The revival of tapas style dining over the last few years has cemented Melbourne’s obsession with small plate dining. Sharing is caring after all, and patrons have finally realised the fun and variety that Europeans and Asians have known for years. Join me for an exploration of Melbourne’s tapas dining scene. Part 2 is here.
Movida Chain ( Movida Bar de Tapas, Movida Next Door, Movida Aqui )
Melbourne’s darling tapas chain – owner Frank Camorra has translated Spanish cuisine for the Melbournian crowds for the last 10 years. The success of the original Movida has led to the opening of ‘ Movida Aqui’ and the more casual ‘ Movida Next Door’. Dishes are plated to perfection and I can’t count the number of memorable dishes I have tasted at this alleyway icon. Choose from individual tapa or larger raciones plates. The ‘tapa’ are literally individually sized portions, so make you order a variety of plates to fill the ol’ belly up.
The standout dish was no doubt the air-dried Wagyu with poached organic egg and truffle foam. Served as a substantially sized dollop, make sure you mix the mixture and break the egg before consuming. The truffle foam was light with a pleasant pungency that will make all truffle fans swoon. A must order dish.
Stand out dish: Air-dried Wagyu w/ Poached Organic Egg and Truffle Foam (AMAZINGG)
Argentinian Parilla grill is star of the show at San Telmo. The Latin American inspired menu is heavily centred on meat, with a few curveballs such as Peruvian ceviche and a selection of tasty side dishes. All steak dishes arrive with a serving of chimichurri and salsa – a perfect acidic accompaniment.San Telmo. The Latin American inspired menu is heavily centred on meat, with a few curveballs such as Peruvian ceviche and a selection of tasty side dishes. All steak dishes arrive with a serving of chimichurri and salsa – a perfect acidic accompaniment.
Stand out dish : Hanger Steak w/ Chimichurri
A Flinders Lane staple, Cumulus Inc with its minimal decor, buzzing atmosphere and open kitchen dining is an enjoyable premise to dine. Andrew McConnell – the man behind Cumulus Inc is the same Chef behind the equally successful Cutler & Co and Golden Fields. Unfortunately, Cumulus does not take bookings, but you can always visit Cumulus Up for a quick drink before a meal. The Wagyu Bresaola was the standout dish, with thin slices of wagyu accentuated with scatterings of terragon. The roasted duck was perfectly cooked, the soft shell crab fried to crispy perfection and that tuna was fresh beyond belief sitting upon a bed of fresh peas. No doubt, Cumulus is a Melbourne favourite and a highlight of Flinders Lane. Dessert comes in the form of baked madeleines with a pot of warming tea. Sharing is caring at Cumulus and the quality is always consistently tasty.
Stand Out Dish: Wagyu Bresaola w/ Terragon
Despite having been opened for so long, queues still stretch out the door at this Mexican eatery. Word of advice, arrive early for a more pleasant experience, otherwise expect a 1-2 hour queue. Having attempted to dine at Mamasita two times previously, the waiting times exceeded 1 hour each time. The benefits of being a University student, means we can pop into these ‘too popular for their own good’ restaurants and beat the after work crowd. Dishes are centred on zesty, fresh, bold flavours, that so many of us have come to love about Mexican cuisine. The standout was the street style chargrilled corn smothered in quesa, chipotle mayo and lime. Wonderfully balanced – with the vibrancy of corn, the heat of the chipotle mayo and the acidity of the lime dressing. Unbelievably addictive and a dish that has been raved about by Melbournians far and wide.
Stand Out Dish: Street Style Chargrilled Corn w/ quesa, chipotle mayo & lime
Replacing ‘ The Aylesbury’, Bomba is a recently opened tapas bar, hustling and bustling with inner city crowds. The rooftop bar with a glittering view of Melbourne’s skyscrapers is sublime on a summer evening. Coupled with the delicious Spanish rooted menu, this surely is an inner city heaven. The more casual venture is centered on latin flavours, with plenty of spice and tang. Expect some cheesy manchego croquettes, perfect slivers of Serrano Jamon and char-griled sourdough montadidos. For the sweet tooths, chocolate croquettes filled with vanilla custard may grab your attention. Even if you don’t feel like dining, the bar upstairs is a pretty great rooftop bar, serving inspired cocktails, apertifs and all the wine you desire. There’s even a spanish wine list if you’re after the full experience. Co-owners Jesse Gerner and Andrew Fisk have definitely transformed The Aylesbury with its hip inspired spanish rooted flavours.
