I love Spanish cuisine. My inner fatty wants to try as many dishes as humanly possible and as my eyes are notoriously bigger than my stomach, tapas suits me to a tee. It’s not only about the bold flavours, rustic dishes and robust reds; Tapas is an experience. And as Bodega has been on my virtual (soon to be documented) wish-list for quite some time, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s a rainy Wednesday evening; I’m stuck in a taxi braving the peak hour traffic and wondering why I didn’t opt for a bottle of Semillon Sauvignon for the road. I meet Annalise outside Bodega in Surry Hills, and although we don’t have the full table present, we are seated immediately amongst a lively yet somewhat relaxing atmosphere. The discussion begins and the all important decisions are made.
While we’re waiting for Alexandra, we are served bread with olive oil. I don’t know what I’m more ecstatic about; the fact that it is complimentary or the idea that simple flavours can be so exquisite. My excitement quickly turns in to disbelief when I try the Eggplant “en escabeche”. When has eggplant ever tasted this good? They were long, thin slices of heaven marinated in oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic and pepper (I hope I’m not missing anything). Incredible! I will have to try and re-create this at home. Next on the menu was the Chipotle Pulled Pork encased in a fluffy, steamed bun. The miso mayo packed an absolute punch, while the carrot added a depth of colour and texture.. the crunch was phenomenal! But the pork was definitely the hero of the dish. It was sinfully tender and perfectly seasoned, I would happily eat a bucket of it! Everyday.
Now anyone that knows me well enough, knows that I don’t like seafood. Which may have been why I was given strange looks when I ordered the Fried Spiced Calamari with Aioli. But I’m feeling adventurous. And I’m glad that I was. Each piece of calamari lightly battered and fried in exotic spices coated the melt-in-your mouth squid. I think I’ve found an appreciation for seafood now!
Not long after we are greeted with a plate of chorizo served with a very subtle sofrito paste. Although I’ve heard that a few people find chorizo slightly bland, this certainly wasn’t an issue here. The only issue was that there wasn’t enough of this spicy and smokey, pan-fried pork sensation. Sad face.
And when I thought I’d eaten it all, a plate of Corn Tamale with Black Beans and Avocado is delivered to the table. The food is vibrant in colour and the serving is more than generous. Although the corn tamale is a staple in South-Western cuisine; it is superbly sweet, fresh and packed with delicious flavours. I don’t go back for seconds, I go back for thirds. The black beans are cooked in a tomato-based sauce; and the beautifully crisp fried tortilla chips are perfect for scooping them up in. And top that all off with the smooth, enticing guacamole for a winning dish!
Whilst I was exceedingly satisfied on a savoury level, there was still plenty of room (as always) for dessert. I’m not over-exaggerating when I say my soul was crushed when our waitress mentioned the Dark Chocolate Aero with Beetroot Sorbet wasn’t available. But of course we decided on the next best thing… It looked like a piece of edible art. The rich, velvety chocolate mousse was accompanied by glistening gems of licorice infused cherries and the creamy yoghurt sorbet created an incredible balance of flavours. As we shared this dessert between the three of us, it’s safe to say it was inhaled in less than 5 minutes flat.
Bodega definitely lives up to the hype. The wait staff are friendly, extremely attentive and more importantly, they know what they’re talking about. The place is really vibey and bold, there’s a lot of conversation going on; and I think it’s mainly about the food! And of course, it caters for everyone; there’s a communal table for bigger groups or smaller areas for a romantic dinner for two.
You can find Bodega Tapas Bar at 216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. They’re open for dinner from 6pm Monday through to Saturday as well as lunch from noon on Thursdays and Fridays. A point to note; the team don’t accept reservations – So get in early to avoid disappointment! For more information, check them out on www.bodegatapas.com where you can study up on their extensive wine list beforehand and impress all your friends with your new-found knowledge of Tempranillo and Malbec wines!