When I think of food joints just south of Bondi, my mind often doesn't go past Randwick and its wide array of foodie choices. But El Toro Tapas and Pizza Bar, situated off Maroubra Beach, offered just the right amount of local flair and delicious dishes that have made me promise myself I will return. With friends. And lots of them!
It's not directly opposite the beach, but it's kind of fitting for a business in Maroubra, really. The suburb is close enough to glitzy Bondi to attract a fair amount of buzz, but very different, vibe-wise, so it can never be mistaken for the latte lot, and instead stand on its own as a seaside suburb known for its surf and strength. El Toro is much the same. It's situated on McKeon Street, away from the main drag, making it the perfect restaurant for loyal locals. But with its generous servings and friendly service, it shouldn't be just a local joint.
The night I visited, mid-week, the restaurant was filled with families, working parents rewarding themselves and their kids with a fun meal, and young couples out for a casual date night.
My partner and I ordered the Rocket and Prosciutto salad ($14) for the starter dish, and a litre of sangria to wash it down with. The salad was served in a generous bowl, mixed in with the quintessential ingredients of vinegar and grated parmesan. The ample cuts of prosciutto and the size of the bowl itself should have been our first clue that this was not your ordinary 3-dainty-pieces-of-food-on-a-serving-platter tapas restaurant. Also, it was delicious.
The sangria was also a winner. In my opinion, you can't really go wrong with sangria, but I've had some really mediocre sangria in my time and this was not one of them. Sweet, flavoursome and with just the right kick to make you feel at ease, ours also had a bit of cinnamon in it. Very nice.
We chose 3 tapas plates to make up our mains. Our helpful (they were all rather helpful, actually) waitress recommended the Pork Ribs tapas, so we went with her recommendation. We also chose the Crumbed Calamari and the Mussels and Chorizo plates to round out our tapas mains.
The Crumbed Calamari dish ($11.80) was pleasant enough. I would have liked it a little softer so it really melts in your mouth, but the flavours were right on the money so it was a small price to pay. The aioli sauce that came with it was sprinkled with a little spice for extra taste, which worked well. Again, another generous serving that's not often found in tapas restaurants.
The Mussels with Chorizo ($12.80) was the last of the tapas dishes to arrive. The smoked chorizo pieces were placed over the mussels, and then topped with what was described in the menu as "rich tomato sauce". It was very much like Bolognese sauce, and kind of a surprising combination of food for me (although not unpleasant), but again the portion size was blissfully ample and by the time this dish came out I had over-extended my eating with the Chargrilled BBQ Pork Ribs dish.
The ribs ($15.80) were my favourite dish of the evening, and probably one of the better tapas dishes I've eaten. Chargrilled in spices and "smoky sauce", as the menu described it, the meat from this dish was so tender, it fell right off the bone. Don't let the tapas label fool you – this serving was big enough for two people, and it WILL fill you up. But you'll love it like me, and you'll probably want more on your next visit (because if anything, this is the dish you'll be coming back for).
We didn't know if we would have dessert, but the waitress was so lovely so we had a flat white each, the New York Cheese Cake ($7.80) and the Churros ($7.80) – the perfect way to end the food service. Dessert too was lovely, and although I kept rubbing my belly and announcing "I'm too fuuuuuull", I happily finished off my coffee and I was so engrossed in my cheesecake I pretty much wolfed that down too.
The staff was very helpful and chatty, ready for a quick anecdote and very attentive with the water refills – just the kind of service you'd expect from a place with a wonderfully relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.
All in all, the flavours of our dishes, from starters to desserts, were beautiful – big flavours from each dish worthy of sharing with one, two or more people. In fact, I can imagine bringing friends and family here for an entertaining meal or a dinner to catch up.
El Toro Tapas and Pizza Bar is definitely a restaurant I would recommend to anyone in the area looking for a good feed, or anyone wanting to spend time with a group of friends in a restaurant with a friendly vibe.
I can only agree. My wife and I went this place on Friday night, The service was friendly and fast, the food was fresh and extremely delicious, and the bar provided an excellent Margarita. We had the calamari and it was the right consistency and flavour. The lemon and herb lamb chops melted in our mouths.