Bodega 1904 review

Pot roasted duck with white beans
Pot roasted duck with white beans  Photo: Christopher Pearce

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Opening hours Mon-Thu noon-11pm; Fri-Sat noon-11.45; Sun noon-10pm
Features Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating, Gluten-free options, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Joel Humphries
Phone 02 8624 3133

It's Bodega, Jim, but not as you know it. Think of this iteration of the beloved Surry Hills tapas bar as not so much a sequel as a story arc.

Here at the new Tramsheds development, the focus is on Joe Valore (the beating heart of the Bodega/Porteno empire and all its delicious wines); Rachel Doyle (sister of Sarah, manager of both Bodegas) and Joel Humphries (head chef at the original Bodega, and now running and almost-entirely lady-team of chefs at 1904).

Probably the largest discernable difference to the casual observer is the wine shop that is sitting pretty between the bar seating out the front and the restaurant proper out the back.

Bodega 1904 tapas bar at Tramsheds at Harold Park.
Bodega 1904 tapas bar at Tramsheds at Harold Park. Photo: Christopher Pearce

It's a bit of a step away from the South American-centric lists Valore has concentrated on previously. Here, both in the shop and on the list, there's a bit of a natural Australian skew happening, as well as a fair bit of gear the team are importing themselves.

No matter what, though, this is a team that's never stayed within the tracks. So when you see a menu of tapas, it's unlikely to be a straight list of Spanish bar snacks.

I mean, you very well might start thin shavings of cured pork scattered with pickled long yellow chillies. But you might also face plant into a slice of fried queso fresco (that's fresh cheese, pals) hidden under a layer of buttery, braised leek, brightened with fresh coriander, all dressed in a warm, salty lime vinaigrette.

Deep-fried eggs.
Deep-fried eggs. Photo: Christopher Pearce

A bowl of king prawns might be served simply boiled with a dunking bowl of warm, tomato-tinged butter. Smoked eggplant, cooked down to smoosh-town, with blackened onions and feta is nose-burningly garlicky.

Deep-fried eggs get a sort of Spain-via-Thailand treatment with a sweet, tamarind-y XO paste, grilled asparagus and curd, all making friends in a pool of egg yolk.

But please. Relax into the majesty that is the pot-roast duck, musky and yielding, served on a bed of tender white beans and bitter greens. Take a side of house-made sourdough, too, so dark it's almost treacly served with a butter so cultured, it could very well sit up with a New Yorker under its arm and sidle off the plate to take in a show.

Fried queso fresco.
Fried queso fresco. Photo: Christopher Pearce

So all of this is five flavours of delightful. What may not tickle you is the seating arrangement by the bar where every few minutes, you'll have passers-by staring over your shoulder at your dinner (the restaurant, like everything at Tramsheds, is open plan).

But if you've ever pulled up a pew at the Boqueria in Barcelona, you can very easily get into the swing of it.

And if not, there are always free-flowing negronis. Living la vida Forest Lodge. 

Boiled prawns.
Boiled prawns. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Bottom line Pot roast duck ($40); Grilled queso fresco ($14); Deep-fried eggs ($24)

Pro Tip: Take note, austerity hounds with a nose for a bargain – Bodega is bringing in some surprisingly drinkable $12 tempranillo – something like a wine importer's answer to a Christmas stocking filler

Go-to Dish: If you ever felt the need to add more Branca Menta to your life, consider the frightening meeting of minds that is the dulce de leche and chocolate puddingy-thing covered in choc mint shavings.