Pub grub. It doesn't have to involve steaks or mixed grills.
You've probably walked past the Sir John Young Hotel on George Street hundreds of times. For years I'd looked on with curiosity at the outdoor tables, mostly men knocking back beers and lazily picking at terracotta dishes of tapas.
Yes, tapas. Why did I wait so long?
La Tapa Guapa is the Spanish restaurant attached to the back of the Sir John Young Hotel. There's a casual but rustic feel to the place, a mirror here, and a number of framed butterflies hanging on the walls. High bench tables suit those looking to drink and snack, but the back wall hosts a number of chairs and tables that are often fully booked on a Friday lunch.
On Fridays, the place is buzzing with local office workers, often arriving in large groups. Otherwise it's the occasional tourist who strays in - the committed drinkers stay at the front bar area.
The menu is surprisingly comprehensive with 23 different tapas dishes to choose that range from $6 (green and black Spanish olives) to $18 (Serrano ham and manchego cheese platter). Five different mains include pan-fried snapper ($25) and pork loin with Roquefort ($22). Paella is available for groups or single portions ($30).
Gambas al ajillo $14
We stuck with tapas on the two occasions we visited, enticed by the range of dishes and its communal sharing appeal. The garlic prawns spit and sizzle in puddle of olive oil flecked with garlic, shallots and chilli.
Bread rolls are an essential partner to this dish, enabling you to mop up all the caramelised garlic oil.
Bread and garlic oil
Tortilla espanola $9.50
Tortilla espanola is still one of my favourite tapas dishes, offering creamy chunks of potato encased in a soft and fluffy omelette. The potato is tender here, but I prefer a little more egg, and the tortilla top is a shade too brown, resulting in a drier crust.
Champinones al ajillo $10.00
Garlic mushrooms are hot from the frypan, cooked with wine and parsley and replendent with garlic.
Champinones al ajillo cremosos $10.50
On our next visit, we'd ordered the garlic mushrooms only to be served the creamy garlic mushrooms by mistake. Mental note: make sure you emphasise to your waiter whether you want your mushrooms with or without cream.
The creamy garlic mushrooms are delicious anyway, the sauce thick and garlicky, if a little rich.
Patatas bravas $9.50
Patatas bravas are my excuse to indulge in pure comfort food. Chunky cubes of potato are deep-fried and then slathered in languid rivers of alioli garlic sauce and a deep-red tomato salsa. It's deliriously good.
Albondigas en salsa $12.50
Albondigas, or beef meatballs, are a generous serving of five meaty orbs drenched in a tomato salsa. The meat is tender, and the tomato salsa has a pleasing homestyle chunkiness to it.
Calamares fritos $13.50
The spidery coating of batter on the deep-fried calamari ensure extra crunch. The squid is impressively tender too, served on a bed of salad with a lemon wedge and a saucer of tartare sauce on the side.
Chorizo al infierno $12.50
The smell of red wine from the chorizo al infierno is heady. Fat slices of chorizo have been cooked in red wine so each mouthful is deliciously boozy. The caramemlised surface of each chorizo is a personal highlight too.
Flan de huevo $8.00
For dessert we try the creme caramel, the eggy custard perhaps cooked a little too firm, and the sprinkle of crushed peanuts only mar the delights of the custard's silken texture.
Churros con chocolate $8.50
Churros are a must-order too. The thin Spanish donuts are blistering hot from the fryer, served with a dark chocolate and a white chocolate sauce. The donuts leave a slight oily residue on the tongue but perhaps that's meant to be half the fun of donuts anyway.
And who was Sir John Young? He was the governor of New South Wales from 1861 to 1865. The town of Young in the state's south west, known as the cherry capital of Australia, is named after him. It was originally known as Lambing Flat. More details about Sir John Young can be found here.
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La Tapa Guapa at the Sir John Young Hotel
557 George Street, Sydney
(corner of Liverpool Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9267 3608
Open 7 days
Lunch 12.00pm - 3.00pm
Dinner 5.00pm - 9.30pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Spanish - Bodega Tapas Bar (Sep09) and (Apr09)
Spanish - Encasa Restaurant
Spanish - Miro Tapas Bar (Dec 06) and (Aug 04)
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1/13/2010 02:04:00 a.m.