Sydney’s Spanish Quarter is doomed, with Chinatown property developers announcing they’ll be taking over that area of Liverpool Street. It’ll be sad to see it go – aside from anything else, the Spanish Club and the tavern at the back of the Sir John Young Hotel offers cheap, unpretentious food – but if you want a taste of Spain then you’d be better off going to Bodega in Surry Hills anyway.
Unlike most tapas bars, which usually offer a pastiche of what Spanish food is actually like, Bodega serves up the type of meals that locals in Seville, Madrid and Barcelona enjoy. The menu has meals such as piquillo peppers stuffed with bacalao (salted cod), cuttlefish ceviche and mojama (cured tuna), as well as corn tamale with black beans and avocado.
I’ve been to Bodega many times in the past (and have to say, I wish they’d bring back the morcilla sausage and apple dish they used to serve) but since my last visit they’ve also opened up a separate area that serves Argentinean fare for lunch. Since a friend of mine from overseas is in town with some time to kill around midday, we decide to check it out.
Bodega’s lunchtime menu is simpler than their evening one with meals such as empanadas, tortillas, chorizo rolls, spiced meatballs and churros on offer. We opt for the chicken and beef empanadas, both of which are fantastic and only $4 each. An empanada is like a South American version of a pastie only spicy – they usually contain meat, an olive and sometimes part of a boiled egg (although I hate boiled egg with a passion, I actually don’t mind it when it’s in an empanada). The ones here are better than the empanadas I’ve eaten in Chile (although I’ve never been to Argentina) and are on a par with the ones I get from an Argentinean bakery in Glebe called Cafe Bariloche.
The wine list here is fantastic, with a whole page of Spanish reds for us to choose from. We opt for the Ramon Bilbao Crianza Tempranillo 2005 ($13 a glass), which has a rich aroma and subtle flavour and the Arnegui Tempranillo Garnacha Mazuelo 2007 ($10 a glass), which we both prefer – my friend insists it has licorice and barnyard overtones.
One thing to keep in mind is that Bodega doesn’t accept reservations – and getting a table can be a challenge, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. Provided you have a back-up plan if you can’t get in, however, Bodega is certainly worth checking out.
Bodega, 216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. Phone 9212 7766 or see the Bodega website
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Bodega?