Stand Out Dish: Chocolate Croquettes in Vanilla custard
Bohemian Bar & Restaurant
Walking along the Yarra at night is admittedly romantic. Southwharf is one of those unfortunate beautiful areas of Melbourne that is quieter than deserved. The Bohemian is an underrated restaurant serving a range of Spanish influenced tapas. The dishes are designed for sharing, so don’t be that one boring person that orders their own individual dish, or worse refuses to share. The standout dish was the potato cubes, I have a soft spot for anything Potato, but the Potato Cubes with soft poached gooey quail egg and scattered truffle was a definitive winner. The ravioli was perfectly al dente, the salmon with crispy skin great for seafood lovers, the ‘popcorn’ chicken great for popping into one’s mouth. It’s unfortunate that the Bohemian is located in the rather quiet Southwharf area, I’m sure it would be more popular if it was located in another dining precinct.
Stand Out Dish: Potato Cubes w/ Quail egg, Truffle & Parmesan
Portello Rosso, like all famous Melbourne institutions, is tucked within a laneway. Cosy and warm and all things delicious, it’s also a great place for group dinners and casual dates. The Chef’s selection is a great option if you are overwhelmed with the choices of tapas, where the chef chooses an array of dishes for you. It’s also great value for money, receiving 8 dishes at $45 per head. The standout dish was the mussels cooked in a delicate thick broth of green chillies, red chillies and tomato. It was almost barbaric, how eagerly we were scooping the broth into our mouths with the mussel shells. Word of advice, in the absence of a soup spoon, a mussel shell will perfectly do. Expect classics such as chargrilled corn served with crispy pork belly, croquettes and patatas bravas. Portello Rosso has long been a Melbourne favourite for simple Spanish inspired tapas.
Stand Out Dish: Mussels w/ Green, Red Chillies and Tomato
A cosy little tapas bar tucked behind Collins St, Bar Lourinha is the perfect destination for intimate dining and complex cocktails. The menu is constantly changing with a multitude of European influences. Not too casual, not too romantic – it’s definitely an optimal location for catching up with smaller groups of friends or even a date. The stand out dish was the braised suckling goat – with meat falling off the bone in complete tenderness. Served with roast potatoes, the Sunday roast definitely got alot schmancier. Choose from smaller tapa to larger sharing plates. We sat at the bar admiring the handicraft of the bartenders, serving quality cocktails and an impressive wine list. Bar Lourina is perfect for both booze and food lovers, with a menu that is also great value, having spent only $35 per head. Another favourite Melbourne institution, hidden amongst the backstreets of the CBD.
Stand Out Dish: Braised Suckling Goat w/ Roast Potato
The Moat is hidden within the corner basement of the State Library and Wheeler Center. Cosy and elegant, the underground feeling creates an intimate setting for Mediterranean-influenced tapas with the calm tranquility of its classical library inspired decor. Dishes are beautifully plated with fresh ingredients and an attention to detail. The standout dish was the Mojito cured ocean trout, served with a red-dyed soft poached egg, finger lime caviar and a Valencia orange jelly. A perfectly balanced dish of seafood, accentuated with the acidity of the lime caviar and jelly. The Canadian scallops were perfectly plump, wrapped in crispy smoky pancetta, served alongside a vibrant apple salad. The bar at the Moat is also impressive, serving complex cocktails and an impressive wine list. Our favourite aspect of The Moat is the underground feeling and the sensation of feeling hidden, amongst the hustle and bustle of the CBD above.
Stand Out Dish: Mojito cured ocean trout w/ red soft poached egg, finger lime caviar and Valencia orange jelly
Dig- A- Pony
Surprise West-side entrant, Dig- A- Pony has food worthy to contend with its CBD competitors. Housed within a beautiful old Yarraville hotel, dishes were detail oriented and flavoursome. We came here for a celebratory evening, a perfect setting with quality tapas and good wine to toast the night away. The standout dish was the blue swimmer crab, served alongside toasted corn bread and a vibrant avocado salsa. The steak tartare was as good as any French restaurant, the flank steak tender and juicy. A real surprise was the quality of the desserts – beautifully plated with crunchy tuilles, scatterings of crumb, fresh vibrant fruits and tempered chocolate. The menu seasonally rotates, so it never gets boring at Dig A Pony. Yarraville is lucky to have a great tapas restaurant, within it’s quiet suburban lawns. No doubt, the best tapas restaurant on the Westside.
Stand Out Dish: Blue Swimmer Crab w/ Avocado salsa on Toasted Corn Bread
* Note: This list excludes Asian style Tapas. Part II, coming soon!
Where’s your favourite place for tapas?
All images by Hungrycookie