Elle travels, takes photographs and explores ideas for new things to write about.
Published July 29th 2016
Did someone say free tapas?
The man behind the popular Spanish Gourmet Caterers and Running Bull Sangria at the Queen Victoria markets, Manuel Jimenez-Navarro, recreates the flavours of Spain in an inviting glass frontage amongst the bustling streets of Melbourne's CBD.
The entrepreneur and avid foodie struck up the idea to share authentic Spanish hospitality with Melbourne, and the result is El Rincon Tapas Bar. Sure there are plenty of tapas bars, but El Rincon is different.
This is the only genuine tapas bar that exists in Australia. No other bar gives you tapas for free with a drink," says Manuel. "I wanted to take traditional Spanish hospitality, and bring it to Melbourne."
And it is this kind of hospitality you can sense when you walk in through the doors at El Rincon. The staff are warm and friendly, and the atmosphere is honest and welcoming. "People come for one drink and stay for two or three hours. That is the type of clientele that we want to have," says Manuel. And when you get free tapas with your drink, why would you want to leave?
Inside, the wall is clad with the unmistakable portrait of Spanish artist Salvador Dali. The open kitchen is finished with brass trimmings and ceramic tiles sourced from Spain, adding to the bars authenticity. And if you are still not convinced you are at a Spanish bar, a bull's head hangs from the exposed brick wall outside. His name is Flamenco, a former champion bull. "We want to create our own market. We don't want to follow anybody else," says Manuel.
This is evident in the food. The tapas menu features Spanish tortilla, Iberico jamon, Manchego cheese, chicken and mushroom croquetas, and Spanish chorizo in a cava champagne sauce served with fresh crunchy bread to soak up the goodness.
El Rincon also offers a choice of traditional Spanish mains for under $20, such as brisket and oyster blade stew, a full-bodied chicken soup, and salted cod. The extensive drinks menu showcases Spanish wine and sherry, however beer, champagne and spirits are also available.
This small tapas bar pays homage to Spanish food and Spanish hospitality in the heart of Melbourne. And just like in Spain, at El Rincon, everyone is welcome.