Tapavino is down a little laneway behind the Marriott Hotel at the Circular Quay end of Pitt Street. It’s an inviting, warm and cozy place which smells of chorizo – in a good way, not a “Ugh I’ll have to wash my hair again, it smells of chorizo” way. The waitstaff strike a great balance between friendly and super professional, and were helpful with recommendations and suggestions without being pushy. So even before the boys and I had eaten anything, we already liked Tapavino!
Now to the food. I am replaying the meal in my head in slow motion. Gosh is was nice. Each small dish was a new delight of flavours, but nothing was overdone: maybe 3-4 ingredients per dish, max. The mashed broadbean, green pea, mint & goats curd tostado was the nicest thing I have eaten since I last used that superlative. Three small rounds of thin, crispy, salty, olive-oiled toast (reminiscent of Bagel Crisps) topped with a veritable tennis ball of green goodness. The mackerel & celeriac tostado was equally divine – like celeriac remoulade with a smokey, fishy edge.
Tuna cruda comprised fat tongues of fishie macerated in a piquant sherry dressing with crushed hazelnuts which I am going to try to reproduce. A watermelon, cucumber & black olive salad was slightly warm – either the dressing was warm or the watermelon had been lightly grilled (can one grill watermelon?) – either way it was a perfect winter’s night twist on an otherwise summery salad. It complemented a rich dish of baked chorizo with black olives and romesco sauce.
A delicate dish of sea perch with egg, piquillo peppers, potato & sherry mayo came wrapped in paper: the fish and its friends had been baked al cartoccio, which created lovely soft flesh and a pool of lemony, briney, creamy juice. On that note: the only criticism of the whole meal was that our plates were shallow rectangles and we weren’t given spoons, so a lot of the residual juices and sauces from the dishes couldn’t be easily got at.
We finished with heavy stuff: beef short ribs with salsa verde, and a mushroom & black truffled tart topped with jamon & shaved manchego. At that point my usually hollow legs started to reach capacity. The tart with jamon was a deconstructed Spanish version of The Fanciest Quiche Lorraine Ever – a fat slice of eggy, many-mushroomed tart, draped with half a pig’s worth of finely sliced prosciutto – sorry, jamon – and a light snowfall of finely grated machengo cheese. The tender beef short ribs could be cut with a spoon, and the salsa verde was sneakily cheesy and dared you to lick the plate clean.
Pudding would’ve been lovely I’m sure, but we were stuffed. Next time I would eat less tapas and finish with the dulce du leche tart, and a treacly Pedro Ximenez sherry. In fact we were pretty rubbish with the vino side of things – it was a school night, so we just had the Esciandor Sidra, which came in hilarious neon ‘attractive to children’ cans, which in no way betrayed the crisp, pongy, [alcoholic] apple-y goodness within. The wine and sherry lists were extensive and I imagine the waitstaff would be able to suggest appropriate tapa y vino pairings.
[NB: I did all those things next visit as promised: see here!]
I really cannot recommend Tapavino highly enough. It’s closed at weekends – which seems odd – but if you work in town you really ought put it on your ‘after work drinks venue’ list, should you have one. And do save room for pudding and sherry!