Adventuring with Alex Hotel at Shadow Bar

Northbridge is a place forever evolving. There’s something kind of amazing about the rate of progression, about the new buildings that nestle amongst the old. There’s tried and true restaurants that have stood the test of time, bars that have launched in recent years with a bang and everything else you could really want in such a hotspot. 

From the outdoor decking of Mechanics Bar I’ve watched with drink in hand as the next door venue was built and transformed into the ultra-hip Alex Hotel. It’s been sitting on my ever-long wishlist of places to dine at since, and finally I found a reason to go! 
When a birthday rolls around for my closest friends (Vee, Linda and Jay) we all go out for a gorgeous meal somewhere, treating the birthday person to a night out of food and a cheeky drink or two. Since Linda is about to set out travelling for a few weeks and her birthday is this weekend, we had an early celebration dinner. 

Like all good nights, a drink was the best way to start. We each happily downed a glass of the Pimms and ginger beer ($10.00) which was tangy, just slightly dry and a really great way to whet our whistles. It definitely set the scene as we relaxed in the low lights, bopped to the slightly random music (it jumps from country to hiphop to jazz after each passing track) and enjoyed the beautiful aesthetic.

Navigating through the menu there’s lots of lovely sounding dishes to choose from. Somehow we actually manage to narrow down our greedy impulses and decide on what we’ll be eating that evening.

From the cicchetti section of the menu came out the steak tartare on crostini ($6.00 each) and potato crisp topped with crab and lemon aioli ($7.00 each). I really love steak tartare so I was particularly excited to try this – the meat was fresh and melt in your mouth. I would have loved a little more punch from capers and zing, but it was an energising first bite.

What really broke the mould for us all was the crab crisp… A-MAZ-ING. There was something so right about the paper thin crisp that was salted and satisfyingly crunchy, topped with a generous mound of succulent crab and an aioli that has a really beautiful taste, it was fresh, zingy and almost felt a little reminiscent of Eastern flavours. I absolutely loved it and would be happy spending way too much money on way too many of these.

I did feel that the bites though tasty were a touch too expensive, but in the end, I think the flavours and quality produce justified the cost in my mind.

Our final starter was the pan fried haloumi with pink grapefruit, watercress and balsamic ($19.00). They make their own haloumi here (tick) which definitely appealed to the cheese addict within me. While not all of the group liked the use of watercress, it’s a green I’m quite partial to – and I thought the balance of the slight pepperiness of the leaves worked well with the acidic grapefruit and salty cheese.

It was another great dish and a good example of how a little restraint and simplicity can go a long way. The chefs here at Shadow Bar understand how to make the produce shine, which I think is sometime to be celebrated.

When the mains hit the table and we all shared around some bites, it was unanimous that Vee’s dish of Shark Bay crab spaghettini with caper, lemon, tomato and chilli ($33.00) was the standout winner. Fine, al dente strands of pasta sat wound in a bowl with the lightest touch of spice. I though the crab shone in each bite with it’s delicate sweetness that was lifted by the saltiness of the capers.

I have to admit, as much as I enjoyed my dish – I had some pangs of food envy as I watched her devour this one!

Linda’s veal schnitzel with mustard and greens ($32.00) was a generous size and came out golden brown. She happily shared around slices of the meat and I was pleased to note how tender and juicy the meat was, while still achieving that desired crunch from the outside crumb.

I think if I’d had this dish, I would have liked more mustard (but I do love my condiments, especially mustard!) to accompany the meat. But there were no complaints from the birthday girl so I think she really enjoyed it.

When Jay’s pan-fried gnocchi with zucchini, goats curd and asparagus ($28.00) hit the table I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him. It was a small serving, and without any real protein we worried that it wouldn’t be filling enough. I think this is the sort of restaurant where sides are definitely recommended, or next time I could I’ll probably take a share dish approach for the entire meal not just starters. 
That being said, the gnocchi was spot on. A little crisp on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside. I love zucchini flowers so it was nice to see them used in a different capacity outside of fried with cheese inside. And while yes, the serving was a little small the flavour and execution was more than you could ask for. 

