My waiter wears black from shoulder to foot, but his cap is grey felt. He smiles to me from underneath it, exposing white teeth contrasting with a dark wiry beard. If he’s not Spanish I don’t care because he suits the atmosphere of the place, and if he were to break out into Spanish while offering me today’s specials then I would be all the happier.
Soft lighting abounds, with candles flickering in the light breeze that sneaks its way through the nooks and crannies of the old place, and permeates from under the wooden doors. The scents of frying meat and grilled vegetables surrounds me as I sit in the dim light reflecting upon the sights and sounds. The warmth of the painted red walls encompasses me in the moment, along with the history found in the light fixtures, the flaking wallpapers and the bricked walls. I love the place even before I’ve tried the food.
I am here at Santiago Tapas in Middle Park Beach just near South Melbourne and I love everything about the place. My table curiously sits next to an open window, yet I’m sitting in the middle of the room; a tribute to the past as my neighbours sit in what must have once been an alleyway between two houses. Upstairs the gilded couches stand in a room swamped in history, complete with floor to ceiling fireplace. The owner tells me that two weeks ago a Grand Prix party was hosted here, proving the place has a modern appeal despite its historical underpinnings.
Downstairs again, settled at my table by the open window in the middle of the room, I’ve ordered blue eye croquettes and patatas bravas (my absolute favourite and the measure upon which all tapas restaurants are measured for me). My husband has ordered the eye fillet steaks with olives and aioli. We considered the spiced chicken and the garlic prawns, instead preferring to under order and leave room for dessert.
Blue Eye Croquettes
|Tasting plate with: – front: Apple fritters, – mid left: Berry topped custard,
– mid: dipping chocolate, – mid right, ice cream and – back: churros.
Dessert followed with a tasting plate as we just couldn’t decide which item to order by itself. Churros and warm chocolate dipping sauce. Berry sauce atop homemade custard. Soft delicate apple fritters. Ice cream. Yum. The churros were the disappointment of the evening as they were small and crunchy, not like I’d experienced before. But the apple fritters were amazing and the custard, something I don’t usually like, was absolutely delicious.
Beef eye fillet with olives and aioli.
Santiago tapas lies within a misfit collection of establishments amongst a suburb steeped in 1920s décor, complete with vintage jaguar parked outside one of the nearby residences. My love of history and my husband’s yearning for Spain lead us by accident to the wonderful Santiago Tapas restaurant and bar: a place I would recommend to all. And in my recent experience, those places you find quite by accident are often some of the best times you will have, creating memories to treasure.