Bar Nacional – Bringing Spain to Collins Street

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Raciones and Postres Bar Nacional Menu Comida Menu
D was down from Singapore visiting Melbourne and we needed a place to lunch in the Docklands area – what a perfect occasion to check out Bar Nacional. Bar Nacional is a partnership between Gavin Baker and Pete Evans who bring a bit of their time, memories and experience of San Sebastian to fruition.

Bar Nacional is a warm, inviting venue that is bustling with energy from the moment you step inside – be it at lunchtime, dinnertime, anytime. There is a central bar, with seats and tables surrounding it – the tables range from high to lower tables – and also ottomans and low chairs to sit comfortably. There are earthy tones together with bursts of orange. At the bar there are hanging cured meats to further complement the Spanish vibe.

The menu is created by head chef Alex Drobvsz (Daniel Boulud’s Bistro Moderne, Gordon Ramsay’s Maze) with desserts designed and perfected by Shaun Quade (The Royal Mail, Quay, Biota). Jo Barrett (MoVida Bakery) and Tom Beaumont (coffee director at St Ali) round up the rest of the team. The menu has a selection of tapas (small bites), Raciones (larger dishes – designed to share), and of course ending with Postres (desserts). There is also a Comida Menu which is available for lunch, which allows you try out some of the larger dishes and add some tapas dishes at a cheaper price, as well as adding a half glass of wine for $5. Many of the dishes display the wealth of experience that comes from the Chefs – and has an interesting array of unique ingredients, flavour combinations whilst staying true to the Spanish theme.

There is also a great drinks menu which encompasses wines from Spain and Australia, as well as house-made Sangria, Australian craft beers, ciders – all which when put together with the food are complementary.

For all the cured meat lovers – this is your heaven. There are three types of jamón, including the magnificently rich and sweet 36-month-cured jamón bellota puro, the deep-flavoured lomo (cured and seasoned pork tenderloin), the dry-cured bull negro sausage and a very good chorizo. These are all cured and sliced to order – either in 30 grams or 60 gram lots, but you can just order a charcuteria to get a selection to try them all out!

We ordered a mix of tapas and Raciones dishes for the 4 of us to share. We started off with the Charred Broccoli Croquette. Each croquette was securely placed on the plate with lemon aioli under each croquette. The Croquettes were delicious – golden perfection the outside, a great crunch combined with the rich, creamy and nutty flavouring on the inside. It was refreshing to see broccoli (one of my fave vegetables) to be inside, instead of the usual mushroom / rice combination you find.

We then received the Prawn Salad, Avocado, Lemon Puree, Saffron and Rooftop Greens and the Patatas Bravas. However, V realised that when the Prawn salad came out, there was still a plastic film left on top of the flat solid puree. We notified the waitress and she apologised and brought us a fresh dish sans plastic film. (They didn’t charge us for this dish). The Prawn salad was an interesting dish – it was refreshing and the combination of the elements and textures worked well together. It was a fancy interpretation of a salad that worked well.

The Patatas Bravas was delicious – crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and finished with a smoky tomato sauce. You cannot go wrong by ordering this dish.

We also ordered the Grilled Bread, Marinated Yoghurt dish. The bread was soft, fluffy and beautifully made and I absolutely loved the seasoning on the crust of the bread – a combination of seasame, poppy seeds, dukkah and spices. The marinated yoghurt got lots of interesting mm’s and sounds around the table – with the result of enjoyment. The tanginess of the yoghurt worked well with the spices in the bread.

Next up was the very, very and by very I mean very impressive Racione dish of the Baked Flathead, Smoked Eggplant and Salad Greens. This has been cooked on a cherry-wood plate in a wood-fired Josper at 400 degrees. For the preparation of this dish Drobysz gets the firewood supplier to cut various fruit woods – varying from peach, cherry, olive and almond – into disc sized pieces and puts the whole fish on the board. The fish is then brushed with garlic oil, salt and pepper and put into the oven. Here the oils from the wood are released and mixed into the fish. The result is a smouldering (literally) dish that comes out to the table together with the brilliant smell of the smoky char. The plating of the dish is fantastic – the fish is casually draped on top of the wood that it was cooked in – to the side is a dollop of the smoky eggplant. The fish was perfectly cooked and was soft with a smoky flavour – the only issue was the abundance of the little bones – however all is forgiven when you eat the fish. The smoky eggplant was the perfect accompaniment to the fish.

