Join the fiesta at Chulo Bar de Tapas.
CHULO BAR DE TAPAS: REVIEWED BY MEGAN MILLER
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.