I’m not sure what diesel fuel tastes like but I certainly thought of it the first time I tasted dry Spanish sherry. After trying it a few more times, however, I developed a taste that blossomed into a love that heated into an insatiable, hedonistic fortified-fuelled fever.
Now just the mention of sherry makes my liquored-up heart beat in double time – which is why I race down to Bulletin Place when I hear a sherry bar called Tapavino has opened in the laneway there.
The first thing that hits me on entering isn’t the sight of the old wooden beams, the entire wall covered by bottles or the black brick walls with specials written on them in chalk: it’s the smell of smoked paprika.
Although there are tables on the ground and first floor that you apparently need to book for on a Friday night (the place gets busy), I perch on one of the many stools at the bar counter and look through the menu, which is as large as a small book.
Four pages are dedicated to sherry alone, plus there are also cocktails such as the Jerez Sour. However, since I believe tampering with sherry is barbaric I order the Romate Fino Perdido ($12) instead: an eight-year-old sherry from Jerez that’s as complex and dry as my barrister who, 30 minutes late, finally decides to join me. She orders a Christina Abocado Oloroso ($9), an even sweeter (yet still dry) sherry that has caramel overtones to it and inspires me to then order the Alfonso Oloroso ($11) – which if possible I like even more.
In addition to the smoked paprika popcorn ($4), we try the Coffin Bay pacific oysters with gazpacho granita ($4 each and worth it, with the oysters freshly shucked) and the spiced lamb shoulder with yogurt and pomegranate ($20) – the lamb is tender, the pomegranate seeds are a nice touch, and my barrister loves it although I think it could use more spice.
However, the stand-out meal is undoubtedly the razor clams with peas, broadbeans and jamon crisps ($16). This is like a Spanish version of surf and turf, with the long, crispy strips of jamon (cured Spanish ham) providing a great textural contrast to the juicy clams. In fact, this is the first time in a while that I genuinely want to go back to a bar to have the same meal again.
If for some bizarre reason you ignore my advice to only drink sherry then I recommend the Arnegui crianza tempranillo ($14). My barrister orders it and when she looks away long enough for me to sneak a sip, I have to admit it’s got enough body and nose to almost justify not having a sherry.
Most of the other elements I look for in a good bar are here: the service is fantastic, the lighting is warm, and it nails that buzzy tapas bar vibe that I miss so much from my travels through Spain. I’m tempted to pick faults just to look critical but, to be truthful, I’m really impressed with what Tapavino has done here.
Tapavino wine bar, 6 Bulletin Place, Sydney (right next to Circular Quay). Open Monday to Friday until 11.30pm. See the Tapavino wine bar website for more details.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Tapavino wine bar?
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