Packed to the brim, this little gem offers a trip to Spain sans the passport.
With people queuing for a table at 7pm on a Wednesday night, you can tell there's got to be something damn good about Bar Lourinha. Upon closer inspection, it is a combination of the three all-important aspects of any great venue: food, wine and service. It also helps that it feels like a tiny slice of Spain right here in Melbourne.
The wine list is heavily focused on European offerings; Spain, France and Italy are the main contenders here. On a warm evening the Torre Blanca Brut NV from Penedes, Cava, Spain ($10 glass) makes for very easy drinking.
And the food? Tapas style. Start the evening with a smoked eel croqueta ($4 each) with a strong smoked flavour sitting on a bed of aioli. The Lardo 'soldiers' ($4 each) are a rich offering with a crisp toast wrapped in thin slices of fat made from pigs fed on only chestnuts.
You can take your time here, ordering as you go. The staff will talk you through the specials, perhaps a plate of pardon peppers, a paella of mussels, prawns chicken and chorizo, or oysters served natural with a squeeze of lemon. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the menu, they might even share the secret that most dishes can be ordered in half serves.
The larger dishes are strong on the red meats and vegetables. The spiced chickpeas and spinach ($15) sautéed in slices of garlic and herbs is a flavorsome and strong vegetarian dish, while the slow-cooked veal with walnut sauce ($24) is a rich and indulgent option. If you're looking for some seafood, the grilled northern king prawns with chilli salt ($9 each) are served whole and are succulent and tender while the yellow tail king fish 'pancetta' with lemon oil is light and fresh ($18).
You might finish the evening with a plate of Toggenburger Nidel and muscatels ($12) or in true Spanish style go for the churros with dulce de leche ($10).
Bar Lourinha will no doubt be busy, and with a no booking policy for dinner, make sure you get there early. Packed to the brim this little place will have you dreaming of Spain in a moment.