Buzzy ... Tapavino specialises in quality sherries. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Set in the zone of Circular Quay frequented more by liquid lunchers than Instagram-happy tourists, Tapavino is serious about food, serious about plonk and really serious about sherry. It's all very good, too, which isn't surprising with owner Frank Dilernia and chefs Renee Anderson and Anna Knight at the wheel; all three have had spells at either The Wine Library or Buzo or both.
There's a good number of jamon share-plates available, but the acorn-fed Iberian pata negra (aka lord of the pigs) is what you're after. It's glossy and red and totally delicious. Other highlights include morcilla drizzled in manuka honey and handful of walnuts ($12); smashed broad bean, mint and goat's-curd tostados ($12); and braised chorizo bobbing about in a pool of romesco ($16). Should the mood take you to place a chunk of said chorizo on said broad bean tostado, then do it. At dessert time, a sticky dulce de leche tart joins the table and it goes swimmingly with a figgy La Canada Pedro Ximenez sherry.
Ah, the sherry. Gee whiz. This isn't your McWilliam's flagon that nan would get invariably shickered on at family events, then palm off tenners to the grandkids. This is bright, fun, layered stuff and if Dilernia doesn't have the largest Jerez selection in Sydney, if not the country, I'll eat my fedora.
Go-to dish ... The 'pata negra' (aka lord of the pigs) acorn fed Iberian jamon. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Now, it would be a completely expected and human reaction to be intimated by a list of 80-and-counting sherry choices, so don't be afraid to talk turps with one of the approachable and informed staff. Sommelier Amandine Sournier was only too happy to provide a compass for sailing the high seas of amontillados, olorosos and manzanillas. I'm still having unholy thoughts about a voluptuous 45-year-old Bodegas Tradicion Oloroso that was recommended.
The place is buzzy and, in the evening, strikes just the right level of dark: cool and hugging but without the need for a headlamp for utensil use. Some of the more modern features are a tad hit-and-miss and I'm still not sure what's going on with the oddly hypnotic, colour-changing backlit bar.
Tables fill up quickly and booking in advance is recommended, though if you do find yourself facing a wait, there are worse places for it than Bulletin Place, the seasonal produce-loving cocktail attic next door. Plus you can get chicken ballotine sent up from the Tapavino kitchen while you're there. Ole!
(Note to sensitive graphic designers: the menu features Comic Sans. You have been warned.)
Do … sample a sherry or 10.
Don't … order the lamb sweetbreads if you have an aversion to epic amounts of rocket.
Dish … pata negra, $30.
Vibe … a good-time-rolling Spanish taberna that brings colour to one of the city's greyer areas.
- 02 9247 3221
- Prices - Jamon, $12-$30; tapas, $9-$24; desserts, $10-$13.
- Author - Callan Boys