You know that scene in “A Christmas Carol” where Scrooge gazes in the window at the people having such a jolly good time that he begins to realise what he is missing out on? That’s just how the Swallow Bar appeared to me whenever I strolled past in the evenings. Inviting, warm, a place where everybody knows your name. Well yes, I’m crossing the line between Dickens and the Cheers Bar but you can see the picture I’m trying to draw. Now that I’ve finally tasted Swallow’s hospitality, I wonder why I waited so long.
Finally Scotty and I coordinated diaries and agreed on a date to visit. She’d been a few times before and raved about it, so I knew I was going to love it. The emergence of small bars in Perth over recent years has been a boon for us folks who enjoy a quiet tipple in a non-pub environment.
This tiny bar packs in the people, and the staff really do know names. Obviously a lot of regulars. There’s not a lot of room in the front section where there are just four coveted booth seats, but out back in the courtyard there are more tables if you’re prepared to brave the cold. Yes, the courtyard is indeed open air, but there are blankets provided to ward off the chilly winter air. Scotty and I jagged a seat opposite the kitchen, so we were warm and toasty and were able to check out all the delicious items being turned out rapid fire, by the two chefs. The food list is short and simplicity seems to be the key. To keep things ticking along in a small kitchen you limit the options, but make those options good ones with nothing too fussy. We decided on four shared plates, and this was ample to satisfy us.
As is the case all over Perth, wine by the glass is not cheap and as I like to imbibe a few, this bumps up the cost of the evening. YOLO, I say. I love having a few glasses with my meal and sometimes work my way through the colours; a white, a pink and a red. Scotty was driving, so I was free to indulge. My favourite wine of the night was actually the cheapest at $9: an Italian red; Mandoleto Nero D’Avola.
Our first little share plate was the $10 French Onion and Gruyere croquettes. These three crispy, crumbed fried rounds were stuffed with hot, fragrant cheese and what we thought were caramelised onions. Simple and delicious.
In quick succession other plates followed. Chicken & Pedro Ximinez pâté with garlic rubbed sourdough toasts at $15 went down very well with my glass of Spinifex Rosé Mataro from the Barossa. There was an ample serving of crunchy toast with the pâté which was appreciated. Don’t you hate it when you run out of dippers for your dips or spreads?
The Spiced roasted cauliflower with toasted almonds and lemon yoghurt at $16 was impressive. The Swallow’s creation elevated this humble vegetable to magic foodie heights. The different textures of the smooth lemon yoghurt and the crunchy nuts, along with zing of the spices and fresh parsley, made this dish special.
I’ve saved the best for last. It was the Artichoke & cheese gratin at $16. Yum. How can such a simple dish taste so darn good? Scotty and I tried to figure out what the ingredients were so we could duplicate it at home. We thought it was likely to be artichokes in jars, along with a good quality cheese. But what type of cheese? That’s the $64 question. We’ll just have to go back and ask the chefs. The dipping toasts were perfect but we ran out of them. This dish could take a leaf out of the pâté book. Less is not more.
With a congenial atmosphere, staff who greet you like they are so very happy to see you, a short but fabulous list of food options and a decent range of drinks, the Swallow is a place you can become cosy and familiar with very quickly. With live jazz several times a week, this place is just the ticket for a few drinks after work, or a long lazy evening with a friend. Or go alone; I guarantee you won’t feel lonely.