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
Menu – Refer to pics above or check it out at http://www.barnacional.com.au/menu
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:
727 Collins Street, Docklands
Tel No: 9252 7999
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm