I was very excited to have a new bar opening up in my ‘hood. Amani Wine Bar is on Oxford St, opposite the Luna Cinema. Walking in, I felt like I was entering a Parisian Bistro.
The fit out of the long narrow space is lovely – black and white diagonal oriented tiles, a long bar with curved ceiling over hang, wooden tables and chairs up against a long cushioned bench seat that runs along the opposite wall. Thumbs up.
There weren’t many people in the bar at 8pm on a Thursday – about half the tables were occupied. Zorba and I chose to sit at the little bench seat by the window so we could gaze out onto the street. Leederville is bustling hub and as such, the people watching is pretty good and the atmosphere inside was lacking.
A very friendly waitress offered us bottle sparkling or still water straight away that she had with her on a tray. Sparkling please. She then showed us a plate that doubled as the cocktail menu. Hmmm, choosing a cocktail from the list of about 10 wasn’t that easy – there just wasn’t much that appealed to my taste. I went for a Fraise Connection with gin, strawberry, and lemon ($16). It was delicious but very plain – no garnishes at all and quite small served in a champagne saucer. Zorba ordered a Little Creatures Pale Ale and was given a Rogers – which was taken back and exchanged with another beer when he pointed out the error.
Amani’s Facebook page and the description on Urban Spoon refer to it as a tapas bar. Perhaps someone should tell the person writing the menu that it is meant to be a tapas bar because the menu didn’t actually feature anything that could be described as tapas, except maybe the scallops. I was expecting a menu similar to the one at Five Bar in Mt Lawley or the Classroom in North Perth, which both do sharing plates and tapas dishes well.
The small selection of starters sounded a little unusual as you can see from the photo with things like blue swimmer crab with coconut gazpacho, buffalo mozzarella with bitter Asian greens, and smoked prawns, konbu eggplant and puffed smoked corn. Prices range from $14 to $22. The mains menu hardly got any attention from me after I saw the prices. The sushi dish is $30, and everything else is $42, $46, $48, $50, and $52. I thought those prices were outrageous. I mean, we weren’t at Tetsuyas (which by the way is excellent value and worth every cent)!
The scallops with honey pork parfait, chilli crumble and coriander smear were delicious ($18). There were six scallops and it was an enjoyable dish. Beautiful caramelised scallops and everything on the plate worked well together.
The king prawns with konbu eggplant, smoked puffed corn and passionfruit was off the mark for me ($22). There was only two prawns on the plate and they didn’t taste good or overly fresh. The eggplant was not pleasant and the smoked popped corn was chewy and just plain weird.
Zorba was over it and didn’t want to order anything else. I opted for another starter, the summer squash ($14 – that’s more like it) with zucchini bread, confit roma and courgette silk. Aren’t courgettes and zucchinis the same thing? Yes they are. A menu that is trying to be too fancy or too clever often fails to impress.
Regardless of the fanciful menu description, the summer squash was tasty. The zucchini bread was more like sweet zucchini croutons but I liked them. The squash and sauce were both tasty too. A lovely dish.
The wine list is good and features several quality Western Australian wines and enough choice of wines by the glass to suits varying palates. I chose one of my favourite whites, a Fraser Gallop Chardonnay ($10). Disappointingly, it came in a small skinny wine glass and not a bowl like chardonnay glass like we were taught at the Riedel wine class at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. Ok, I’m being picky. But if a place is going to charge top dollar and position itself as a sophisticated place, then they should really get things right. Wouldn’t you agree?
On a positive note, the service was good. Staff were friendly and chatty, checking in on us regularly and asking how things were. In the few days it has been open, I have heard that when it is busy, there’s been a 15-20 minute wait for drinks. We were there on a quiet night and the service we experienced was great.
The jury is out on Amani. With some serious competition in the area and many other good and cheaper places to eat within easy walking distance like Duende, Ria, Kailis, Little Ceasars, Spanish Flavours and Sayers (lunch only), I am left wondering how expensive Amani is going to succeed in this student-influenced area.
I wish them all the very best and hope that they find the right clientele or adjust their menu to make Perth’s newest small bar a stable in Leederville.
Recommendation: A stylish bar for a drink