Before hip-hop, funk, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll there was jazz. It is the original definition of cool. The early jazz greats truly were the rock stars of their day; taking drugs, living loose and straight up blowing peoples’ minds with their sheer talent and creativity. As such I’ve always taken jazz to have an aura of the laid back, the easy going. It may be about many things but following strict rules certainly ain’t one of them. Accordingly I feel that the environment in which you enjoy jazz should reflect this relaxed attitude. Those of you who have been following me from the beginning will know that this is not what I found when I visited The Ellington. It is stuffy, pretentious and anyone who wants to have a bit of chat while they listen to the music, heaven forbid, is herded away upstairs like so much uncouth cattle. In short it is everything that I think a jazz venue shouldn’t be. Well it appears that someone out there has been listening to me, or at least feels the same way, because Perth now has a jivin’ new jazz club perfectly tailored to the needs of happenin’ hepcats looking to enjoy some swingin’ tunes along with some quality food and drinks; The Laneway Lounge.
Not really knowing what to expect when I first visited the place in their opening week I pretty much thought all of my Christmases had come at once soon after walking in. Modelled after a prohibition era speakeasy it has a gorgeous fit out full of elegant antique period furniture, soft lighting and sumptuous woodwork. There’s a front seating area with tables and booths that you can draw a curtain on should you need some extra privacy, a bar area and separate jazz lounge at the back. Don’t worry though, if you do sit in with the band you’re free to eat, drink and chat away to your hearts content without being shushed like a misbehaving child at a public library, unlike some establishments that shall remain unnamed. Perhaps my favourite thing about it though is the way that it invokes opulent classiness of the jazz age. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the informal post-ironic kitschiness of the many modern, hipsteresque bars that abound these days as much as the next bearded, tattooed man, but secretly I think I might have been born in the wrong era. I’m a total sucker for throwing on a three piece pin-striped suit and stepping out in style to enjoy some old world charm, and The Laneway Lounge is certainly a place where you can do that.
As if the fantastic atmosphere and great music weren’t already enough it turns out that they also serve up a mean cocktail and some fantastic food too. I’ll deal with the cocktails first. In keeping with the jazz-era-speakeasy-meets-modern-life vibe, award winning mixologist Grant Collins has put together a stunning collection of, as they describe it, “jazz era cocktails complimented with some more progressive creations”. Whether you pick something modern and edgy like and Earl Grey & Mandarin Sour (house made orange vodka, fresh citrus, earl grey espuma, served short over cracked ice) or go for a vintage classic like the 20th Century (gin, lillet blanc, white cacao served straight up into a vintage glass) you’re guaranteed to be getting one of the best made drinks in town. They do, of course, have an excellent wine selection and a good range of beers, but for me jazz means cocktails without question. Oh, if theatrics as well as taste are important to you then order the Smoked Chocolate Sazerac. You won’t be disappointed.
If all the swingin’ tunes and tasty beverages cause you to work up an appetite then fear not, Executive Chef Danny Russo has put together an exceptional menu for you to choose from. Far from just an afterthought to fill up tipsy patrons it shows a lot of care and attention to detail. For example their burger patties contain dried, aged beef fat to give a better flavour and consistency when flame grilled. Sure it’s not exactly the most health conscious option, but if you’re ordering a burger do you really want it to be healthy? No, you want it to be big and tasty and come with chunky handmade chips, and The Laneway Lounge’s burgers definitely tick all of these boxes. Beyond the burgers there is a good selection of tapas, share plates and main course items as well. Price wise things sit towards the more expensive side, but when it’s backed up with this level of quality and served in such a lovely environment then it more than justifies the cost.
Finally we come to the music. Having a venue that does live jazz five nights a week is nothing short of revolutionary for Perth in my opinion. The acts tend towards the mellow, loungey end of the jazz spectrum, so if you’re hoping to have your head blown off by Charlie Parker/Miles Davis style improvisation and 15 minute long avant-garde drum solos then you might be a little disappointed. However if you’re in the mood for some great renditions of some jazz standards with the odd cover and original thrown in while you sip your drink then you’ll find just what you’re looking for. Wednesday nights feature a regular set by the Cathrine Summers Quartet and I have to say that listening to this foxy Londoner serenade you with her sweet vocals is a definite remedy for any hump day blues you might be feeling.
So it would appear that The Laneway Lounge has come along and answered all of my jazz club prayers in one fell swoop. Everything from the décor to the music and the incredible food and drinks just screams pure class and I’m honestly rather stuck when trying to fault it in any way. I suppose my main problem with it is that I’m now going to find it very difficult going anywhere else when I head in to town for a night out. Oh, what a terrible fate!