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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bodega Tapas Bar, Surry Hills

No reservations.

Whilst I respect a restaurant's right to uphold a no-bookings policy, it does require the tedium of organisation, a willingness to dine early and a contract with friends to arrive on time (rah!) unless you're prepared to queue.

That's partly why it's taken me so long to get to Bodegas Tapas Bar. Despite all the rave reviews and glowing endorsements, it had always seemed that little bit too difficult to get there.

Then along came Lady Luck, and suddenly, magically, everything seemed to fall into place.

Table setting

Lady Luck came in the form of Kitchenwench, a food blogger from Melbourne who was looking for dinner and company during her recent stay in Sydney. Not only was she looking for a feed in Surry Hills, she had a hankering for Spanish, and thus the planets aligned, our appetites were whetted and there we were outside Bodegas at 5.55pm: Kitchenwench, Reemski, Chocolatesuze and I.

The no-bookings policy is understandable when you see the space. It's a narrow restaurant made up only mainly tables for two, a short counter along the window and only one large table running down the middle. Several tables line the pavement outside, but it's the huge artwork on the walls inside that catch the eye: a bold striking mural of a prancing bull embellished with bursts of text and starbursts that add a wonderful sense of energy and liveliness to the place.

Jamon Serrano $12

The jamon serrano is the first to arrive, thinly shaved and gloriously melt-in-the mouth, this pale pink porcine that is soft and supple.

Bread with olive oil

We make quite a sight, four cameras hovering over each dish at such a small table. When the bread arrives, we all trill with girlish delight at the platter, a chocolate brown rectangle with built-in trough for the olive oil.

Argentinian-style beef empanadas with salsa criolla $13.50 for 4

Argentinian-style beef empanadas are a hit as well. The little golden crescents are delivered to our table piping hot, the pastry thick but flaky, the insides generous with paprika-scented beef, olives and hard-boiled egg. The accompanying salsa criolla is the perfect complement, a tangy vinaigrette made with tomatoes, onion, capsicum and red wine vinegar.

Fish fingers $16
Sashimi kingfish on garlic toast with cuttlefish ceviche and mojama

The request for fish fingers had been unanimous. It's a playful name for a dish that marries thick planks of toast with hearty chunks of raw kingfish. Topped with a fine dice of cuttlefish and mojama (salt-cured tuna), a generous splay of raw onion isn't as harsh as you'd expect, presumably salted and then rinsed to remove its trademark heat.

It's a dish that's both rustic and sophisticated, the simplicity of raw fish enhanced by the crunch of garlicky toast and the sweetness of onion.

Mushrooms in garlic $12

It was the arrival of the mushrooms in garlic at the table next to us that prompted its inclusion on our order. The smell that accompanies this dish is simply intoxicating. A heady aroma of garlic, mushrooms and olive oil leaves a tantalising trail throughout the dining room, and we relish the moment it finally lands at our table. The garlicky mushrooms are satisfying thick and chewy, really like meat for vegetarians, garnished with highlights of caramelised garlic cloves still in their wrapper, little presents of sweet garlic paste which we relish with glee.

Bodega chorizo with sofrito paste $12

The Bodega chorizo is the last to arrive but it's worth the wait. Again we marvel girlishly over the platter, a curved half-pipe that seems purposefully designed for the congo of chorizo slices. The chorizo is incredibly meaty, densely packed with tender chunks of pork and globules of flavoursome fat. The sofrito paste has a welcome depth of smokiness and the mellow heat of pimento peppers.

Banana split $14
Cream flan, dulce de leche ice cream, ginger biscuit and banana

As always, I'd been looking forward to dessert all evening, especially having analysed at length the Bodega menu on their website all day. The banana split is not what I'd envisioned--evidently evolved from its depiction on their website--but it's a delight regardless. I find the cream flan a little too firm and the dulce de leche ice cream is overwhelmingly sweet, but I lovelovelove the square of banana marshmallow, so light and fluffy it's like a banana mousse, with a surface that's been blow-torched to a satisfying caramelised crisp.

Chocolate terrine with fresh fig, Cava jelly and yoghurt ice cream $14

Reemski is the only one who caves into the waiter's pleas to try something different, and happily the chocolate terrine with figs suits her to a tee. The deep intensity of the dark chocolate terrine is lightened by the inclusion of fresh ripe figs, the zing of Cava wine jelly and the mild tang of yoghurt ice cream.

Amazing tapas with flavours that really do live up to its hype.

Get there now.

