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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

La Tapa Guapa at the Sir John Young Hotel, Sydney (CLOSED)

EDIT: La Tapa Guapa has closed

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

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 on Urbanspoon

La Tapa Guapa at the Sir John Young Hotel CLOSED
557 George Street, Sydney
(corner of Liverpool Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9267 3608

Opening hours:
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)
20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/13/2010 02:04:00 am


  • At 1/13/2010 2:28 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Thanks for bringing this place to my attention Helen! Great to see tapas served at an Aussie pub...that chorizo sounds divine!

  • At 1/13/2010 3:00 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    That chorizo looks...mesmerising! Though I'm sad to see peanuts used to ill effect in a dessert - what a shame! And I can't help wanting the tortilla, even though it wasn't quite on the money...

  • At 1/13/2010 4:37 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    That's a great find; you are right about having passed this place hundreds of times! Tapas in a pub setting is a little unusual but it does look pretty satisfying.

  • At 1/13/2010 6:54 am, Anonymous Andrea said…

    Mmmm, patatas bravas is my favourite food of all time. That one looks delish.

  • At 1/13/2010 8:22 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    The chorizo sounds lovely but I am fixated on those churros! I loooove churros but am too scared to make them at home, I'm no good at deep frying.

  • At 1/13/2010 9:31 am, Blogger Lisa (bakebikeblog) said…

    oooh I LOVE tapas! I think my hubby loves tapas too - but just for the Patatas bravas.
    Great review!

  • At 1/13/2010 9:36 am, Blogger Forager said…

    Mm - a good looking tapas place right around the corner from me! Thanks for the find - I'll have to check it out during my lunch hour!

  • At 1/13/2010 10:22 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Oh, I never realised that this place was even there! Thanks. I love patatas bravas - so evil yet so tasty!

  • At 1/13/2010 10:35 am, Anonymous Yas (aboutthefood) said…

    Looks good! Don't worry too much that you waited - this place is relatively new (in name at least).

    The tapas part of Sir John Young Hotel used to be called The Grand Taverna. We went many times for great tapas, then were distraught when it closed (maybe halfway through last year?) and the atmospheric cellar room started serving your standard boring pub fare - chips, steaks etc. However I'm very happy to see that they are serving tapas again, albeit under another name. And by your review it sounds like it's worth visiting!

  • At 1/13/2010 10:56 am, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    I never knew the hotel served tapas (and good tapas at that!). Maybe because of the old drinkers sitting out the front. I'm sure I've seen Bill Hunter there a few times.

  • At 1/13/2010 11:55 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    I had no idea there was a tapas restaurant at the back of this sort of dingy looking hotel! The food looks great too. I just might have to stop by for my patatas bravas fix... it's been too long!

  • At 1/13/2010 12:47 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    with cream! always with cream hahaha more sauce!

  • At 1/13/2010 2:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have no idea there is a tapas bar! The food looks good. Thanks for letting us know :)

  • At 1/13/2010 3:24 pm, Anonymous Rebecca @ Inside Cuisine said…

    Too true - sure we've all walked past - great opening ... thanks for giving it fresh eyes! Definitely pub food.

  • At 1/13/2010 3:30 pm, Anonymous Edwina said…

    I also went here when the restaurant had a different name, and it was so generous and fabulous. Now i simply have an excuse to go back...YUM!

  • At 1/13/2010 7:47 pm, Blogger Kate said…

    Ooooo...the patatas bravas look scrummy! They really are pure comfort on a plate. The garlic prawns look delish too. I haven't eaten churros in such a looong time. Do you think they'd be relatively easy to make at home? Where's the best place in your opinion?

  • At 1/13/2010 8:42 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    I organised a work function here years ago, everyone loved it! I must go back now that they have churros!

  • At 1/14/2010 1:46 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Peter G - It's a great compromise for the drinkers and the eaters at work lunches and yes, the chorizo was fabulous!

    Hi Hannah - Perhaps it's just me, but I tend to prefer silky textures unadulterated. I almost always end up ordering tortilla even though I know how relatively easy they are to make at home :)

    Hi Joey - Tapas in a pub setting actually makes perfect sense given its Spanish origins, lol, but yes, not so common in Aust. More of them, I say!

    Hi Andrea - Patatas bravas is great isn't it? I loved the alioli in this version.

    Hi Stephcookie - I don't think anyone likes deep-frying! But yes churros is something I've yet to attempt, although as always, part of me is worried about what I'd do with a whole batch of churros too!

    Hi Lisa - Tapas is like Spanish yum cha - something tasty for everyone methinks :)

    Hi Forager - Actually I just noticed they are offering a 'buy four tapas get one free offer' - make sure you bring a friend :)

    Hi Betty - Aren't all evil things tasty? lol.

    Hi Yas - Aha, thanks for the clarification. I was wondering why the name didn't sound familiar. Glad that someone is on the ball! Grand Taverna definitely rings a bell now.

    Hi Belle - Ha, that would be funny bumping into Bill Hunter. I think most people don't realise that tapas is served out the back - I thought the pricing was very reasonable too.

    Hi Jacq - You're certainly not alone in not realising it was there. Hope you enjoy your patatas bravas, and as I mentioned above, they've currently offering a "buy 4 get one 1 free" tapas deal.

    Hi chocolatesuze - I have no idea where you put it! More cream indeed! lol

    Hi Ellie - Sydney is full of undiscovered restaurants. I thought the pricing here was very competitive given the location.

    Hi Rebecca - Nothing like pub grub to soak up the alcohol and yes, sounds like most of us walk past here without realising.

    Hi Edwina - Oh I love an excuse to visit a restaurant too :) Enjoy!

    Hi Kate - I think churros can be a little messy, particularly as it involves piping batter directly into hot oil. I find that churros quality tends to vary from chef to chef as well as month to month, so alas I can't really say :( For consistency and convenience you could always pop over to San Churro?

    Hi YaYa - Ahh good to see an early adopter. Hope you get there again soon, and churros is always a handy drawcard!

  • At 1/14/2010 2:33 pm, Blogger Ninette said…

    I always see your name on Ellie's and Trissa's blogs so I thought I would stop by and visit your blog. Lovely photos! I met Trissa and Ellie a couple weeks ago when we were in Australia for the first time. A lovely country.

  • At 1/18/2010 2:58 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ninette - Thanks for stopping by and I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip to Australia :) You couldn't have picked two nicer hosts in Ellie and Trissa and looks like you found plenty of great eats in Sydney too!


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