There are no shortages of casual dine-in cafes and restaurants along Maroubra Beach's main promenade to fit the laidback beach culture and lifestyle. But to set foot inside El Toro Tapas & Pizza Bar, filled with vintage Spanish prints and signage, almost feels like being transported to the old country.
The menu is largely dominated by a diversity of pizza ensembles, pasta, salads, and meats charred off the grill, which tempted away from their small selection of tapas – a little confusing when their website promised "a taste of Madrid" and it feels like you're actually dining there.
Soon enough, plates of tapas, which resembled large entrees filled our table draped in checkered red Gingham tablecloth. Four meatballs rounded to the size of tennis balls were coated in spiced-up red sauce and a dash of parmesan and parsley. The browned formidable exterior transformed into the most delicate and perfectly seasoned sponge of minced meat and secret ingredients, which makes you blurt out, 'what's in these meatballs?'
If the meatballs weren't impressive enough, with every bite, the thrice-cooked patatas bravas were as crisp as a glass and inside each nugget was a neat surprise of melt-in-your-mouth mash. The patatas bravas I have come to know over the years have been served and tasted like shirked oven-roasted cubic potatoes. At El Toro, this was not the case, as the chef proves you can always improve a classic.
The pulled pork tacos were more of a Mexican deviation, but nevertheless, were stuffed with tasty slow-cooked strings of clumped marinated pork. What went slightly awry was the super sweet chili sauce that had a mysterious banana flavour zing throughout.
The pizzas were the most popular choice for diners as tall metal stands held them upright on every table. The restaurant is also a 'pizza bar' and the other half of the cuisine it promises does not let pizza-lovers down.
The Portuguese chicken pizza is served in a crisp base with a soft pillow of dough under a layer of spicy chicken, caramelised onion, roasted capsicum and shallots. Like the tapas, the servings are generous and prices fair.
To produce authentic Spanish tapas such as the staple albondigas (meatballs) and patatas bravas is not an easy feat, but to be able to produce a signature set of tapas and make it so customers command repeat visits is even more difficult. El Toro accomplishes both. As for their tapas menu, it reads: quality trumps the quantity.