Said with no reservations :)

View Larger Map

Bodega Tapas Restaurant and Bar
216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9212 7766

Lunch: Thursday and Friday from 12pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday from 6pm

No bookings accepted. All diners must be present to be seated.
Closed on public holidays

This has been included on Grab Your Fork's Top 10 Sydney Eats for Tourists. Read the entire list here.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bodegas Tapas Restaurant and Bar (Sep09)

Spanish - Encasa Restaurant, Sydney
Spanish - Miro Tapas Bar, Sydney (Dec 06) and (Aug 04)
15 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/08/2009 02:15:00 am


  • At 4/08/2009 7:52 am, Blogger Benn said…

    It's my fave dining spot in town.

    Fish fingers are always fantastic, my other favourite dish is the cauliflower with garlic and chick peas.

    Love sitting at the counter as well... lots of action to be consumed.

  • At 4/08/2009 9:02 am, Anonymous shez said…

    love love love the artwork on the walls! and the food looks yummy and simple and punchy.

    now if only i could arrange for anyone i know to turn up on time...

  • At 4/08/2009 9:02 am, Blogger Miss Honey said…

    Ooo thanks for the review, I've been burned with the no reservations arrangements so many times before, and have ended up leaving for another place. Might be motivated to get there early next time:)

  • At 4/08/2009 10:01 am, Blogger Y said…

    I love Bodega! Good to see you finally visited (the no bookings thing can be a bit of a pain but I always make a point to go early, to avoid disappointment). Too bad you didn't try the cauliflower.. it's my favourite dish of theirs.

  • At 4/08/2009 11:15 am, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    All very good choices. What type of mushies did they use?

  • At 4/08/2009 6:57 pm, Blogger K said…

    They let you take photos?? This is the place infamous for telling our party of 4 (G-man included) that they don't allow photographs of their food (said by a rather rude waitress). Food is good however, my fav would be the pork belly, it's meltingly sublime.

  • At 4/08/2009 7:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ommggg I will go just for that banna marshmallow!!!! I must get out therreeee!

  • At 4/08/2009 8:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    my absolute favourite place - every dish is amazing, we're big fans of the cauliflower and the meat dish with chimichuri and...dessert. yes.

    and early dinner seems to suit my asian parents so it works out fine for us!

  • At 4/08/2009 9:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    @ K I don't think they wanted us to take pics, in fact our waiter asked why and what for, but Ellie (kitchenwench) artfully deflected him!

  • At 4/08/2009 9:34 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    Mushrooms and garlic sounds like a match made in heaven. The desserts look rather spectacular too.

  • At 4/09/2009 12:33 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Benn - I don't remember there being seats at the counter when we were there but maybe I wasn't paying attention. I do love sitting at sushi counters. So much more exciting getting the free sideshow!

    Hi Shez - The artwork is fantastic, and lol, it sounds horrid but argh, often it's so hard for people!

    Hi Miss Honey - Yeah the older I get, the less patience I have for food queues! Getting there early is definitely less stressful.

    Hi Y - Ahh this waxing lyrical of the cauliflower - seems like we missed the specialty dish!

    Hi Veruca Salt - I think they were field mushrooms but oh what mushrooms they were. Great texture and bite.

    Hi K - Oh now I remember. The waiter did do a bit of double-take but as Reem says below, Ellie expertly placated him.

    Hi FFichiban - The banana marshmallow was so good. Such incredible banana flavour!

    Hi Anon - Ahh sounds like the perfect arrangement. We focussed on tapas but ooh yes, I do like a bit of pork belly!

    Hi Reem - lol. She was very good!

    Hi Arwen - The mushrooms were divine. Makes you appreciate quality ingredients and desserts were a highlight. Why do so many restaurants neglect this integral part of the menu :)

  • At 4/10/2009 2:25 pm, Anonymous Yas said…

    Nice review! I was actually waiting for someone from the food blogs I read would go and review LOL
    I'm working in Surry Hills at a moment, I've got to try this place after work some point!

  • At 4/19/2009 10:24 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - lol. Glad to be of service. It's a great tapas bar - loved the food which is so different from the usual offerings. Definitely recommend you try it out, but best to get there early unless you're happy to wait!

  • At 5/05/2009 9:08 pm, Anonymous Ellie @ Kitchen Wench said…

    Ugh, how are your photos so darned divine?? And I forgot all about the photography incident with the waiter till I read this...hehehe, I've deflected a few disapproving waiters when my camera has come out :)

  • At 5/05/2009 10:31 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ellie - I thought your photos were great, esp your bar shot. Bah to mood lighting eh? :)


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