I think my over-riding impression of the night was confusion. Mine, theirs; It wasn't a bad night, just confusing. The Village Bar in Subiaco is tucked away in the group of shops and restaurants off Hay Street just south of the cinema. The Village Bar used to be Clancy's Fish Bar not so long ago: the restaurants in this area don't seem to stay in business long.
Touting itself as a 'hidden gem', the Village is primarily a drinking hole with many beers on tap and wines by the glass. It has Fox Sports and I imagine that when there is a game on and the place is full it has an entirely different atmosphere than it had when eight of us descended on it for dinner one recent Sunday evening.
The room feels spacious which is nice, as some restaurants cram their customers in, and then make them sit in the dark. The Village has a polished concrete floor, and a mix of seating arrangements from couches to bar stools to booths and tables. It feels open, bright and modern.
The first confusing part of the evening came with the service, as at the bottom of the menu it tells you to order at the bar. Fair enough. So when someone came to take our dinner orders, we assumed that it was because they were not very busy and there were eight of us. Except they only took seven orders. And forgot to take our drink orders. It was after the food arrived that we called someone over to take our drink orders. Maybe they wanted us to come to the bar this time. Again, they only took seven orders.
When it came to ordering dessert we weren't quite sure whether to go to the bar or wait for someone to come to us.
The menu has a lot of interesting options and importantly, they are reasonably priced, especially for Subiaco. The menu is divided into small bites, share platters, light options, mains, desserts and sides. One of our group is gluten-intolerant and dining out can be a minefield. However The Village has a special menu with all the gluten-free options highlighted. My friend says this is probably more for the benefit of staff than customers, but I thought it was a great idea.
Purporting to be the home of the 'Best Steak Sandwich in Perth' courtesy of the 2011 AHA Hospitality Awards, at least two of our group wanted to try it out. At $23, it consisted of a 200g piece of Black Angus steak between two toasted pieces of bread, some really good onion jam, a piece of lettuce and some sliced tomatoes. On the side, a serve of crunchy beer battered fries, and two small dishes – one with aioli, presumably for the fries, and one with a small slab of horseradish butter. No one could figure out what the butter was for. The verdict: lukewarm. This refers to the temperature of the dish as well as the response to the food itself.
My lamb burger ($21) was pretty similar. Lukewarm that is. The lamb pattie was moist and tasty, and the tomato and lettuce fresh but uninspiring. The gherkin and mint chutney – the reason why I chose the lamb burger in the first place (what? I'm pregnant, I'm allowed to crave weird flavours) – was tasty but hardly present. They should have doubled the serving size. It too came with beer battered fries and a dish of aioli.
The gluten-free dish that was chosen was a roasted beetroot and goat's cheese salad ($14). It looked beautiful and was by all accounts very tasty. It also included minted quinoa, pumpkin cubes and mixed greens.
Other dishes available include a variety of salads ($14-$19.50), seafood, risotto, pasta and steak. The majority of the mains cost less than $25, with only the barramundi, pork belly and duck breast costing more. This makes a very nice change from many nearby restaurants charging up to $40 for a main.
More confusion came with dessert. With only three options available (all $10) at least two of them were partially unavailable. The summer trifle with lime pannacotta, lemon curd and rose jelly was declared the winner by all. The berries, crushed meringue, Cointreau custard and fairy floss lost marks because the waiter told us they had no fairy floss. At least he mentioned it.
Those of us who ordered the warm chocolate brownie, vanilla bean ice-cream and choc cherry were disappointed at the lack of choc cherry, whatever that was. The brownie was warm, but that was because it had been microwaved, and for about a minute too long, leaving it both chewy and crunchy – and not in a good way. It could quite possibly be the first time in my life I have not finished my dessert. No one else wanted it either.
Overall, our night in the Village was mixed. Prices were good, the food was tasty and the ingredients fresh. On the other hand, service was patchy and some of the food was cold, or even missing.