Mount Barker certainly seems to be growing up a bit. While the debarcle that is the Woolworths owned block of land remains undeveloped, there are others who are forging ahead regardless.
The main street has cafes aplenty, but in terms of evening and late night eateries, there has been essentially none. Sure, you have the hotel, and there are a couple of other places in the general vicinity, but the main street is pretty bare come night time. This however is starting to change.
Toro Espanol have been plying their trade for a little while now, focussing on desserts, cocktails and a healthy supply of local gins (honestly, who knew there were so many made in and around Adelaide). As of early April, they have expanded their horizons and added some tapas options to the menu. This was a combination we simply had to check out.
Immediately Toro Espanol set a wonderful mood. This is a really small, hole in the wall kind of place. It would seat maybe 30 people, including outside, but it has a really welcoming and warm vibe. Decor is minimalist, but then it doesn’t add clutter just for the sake of it. The tables are great – being mostly hewn from old doors, and the light arrangement is certainly rustic. They have some outside seating too for those warmer evenings, or those just wanting to sit in the cold. I am sure these people are out there….
The tapas menu comprises a good number of options, including a majority of vegetarian choices (especially important as my wife is so inclined). This made choosing quite difficult, but then leaves some untested options for next time.
The first to come out from our selections was the dukkah with balsamic reduction and oil, and the (not very vegetarian) chorizo croquet (but can you blame me?). The bread with the dukkah was absolutely beautiful, being a warm multigrain artisan loaf, with 3 thickly sliced pieces arriving on the board. The dukkah was lovely too, and with the balsamic oil a great way to kick things off. Simple, but entirely on the mark.
The croquets did what they said on the box – crumbed, gooey and crispy. While small in size, they were big on flavour with flakes of chorizo flavouring the silky smooth potato and cheese filling. The fried basil leaves and grilled slice of lemon added not just some eye candy, but good depth of flavour and further textures for my taste buds to play around with. Delish!
The watermelon and fetta salad was the next dish to be consumed, and this initially was a little confusing. Yes, the menu instructed the watermelon was char-grilled. As such, one would expect it to be warm. Even so, when you first bite into it, and the temperature is anything but cold, your brain still takes a bit to work this out. The warmth possibly accentuates the sweetness a little, which then plays a great counterpoint to the acidic balsamic and peppery rocket leaves, with the crumbling of fetta adding some saltiness and richness. A very clever and enjoyable little dish (that I will definitely be stealing for home use 🙂 ).
The last of the savoury tapas were the risotto balls (arancini). Mushroom risotto is the base, and then lightly crumbed and fried in quite sizable balls. The sauce on the side is made up of some cream, butter, garlic, and blue cheese. That combination of ingredients kind of speak for itself. Paired together, and this is both fairly simple, but entirely sophisticated. A classic tapas dish.
Dessert time came around, and it was impossible – yes impossible – to go past churros. Perfectly fried so golden and crispy, slightly chewy inside, coated in cinnamon sugar….just divine. Then you get to dunk it into your choice of warm sauce – milk chocolate, dark chocolate or Nutella. The latter was the chosen flavour, and I don’t think I need to tell you how that worked out. Decadent!
Of course, they also had a cake of the day, which was a baked continental cheesecake with raspberry coulis. I am always a sucker for cheesecake, and so we got a slice of this for good measure. Oh what a great decision that was! Sweet and slightly tart cheesecake, cooked perfectly, and then doused in the most amazing coulis I have had the pleasure of consuming. Normally I find coulis a bit meh – its usually just a sweet runny sauce that gets in the way of what it’s paired with. Not this time. This was properly, properly good. Perfect balance of tart to sweet, thick consistency so it hugged the cake lovingly and together they formed the perfect duo. Absolutely loved it.
Toro Espanol is a fantastic, warm and welcoming venue which adds a great deal to the Mount Barker area. Despite its diminutive size, it has an air of confidence and maturity to it. The tapas addition is inspired, the drinks list is clever, and while the dessert choices may be short in number they are high on enjoyment.
That really is the point here. Toro Espanol is not trying to do everything – they are trying to do everything as well as possible. On this initial visit, I can definitely say this is what they are doing. It will be interesting to see where they take things in the future, but for now, I just look forward to enjoying more of what they have on the table now.
Toro Espanol is located at 37 Gawler Street, Mount Barker, South Australia 5251
They are open from Tuesday to Saturday 4pm – 12am