Here is some advice for nothing. If a place has 'bar' in its name, then it's a good rule of thumb that it may not be the ideal dining destination. Not suggesting that they don't do food, but if you are after a quiet night out with friends and planning on having a conversation over dinner, then don't make a 7pm booking at a 'bar' on a Friday night.
There is a lot of fabric at the Purl Bar, including the lights
The Purl Bar on Rokeby Road, Subiaco is a relative newcomer to the Subi night scene. Taking over what used to be Little Marys, Purl Bar advertises itself as 'providing unpretentious bistro food' and being an 'intimate late night bar where friends can get together and enjoy the refined interior, great music and fabulous drinks.' Notice how it doesn't say anything about being able to hear anything your friends say?
It's a long, irrelevant story as to how five (still yummy) mummies came to Purl Bar on a Friday night for dinner, but as soon as we stepped in we realised we may have been in the wrong place. Despite a table being clearly marked with my name, we were made to wait at the bar for a while, which gave us time to order some drinks. We chose a bottle of bubbly and I was quite impressed when the bartender, on emptying the bottle into four glasses pointed out that each drink was more than a standard drink. Obvious, but pretty responsible serving.
The décor is quite nice, with the options of booths seating six, tables, bar stools and a small al fresco area out the back. There are two semi-private seating areas, literally curtained off from the room with sheer drapes. Can't imagine it blocks much of the noise though. The main ceiling lights are enormous and moody. Pity about the spotlights that seem to shine directly into your eyes.
The menu is divided into share plates, mains, desserts and cocktails. I like how cocktails form part of the food menu. We started with the Tasting Plate ($29.50) which we were told serves two. It had two Wagyu meatballs, some salt and pepper squid, a bowl of olives, two pieces of chorizo and two huge samosas. It was very standard and the samosas were obviously shipped in from elsewhere, with thick, tough pastry and a stodgy filling. Excellent for lining your stomach for all the yummy sounding cocktails on the next page, but not very good value. We also ordered the dip platter ($15) which came with warm naan bread (or you could choose Ciabatta bread) and three dips – bean, yoghurt and feta and eggplant. I really liked the bean and yoghurt and feta dips.
The mains menu seems to be trying to please everyone. It has plenty of salads – chicken and mango ($24.50), Caesar ($26) and grilled vegetable ($16.50) and a choice of proteins – lamb, steak, chicken and fish. But it is an eclectic mix of cuisines including Indian (tandoori and Rogan Josh), Italian (Wagyu bolognaise. Seriously) and Australian (rack of lamb, burgers, fish and chips). Mains average around $25 ranging up to $39.50 for a Black Angus rib eye on the bone with mash or chips and a choice of sauces.
We elected to share another four entrée platters –panko crumbed whiting fillets with hand cut chips ($19.50), char grilled lamb cutlets with mint and coriander dressing ($21.50) which is the same dressing that comes with the samosas, flame grilled chorizo with roast capsicum, with fresh rocket and naan ($19) and salt and pepper squid with lime mayonnaise ($16.50). We ordered another bowl of hand cut chunky fries ($8), and once we reminded the kitchen they were missing, the accompanying tomato-chutney proved to be the highlight of the meal. The food was only average. It felt mass produced, and by this I mean it didn't feel like it was made by chefs out back in the kitchen. It felt like it was cooked out back in the kitchen. There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't very special.
Service also proved patchy, though a lot of it could be put down to the loud music that seemed to get louder every fifteen minutes. It was difficult to put your order to the wait staff. This is what I received when I ordered a lemon squash.
The other problem with the service, was that once you had managed to get someone's attention and they had taken an order, they would immediately leave without checking if anyone else on the table wanted something. It took a long time for everyone to get their drinks. There was no point waving your arm to get them back again, they had already disappeared into the sea of tightly wrapped bodies.
Purl Bar is what it claims to be – a bar. Everyone else in the room looked like they were having a great time. We had a good time, but it wasn't the best place to go for a casual dinner. Mea culpa.