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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Bomba – Spanish with a View

panda 4 rating

Menu:

Menu at Bomba

Menu at Bomba

Dessert Menu at Bomba

Dessert Menu at Bomba

After attending a Virgin Australia Fashion show – J, G and I decided to head over to Bomba to try out some food.

Bomba Tapas Bar and Rooftop is located on Lonsdale St in the Melbourne CBD and replaced the old Aylesbury (where G and I had previously dined at). Bomba is c0-owned by chefs Jesse Gerner and Andrew Fisk and they have returned to their Spanish roots when it comes to the menu. Downstairs is a funky, casual dimly light dining area and upstairs is a rooftop bar where you grab a cocktail, aperitif and enjoy the view. Here you can also grab some of the tapas that are on the menu.

When you walk in you are greeted by the centre piece of the room which is the bar followed by the open kitchen. There are a mix of high and low tables – the high tables being situated near the bar and kitchen – allowing you to be part of the cooking action. The aim was to create a Spanish worker style bar and they have succeeded – complete with low cane light shades, together with green and red tones – it does feel like a piece of Barcelona. The feel is relaxed, casual and simple with no fuss or frills, just simple great tasting authentic food – just what you want a tapas bar to be.

The rooftop bar is known for its Negroni as well for its vermouth component – which you can find on tap courtesy of Maidenii who have made them a special blend.

The menu by head chef Andrew Fisk is split into 7 sections and start off with an appetisers section, followed by a Charcuterie section and then Montadidos (which are literally bites on bread). Tapas, Paella, Raciones (your larger dishes), follow and the menu is finished with Verduras (Salads and Sides). We decided to order some tapas and montadido’s each and then share a Paella, main dish and the Patatas Bravas.

I ordered the Hervey Bay scallop with Lemon and Bread which came out served in a shell. The scallop was very fresh and the flavours refreshing. It was a great opener to the meal ahead. I also ordered the Crushed Pea & Goat’s Curd Toast. The combination of the pea and the goat’s curd worked quite well together and paired with the crunch of the toast was a good bite sized dish.

G ordered the Tomato, Burrata & Aged Sherry Vinegar Toast and quite enjoyed the dish as well.

J ordered the Quail with pistachio and buckwheat dish – which came out in the centre of the plate topped with the pistachio. J said the quail had great flavours and was quite tenderly cooked.

Both G & J ordered the Chicken, manchego and smoked paprika croqueta. They were crispy brown on the outside and the filling on the inside smooth, creamy with a hint of spice thanks to the paprika.

For mains we ordered the Catalan Arroz with Blue Grenadier, Prawns, Calamari, Mussels and Saffron Paella as well as the Crispy skin John Dory with Fennel Escabeche.

The Paella was served in a ceramic pot and was a really colourful dish – accents of black from the mussels, red from the sauce, yellow from the rice & lemon wedge and green from the coriander that was scattered on top. All the seafood components – from the fish to the prawns were fresh, succulent and juicy. The flavour was delicious – sour and smoky from the tomato and the flavourings from each seafood element – together with the perfectly cooked rice. Would definitely recommend this dish.

The Crispy Skin Dory came on a bed of Fennel topped with rosemary. The fish was seared really well to retain its moistness on the inside. The combination of the fennel with the vinegar and spices with the fish and the creamy sauce on the side resulted in a great dish overall. The fish was the clear winner of the whole dish.

The side dish that we ordered was the Patatas Bravas which was such an amazingly simple but fantastic dish! The potato was soft and fluffy on the side and came with a crisp outer that was covered in spices. They were placed on top of smoky tomato goodness and finished with creamy aioli. This is the type of dish that you find yourself going back for more and before you know it they are all gone.

We were all quite full at this stage but as the dessert menu was staring us right in the face (we were literally facing the dessert menu which his located just above the kitchen) – we decided to share the Chocolate Croquetas with Custard. The croquetas were warm and what made them even better was that they were filled with warm gooey chocolate on the inside. They were placed on the cool vanilla flavoured custard and this mix of hot and cold was fantastic. The outer shell was thin and perfectly crispy as well. It was like a Spanish donut!

The staff are super friendly, relaxed, warm and very helpful – not to mention knowledgeable –especially when we had a few questions about the menu.

