Been to the Leederville Hotel recently? If you answered yes to this question then I’m afraid to say that you’re either a liar or have a bit of a dodgy memory because the “Leedy” (as it was known to the locals) is no longer with us and has been replaced with a hip new bar/tapas type eatery called Bill’s Bar and Bites and I, for one, couldn’t be happier with the change. A while ago myself and a partner in crime popped in to see what they’d done with the old girl, and I’m happy to report that we were very pleasantly surprised.

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I know I’m always harping on about the ways which sleepy little old bogan Perth is fast becoming a trendy, cosmopolitan urban metropolis, but if you’d ever been to the “seedy Leedy” back in the good (or more like bad) old days then you’ll know what a huge step in the right direction its recent transformation has been. Let me paint a picture for you:

Scene: a crowded, sweaty dance floor throbs to the beat of cheesy dance music. A raised section of flooring flanked by go-go style cages is crowded by a heaving mass of youths under the influence of not inconsiderable amounts of cheap beer and vodka. As they bump and grind their feet stick to the drying remnants of innumerable spilled drinks. Throughout the crowd spontaneous bouts of dirty dancing and drunken kissing break out intermittently.

Being the “go to” Wednesday night partying destination for a large chunk of Perth’s uni student population, this was the sight that you were most likely to witness inside the good old Leedy. Don’t get me wrong, it did serve a purpose (and even had a sort of grubby, sleazy charm about it), but if your weeknight party days are behind you and you’re more likely to be looking for a nice place to eat and drink of a Wednesday evening rather than cheap jugs and a snog on the d-floor then you’ll no doubt be very pleased with that Bill’s Bar and Bites has to offer.

For a start, gone are the sticky carpets and tacky pub interior. Instead you’ll find tasteful polished floorboards, exposed brick and slightly-quirky-without-trying-too-hard décor. The place does still have the slightly cavernous feel of a hotel public house, but they’ve managed to fill it with enough tables and decoration to make it feel cosy while still retaining certain nods to its former life (such as the pool table to the rear and large central bar). Interestingly enough, there is a window in a wooden partition wall out the back on which you can look out on the old raised dance floor section I described earlier (sans go-go cages though unfortunately). It’s like a museum of sorts, a monument to all the shameful hook ups, horrible dance moves and one night stands that the place used to be renowned for. I kind of like it, in a weird sort of way. It shows how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time.

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Food and drink wise they’ve put together a small but interesting menu of tapas style offerings along with a fairly extensive yet affordable list of beverages. There’s a selection of $15 house cocktails, a good selection of daught, canned and bottled beers (ranging from $6 to $25) and an interesting wine list of carefully selected local and imported drops ($5.50 to $12 a glass, $25 to $52 a bottle).

During our visit we sampled a decent selection of tasty tapas-y delights, which were as follows:

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Hellfire roasted Brined pork loin with, pear & capsicum chutney, chilli and pickled onions: the smoky, tender meat and the crispy crackling were great and worked well with the tang of the chutney and onions and fiery kick from the chilli.

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Ceviche of the day (Kingfish) with avocado and chilli: an awesome dish! One of the best ceviches I’ve had in a long time. Subtly limey fish that combined fantastically with the fresh coriander, mildly spicy chillies and creamy guacamole.

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Duck & Manchego cheese cigars with green tomato relish: perfect bar style finger food this one. Apparently they sell a lot of these over the course of a weekend and I can see why. There was a great contrast/ harmony between the fatty duck and cheese, the crispy pastry and tangy relish. Delish!

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Jamon Serrano and kipfler potato with piperade aioli:  If I were being super pedantic I’d have to say that the delicate flavour of the jamon was a little overpowered by the boldness of the fried potatoes and spiced aioli, but overall it was still salty and delicious and just what you want from posh bar food. Perfect for munching on while downing a few frosty cold beers.

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Bill’s chocolate marquise with seasonal fruit and crème fraiche: the lovely rich, smooth and fudgy marquise was balanced nicely by the tartness of the strawberries and slight tang of the crème fraiche. At the recommendation of the manager we went for a cheeky glass of cognac with it, and we were very glad we took his advice. The warm vanilla notes of the brandy complemented the rich chocolaty marquise excellently.

Wine wise we had a glass of South Australian Sangiovese,  Rhone Valley Cotes du Rhone, Spanish Rioja and Chilean Carmenere (that I was particularly impressed with as it’s one of my favourite varietals but hardly ever see it in here in Oz). All were very nice and it was great to see so many interesting local and imported wines on the list.

Call it gentrification, call it us growing up as a city, call it what you like, but at the end of the day the Seedy Leedy has picked itself up out of the gutter where it passed out, had a shave and a shower, cleaned its act up and got a real, grown up job serving great food and drinks to the good folks of Leederville. If I could, I’d shake it by the hand and tell it how proud I was that it had finally made something of itself. I know this does means that the uni students of our fair city will have to find another venue in which to congregate and practise the fine art of the drunken dance floor hook-up, but they’re a resourceful bunch fuelled by lust, Mi Goreng and loads of daytime telly, so I’m sure they’ll be just fine.

Disclosure: drinks were supplied free of charge by Bill’s Bar and Bites.

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