Santiago Tapas Bar is a Spanish restaurant located in Armstrong Street, Middle Park, a quaint shopping village surrounded by stately Edwardian homes and an assortment of shops with a large corner pub.
Photo courtesy of Santiago Tapas Bar
The beach is a few blocks away but you can still feel the sea breezes if you happen to dine outside the restaurant under the broad Victorian veranda. But if you prefer to be transported to Spain, sit inside at the wooden tables for tapas and drinks, followed by paella as my group did.
The interior is long and narrow with well-worn floorboards and a dark red ceiling with metal chandeliers. The wall overlooking the long timber bar is lined with shelves filled with bottles of alcohol of all varieties, glassware and jugs. On the opposite wall you'll find an imitation bull's head (of course), decorative wall hangings and several blackboards for menu specials.
The food served here is based on themes. My group dined on a Saturday evening which is paella night. There are also Kid-Friendly Thursdays and Grazing Mondays and other theme days. We started off with tapas and jugs of refreshing Sangria and Spanish beers at a snug banquette in the front window.
The tapas selection is large and includes traditional favourites like Serrano ham, chorizo, calamari and olives but we selected more contemporary appetizers. The typical ingredients one would expect in Spanish cuisine such as garlic, chillies, paprika and olive oil do not dominate here and instead sweeter flavours are present in some of the dishes such as in the grilled prawns with tomato marmalade; octopus with orange, mint and almond sauce; and the rolled pork loins with chorizo and Manchego cheese.
One of the pleasures of dining out is choosing something you wouldn't cook at home yourself or trying new ingredients. Heart of palm was a vegetable I hadn't tried before and found its delicate flavour as the base for eye fillet tapas went well with the apple dressing and olive salsa.
For mains we ordered two types of paella - seafood and traditional. Both had the obligatory crunchy rice base and included juicy prawns, mussels and calamari. The traditional paella also contained small pieces of chicken and Italian sausage. Another specialty of the house is the black squid ink paella.
For dessert we were keen to try everything on the menu apart from the cheese platter so we ordered a tapas plate with Spanish sweets to share per couple: churros with chocolate sauce; apple dumplings; custard with berry jelly and vanilla ice-cream – all of which were deliciously satisfying.
As far as my dining companions and I were concerned, the food, service and ambience couldn't be faulted and we are likely to return.