From my earlier adventures at Kulcha in Joondalup, I found myself at the opposite end of the spectrum celebrating a friend’s birthday dinner at Urbanspoon’s most popular ‘Fine dining’ restaurant. Duende is a pretty little place in Leederville that has made a name for itself as one of Perth’s best tapas-style restaurants. To save you from Googling, tapas-style dining has Spanish origins and involves people sharing lots of small appetisers!
Pink Grapefruit Juice ($7)
Rather than drinking an expensive wine that I would not really appreciate, I opted for a pink grapefruit juice. I could instantly tell it was freshly squeezed because my face puckered up from the sourness. After dissolving three packets of raw sugar, I could happily sip my refreshing pink drink.
Sweetcorn and Manchego Croquettes ($14)
I spotted a photograph of these on another blog and misread them as sweetcorn and mango croquettes. Manchego is actually a Spanish cheese, and it tasted great in these little crumbed, deep-fried squares!
Prawn and Chorizo Paella Balls with Paprika Aioli ($14)
Paella is a rice-based Spanish dish that I really enjoyed from street markets in Perth. While Duende’s paella balls were tasty, they seemed pretty similar to arancini balls served as standard finger-food by catering companies.
Pan-fried Duck Livers, Jamon, Spanish Brandy ($14)
Livers are not something that I often eat or enjoy, but I would love to develop a taste for them. The duck livers at Duende had a silky smooth texture and a strongly-flavoured sauce that helped me forget that I was eating offal. If you are a fan of livers or pâté, you should give these a shot!
Grilled Chorizo, Lemon ($10)
After my disappointing chorizo experience at George’s Meze, I was relieved to see a more generous serving of lovely, oily, grilled chorizo at Duende. It was a nice touch for the waitstaff to serve complimentary bread with our meal.
Potato Bravas ($10)
The potato bravas were like flat seasoned potato chips. I enjoyed the light tomato chutney on the side, which helped me forget how much oil I was consuming. These were tasty and filling, but they were a bit soggy and I would have liked them more if they were crunchier.
Mussels, Chorizo, Lemon, Paprika ($14)
One of the highlights of the night was the bowl of mussels which came served in a deliciously buttery and salty sauce. We soaked up the sauce with grilled bread and greedily slurped the mussels from their shells. My only disappointment was that the mussels themselves were quite small.
Crab-filled Piquillo Peppers, Guacamole ($12)
This dish was unexpectedly served cold! It tasted like potato salad inside a pickly capsicum. Nothing too fancy, but a nice light mouthful after our other heavy dishes. The flavours were not too strong, but I definitely tasted the avocado more than crab.
Lamb Rumb, Hummus, Feta, Pomegranate ($24)
Unfortunately, the pork belly had run out on the night we went. Thankfully, the lamb rump turned out to be another of my favourites. The meat was succulent, the marinade was rich and delicious, and the hummus and feta were an unusual addition that I really enjoyed! Would definitely order this again.
Flourless Chocolate Cake, Orange, Hazelnuts ($14)
My choice for dessert was the flourless chocolate cake which was served with a smear of orange sauce, candied hazelnut clusters, and creamy mascarpone. All the bits worked together and I quickly polished off a large chunk of the dense chocolate cake. Mmmmm!
Front to back - Doughnut Balls, Condensed Milk Ice Cream ($14) and Crema Catalana, Fruit & Nut Biscuit ($14)
I also enjoyed a warm, soft doughtnut ball (heh) which was awesome with the cold ice-cream. One of my dining companions gleefully cracked open the top of the Crema Catalana. My spoonful of the Crema Catalana was smooth and creamy, without too much of a sugar hit. I have not tried many crème desserts but I liked the one at Duende. The boring fruit and nut biscuit was left uneaten.
The indoor tables are arranged to fit the unusual circular shape of the restaurant, which makes you feel quite cosy with your fellow diners. Lighting inside is dim (as you can tell from the photos) and the music plays a little too loud for normal conversation between groups. This restaurant might be better for a couply date or you could try the outdoor tables on a cooler night.
Service was friendly but it was a busy night and the waiter forgot to place our orders for the second round of food. We waited a little longer than we wanted to, but all of our food arrived in the end. Overall the meal was tasty and there were a few stand-out dishes, but my favourite tapas-style restaurant is still The Bonsai in Northbridge.
Likes: mussels, lamb rump, desserts
Dislikes: slightly-too-loud music, one or two inattentive waiters
Value for money: average
Overall: good place for a group of noisy friends or a cozy date
662 Newcastle St
(08) 9228 0123