesco + salsa verde (next time!). We do always make room for dessert however, so shared a plate of orange infused churros with chocolate sauce. I’m not sure if they’re quite on par with Duende’s chunkier churros but they were still pretty good.
Overall, the wine list was reasonable, the staff was friendly and attentive, and coffee actually arrived before the dessert (but not too early either). Most places seem to think coffee/tea is a separate course that comes after dessert is finished. Seating is cosy but there’s enough room to feel comfortable.
The best thing? Amphoras Bar got my tapas approval by not offering fries. There is of course patatas bravas with aioli and paprika salt if you’re in the need of serious carbs.