Join the fi­esta at Chulo Bar de Ta­pas.

CHULO BAR DE TA­PAS: RE­VIEWED BY ME­GAN MILLER

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

FRESH and frisky – that’s our waiter at new St Kilda ta­pas bar, Chulo.

We weren’t ex­pect­ing din­ner and a show this Sun­day evening but it was a happy oc­cur­rence, propped at the bar as our man mixed drinks, cor­ralled staff and de­liv­ered dishes with maybe a tad more flair than care. Not that it mat­tered – it’s all part of Chulo’s charm.

Madrid-born Pablo Diaz is the owner/ chef here. Hav­ing trained at San Se­bas­tian’s famed Arzak, he had stints in Paris and Ar­gentina, where he met his Aussie wife. He moved to Mel­bourne and, in Au­gust, opened Chulo, on the St Kilda strip with au­then­tic ta­pas and a fun fitout com­plete with a wall mu­ral of a flamenco dancer seem­ingly skip­ping across the ta­bles.

There’s stool seat­ing for 56 in­side, and out­door trad­ing to come once the Acland St re­de­vel­op­ment is com­plete.

It’s (mostly) hard to or­der badly. From the ta­pas menu, try the mol­lete, a small soft bun filled with fried cala­mari and good mayo, and the es­cabeche, sup­ple fin­gers of cured ocean trout fresh­ened with match­sticks of ap­ple and radish.

Big­ger plates in­clude the pulpo, sec­tions of char­grilled oc­to­pus art­fully bed­ded with pur­ple potato crisps and a spir­ited red-pep­per sauce, or the scorched cau­li­flower dressed in burnt but­ter, capers and sage.

The car­rillera needs tweak­ing. Its beef cheek was braised to ten­der and pick­led mush­room added depth but the onion cream was in­sipid and thin.

Dessert? Bit­ter­sweet cho­co­late ganache teams with sponge and hazel­nut wafer to great ef­fect, though the manchego cheese par­fait had an odd, gritty tex­ture.

The wine list isn’t overly com­pli­cated, with value in the Span­ish-lean­ing drops by the glass, like the 2014 Bode­gas Enguera tem­pranillo. Beer, cock­tails, sherry, ver­mouth and san­gria also star.

All up, Chulo is a perky pack­age. Pull up a seat for theatri­cal ta­pas.

Top: owner/chef Pablo Diaz, and three of the dishes – the pulpo, mol­lete and es­cabeche.

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