Though the gnocchi dish sounded right up my alley, I decided to follow my attraction to another vegetarian dish on the menu. I really do love my meat and seafood, but there’s something quite compelling and interesting about a dish that can make vegetables truly shine.

My spiced pumpkin, black lentils, coriander and coconut yoghurt ($24.00) was a dish I really adored. I’m such a big fan of all things lentils, and I thought the combination of those al dente lentils (not even in the slightest bit mushy) with the soft, sweet pumpkin and the creaminess of the yoghurt was fantastic. There was some added textural elements in the form of pumpkin seeds and toasted coconut as well which added to the overall complexity. I think I need to try and recreate this at home, it was something pretty tasty!

To accompany our mains, we also had a serving of the fresh bread with fennel butter ($2.00 per slice) and the crispy potatoes with salsa verde ($10.00). After all, who doesn’t love cards with their carbs?

After having dinner at Must Wine Bar the week before, Vee and I couldn’t help but compare the bread. It was a nice offering at Shadow, but it didn’t quite hit the elating highs of Must’s, which is imported in from France after being half-baked, frozen and baked fresh – and best of all, served warm. What I did really like was the fennel butter, which was creamy and had a hint of aniseed flavouring.

The crispy potatoes were delicious, and a great size serving for the price. They were so golden and and lived up the promise of their name. I thought the addition of that thick, and flavourful salsa verde was a great point of difference and delivered that extra wow factor.

Because all great dinners should finish in dessert, we decided to stick around and order a final dish each for a sweet ending. There’s five or so options to choose from, but we were all quite quick to make our selection.

Just like the success of our mains, Vee’s dessert was a real winner amongst the group. The pear tarte-tatin with tonka bean ice-cream ($15.00) was flaky and crisp pastry topped with a glorious coating of cinnamon spiced caramel. On a cold blustery night, this is the exact thing I would crave (and might even consider baking this weekend!).

Both Linda and Jay ordered the candied orange and chocolate ice-cream sandwich ($14.00). Jaffa flavouring is definitely something polarising as Vee and I confessed we weren’t the biggest fans traditionally. That being said, I actually quite liked this dessert! The ice-cream texture was really velvety, almost mousse-like and the orange flavour was present but not dominant. 
My dessert was described as strawberry jelly with lemon curd and pistachio sponge ($14.00) on the menu, but when it touched down on the table the waitress presented it as their version of a trifle. how awesome! I know trifles might be cliche and ridiculously dated… but I love them, and look forward to them every year at Christmas. 
Homemade jelly is a real treat and this version was lush in it’s wobbly sweetness, offering a great counterweight to the tart refreshing quality of the curd, and the savoury sponge. I loved that there were fresh slices of strawberry with bursts of flavour, and a nut crumble for intermittent crunches. It was a lovely dessert and modern take on an old classic. 

I think that Shadow Bar is a welcome addition the dining scene in Northbridge, and Perth as a whole. There’s something quite beautiful about it’s black and white decor, about the (somewhat photo challenging) intimate lighting and the way they respect and create wonderful dishes using great produce. I hope that over time their reputation will build and more people will try them out for themselves, and I’d also like to go back soon to make my way through the other dishes calling my name from the print on the page.

Have you adventured with Alex Hotel yet?

Hotel Alex, Shadow Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Sarah
    19 October 2015 at 5:32 am

    What a truly beautiful dinner: I can only imagine how beautiful each dish was. I'd love to try that pasta, it just sounds heavenly!!

  • Reply
    Martine @ Chompchomp
    19 October 2015 at 11:30 pm

    We loved our meal here too, and I know what you mean about those crab crisps. You could burn through a lot of cash satisfying the cravings for them!

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    23 October 2015 at 8:52 am

    I am highly considering going back for that pasta alone! I hope you enjoy it if you do go ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    23 October 2015 at 8:53 am

    Such a gorgeous spot, especially with lots of crab crisps ๐Ÿ˜‰ I can definitely agree it's a place to love!

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