We popped into Cantina Bar & Grill on a whim, starving, and wanting a quick, light meal after the launch of the French Film Festival. More than just Spanish tapas, the menu here draws from all over the Mediterranean.
This is drinking food - take for example the Jamon Bread ($4.50), a slice of grilled, garlic and tomato rubbed sourdough topped with rocket and jamon. There’s quite a selection of beverages to choose from – try wine from countries including Spain, Argentina and Chile; Sangria ($25/carafe) and cocktails ($14).
Don’t miss their frothy jugs of Espana Margaritas ($32/jug), a nicer take on the traditional recipe which incorporates a fabulous Spanish Liquor called Licor 43 (which we later went and purchased to try it by itself) which balances out the acidity of the lemon juice nicely – they’re almost too easy to drink! They went very well with the a compelling special of Hummus with Spiced Ground Lamb, superb lime green Padrón Peppers and Olive Sourdough ($12) (which I unfortunately took an out-of-focus photo of)!
The Pimientos de Padrón (the peppers from Padrón, a region of South West Galicia in North West Spain) add an element of chance to your meal because some are hot, and some are not. According to our waitress, it’s about one in ten that set your mouth on fire – but a neighbouring table scored three! I was so excited by these peppers, I needed to know more (and I featured them in last week's column).
I spoke to Richard Mohan from Midyim Eco Resort in Maleny, who “encountered them in a bar in Madrid, and wondered why other diners were eating chilis by the plate load” tried them, and was so impressed, he’s now growing them. He explained that the curious lottery of heat comes by virtue of them being picked immature, before they get their full capsaicin load (the active component of chilis). They’re most commonly eaten in tapas cuisine, and for three months of the year, they’re the most popular tapas dish in Spain.
We ended the meal with a small terracotta bowl of Garlic Tiger Prawns ($16) which proved reasonable value, were fresh, and tasty. All up, this was a great introduction to the food here, and one that makes me want to return and try more. In particular, the margaritas were the best I have tried, and I definitely want another jug of those - preferably now!
Cantina Bar & Grill
245 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9357 3033
Mediterranean Tapas $$-$$$