Warm welcome at Duende

THE atmosphere of Duende is exactly what we were looking for on a very cold night in Leederville.

While rain drizzled outside, we were nice and toasty inside, surrounded by the warm glow of candles.

Even warmer were the helpful staff who welcomed us into the Spanish tapas bar by taking our coats and hanging them. This is a service seldom seen at most local restaurants.

We asked our waitress how many tapas we should order to fill us up for the night. She was spot on with her recommendation of four: by meal’s end we practically rolled out of the joint.

I’ve recently developed an addiction to goat’s feta and the salad we ordered ($13) was full of it. Its powerful, earthy flavour can be overbearing at times but it was balanced perfectly with the sweetness of roast pumpkin, honey mustard and pear. It was a smashing start to our meal.

The next two dishes were pure deep-fried goodness. Jamón and leek make a beautiful combination for croquets ($15). They really delivered on flavour.

17. 845FOOD 1

Prawn and chorizo paella balls ($15) were in a league of their own and the highlight of the night. The surf and turf-style spheres were full of flavour, golden and crunchy. The paprika aioli they’re served with added extra smokiness.

Our next selection, pork belly ($24) with a grape, pine nut and pomegranate salad—was a mix of the good and the ugly.

I loved the way the pomegranate seeds popped in my mouth with every gentle bite. Bursting with sweet, tart juice and mixed with fresh, seedless grapes and buttery pine nuts the antioxidant-filled side added a fun, delightful texture to the otherwise plain and under-seasoned pork belly. It wasn’t just a lack of seasoning that disappointed—instead of being golden and crackling the skin was pale and rubbery. Why it was allowed off the pass is beyond me and I wondered how many others were served such inexcusable fare.

Why is it Perth restaurants still struggle to pull off a half-decent pork belly when it’s a dish  effortlessly mastered by generations of home cooks?

I’ve come to accept this fact and only blame myself for ordering it when I’m out. This slight mishap won’t stop me from returning to the otherwise wonderful Duende but I’ll reserve pork belly for meals at home with the family.

Duende
662 Newcastle Street, Leederville
Phone 9228 0123
http://www.duende.com.au

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