On my last visit to Spain I remember passing a small hole-in-the wall bar in Madrid. It was past 5pm and the place was filled with office workers, barrels of sherry, and … that’s it. As I found out from a harried and impatient barman, they didn’t serve anything else – just sherry.
In Spain it’s a standard aperitif but in Australia it’s hard to find a bar that serves it: and so I find myself getting excited when, while perched at the bar at Cru54, a Spanish tapas bar hidden away opposite a taxi service station in Surry Hills, I see a decent selection on the menu.
But before I delve into my sherry fetish, perhaps I should describe the bar.
Located on Foveaux Street, Cru54 is in a narrow space where the main visual attraction is the marble bar counter (complete with white leather stools), although there are also tables dotted around the edge. There’s a painting of a tango dancer on one wall, a comfortingly large number of bottles behind the bar and a 60s euro pop aesthetic that reminds me more of the tapas bars you see in Spain than a typical Sydney drinking den.
I first came here a few months back as an accident (I was supposed to be meeting someone in another bar but got my locations mixed up) but the barmaid was exceedingly friendly and the tempranillo (one of my favourite varieties of red) kept me occupied until the person I was meant to have met called me up and asked where the frick I was.
Fast forward a few months and I’m back (this time on purpose), with the same person I thought I was meeting here before. To make up for lost time we order a variety of dishes, including smoked paprika prawns, chorizo, pork belly with a sherry glaze and churros with sherry ice-cream and a Pedro Ximénez sherry chocolate sauce. You can’t say this bar doesn’t like its sherry.
My favourite dish is the pork belly, which is beautifully done, although the sherry ice-cream is great too (it actually reminds me of the saffron ice-cream I had at Rosebud which I loved as well) and the churros brings back fond memories of Spain and Chile for me.
And now, shock horror: back to the sherry. Although it’s only $7 a glass (Spanish sherry can be remarkably cheap considering how long they’re aged – we’re talking a minimum of three years in an oak barrel, and usually six to eight years for even a light sherry), I particularly like the La Goya Manzanilla here. Dry and complex in flavour, this might be an acquired taste if you’ve never had Spanish sherry before but I personally think it’s worth trying.
Cru54 isn’t a flashy or particularly trendy establishment and to be honest I’m not sure if it’s meant to be or not. What it is, however, is genuine – and if like me you’ve been to Spain and want to relive some food memories, or if you want to create some new ones, then it’s worth making the short walk from Central Station to check this out.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Cru 54?