If Sydney’s winter suddenly makes the idea of a sizzling cast-iron plate of garlic prawns sitting under your nose, very attractive, get thee into Encasa Restaurant for Gambas Al Ajillo ($16).
What looks to be a small, dark restaurant from the Pitt Street entrance, dominated by the woodfire pizza oven, widens out into a larger white room, filled with animated, Spanish-speaking family groups. Following their lead, we kick things off with Ambar 1900 Pale Ale ($8.50), an easy-drinking Spanish beer.
As fans of the famous Spanish black-footed pigs, we find Tabla De Embutidos ($23) hard to resist. The tabla (board) is covered with thin slices of the aforementioned jamon Iberico, Pamplona (cured, paprika-heavy sausage) and salchichon, a dry-cured, gentle, white pig sausage.
With the board bearing more meat than bread, you might want to balance things out with some Garlic Bread ($3.50) or the slightly more sophisticated Torrades ($5) – sourdough toast you rub with garlic, drizzle with olive oil and eat with freshly sliced tomato.
Another Spanish product I’m fond of is Queso de Valdeón, a blue cheese that has a good balance of salt and spice. You’ll find in a simple but satisfying bowl of Rigatoni Valdeón ($17) or joining three friends – mozzarella, goats cheese and another Spanish beauty, Manchego – on Cuatros Quesos ($15/small).
This four-cheese pizza's thin, wood-fired base allows the golden cheesy quartet to really shine. Round your meal out from the paddock or the sea. Entrana Con Chimichurri ($16) would have to be the most tender rendition of skirt steak I've tried...
...however the quartet of small, saffron-tinted scallops, Vieiras en Azafran ($16/4), served on their shells, also had its charm.
It's pretty easy to see why this popular, long-standing Spanish restaurant group is busy signing new leases - including most recently in Chifley Square - to deliver their generously proportioned, reasonably priced tapas plates to even wider audiences.
423 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9211 4257