Dining ReviewTatler Tapas CafeLiz Love

SHARING THE LOVE: Tatler Tapas Cafe in Lovedale brings a lot of flavour and variety to the table.Some people are gluttons for punishment. As if it weren’t enough running a very successful café, Epicure, at the Small Wine Maker’s centre, about six months ago Norma and Andy Burri took over the reins of the restaurant at Tatler Wines on Lovedale Road.

Aussies who have enjoyed tapas on their home turf will soon realise that our food laws don’t allow a strict interpretation; we can’t pick and choose from already prepared small tastes lined up on the bar. But, that’s not to say it’s not a valid style when translated into Aussie.

Andy is Swiss and Norma Italian, so I am curious to see how they approach this very Spanish concept.

I needn’t have worried. They have used classic recipes with ingredients sourced locally where possible, and in season; an absolutely Spanish approach.

It’s spring, so fresh, local, jewel green asparagus, cooked to perfection, neither too crisp nor too soggy, is a must have; and if I know Andy it will remain as a special until the season is over. It glistens with luscious melted butter and a thatch of slivered almonds.

Another special today is simple but an absolute cracker; field mushrooms stuffed with feta and topped with golden herby crumbs. Earthy, meaty flavours so perfect for vegetarians and carnivores alike.

MMMM CHURROS: With chocolate and salted caramel dipping sauces.

Pear, parmesan, rocket and walnut salad is a Tatler favourite they have kept from the former menu. It’s a good balance of salt and sweet, crisp and crunchy and the dressing isn’t overpowering.

Albondigas, Spanish meat balls, are quintessential Spain on a plate. Don’t expect the more Italian style meatballs in tomato sauce; this is much subtler with its almond, onion, garlic and saffron sauce.

Bacalao, or salted cod, is a delicacy around the Med. Spain, France and Italy have all embraced this ancient method of preserving fish and creating interesting recipes. This one uses the soaked, cooked and pureed cod to make light, fluffy crisply crumbed croquettes served with lemon and aioli.

Salt and pepper squid is also accompanied with lemon and aioli. This is always a winner, particularly if the squid doesn’t resemble rubber bands. For me, there could have been more pepper, but that is easily remedied, and the squid is exceptionally tender.

Mejillones (black mussels) come with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the spicy, tomato and chilli sauce.

And there’s more dipping to come.

Churros, those ribbed and crunchy deep-fried doughnut fingers enjoyed in Spain as a decadent breakfast with a bowl of thick hot chocolate, come with a more restrained amount of both chocolate and salted caramel dipping sauces. Yum.

Tarta de Santiago is a delicious almond cake named in honour of Santiago (Saint James), the patron saint of Spain. To truly own the name, it is finished off with a dusting of sugar, creating a silhouette of the sword, or cross of St James. And there’s more salted caramel sauce to pour over the top.

This all seems like a lot of food but, with four people sharing, you have the luxury of sampling a good variety without being greedy. And each dish divides easily into four.

To be true to the tapas concept you will need something to drink. Not a problem when you are dining in a winery.

Do what we did and gather a few like-minded mates for a relaxed lunch or dinner among the vines.

Quick BiteWhat: Tatler Tapas CafeWhere: 477 Lovedale Road, Lovedale; 4930 9139; tatlerwines老域名购买.auChef/owners: Andy and Norma BurriWine and beer: Tatler’s wines by the bottle and glass (7) plus a small selection of other Hunter ‘Wines by Friends’. Spanish, Italian and Mexican bottled beers and several local beers on tap.Hours: Lunch, Wed-Sun 12pm-3pm; Dinner, Friday and Saturday 6pm-9pmVegetarian: 7-9 dishes, depending on daily specials.Bottom line: Two can eat very well for about $90, without drinks.Wheelchair access: level access through the wine tasting room.Do try: Albondigas-Spanish meat balls with almond, onion and saffron sauce.

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