555 Burwood Road, Hawthorn
(03) 9994 3978

It’s nice sometimes to have an unplanned evening out in new territory. And so it was that I found myself in Hawthorn of all places, seeking shelter from the winter’s night in Tinto, a brand new Spanish restaurant not far from the Auburn Road junction. Nestling between local Greek joints and coffee shops, this place is newly open and a great addition to the neighbourhood.


Having owned and run the family restaurant in their ancestral home of Barcelona for many years, sisters Maria and Paola returned to Australian where they’d grown up, leaving the third sister behind to mind the shop. A careful search for the right location threw up 555 Burwood Road, a decent-sized space decorated simply. The long bar is definitely reminiscent of a good Barcelona tapas bar, and many of the staff are also Spanish.


The wine list is a nice blend of local and Spanish wines. My companion and I chose the Marques de Tezona tempranillo, and a few dishes to be going on with. Co-owner Maria recommended the coca, a racion of goat’s cheese and onion marmalade on flatbread, and we augmented that with some croquettes de jamon and the inevitable (for an Irishwoman) tortilla.

The coca came out looking like a long pizza, and it was just divine. I could have simply had that to myself and a nice glass of red, sitting up at the counter with a book in my hand if I didn’t have company for dinner.


The croquettes were four lightly deep-fried morsels of cheesy/hammy perfection, and the tortilla portion was generous, eggy and just warmed through.

We finished off with a racion of calamari, again very lightly fried and just perfect to end with.

I’m sorry this place is a little out of the way for me, because it could very easily become a regular haunt. Maria said she wanted to own a place where a woman could come in and dine alone in comfort, and they’ve certainly got that vibe. I’ll find a reason to return just for that coca! Thanks, Maria and Paola.



Tinto on Urbanspoon

colmao flamenco

>60 Johnston Street Fitzroy

With one gluten-free dining companion and another that doesn’t eat anything that swims, where does one go for dinner? Not Italian. Not seafood. Not Thai: we had that the week before. I know, I thought: tapas and a nice bottle of Spanish red. Perfect for an unseasonably cold April night.

Our original destination on Johnston Street was the bar next door. Kanela looked inviting enough until I realised that it was the very bar upon which I had danced – sober – on a birthday night out years ago. I am not sure if I thought somebody in there would recognise me, with more than ten years gone by and a good 10kg piled on. Anyway, it did not seem right so we headed to Colmao.

We were greeted by a friendly face, white starched tablecloths and a neighbouring table of Spanish people: a family celebrating a birthday. Promising. I was delighted to see one of my favourite Spanish wines on the list. The 2001 Pata Negra Valdepeñas was not as divine as the 1991 Gran Reserva, but it was still fabulous: a welcome change from an Australian wine.

We ate. A lot. It was all finger-licking delicious: well, except for the tortilla which should be the best bit but was a bit tired-looking and – dare I say – microwaved? The patatas bravas were crinkle-cut and perfectly cooked. The capsicum-laden spicy sauce was not for me but I bravely ate around it.

The garlic prawns were garlicky and full of chilli. The albondigas were firm in a lovey tomatoey sauce. The Champinoñes Maytip, sautéed in oregano, olive oil and white wine, were new to me but full of flavour. The chorizo was braised in tomato, onion, garlic and white wine. The baby octopus was delivered in a clay pot in a rich caramelised sauce full of green peas. To die for.

We ordered more albondigas, more garlic prawns. We knew we would be hell to sit beside next morning but to hell with it.

We ordered another bottle of Pata Negra. Silly not to.

In the end, full to pussy’s bow and with Swine Flu seriously warded off with all that garlic, we gave up. Well, what I mean is that I ordered flan and we shared it. However, after all that red wine I am afraid I cannot really remember if it was good or not.

On some nights at Colmao they have a flamenco singer and guitarist. Must go back for that and some more of those garlic prawns.

Cafe Barcelona

>Another rainy night, another stupid decision. We were looking for somewhere cosy out of the chilly night air. Despite my previous assertion that I would not eat there again, we found ourselves back at Cafe Barcelona.

Sadly it was pretty empty (well it was a Monday night); despite this the waiter tried to place three of us at a table which was patently designed for two, and appeared a little put out when we asked to move. The front door would not close properly so we spent the evening shivering with our coats around us. They couldn’t get the door to stay shut for more than a few minutes.

The food was mostly good, I’ll grant you that. The tortilla was a bit ordinary, but the garlic mushrooms, meatballs, chilli prawns and everything else was lovely. Service (as before) was hit and miss. It took a few tries before we successfully scored more bread to mop up the delicious juices, and we had to defend the dishes stoutly in the meantime. I felt we were in the way to be honest.

The Spanish tempranillo (Vina Albali, one of my favourites) went down well, but we had to spike Shanna’s sangria with a slug from the bottle. It was mostly fruit juice.

Again, a disappointing evening all told. This time I will tattoo it on my forehead: don’t go back. The thing that annoys me is that Lola’s Tapas is only down the road. Why can I never remember to go there?

Cafe Barcelona

>It was the St. Kilda Festival this weekend. We popped in to BarCelona on Fitzroy Street early on Sunday evening to excape the crowds, the heat and the hurricane-force wind that had caught us in a dried-grass-storm… and got ripped off.

We should have known when we asked for a jug of water as soon as we sat down, and were told we couldn’t have one. Large bottles of still or sparking water only today. We opted for the sangria, and were charged $28 compared to the standard menu price of $24.

Strangely, as soon as our two companions had ordered their food, the waitress disappeared so quickly that our calls for her to return went unnoticed. I wonder what she thought we two were going to eat?

Our companions ordered a platter of antipasto-type food for two at $20, and it was measly. The calamari, mussels, chicken wings, beef skewers and leak and parmesan croquetas were perfectly fine in fairness, but the food came out in dribs and drabs, and even our attempts to be given cutlery and napkins went unheard.

At $96 for four people, it was not value for money. And I’m sure it’s illegal to refuse to serve tap water, regardless of whether you charge for it or not?

I’ve eaten at BarCelona before, and enjoyed it, but I won’t be returning.