I cant believe I dithered over ordering the churros ... Who was I kidding?

Black Bull Tapas Bar & Restaurant

10:08:AM 21/02/2013
Mary-Jane Daffy

Paella
Paella
I can’t believe I dithered over ordering the churros. Those pillowy golden fingers of lightly fried choux pastry, dusted in cinnamon sugar and served piping hot alongside irresistible molten-chocolate dipping sauce. Who was I kidding?

There are other desserts listed: a trilogy of chocolate, and a banana flan among them – but given it’s a Spanish restaurant, a plate of the country’s famed doughnuts seemed a fitting finale.

They didn’t disappoint, arriving fat and fluffy and begging to be dip-dip-dunked deep into the pot of rich, melting chocolate. The combination of cinnamon, rich chocolate and light pastry was enough to fuel a second wind in my previously satiated dining companion. A good sugar hit will do that.

At two days’ shy of its fourth birthday, Black Bull Tapas is heaving on a Friday night, the dining room feeling more aligned to a dark and moody restaurant in Barcelona as it becomes busier and rowdier.

A low wooden ceiling in the front section, exposed-brick and stained-glass windows make for a festive and comfortable space.

Remnants of the restaurant’s previous incarnations remain.

At the rear, curved booth seating and chequered flooring is a nostalgia trip for those who once came, for the better part of 30 years, to The Pancake Kitchen for pancakes with melting ice-cream on top.

Vibrant patterned tiles on the stairs and behind the central wooden bar are a salute to the previous Mexican restaurant. They’re all vastly different, yet somehow all these elements meld seamlessly.

Owners and husband-and-wife duo Daniel and Tamara Brehaut head up the kitchen and front of house respectively. Service is smooth(ish) until the restaurant swells with hungry punters and our waitress is left on her first night to fend for herself. She did brilliantly considering and the meals came thick and fast, but getting a peek at a dessert menu was challenging – and paying the bill was even harder.

It gave me time to reassess the wine list, which was made up of a crowd-pleasing selection of local wines and a smattering of Spanish varietals. The white sangria is my pick for a pre-dinner tipple: a lovely combination of white wine, juice and brandy with slices of apple and white grapes bobbing under the ice.

The menu captures the Spanish sentiment with a clear nod to Daniel’s training in classic French cooking. Included in the tapas are lamb empañadas with romesco sauce, cheese croquettes, and pressed pork belly but I skipped straight to the chunky grilled chorizo. I would have liked more fire from the sliced sausage but the mix of slow-cooked capsicum, tomato and onion samfaina it came on was like a friendly hug.

The twice-roasted half quail was, for $9 per tapa, easily an entrée size. The sweet, moist meat was heightened by an elegant dollop of lemony aïoli and a crunchy herb-laden arancini. It was a highlight.

Rolls of generously sliced air-cured Serrano ham were reinvented here, teamed with juicy sweet balls of rockmelon and served artistically piled on a slice of char-grilled white bread. A winning combination of sweet and salt, possibly not to everyone’s liking, it was a real conversation starter.

Twice-roasted half quail and fragrant arancini.
Twice-roasted half quail and fragrant arancini.
Entrées, all $18, are a step up again in size from already generous tapas servings. The Galician-style octopus with confit potatoes and paprika, although simple, could easily satisfy me for a main.

A plump disc of beef cheek was a delight, the meat rich and forgiving, having been cooked slowly for 12 hours. It sat surrounded by sweet, smooth parsnip purée and a scattering of multicoloured summer vegetables that didn’t add much other than colour, and a rich jus.

The mains, all $32, delivered the pièce de résistance. Steaming paella was served in a sizzling cast-iron pan that was brimming with the flavours and smells of Spain. Grilled strips of calamari, thick prawns, clams and meaty mussels twisted and turned between chunks of chorizo, peas and wonderfully light saffron-soaked rice. Each mouthful mingled heady scents of wine and the ocean with chilli and meaty chorizo.

Sharing between the two of us, I went back for a second, third, and final helping before the pan was bare. It pushed me over the edge but, hey, it’s a Spanish restaurant. Olé!

eat this

Black Bull Tapas Bar & Restaurant

48 Moorabool Street, Geelong

Cuisine Spanish

Head chef Daniel Brehaut

Owners Tamara and Daniel Brehaut

Prices Tapas $9; entrées $18; mains $32; dessert $12

Open Monday-Friday noon-2pm; Monday-Saturday 5.30pm-late Phone 5229 6100

The Verdict Put on your list

www.blackbulltapas.com.au

Serrano Ham & Rockmelon
Serrano Ham & Rockmelon
Exposed-brick walls, stained-glass windows, patterned tiles and an abundance of wood are a fitting backdrop for a Spanish restaurant and here, in Geelong’s old woolshed, it bodes well with the brick building’s sense of history too. Downstairs, the long 90-seater dining area is broken into three rooms, each filled with candlelit rustic wooden tables and huge vintage Spanish posters. At the rear, a nook of curved booth seating and chequered flooring is a coveted area for lovers. A graffiti wall upstairs adds contemporary flair and marks the entrance to a private dining room or a second, much smaller, 40-seater dining room.


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