by Mei Leong
Duende has an atmosphere more than the sum of its parts. Maybe it’s the swathes of natural light, the friendly staff or the stylish (but sturdy) furnishings, but Duende definitely has it. Top this off with fab food and it’s easy to see why people love to sink in, have a nibble and people watch. It’s especially popular for breakfast and you usually hear about their breakfast menu more than anything else. However since it was our first visit (and to be honest, we’re not big on brekkie) it was tapas all the way.
The menu is short and (most importantly) interesting. We pick the crab filled piquillo peppers and what comes out is a trio of bright red, mini peppers that taste much sweeter than they look. They are fruity and fleshy and make supple socks for the creamy avocado and chunky crab filling. Each pepper is a little cocktail version of Russian salad and are deceptively rich for a cold starter. One per person is enough.
Crab filled piquillo peppers
If there’s a reason to convince us of a diet related new year’s resolution, it’s the appearance of the next three dishes.
They’re all deep fried.
Golden, crisp and fresh from the fryer the patatas bravas are magnificent, in both size and taste. Each piece of potato is sliced thin so there’s a shatter of crispy coating followed by soft potato padding. (Much like the potato scallop of your dreams.) There are so many potato disks that we go crazy with the spicy tomato sauce. The sauce has a touch of sugar and it’s this hot-sweet contrast that’s really addictive.
Patatas bravas, again.
At the front, manchego and sweet corn croquettes. At the back, paella balls.
My favourite dish were the manchego and sweet corn croquettes. (Seriously, don’t they already sound delicious?) Each square was mostly corn puree which had transformed into this moist, starchy, sweet batter that coated the manchego cheese that had gone all gooey and stringy from the heat. Sweet, savoury, cheesy and crunchy – and served with romesco sauce- this is one banging croquette. Good thing there was four of them.
The jamon paella balls were more-ish, just like you’d expect panko’d (is that even a word?), deep fried rice to be. The crunchy exterior revealed a soft, tomato rich interior, studded with bits of ham.
Crema catalana, come to mama.
To be honest, I was looking forward to dessert more than anything else. With the amount of deep fried food ingested, I decided to sacrifice the much anticipated doughnut balls for the healthier sounding crema catalana. In hindsight, there was probably only a difference of two calories…
Beneath the crema catalana’s scorched sugar surface lay a rich, densely set custard. Robust and creamy, the pudding was just as indulgent as its more elegant cousin, creme brulee. Served with two fruit and nut fingers, the crema catalana was so good my advice is to just throw them away and dig in.
Bottles of wine are ubiquitous here and with their accompanying factoids, at times I found myself wishing I could get up close and personal with the wine (blame the Asian flush). (Oh and did someone say handsome bar staff?)
Anyway, we made up on the drinks part by having coffees – and guess what? They were actually pretty good. Full bodied, just like Duende’s food.
662 Newcastle St, Leederville WA 6007
T: (08) 9228 0123
7 days, 7.30am – late
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