The others also ordered the Braised Beef Empanada – which look like mini pocket samousas. They all enjoyed this and loved how soft and flavoured the beef was on the inside.

I couldn’t leave without trying one of Shane Quade’s desserts. I couldn’t decide which of his desserts I wanted but in the end went with the Baked Sweetcorn, Popcorn Ice Cream, Toasted Maize and Brown Butter. And am I glad I did. The dish came out plated beautifully – and is up there with the best in terms of presentation. There was a smooth, ice cream like consistency mousse that resembled that of a corn cob, together with a perfect quenelle of Popcorn Ice cream – I MEAN ITS POPCORN ICE CREAM! How awesome is that!! Finished with Toasted Maize sprinkled on top together with milk powder and fried polenta. It was a mix of savoury and sweet and it really worked! This dessert is quite a heavy dish, but you simply cannot leave any of it behind – its just too good! You find yourself going back for more even after you tell yourself you cannot put anymore down. Definitely try this dessert out! IT’S A MUST!

I had a great time at Bar Nacional – the staff are friendly and really know their dishes – you can ask them to describe a dish of what exactly it is and they are do so with a smile. The dishes are of great quality with a taste to match – aside from the one hiccup with the plastic film (all is forgiven as the food overall was just delicious). Bar Nacional is definitely bringing a bit of Spain / San Sebastian to Docklands – and a result will increase foot traffic to this part of town. Try it out for yourself and see what I am talking about.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to pics above or check it out at http://www.barnacional.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern, Funky and Chilled out
Standout Dish: Baked Flathead, Smoked Eggplant and Salad Greens and for Dessert – Baked Sweetcorn, Popcorn Ice Cream, Toasted Maize and Brown Butter
Service: Fantastic, Friendly, Knowledgeable
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.barnacional.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.barnacional.com.au/
727 Collins Street, Docklands
Tel No: 9252 7999

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm

Bar Nacional on Urbanspoon

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Little Hunter – A New Lair style restaurant with Fab Food

panda 4 rating
Little Hunter Little Hunter Menu Little Hunter 2 Cheese Bread with Chicken Salt Butter
Scrumptious Cheesy Bread with Chicken Fat & Chicken Skin Butter

Cured Kingfish - seasoned roe, roasted peppers, bay oil
Cured Kingfish – seasoned roe, roasted peppers, bay oil

Watermelon Salad -land cress, goats cheese, dandelion
Watermelon Salad -land cress, goats cheese, dandelion
Chatham Blue Island Cod - native sea grasses, leeks, remouladeChatham Blue Island Cod – native sea grasses, leeks, Remoulade

Frangipagne Meringue, Passionfruit Curd, Whole Peach SorbetFrangipane Meringue, Passionfruit Curd, Whole Peach Sorbet

Double Chocolate Mousse - Noble One Reduction, Cocoa Nib BrittleDouble Chocolate Mousse – Noble One Reduction, Cocoa Nib Brittle

I had heard about a new place that had opened up in Melbourne called Little Hunter and headed there with A for dinner. Little Hunter’s team is a collaboration between American chef Gavin Baker (who comes from the world renowned Fat Duck) and Pete Evans – chef and host/judge on My Kitchen Rules (MKR).

Little Hunter is located in Little Collins Street, in a downstairs location. There is a lift area which has the name on the door and you go down two sets of stairs which  are lined with caged lights and you are taken to an area which reminded me of lair. There are automatic doors that open (which freaked me out because I wasn’t expecting that) and lets you into the restaurant. The restaurant is large and has a homely and classy feel to it. There are two kitchens – one for the main preparations and serving area and the other which houses a Josper charcoal Oven. (There are only three of these ovens in Australia!!)

