When a new restaurant opens in Perth, you're pretty much guaranteed it's going to gain a great deal of attention and that there'll be big lines forming most nights until there's been enough friends of friends to tell you if it's worth going to try. Only opening a week or so ago is Leederville's new eatery, The Meatball Bar.
Walking past a few times while it was being built my intrigue was mounting. While meatballs can, on occasion, be tasty enough - would there be enough substance and lure here to have people coming back over and over again? After hearing some rave reviews from friends who went down one night for dinner, my boy and I decided to give it a go for lunch over the weekend.
The Meatball Bar
The Meatball Bar
We arrive at The Meatball Bar just before 11.30am since Jeremy has a SJA shift that day. It's long hours with St John's so we always try to make sure he eats well to get him through to the dinner break. The restaurant hasn't opened yet so we pop across the road to the Hunter shoe sale (yay! 50% off boots - and yes of course I bought a pair!) then trot back once we see that the open sign has been flipped over to the affirmative status.
The staff are all really friendly here. They offer to explain the menu to us, and give suggestions on how many dishes to order which I always find really helpful when you haven't eaten at a place before. As we sit to peruse the menu we're given a complimentary bowl of wasabi peas and fried broad beans. Talk about a moorish snack! Before we know it we've devoured the bowl and they're swapping it for a fresh one. I need to get my butt to Kakulas and make my own snack mix with these items, the crunch, slight burn and saltiness make the best kind of snacking food.
The menu is broken into several sections - with snacks, meatballs, sexy meatballs etc. There's a pencil inside the menu allowing you to circle in your order choice. The process is a little confusing - I quite like this style of writing it down since it eliminates room for error, but I noticed the table next to us ordered directly with their waiter whereas we took our tear off paper slip to the counter. As we did so Jeremy was also told we'd pay at the end which means we needed to make two trips to the counter. Not an issue, just a little strange - I guess different to your standard formula where if you order at the counter you pay at the same time. Never mind though, it didn't detract from the experience at all.
Our drinks come out quickly. I've chosen a D&H sparkling apple ($4.00) and Jeremy's picked a D&H organic ginger beer ($4.50). My apple drink is delicious - bubbly, tart and extremely refreshing. Often I find soft drinks way too sweet but this one was really lovely, I'd definitely order it again. Jeremy really likes his ginger beer too, gulping it down quickly and nodding his approval. He's such a fan of ginger flavoured beverages!
Currently the restaurant is BYO for alcohol while they wait for their liquor licence. I think it says a lot that they don't charge for corkage considering some places charge so much these days. Getting a liquor licence can be such a delayed process for some restaurants from what I hear, so I'm glad that they have this BYO in place to allow customers to enjoy a drink with their meal should they choose so. There's even a bottle shop not too far away in Leederville that people can walk over to should they feel a little alcohol thirsty.
Knowing the food won't be too far away I take a minute to eye the decor appreciatively. Like Pinchos and the newly renovated Jus Burgers next door, The Meatball Bar is long and skinny - with tall tables and stools down one side, and the bar/kitchen down the other. It's definitely the most economical use of space for these skinny shops. I love the light fixtures and the mural down the very end of the restaurant. Cute!
The first item to come out is a serving of the falafel balls with saffron aioli ($12.00). I LOVE falafel and as a frequent take away customer from The Prophet in Victoria Park, the benchmark is set pretty high. The Meatball Bar's version are extremely crunchy on the outside - my fork struggles to penetrate the surface initially but once I bite through I like the contrast between the crust and the inside.
They're not as fluffy as The Prophet's (which I often describe as little clouds of heaven, they're so light) but the saffron aioli is absolutely delicious and offers a nice punchy flavour injection to enjoy with the balls. The squeeze of lemon over the top brings some acidic cut through too.
The parmesan crusted polenta chips ($12.00) come topped with a napolitana sauce and a pesto sauce. They're so yummy - steaming hot with a salty outside from the parmesan. Very moorish and lots of bold flavours happening in each bite.
The unsauced parts of the parmesan chips I also use to dunk in the leftover meatball sauces as recommended by our waiter. So happy we tried these, I'm falling more and more in love with polenta these days, it's becoming a staple in our household. I do question the price a little seeing as in the past I think I usually pay around $8 for the same serving size, but I guess with the addition of the sauces it may be excusable... maybe? But if the proof is in the taste, then it definitely passed the test.
Steak and cheddar meatballs
Steak and cheddar meatballs
The first meatballs we choose are from the "sexy meatballs" section of the menu. Love the name! They're basically jazzed up meatballs such as butter chicken with pappadums, jumbalaya etc. We choose the steak and cheddar meatballs ($24.00) which come with candied bacon, soft fried egg and tomato sauce.
They smell divine! I always worry when I eat meatballs that they're going to be tough or stodgy, but these are light and flavoursome. I'd read online in a review that the diner found these lacklustre but I think they had a great balance taste-wise, with the sauce both sweet and sour, and the egg yolk sumptuously coating the other ingredients in the dish. The candied bacon is a real treat - crunchy, sweet and salty. The meatballs could have used a little more seasoning but thankfully the bacon made up for this.
Pumpkin and ricotta meatballs
Pumpkin and ricotta meatballs
Our final dish is from the standard meatball section of the menu - the pumpkin and ricotta meatballs in a parmesan cream ($18.00). These were my choice, and I'm so glad I picked them! The texture is soft like mashed pumpkin, the seasoning perfect to bring out the ingredients in a strong light. I love the parmesan cream sauce - so much I dunk part of my steak and cheese meatball in it to make sure I'm not wasting any.
For a vegetarian dish, it really does fill us up and tip us over the edge! It's a big lunch for us both but if we weren't so full after eating these four dishes, we definitely would have order the truffle scented focaccia bread to dunk in the leftover sauces. Liquid gold! A real throw back to what I can imagine would be "Nonna's sauces" or secret recipes.
So what did I think of The Meatball Bar? Well I loved the staff, how friendly they were and the way they continually checked up on us. It's really valuable having great service when you're out, so much so it's a big point of difference that will have people coming back time and time again. Food wise, I enjoyed our lunch, the flavours were much better than I probably would have guessed if someone told me I was going out for meatballs.
The price is a little more than I would have expected given meatball dishes come with only three meatballs, so this will be a sometimes place rather than an all the time venue. It's not fine dining prices, but paying nearly $40 each for lunch was more than I would have predicted. That said, did I feel ripped off? Not at all, I left extremely full and ready to curl up and be completely unproductive the rest of the day (if only this had been the case!). Definitely could have had a "fat nap" (as I call it when you sleep on an empty tummy) but I managed to push through.
Looking forward to going back to try some of their other menu items like the butter chicken meatballs, pork with barbecue sauce meatballs or even the bocconcini fritters. This place is a nice point of difference to your standard Italian offerings in Perth for sure.