Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, a beautiful coastal state in Australia and a prominent tourist destination. It boasts a wealth of culture, entertainment, industry and sports with magnificent architecture and an atmosphere that speaks of its European settler roots. The city has a lively restaurant scene, too, with plenty of dining hotspots, including the Federation Square development. Located alongside the Yarra river, it has bars, restaurants, plazas and, most importantly in this case, Melbourne has tapas spots by the bucket load.
You'll find restaurants, bars, cafes and even pop-up shops selling tapas across Melbourne. The area surrounding St Paul's Cathedral is a good starting point. Walk along William Street or King Street up to the Federation Plaza and you’ll pass various enticing venues. Some of the best Melbourne tapas destinations are actually bars where you'll find a great range of cocktails and delicious fast tapas which are perfect when you want to enjoy sociable food, without the commitment of a large sit-down meal. Having said that, most people find that they visit a Melbourne tapas venue with the intention of ordering a couple of light dishes, then end up going big when the taste hits.
When you enjoy tapas in Melbourne, you experience a Spanish national cuisine with international appeal. This traditional style of eating is centred around bars in Spain, where little dishes of montadito (food served on bread), fried squid, nuts, olives and patatas bravas are served alongside drinks, usually for free. The tapas in Melbourne is occasionally free at some of the higher-end bars but is also served at restaurants with extensive menus. It is typically very affordable, although some of the higher end tapas restaurants in Melbourne will be a little more expensive because of their top-quality food offerings.
A Spanish tapa is essentially a snack or appetiser. Several tapas dishes can be served together on small plates to create an entire meal. The dishes can be hot or cold. Chilled dishes could include manchego cheese cubes, mixed olives marinated in lemon and oil, roasted peppers or spicy nuts. Hot dishes include fried baby squid, chorizo, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes), calamari, tortilla Española or Spanish omelette. There are also various montadito dishes, which are basically food served on bread, and toppings could include salamis, cheeses or olive tapenades.
This type of cuisine is best enjoyed at leisure and with friends, family or a special someone. It’s informal and fun and the nature of the food means that you'll often be using your fingers or little cocktail sticks to lift food from your plate. Some of Melbourne's tapas restaurants serve tasting menus with up to nine courses and this can be a great way to experience new dishes that you might be unfamiliar with. Tasting or set menus can sometimes end with a dish of paella, too, so make sure you go hungry! Others may end with a dish of sweet churros, which are fried pastry snacks, often served with chocolate. They are incredibly indulgent and great with a coffee!
Your server will be able to give you some great advice on drinks pairings, especially if you’re eating at a Melbourne tapas restaurant or bar with wine. Many people enjoy matching the dishes with a glass of Spanish red - perhaps a Rioja - or a rosado. If you’re choosing a rose wine, try a dry, strong Spanish variety from Navarra which will be robust enough to balance the flavours of your food. Fino Sherry is another popular accompaniment and it works very well with dishes as varied as meatballs, anchovies, spicy chorizo or tiger prawns. This particular Spanish drink is best served from a chilled and freshly-opened bottle, like white wine.
One of the many great things about tapas is that they are suitable at any time of day. You'll find that most Melbourne taps venues start serving from later in the morning and then well into the night. Some of the bigger and more formal Melbourne tapas menus can get very busy at key times, so you may want to book ahead with Quandoo and reserve your table up to 2 hours in advance. Remember, too, to leave your review of your Melbourne tapas dining experiences so that your fellow community members can benefit!