Five Reasons To Eat At Las Tapas
1. Javier (owner)
The owner. A real character, complete with that comical rapid-fire laugh only a Spaniard can muster – a cross between Pop-Eye and a faulty car ignition. He’s from Barcelona, and naturally emits that familiar Mediterranean warmth and open-armed hospitality. Instantly, you’re made to feel welcome, like you’ve entered the family home – which you pretty much have.
Quite something. The produce is gathered at great, pain-staking lengths. On Monday and Tuesday, Javier travels around Victoria, visiting a network of trusted suppliers, farmers and butchers. This weekly tour reaps the holy grail of ingredients for his kitchen – harvesting the very best chorizo, tomatoes, herbs, calamari and whatever treats are in-season. As a result, the offerings are dictated by Mother Earth, the menu an ever-evolving chalkboard.
The quality of ingredients means kitchen time is minimised, the simplicity of the cooking is underwritten by the hard work on Monday and Tuesday. That’s the beauty of Spanish Tapas: the better the ingredients, the less work needed.
At one point, a prized loaf of bread was presented, seemingly for inspection. We prodded and fingered it gingerly, unsure of our own expertise. It was only when we began mopping up the garlic oil from the king prawn (Gambas Al Ajillo) that we understood the full magnitude of artistry on show. The bread was as soft and deep as one of Gandhi’s great speeches, with a less tragic end.
Most Melbourne restaurants think they have bragging rights in this department, but few can boast Las Tapas’ depth in Spanish wines. You get the sense Javier is opening up his private cellar – coveted gems and dirty secrets are dusted off and nonchalantly shared.
4. Gypsy Music
Music is a constant bugbear in so many restaurants. Too often great food has been ruined by a deluge of thumping commercial pop blasting around the venue like aural sewerage. Not here. The music fits perfectly. Transportive even. Close your eyes and you could be sitting in an Andalusian bar listening to flamenco fused with soul, jazz and funk.
I could have mentioned authenticity in all of the above segments, but refrained. It deserves its own entry. You could airlift Las Tapas and plonk it down in the back streets of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter and the locals wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
100 Chapel St, St Kilda VIC 3183