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Take a typical tapas bar in Barcelona then polish slightly, adding cut crystal glasses and a pinch of Almodóvar references.

Take a typical tapas bar in Barcelona then polish slightly, adding cut crystal glasses and a pinch of Almodóvar references. Add one chef with a talent for experimentation, a selection of well-sourced, top notch ingredients and a crowd willing to stay all night, then mix well. Serve up atop a plate in the shape of a leaf, and you have Jah Bar: one of the best of Manly’s new breed.

Turn up just after 5pm and you can expect a peaceful dining experience. While the interior is tempting, in summer we recommend the courtyard to make the most of the fading sun and the cool evening breeze. Spanish tapas is the speciality, though there’s a few sections of the menu to choose from. The tapas dishes are supplemented by options from the boqueria and the oven, as well as the chef’s specials, so it’s worth taking your time to choose. While you’re browsing, try one of the signature cocktails ($15). There’s more than enough on offer to sustain you throughout the night, from Mint Juleps to rum and sherry-based concoctions.

Now, the food. Vegetarians and pescatarians will be well looked after, while chorizo and jamon serrano will keep meat-eaters satisfied. We opted for the Croquetas ($9.50), a selection of Spanish croquettes that change depending on the night, and the Empanadas (3 for $12), with beef, chicken, pumpkin and ricotta available. From there, we moved to the Jamon Serrano ($11.50), incredibly tender cured ham, and Aged Queso Manchego ($10.50), with the cheese a nice end to the meal alongside drinks. We did, however, manage to squeeze in a serve of Churros ($10) with hot chocolate sauce at the last post.

While I’d find it hard to go past these simple yet delicious options, particularly the Jamon Serrano, it’s tempting to revisit and try more of the tapas proper. Particularly the Chorizo ($10.50) and the talked about Sweet Potato and Fennel Seed Salad ($10.50). On the other hand, we hear great things about the chef’s penchant for experimentation. We sadly passed up a special of Braised Beef Cheeks ($19) with Manzanilla olives and creme cauliflower, instead staring greedily at tables nearby. Best to use these inevitable regrets as motivation for return visits.

By the time you’ve finished your meal, Jah Bar is likely to be filling up. The later crowd, firmly focused on the bar inside, is starting to arrive. And, let’s face it, by this time you’ve had a few cocktails yourself. The lesson is that it’s okay to turn up after dinner time and, if you do make dinner, it’s best to stay late and enjoy the changed atmosphere. As the chefs swap out behind the bar, replaced by additional barmen, go with the flow. You are in Barcelona, after all.

Published on December 09 , 2011 by

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