Duende. It was one of those places that I’d been to a few times and on the first two visits I had been really impressed with the food, then on the third visit, it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations I had had and I had just never gotten around to heading back. So this was years ago and it’s long been one of those places I’ve been keen to revisit. The procrastination had gone on for long enough so GG and I sorted out a Friday night that worked and made a booking.
It’s popularity clearly has not waned over the years and there was already a decent crowd in attendance at 6.30. While there were several tables available outside, given that there was a chill in the air I was grateful we were seated indoors. I quite like the décor. It’s a little bit funky and mismatched and there was quite a buzz to the place. I actually found it quite loud, but I’m a bit of an old nana like that :)
We ordered a carafe of sangria ($22), which was pretty good – not too sweet and quite refreshing.
With bevvy in hand, we perused the menu and narrowing our selections proved a little tricky as there were numerous dishes that sounded delicious. There was one particular item that I recalled from our very first visit so couldn’t resist trying it again.
The turn around from placing our order to dishes arriving was actually pretty swift! It felt like we blinked and they were almost all in front of us. Can’t fault the kitchen for speed.
I was super pleased that the first dish they bought was the revisited, Sweetcorn and Manchego Croquettes ($14). It was the dish I remembered so fondly from our very first visit all those years ago. The combination of the beautiful warm oozy cheese with the crispy outer coating and the sweetness of the corn was a magic combination – yum!
Up next was another deep fried wonder – Prawn and Chorizo Paella Balls, Paprika Aioli ($14). The rice filling was quite dense, synonymous with paella I suppose, and was full of flavour. I really enjoyed the paprika aioli that came with this course. Added a nice creamy contrast to the crispy balls.
From deep fried we switched our attention next to our token vegetable course next – Mushroom, px vinegar, gorgonzola, walnuts ($15). This course probably wasn’t my favourites. Couldn’t fault the size of the huge mushrooms and I did love the blue cheese hit from the crumbled Gorgonzola, but I actually found the Pedro Ximenez vinegar on the mushrooms a bit too sweet. GG liked them though.
One of GG’s choices was next - Morcilla sausage, apple, celery, radicchio ($16) Quite an interesting dish and clearly it came as a bit of a surprise to find out that Morcilla sausages were a type of Spanish blood sausage, but they were actually really tasty. Plus I loved the refreshing crunch from the apple and celery salad and it had a really nice light dressing. It was a little more of an adventurous pick for us and it worked out a treat.
Hard to go past Pork belly, nectarine, pedro xinemez ($19). It was lovely pork belly, not overly crispy on the top, but the fat had been rendered to perfection and it married well with the sweetness from the grilled nectarine. How good is pork belly!
We were both feeling pretty comfortable at this point given the flurry of dishes that had fast found their way in front of us and in an effort to extend the experience a little longer, we decided we’d skip dessert and enjoy some of the cheeses they had on offer. We went for the plate with three types, going with Valdeion (cows and goats, intense, creamy blue), Mahon (cows milk, sweet, sharp, slightly salty) and Brilliant Savarin (cows milk, rich, buttery velvet).
It presented well with crunchy lavash bread, along with some fresh slices of pear and some what I believe was a fig and walnut roll. They were all really great cheeses. The Savarin particularly was very memorable. It felt like it just indulgently melted in your mouth. It really was velvet perfection. And a great way to round out the visit. Always a pleasure to sit and chat over cheese.
It had taken a while for us to get back but I’m glad we revisited. While perhaps I wasn’t quite as wowed as I was on my first visit all those years ago, the dishes were all delicious and it shows the Duende is a consistent performer. So glad to see some of its menu items have stood the test of time! Even if it takes me a while to visit again, I’m sure the food will be just as lovely then :)