Pocket-sized La Pinta is farm fresh and perfect for now

La Pinta features a large central bar.
La Pinta features a large central bar. Photo: Jason South

FROM THE FARM

Some restaurateurs open successively bigger, grander enterprises. Not Catherine Chauchat, whose new 30-seat tapas bar is smaller than anything she's done before. In its pocket-sized simplicity and direct connections to farmers and diners, it's the perfect restaurant to take us into 2021.

Chauchat's last restaurant was Boire, a 60-seat Collingwood darling known for its tight menu (three mains), milk ban (black coffee only) and easy warmth. It closed in 2013, and Chauchat returned to her native France for two years before realising Australia is the country of her heart. She came back, studied psychotherapy and fetched up at Pinotta in North Fitzroy, where she met chef Adam Racina.

Broccoli salad with raw and pickled cauliflower.
Broccoli salad with raw and pickled cauliflower. Photo: Jason South

Together they hatched the plan for La Pinta and found an old Italian espresso bar to bring it to life. They kept the kitsch murals and installed a large central bar with open kitchen.

The counter is a captain's bridge from which Chauchat can pour $5 vermouth and wine from tapped barrels, sling plates from the kitchen and tortilla from the cabinet, talk about the important stuff – wine, humans, farming – and keep things humming. La Pinta feels casual but it is very deliberate, a balance of utter rigor and disarming informality that means labour and costs are reduced and prices stay low.

The food is free-wheeling, though more Spanish than anything else. A broccoli salad comes with florets and stalks plus raw cauliflower and its pickled stalks – not much hits the bin here.

Beef heart and shallot salad.
Beef heart and shallot salad. Photo: Jason South

Meat is minimal and chosen carefully. "Spent hen" fettuccine makes a treat of tough laying birds, brining, browning and braising the meat into a deeply flavoured ragu. Beef heart is also brined before searing and tossing with pickled shallots to create a bright nose-to-tail salad. Mackerel is topped with broad beans, capers and a dressing with garum, the ancient Roman version of fish sauce, fermented by Racina for eight months.

This is unfussy, farmer-focused food served without artifice. But La Pinta is also a thoughtful treatise – about how people should interact with the world and each other – in the entirely palatable form of a tapas bar.

La Pinta 791 High Street, Reservoir, 0492 818 032, lapintareservoir.com.au
Open Wed-Sat 4pm-late
Prices Tapas: $5-$10; Plates: $10-$20

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