Bomba is a great replacement to ‘The Aylesbury’ with its great simple Spanish food in the form of tapas as well as your larger raciones dishes. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and it really is place that you can spend a lot of time at. Even if you wanted to just come in for a snack and a drink the rooftop bar is a great place to do so – along with the great views across the Melbourne CBD. You can also grab a Sensory Lab coffee and a Portuguese tart from the window on Smythe Lane if you really want something super quick to drink and eat.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to  http://bombabar.com.au/menu/ or refer to the pic above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Welcoming. Dimly lit dining area downstairs and it’s great if you get the high tables near the kitchen/bar area if you want watch the chefs in action.
Standout Dish: PAELLA!!
Service: Fantastic and Attentive, also very friendly and helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://bombabar.com.au/ – there is a DIMMI online reservation button
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://bombabar.com.au/
103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9077 0451

Opening Hours:

Downstairs –
Monday to Friday the coffee window is now open from 7am with pastries and snacks

Lunch

Monday to Friday: 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Dinner
Monday to Sunday : 5pm – Late

Rooftop
Monday to Sunday: 3pm – Late

Closed all public holidays

Bomba Downstairs on Urbanspoon

Bomba Rooftop on Urbanspoon

Portello Rosso – Terrific Tasting Tapas!

panda-4-5-rating4

Portello Rosso is a small tapas and Jamón restaurant located in a laneway off Little Bourke street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. You walk into the restaurant via two big red rolling doors and are welcomed into a softly lit space that is filled with wooden hues. To the right hand side is a wall of wines, and as you enter there is a wooden table which is the share table from which you the kitchen is visible. There is also room to sit upstairs or at the bar. The atmosphere is romantic and casual all at the same time and is a fantastic place to just relax and chill. The staff are friendly and always have a smile.

The menu is absolutely delicious! The dishes are authentically Spanish from the way of dining and created by Aaron Whitney – sharing dishes-  to the huge variety of wine. Portello Rosso also serves Jamón which is commonly found in Spain, served on a Charcuterie Plate or simply wrapped around Prawns. The Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli is my favourite dish on their menu and is the best Patatas Bravas I have had. The potatoes are fresh and juicy and the paprika is smoked to perfection. Roasted Baby Beetroot Salad with Pumpkin, Almonds, Goat’s Cheese & Sherry Caramel Dressing is another winning dish for me. The flavours just worked fantastically and it really didn’t feel like a salad dish. Mojama Air-Dried Yellow Fin Tuna on Grilled Garlic Crostini with Tomato, Cucumber & Herbs should be tried as well – the tuna tastes magnificent and paired with the tomato, herbs and cucumber really does make you feel like you are in Spain. Paella is also on their menu – there are four different types to select from and include a seafood and vegetarian version. They are made fresh to order and will require a 45 minute wait. Another thing to note on the menu is for groups of 8 or more- you can select from a Degustation menu starting from $32 up to $62. Bookings need to be made in advance for this and the different menus can be found via the menu link below.
The desserts are a must try as well – the menu has changed now – but the Spiced Chocolate Pudding and the Creme Catalana were delicious and flavorsome.

Portello Rosso is an intimate space and is great for a catchup with friends before you head next door to Murmur Bar or even a romantic night out that will definitely make you feel a little bit of Spain in Melbourne. Murmur Bar is another awesome place and make the best cocktails and mocktails around Melbourne. What a perfect night out – dinner at Portello Rosso followed by drinks at Murmur =)

The owners of both these establishments, have a third place as well – Brunswick Mess Hall – another bar and eatery which has the best atmosphere. They share the same philosophy of Portello Rosso and Murmur and is another definite must try. In the short time it has been around, it has drawn a massive crowd and Friday and Saturday nights are buzzing. Look for a review coming up in the near future .

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Tapas dishes – check out the menu at http://portellorosso.com.au/tapas.html. There are also a selection of Degustation menus which start from $32 up to $62 for groups of more than 8 (this needs to be booked prior)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed, and a piece of Spain in the Melbourne laneway. Great for a first date or a night out / catch-up with a group of friends.
Standout Dish: Patatas Bravas with Sweet Smoked Paprika, Spicy Tomato Jam & Aioli
Service: Friendly and Laid Back
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://portellorosso.com.au/reservations.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://portellorosso.com.au/home.html
15 Warburton Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9602 2273

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 12pm to 3pm & 6pm-Late
Saturday: 6pm-Late

Portello Rosso on Urbanspoon

Murmur on Urbanspoon