As the restaurant space is quite large, there are many different dining areas that consist of communal dining areas which range of tables sizes from 2 to more. There are also some private tables as well as a few cosy private booths. There is mood lighting and the place has just the right amount of light yet has a mysterious feel about the place.

This brings me onto the menu – “which draws inspiration from the land, the farmer and the finest breeds in Australia.” Everything is done in house from the curing and smoking of the meats to sourcing great local produce and supporting artisans and farmers. The menu is split into 5 different sections – Small, Sides, Large, Steaks and Desserts. The waiter informs us that Little Hunter is known for its meat and steaks, however there are a few vegetarian friendly items on offer.

Whilst we wait for our ordered food to arrive, we are given some house-made bread which resembles a mini loaf and have been cut into individual pull apart slices. The bread is nothing short of amazing!! The slices are soft and buttery, has herbs through the centre and encased with cheddar cheese. The best cheesy bread I have had. If this isn’t enough of the yuminess – the bread comes with a Chicken Fat and Chicken Skin Butter. I didn’t have any of the chicken skin butter, but A loved it and said the combination was fantastic. A definite winner!

A ordered two entrees for her meal – Cured Kingfish – seasoned Roe, Roasted Peppers, Bay Oil and the Watermelon Salad – Land Cress, Goats Cheese, Dandelion. For my main I ordered the Chatham Blue Cod with Native Grasses, Leeks and Remoulade.

The Watermelon Salad comes out looking like a dessert log with watermelon slices sandwiched with goats’ cheese in the middle top with a handful of land cress and dandelion greens. You need to get a cross section of the whole log to experience all the flavours – the sweetness of the watermelon with the sourness of the cheese and the crispness of the greens. A refreshing dish.

The Cured Kingfish was thin pieces of kingfish topped with roasted peppers on one half and salmon roe on the other half. The spiciness of the roasted peppers together with the salmon roe worked perfectly with the flavorsome kingfish.

My main dish was the Chatham Blue Cod and when it came out it was beautifully presented – the cod was centrally placed on the plate surrounded with little coils of braised leek and a cluster of small grapes with the native grasses. The Blue Cod fillet is grilled perfectly and has a golden brown colour on the outside and soft flesh on the inside. There is a rich brown butter sauce over the top and mixed with the woody native sea grasses (which is samphire) makes for a great tasting combination. The addition of the braised leek and grapes add for flavours that complement the fish and the sea grasses. One of the best fish dishes I have had.

For dessert I ordered the Frangipane Meringue with Passionfruit Curd and Whole Peach Sorbet. Once again this dish was beautifully plated up and the he Meringue and Passionfruit Curd came out reminiscent of a fried egg and the dish somewhat looked like a breakfast dish – bacon and eggs perhaps? A Frangipane cake was dense and complete with poppyseed and lime zest, topped with coconut was situated next to the peach sorbet. The combination of the meringue, cake, passionfruit curd and sorbet was a party of flavours in your mouth and definitely a must try dessert for all.

A ordered the Double Chocolate Mousse – Noble White Reduction, Cocoa Nib Brittle which looked like a tiramisu. It had layers of chocolate mousse (both white and dark chocolate) together with cocoa nib brittle which added the bitter flavouring, as well as the sweetness of the coffee cream and the Noble White Reduction. A dessert calling to all the chocolate lovers out there.

Overall Little Hunter is a great new addition the Melbourne food scene. The menu is ever evolving and the only downside would be is that the menu is limited for the vegetarians (there are only some starters and sides to choose from). For the meat and steak lovers you should definitely check this place out. Little Hunter is great for business lunches or any after work dinner or for a special occasion. I cannot wait to see what items will appear on their winter menu.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – A la carte – can be found at http://www.littlehunter.com.au/menus/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Classy and Comfortable. There are private booths which are nice for an intimate dinner.
Standout Dish: Chatham Blue Island Cod – native sea grasses, leeks, Remoulade
Service: Friendly and Eager
Online Booking: No, but bookings are recommended. There are two sittings one at 6:30pm and the other at 8:30pm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.littlehunter.com.au/
Down the stairs
195 Lt. Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 0090

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: noon–11pm
Sunday: 11am–4pm

Little Hunter on Urbanspoon