Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bar Lourinhã, Melbourne

I walked past this cute and curious place last week on one of my little city jaunts.  All the small trinkets on the wall caught my eye and I made a mental note of it.

Tonight was my weekly get together with a girl friend of mine and seeing as we both like tapas, we decided to meet here for some informal supper and a good old natter.

We arrived just before six-thirty and made our way into the hustle and bustle of the long open room.  A waitress greeted us and showed us to a couple of high stools at the bar.  Giving us perfect access to all the waiters and waitresses.

There is seating all along the bar which curves around the corner to the wall at the front.  By the front (and only) window, there is cushioned window seating with low mini circular tables.  If you can get one of these and, I am guessing you would have to come early or just be very lucky to do so - what better vantage point from which to soak up the atmosphere and take in the surroundings.

Two high, long wooden tables with wooden stools stand side by side behind all the seated bar diners.  "These are for larger groups", (i.e. more than 2 or 3) the waitress replied as I politely asked whether we could sit at one.

Still, we enjoyed sitting at the bar, right in front of the chalkboard which lists an array of wine, from sparkling to white to rosé to red. Bottles of spirits are perfectly lined up on a couple of mini wooden shelves, one on top of the other, running along the back wall.  

The walls are decorated with assorted bottle openers, a horseshoe, mirror, framed paintings and other nic-nacs.  One could call it an eclectic, shabby chic wall decoration.

The menu is interesting and tonight's specials that the waitress reeled off from her scribbled pad sounded delightful.  This is Portuguese tapas as opposed to the Spanish variety and it all sounded both curious and tempting.  We went for the Pimentos special ($16), the Spiced chickpea & spinach salad ($14) and a grilled King prawn ($10).

The green pimentos came out steaming hot in a cast iron skillet.  They were both garlicky and salty.  The shaves of crunchy garlic scattered all over gave them the 'wow' factor.  It was an eye poppingly beautiful tapas dish which tingled our tastebuds in a very good way.

The waitress came over with a complimentary wooden bowl housing a huge chunk of rustic wholemeal bread.  It looked more like a slab of cake the way it had been cut.  It was indeed very country rustic and was perfectly continental in flavour.  It was spot on for mopping up all the juices as well.

The grilled king prawn came out with metal skewer still intact.  It was steaming hot and tasted fresh, delicious and a little garlicky too.  Perhaps a little pricey for $10 considering how much meat we actually got from it.  But it really was delish!  We even got a fingerbowl to wash our greasy paws in afterwards.

As we took our time eating the pimentos and the king prawn, the chickpea and spinach salad seemed to be taking forever to come out.  It seemed to be taking so long in fact, I was actually beginning to think that they had forgotten all about it. 

Nevertheless, it did arrive, finally.  And it was well worth the wait.  As a hot salad, it was cooked to perfection.  The chickpeas were soft but not too much so.  The spinach had only just been wilted which is how they should be.  Again, more crunchy shaves of garlic and boy, the whole thing tasted utterly lip-smackingly gorgeous! 

I forgot to take a photo when it first arrived - probably due to my wiltering impatience and hunger for this dish.  But I did remember to take one halfway through devouring it, hence why there isn't much left on the plate...apologies...

We decided to that we couldn't possibly end the meal without trying their 'Churros & dulce de leche'. 

It came out with six blazing hot, sugary, crispy, doughy churros, along with a shot glass of the dulce de leche.  Dulce de leche is sweetened milk that has been heated through to create a thickened texture and an almost caramel like taste.

However, this dulce de leche was a real let down.  It was watery for start, nothing like the dulce de leche that I have had in Brazil (OK, not quite Portugal, but close enough!).  And so I can only compare to the Spanish version which is devine. 

Taste-wise, I can't really comment because after dipping the churros into it, most of it just dripped off onto my paper napkin before I could get it into my mouth.  Unless they improve the dulce de leche, I won't be having these again in a hurry. 

A great place to come with a friend or two, or three.  The staff seemed a little rushed off their feet and flustered at times.  They could do with being a little more friendly as well.  Don't get me wrong, they weren't rude in the slightest, but if I had to compare staff at other tapas places in Melbourne, Movida Next Door and Hairy Canary beat this place for friendliness

However, I will big this place up because it's got great atmosphere, more than worthy tapas and a good drinks selection.  It's a little quirky, individual and just a really relaxed, informal place to come for an after work drink, some great tapas and a good old gossip! 

Just a shame about the dulce de leche. 

Bar Lourinhã
37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9663 7890

Mon-Wed: 12-11pm
Thurs-Fri: 12pm-1am
Sat: 4pm-1am

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