3-5 Hosier Ln Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri-Sat 5pm-3am; Sun 5pm-11pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9663 3038|
I'm sorry to tell you that the world is over. Cape Town has no water. Victoria's recycling system is on the brink of collapse. A new service dubbed "Human Uber" exists where a stranger straps an iPad to their face and attends events as your surrogate. At times like this it's the little things you need. Like food that's custom-made to survive the apocalypse and comes with the quantities of sherry your nanna used to drown out her fear of the commies.
All things considered, Bar Tini is a good place to pull up a stool and wait for the world to implode. It's the newest wing of Frank Camorra's MoVida empire, not dissimilar to its siblings in its sherry-heavy, tapas-based ideology, but the model here is more specifically "bodega".
The focus is on quality tinned goods and all things cured with a few more substantial plates for ballast. And, cocktails, which will be a relief to anyone stumbling in thinking this is still Misty, one of Melbourne's original cocktail greats.
It's the restaurant equivalent of a casual relationship. You may start out rolling in super early, or late (they're open until 3am at weekends) for a commitment-free romp with a plate of Cuca anchovies and a Moritz, and suddenly find yourself emotionally invested in montaditos and eyeing off a plate of chorizo. Suddenly you're having dinner. At real dinner time. It's a slippery slope.
Are you doing Febfast? Good luck. It's difficult to stare down the dewy Moritz taps, to deny the Velo Flor manzanilla sherry that you know will make for a great nutty, bone-dry introduction to the evening, and ignore the typically interesting bracket of small-producer Spanish wines hailing from Rioja to the Ribera del Duero. I break within minutes for the eponymous Bar Tini, a martini washed with fino sherry, graced by an olive and anchovy garnish that's like a nutty Gibson. Who wouldn't? It sets the tone for some excellent fish-fuelled times.
Where at MoVida Next Door you might watch scampi make a last bid for freedom in the icy display, the fish here is well and truly dead, and developed. Salty Cuca anchovies and kid-leather soft mojama (air-dried tuna loin) come as part of a sort-of fish charcuterie platter along with impossibly supple waves of house-smoked salmon, ocean trout pastrami whose outer edge pings of coriander seed, and rock ling that registers almost like firm ham thanks to a salt-sugar curing.
Continue to do yourself favours with a fresh play on melon and jamon – compressed watermelon dressed with more of that meaty mojama and almonds; maybe a plate of stracciatella all but hidden by fresh figs, made savoury by shallot oil.
The smart money, really, is also on anything that sounds like a one-two punch. Chef Ewen Crawford has come across from MoVida Aqui and the straightest dishes, often the specials chalked up on the board each night, are the best. Tonight it's fried potato seasoned much like patatas bravas, but crowned with a split chorizo and fried egg like Spanish home fries.
Sardines, filleted, draped across slips of red peppers and crowned with their own fried spines for layering onto pan Catalan (bread drenched in garlicky crushed tomato), are probably the most delicious thing on the menu.
By contrast I wouldn't be rushing back for the montaditos (Spain's answer to the tostada). Our two featuring prawns that seem overly chilled, with avruga (faux caviar), and tinned tuna belly, shaved cured egg yolk, and bitter radicchio are complex mouthfuls that could be less so and texturally challenging with their crouton-crisp bases that shatter to sharp dust. I'd save the chunky, cheesy ham, mozzarella and anchovy-stuffed molletefor late-night drunk food, too.
I wonder if the straight-shooting stuff has extra appeal because, seated at the alley-facing windows, or at Wayne Finschi's custom-designed oak bar inlaid with floral tiles, you're watching humanity at its vain worst? I see a garbage truck reverse up Hosier Lane as tourists and shoppers from the techno-pumping Culture Kings stand unmoving, engrossed in their graffiti selfie. It makes me grateful to be eating dishes that have everything to do with deliciousness and no place on Instagram.
"Nothing should remind me of a vagina and a scotch egg at the same time," remarks my friend of the half quail, deboned and with a molten core of mahon cheese that runs confrontingly across the plate. Ugly deliciousness at its best.
Soon you'll be able to buy wines and tins of mussels from the lower room and take the party home. But good luck with getting in and back out that door when there's a liquefied, flame-torched half wheel of baked viejo maestro goat's cheese that arrives with grissini dippers and more will to escape than you have.
The Camorra crew's seduction game remains strong.
Vegetarian: Plenty, if cheese is part of your equation. Try figs and stracciatella especially.
Drinks: Sharp, sherry-influenced cocktails; interesting Spanish varietals; sessionable food-friendly local and Spanish beers.
Pro Tip: Come back for 2am supper at weekends when a slightly shorter menu runs.
Go-to Dish: Watermelon, mojama, almonds ($5.50); sardines and pan catalan ($15).