I once went to Spain, back in the day. It was after a set of my uni exams and I was on exchange in England and everyone else was either busy, boring, studying or a combination of the three so I decided that for a brief weekend I would nip on down to Barcelona to check it out. I caught a train out of the busy, bustling city one day, out to this beachside town called Sitges. After many hours of wandering aimlessly, looking at beautiful, old crumbling buildings and wading in the warm waves, the hunger that had been brewing in that tummy of mine came to a head. As if the town of Sitges knew that my hunger was rampant, it provided a cute little tapas bar in my very path. I sat there for hours, talking (badly) in Spanish to the waiter, taking photos of the passing people and ordering plate after plate of delicious tapas. I enjoyed so much the pure flavours that came out of the meats, the cheeses, the seafood. It was nothing fancy – the whole premise of the bar was an out-of-the-way family run tapas bar for the locals. But everything was fresh. And the flavours of the ingredients – of the meats, for example – came out so vividly. As I watched nearby tables talking and laughing and sharing these little, beautiful plates of deliciousness over glasses of red wine, I came to appreciate just how much the humble tapas contributes to this amazing social movement. I drank my wine and finished my plate and as the sun dipped behind the old, crumbling buildings, I caught a train back into the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.
Anyhoo – through my dining friend, I decided to attempt to re-live this beautiful moment (hey – it’s a mission to get back to Spain) There are a number of tapas restaurants around “The Spot” in Randwick – El Bulli, L’il Darlin, to name a couple. But being fans of the independent, non-chain restaurant, we ended up at the Spanish Fly. We got there at about 7pm on a Friday night and it was packed. Seated at the bar, it unfortunately ruined any chance of a romantic evening, but at the delicious smells wafting around, we were happy to take it.
Starting off, we went with a jug of sangria. I’ve gotta comment The Spanish Fly on their Sangria, it was cinnamon-y, nutmeggy, winy and not wimpy. It was strong without being overpoweringly wine-y. It wasn’t filled to the brim with those little bits of fruit that ruin my delicious mouthful. It was just tasty, spicy, heady sangria.
For our plates of deliciousness, we went with the fried zucchini flowers, filled with ricotta and sat upon a red capsicum sauce. I felt that the batter was ever so slightly thick and oily (not in the “corner store battered fish” sort of way; more in the “compared to tempura” sort of way). The capsicum sauce on which it sat has a nice strong flavour – not too spicy – but like a roasted capsicum that meant to be there. The filling of the flowers was neither here nor there; I couldn’t really detect anything exciting. But with a bit of capsicum smooshed onto it, the combination was crisp, fresh and nicely flavoured.
Crunchy, crispy zucchini flowers
Next up, calamari. Without having actually read the description, I automatically assumed that the calamari would have been deep fried to crisp perfection. It wasn’t. DF wasn’t as impressed with the dish that appeared in front of us, but I thought it was a nicely different dish to the usual hum-drum deep fried squid. In front of us appeared a generous mound of calamari rings, sauteed in almost a caponata – it had been tossed in a tomato-y, olive-y, eggplant-y, chunky sauce. The calamari was tender, the sauce was spicy and well seasoned and I didn’t mind it at all. It wasn’t a wholesome, fulfilling dish, but light and fresh isn’t so bad.
Calamari – fresh is best
We also had chorizo, as I guess you need to get to complete a tapas meal. We were served a – again – generous portion of thick slices of chorizo (by the time I got around to taking the photo, we’d eaten most of it), sitting atop the zucchini flower’s capsicum sauce, and a healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil. I have to say that the chorizo could have done with a bit more time over the flame to get that delicious caramelised, char-grilled surface; instead, the chorizo was cooked so-so, but sort of dry.
Last up, mushroom ravioli. Ok, so it’s not spanish per se. But we were presented with a cute little terracotta bowl of 6 beautiful morsels of ravioli. I actually think this was the highlight of the night. Mushrooms can often be an underwhelming, flavourless effort to inject some form of salty flavour into a vegetarian dish. But here, the Spanish Fly performed admirably. The ravioli was delicate, the mushroom flavour really came out, and each piece was seasoned well. And the sharp parmesan that topped the dish was crumbly and strong, if a bit light on the coverage.
All up, I had a good time at the Spanish Fly. Tispy from that delicious sangria and comfortably full, I noticed the many groups of tables nearby, talking and laughing, sharing little plates bursting with flavour over glasses of wine. And I realised that despite not being in the beautiful beachside town of Sitges, the same movement carried across the kilometres, through the waves and into the Spanish Fly in Randwick.
The Spanish Fly
35 St Pauls Street
Randwick NSW 2031