Nine times out of ten when I’m out having dinner in town and want to end the night with a cheeky tipple, Halford Bar is the destination. Located in the State Buildings at Cathedral Square, it’s down a flight of stairs into what I feel like is Perth’s own wonderland. Sumptuous carpeting, crushed velvet, long mirrors and an impressive bar shelved with liquors beyond your wildest dreams make the decor standout from the pack.
One of the venues under John Parker’s hospitality group (as well as The Standard, Saint Larry Cafe and the newly opened Arthouse Dine), it’s a place that celebrates intimate nights out with quality cocktails and what I think is Perth’s best kept food secret… decadent toasted brioche sandwiches designed by Chef Chase Weber.
While I’m not the biggest drinker, being invited to the ‘Chasing the Green Fairy’ event there sounded like a great way to shake off some of the stresses from my working day and wind down with some of my favourite foodies. While I know the reference, going in I was actually an absinthe virgin so I had no idea what to expect.
I was hoping that however the night panned out, we’d be enjoying some of those brioche sandwiches though!
Run by Australia’s own master of absinthe, Ben Luzz of Bar Ampere and Savant Spirits, it was an impressive and cosy affair. Over the course of the night we enjoyed four drinks in total (eight standard drinks I was told), each served with a matching canapé and great anecdotes, history and stories from Ben.
Our night started with a martini, customised to suit the occasion with a dash of Butterfly absinthe. With the combination of bitters mixed in, it was mild and easy to drink – with a slight aniseed aftertaste following thanks to the liquor of the evening.
Things become a touch more serious as we were presented with the La Clandestine Swiss Absinthe (clear) and the Butterfly Green Boston Absinthe (green). While I did try to sip them both straight, the intensity and punch was more than I could handle so I diverted to using the absinthe fountain.
Here you place a La Perruche sugar cube onto a slotted spoon atop the glass, dripping cold water slowly over the top so it melts the sugar into the alcohol. I made sure I included a generous amount of the sugared syrup to ease the absinthe which made for a much more mellow product which was easier to drink.
Around this time we all agreed that while the canapés were tasty, we wanted something more substantial to line our bellies. We ordered a selection of all three options – the jamon serrano with three cheese ($14.00), the king oyster mushroom with caramelised onion and mountain man camembert ($12.00) and the crayfish with semi-dried tomato, dill and salmon roe mayonnaise ($16.00).
Oh yum! Crispy on the outside, buttery on the inside. My favourite of the three is easily the mushroom, which is so lip smackingly umami-rich, and well seasoned to a tee. The crayfish does need a special shoutout though because it’s laden with crustacean, the flavours working hand in hand with the other ingredients.
Do yourself a flavour and definitely try these sometime. Perfect for a late night snack with drink in hand.
Our final drink for the night was the absinthe beurre noisette. Described as a hot buttered rum but with absinthe, this was a knockout drink. Served simply in a teacup, the amber coloured liquid was steaming hot, and nutty from the brown butter. I think my arteries felt a little guilty after knocking this bad boy down but I’m glad I did because if absinthe always tasted like this I’d be chasing that fairy any day!
Do yourself a favour, fall down the rabbit hole and pay Halford a visit. Their staff are always happy and fun loving, and best of all there’s some secret cocktails off the menu which you should try. My favourite – the Southside. Each and every time.