Tapas, antipasto, aperitivo, yum cha, grazing plates… No matter what any given nationality might call it, we’re dubbing it quick-and-easy food. And this season, it’s the best solution to that great conundrum: ‘Where do we go to eat that’s cheap and cheerful, and easy to share?’ Particularly with winter in full swing, the last thing you’d want to be doing is fussing over a menu with friends when you’re all just aching to fill up and warm up.
But back to the semantics of tapas, in some cultures, dining on small morsels used to be a subsidiary action to the main event of drinking (tapas were literally dishes used to cover Spanish pub-goers’ beverages; dim sum was mere accompaniment to Chinese high tea), but nowadays the food itself is taking centre-stage.
Small bars in Perth are being bombarded with customers ordering “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” off the menu, demanding two plates of everything “so that we can, you know, taste a little of it all”.
New craft beer and pizza venue Cyril Mason’s in Northbridge actually offers more than just homebrew and classic pizza; its menu is packed with delicious dishes ready to share, like Italian meatballs in rich tomato sugo, smoked bacon and provola cheese croquettes (with truffle oil!), and olives stuffed with slow-cooked lamb, crumbed then fried (yum, yum, yum!).
Highgate’s Enrique’s School for to Bullfighting (we’re still loving that kooky name) has been around for a couple of years but is still very popular for its tapas-honed degustation menu.
El Publico diagonally across the road goes one further and insists you drink a specific tequila to match each rustic mini dish.
New rooftop bar Déjà Vu in Northbridge, Perth, offers everything from ‘boutique’ sliders (our favourite: the BBQ shredded jackfruit, lemon myrtle aioli and red slaw mini burger) to ‘banging beetroot pesto’ with goat’s cheese and arugula. Another standout on the Déjà Vu menu is its charcoal pizza, its key ingredient working to cleanse the system and help rid toxins while tasting so, so, so good! (Note: a full review of Déjà Vu’s rooftop bar will be published in Cream soon).
Delve into the heart of Perth and The Spaniard provides an array of Spanish bar bites and creative cocktails over two levels, while Andaluz Bar sees a contemporary twist on traditional Spanish flavours and textures on their extensive menu, including juicy pork belly bites to die for.
But it’s not all Spanish influence on the tapas menu, with Brika in East Perth proffering traditional Greek meze style dishes such as pork croquettes (spelled officially ‘kroketes’), spicy artichoke keftes, and capsicum stuffed with rice, mushroom and pine nuts.
For something simple but delicious, Gami Chicken & Beer has just opened up inWhitfords Shopping Centre in Hilarys as well as a signature restaurant in Perth City. One taste of this Korean-style chicken made with 17 herbs (take that, Colonel Sanders!) and you’ll know right away why Gami has been such a huge hit in Melbourne, with almost a dozen outlets peppering the city and its inner suburbs.
Indeed, we can probably thank Melbourne for the return to a tapas-style dining trend. Share-dining has been big in the Victorian capital for the better part of the past three years, with must-hang venues such as Kong, Portello Rosso, and Jardin Tan all famous for their ‘small selections’ share menus. And, yes, the restaurant that started it all – MoVida – is still hot enough to frequent.
A recent addition to Melbourne’s tapas bar scene is Lona in St Kilda which serves the tastiest tacos, sliders, and grazing boards while also allowing you to skip the decision-making in favour of the $30 chef’s tasting menu. (Rest assured, it’s all good!).
While Pablo Honey in St Kilda also delves into Latin American flavours, offering the likes of chilli-braised pork cheek, chargrilled squid with chorizo, and Spring Bay mussels with ham.
One thing is for sure, tapas is top of mind for diners in Melbourne and Perth this season.
Whether this revival of hors d’oeuvre-style dining is related to a recent fascination of ‘everything multicultural’ in the kitchen, or an addendum to the ‘little of everything is okay, too much of one thing is not’ philosophy, one thing is for sure – we’re loving the variety. Antonino Tati
OUR FAVOURITE ‘BITE-SIZE’ ESTABLISHMENTS IN PERTH
Andaluz Bar & Tapas
Basement Level, 21 Howard Street, Perth
3 / 177 Stirling Street, East Perth
245 William Street, Northbridge
Déjà Vu Tapas Rooftop Bar & Restaurant
Upstairs, 2 / 310 William Street, Northbridge
Gami Chicken & Beer
Whitfords Shopping Centre, Marmion Ave & Whitfords Avenue, Hillarys
511 Beaufort Street, Highgate
Enrique’s School for to Bullfighting
484 Beaufort Street, Highgate
229 Oxford Street, Leederville
Claremont Quarter, Shop 117, 1 Bayview Terrace, Claremont
749 Newcastle Street, Leederville
…AND OUR FAVOURITES IN MELBOURNE, WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
David’s (a classic for Chinese dumplings)
4 Cecil Place, Prahran
Gami Chicken & Beer
Outlets in King Street and Little Lonsdale Street, City; Hawthorn; Fitzroy; Carnegie; Box Hills; Eastland; Fountain Gate; Knox and Southland
Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra
Kong (the most inventive Korean we’ve tried)
599 Church Street, Cremorne
64-66 Acland Street, St Kilda
68 Acland Street, St Kilda
15 Warburton Lane, Melbourne