Actually, not quite.
For starters, neither Adam nor I drive a wog mobile. In fact, I don’t even drive at all.
And even though Adam and I are pretty gweilo-y for Asians, we are far from being wogs (although a few of my fobby Asian friends have often remarked on how “woggy” I sound on the phone. But that’s another story for another time).
Given the fact that we were walking up and down Chapel Street all afternoon (i.e. technically, doing “circles”), I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised if people thought that we were wog-wannabes doing laps. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Chapel Street. I remember going here all the time when I was in high school, whether it’d be looking for formal dresses or having coffees with friends before finally declaring that I will never go there again because it’s a place for “try hards.” However, there was this tapas place on the Windsor end that I was keen to try so after church this morning, we took the train from Box Hill and made it there for lunch. The place I’m talking about is Basques Tapas and Wine which has been around for some time. The main reason why it’s taken me so long to try this place is because it’s in CHAPEL STREET which takes effort commuting to (okay, not really but if you’re lazy like me and car-less like me, any trip goes beyond one bus ride is “not worth it”). Also to me, anything that comes from Chapel Street just screams out STYLE-BUT-NO-SUBSTANCE. Nevertheless, I decided to put aside my snobbiness and venture onto muzza and bimbo maria territory for the afternoon.
Because this place has been featured in several editions of The Age Good Food Guide, I figured that it’d be packed and that we needed to book ahead. Adam, however, reckoned that we would be okay without a booking as the South-of-the-Yarra crowd usually don’t get up before 3pm because they’d be nursing hangovers from a boozy night. I heeded his advice and it turned out he was right. We arrived at around 12:30 and there were only 1-2 tables filled. We were greeted by a funky Asian waitress and shown to a window table promptly.
As we were reading the menu (skipping the wine list), I surveyed our surroundings and tried to make sense of it but it was a bit of a struggle. We were in a Spanish restaurant, an oddball amidst the designer stores and all the coffee shops that made up this part of Chapel Street…
Gambas al pil pil ($10.50). Four large prawns sizzled in a spicy garlic and chilli sauce which made Adam and I both jump in excitement. There was a lot of zest in this dish with just the right amount of chilli (i.e. not too little, not too much) to satisfy Adam’s love for hot food and my wussy-ness when it comes to chilli-based foods. One bite of prawn and your tastebuds feel as if some hot Spaniard dancer (choose your desired sex) has danced one heck of a paso doble on your tongue.
Jamon de Serrano ($11). This dish was the simplest out of all the dishes we ordered but I thought that it was the best (apart from the prawns above). Two hugh chucks of sourdough slices were topped with some fresh slices of jamon (cured ham) and drizzled with some awesome-tasting olive oil. Four little gherkins were there as accompaniments. It might sound boring to a lot of people, but I think that using top quality ingredients really makes all the difference in dishes such as this. Even though jamon serrano is considered the “poor man’s” jamon (If you want quality (with a price tag to match!), you’d go for Iberico), I loved the zesty flavour of the ham and if I could, I’d have it in my sandwich for lunch all the time instead of chicken loaf or shoulder ham!
Bunuelos de manchego ($6.50). Okay, this dish was probably the weirdest one we encountered. It actually wasn’t bad but nothing to harp on about. They were described as “cheese puffs” and we were expecting something filo-pastry-y but we ended up with fried croquettes filled with mashed cheese and sweet potato in it. The balls were then dusted with paprika salt. Like I said, unusual and okay-tasting but we wouldn’t order it next time we’re here.
Chuleto de Cordero ($7.50). One lamb cutlet was marinated with chilli and cooked in a porcini mushroom jus. This was a very pleasant dish, the sweetness of the sherry in the sauce bringing out the spicy flavour of the succulent lamb. Yum!
Stand-out performances were the prawns and the jamon. Sigh.
How cute are they!
I had an iced coffee while Adam had this third coffee for the day ().
My pistachio chocolate mousse ($5.50) and Adam’s bacon quiche in the background. This was really yum! Full of chocolate-y goodness without being too rich.