Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Tapas in Australia. Mid-noughties date night in the Eastern Suburbs. Paying $20 for a little plate with four pieces of fish and a drizzle of olive oil. Over-priced Rioja that’s been cooked in a shipping container down in Botany for far too long. Or maybe the word calls to mind the depressing little reliction of Spanish restaurants down around Liverpool Street. Either way, forget all that. Tapas – proper Spanish tapas – is once again to be found in Sydney, and in a part of town that’s been crying out for some life for years.
The place is Barrafina, down at the corner of Bent and Bligh Streets, right by the Governor Macquarie Tower and that new eco-tower everyone’s in a lather about. In other words, a location that is underserved by good restaurants and cafes, and where a critical mass of lawyers and senior public servants exists to throw around hard-earned client and taxpayer dollars. A mate who works nearby suggested we give it a go for lunch, and if I didn’t need to pick up the Little Pricks later that afternoon, I could have sat their all afternoon happily noshing and swilling Estrellas. The menu is comprehensive and delicious, and the owner told us that come happy hour, little nibbles come free with drinks. The Pricks have already put this on the list of “100 things to do before this summer does”.
The food is great too: Crispy whitebait fritters with a zingy dipping sauce. Perfectly-cooked, plump, buttery Queensland scallops with chorizo. A beef rib straight out of the Flintstones that we were told had been braising since 8am the previous morning. A lovely hunk of pork belly. And in a concession to the “dude food” trend (feminism may have pushed men into the kitchen, but we’ll be damned if we won’t have a good time with it!) deep-fried soft shell crab sliders. Happily, we noticed that even with this concession to hipness, the staff was mercifully free of the tatts, tramp stamps, and tough stickers so ubiquitous in the restaurant trade (haven’t these youngsters ever heard of gravity?). Even more happily, having stuck to the sparkling waters, we got out of there for about $50 a person. Not cheap eats, but not too dear either, and I barely needed dinner.
Regular readers of this page know the Prick is always happy to point out where a restaurant has gone astray, but not in this case. It may be that a few too many menu items, or one too few kitchen or floor staff, makes it a bit tough to get business customers in and out in less than an hour, but who cares? Cancel the afternoon’s meetings and camp out for the afternoon, or show up after work for an evening. Muy bueno indeed.