Sir Bob Geldof said he didn’t like Mondays. I think he was referring to his vain attempts to find somewhere open in Melbourne for a drink on a Monday night. You see, it’s a little bit hit and miss. And Tuesdays can be a bit like that too.
We had dinner arranged (and by arranged, I mean we were going out for dinner, that was as far as our plans extended) and the first couple of places we tried for some pre-dinner drinks, we were met with locked doors. I should have done my homework first. We eventually found Comme was open and settled there for a couple before heading to Bar Lourinhã.
It’s an odd little place. There’s not much of it, which adds to the charm as do the objets d’art that fill the wall behind the bar. Given that there are no reservations taken for less than 8 people, you roll the dice and take your chance with a smaller group, unless you have enough people to book the private dining room known as ‘The Chapel’.
As charming as the place is, I was unfortunately a little underwhelmed by the food. This was a little frustrating because there are so many good reviews and don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of wonderful bites, but the ‘main’ dishes were lacking.
Firstly, the good stuff; the house made green cracked olives ($8) are the best olives I have ever tasted. These plump babies are not too salty, which means that there is a good, fruity olive flavour and a texture that provides a slight crunch, yet is also a little yielding.
The other two standouts were the banderillas ($5 each); a small skewer of fresh tuna and a pickled chilli, generously anointed with good, fruity olive oil and the lardo soldiers (also $5 each); well charred sticks of sourdough, wrapped in thinner-than-paper slices of the tastiest cured pork back fat, which melts into the bread. Definitely not good for you, but addictive.
It was after such a promising start that the dishes went a little downhill thereafter. The surf clam, prawn and white bean stew ($24) was quite insipid. Underseasoned and almost no flavour at all, particularly as it may have been all soaked up by an overly excessive amount of white beans.
Our dish of rabbit ($24); the meatly saddle and some meatless front leg were a little dry and the kidney was over cooked. The cooking juices and the accompanying bits of potato and onion didn’t really taste of anything remarkable. Another let down.
As a ‘special’ dish on the night, the smoked corn salad ($16), was also disappointing and a little too pedestrian; chargrilled corn cut straight from the cob, potato, some red onion and coriander… something you’d be happy to find a friend’s BBQ but nowhere near enough to the mark for being slugged sixteen dollars.
To drink, we stuck with the Castro Martin Albariño ($58), which was a food all-rounder to match the seafood and rabbit. Bar Lourinhã also makes a mean version of an Espresso Martini (Harlem End – $18), with Caffe Moka; an Italian coffee liqueur, espresso and a dash of Pedro Ximénez for a Spanish twist.
I’ve read and re-read other reviews on Bar Lourinhã and I still don’t know where I/we went wrong. Everyone else likes it, so why was my trip so disappointing? And for what worked out to be around $100 per head, I was lucky someone else was generous enough to pick up the tab that night.