Thursday, 24 January 2013

Simpatico - A gem in Paddington

Well, I have been left to my own devices for the week with SC heading down to Melbourne for a week for work.  I had big plans to go to a different restaurant every night and have a grand old time, but it didn't work out that way.  I did however convince CI to come out with me for one dinner for a boys night out, on the promise that we would not spend too much money.  After discussing CI's budget for the night, I was able to convince him to stretch it, just a little bit, and then we set about looking for the right place to visit.

After spending a little while on the internet looking at different menus we narrowed it down to the Fifth Element over at Southbank and Simpatico in Paddington.  CI has been to the Fifth Element a heap of times recently, so had his meal all mapped out, but we finally decided on going to Simpatico because it was new for the two of us.  More importantly the prices looked really reasonable and I like the name (sim-pa-ti-co/: pleasant, congenial, likeable).

Simpatico is on the corner of Given and Latrobe in Paddington and I can honestly say I have never noticed it before.  Sure, I have heard and read a lot about it, but for some reason its just never registered with me.  They describe their food as interesting, moreish and perfect for sharing.  We would see about that!

While CI and I were sitting at the iMac looking at the menu we had a bit of a laugh that we should not study it too hard, as with our luck it's probably changed.  Funny how the world works sometimes because the first thing the waitress said to us when she handed over the menus was it was menu change night!  We had to laugh about it and let then the waitress in on our joke when she started to look at us funny.  While it was a new menu, there was still a heap on there that we really wanted to try.  The menu is split between tapas to share and mains to enjoy solo.

The tapas we ordered came out thick and fast but first up was the whole grilled chorizo with homemade tomato sauce.  We didn't realize when we ordered this one that it would be such a big serving, so we ordered one each (in hind-sight, one would have been enough for the two of us).  Avid readers of my blog will know that I love chorizo (as does CI) and this was a fabulous example of chorizo done well.  It started off fairly mild but as you devoured more of it, the heat kicked in and by the time I finished, I had a lovely burn going in my mouth.  The homemade tomato sauce was lovely too, thick and rich and perfectly matched to the chorizo.  The chorizo was sliced in a really interesting way for presentation which also made it easy to cut up and eat.

Next up for me was another old tapas favourite, lime and salt dusted calamari served with pimento aioli. There was a large serving of calamari on the plate, which was well cooked and very easy to eat.  I love calamari that is done just right, it has a slightly firm texture yet yielding at the same time.  The lime and salt dusting was very subtle, almost too subtle as I didn't really get any acidity until I added a little squeeze of lemon.  The lemon brought out the salty flavour and enhanced the overall taste of the dish.  The pimento, which is a variety of chilli pepper, added a bit of bite to the aioli yet also some sweetness, was delicious when combined with the calamari and lemon.

That was if for entrees for me until my main arrived a little later in the meal, but CI continued on with the tapas and up next was the pulled pork tortillas, mixed herbs and sweet soy.  This was another very generous offering with two large tortillas covered in delicious sweet and salty pork, enhanced with a  little squeeze of lime.  The flavour combination was nice and it worked pretty well as a tortilla.

CI's favourite dish of the night was up next.  The kaffir lime and barra stuffed whole squid with mango and chilli salsa was a triumph.  It was a very pretty looking dish and had some amazing flavour combinations, with the heat of the chilli somehow enhanced with the sweet mango.  The squid was expertly cooked and the barra filling providing a contrasting texture to the slightly rubbery squid.  A lovely tapas dish and continuing the theme of the night, quite a large size.

The lamb tenderloin skewer charred with haloumi and mojo sauce was CI's last tapas for the night and another favourite.  The lamb was tender, juicy and cooked really well, on a large slice of sweet haloumi cheese.  With a dish like this there is a risk of it being a little too sweet, but the mojo sauce added a little 'earthiness' to the plate and in combination with the sweet lamb and haloumi provided spice and heat.  A really nice plate of food.

Unfortunately the timing was a little off with my main and we had well and truly finished off the tapas before my grilled spatchcock with lemon, paprika, chilli & caper with a herb salad was delivered.  Spatchcock is a poussin (young chicken) which has been specifically prepared grilling or roasting and usually has very subtle flavours. There were a few things that let this dish down.  While it was cooked well, there was too much of a char on the bird which ensured that the predominant flavour was char, the poultry flavour was almost completely lost.  I also found that this main size dish did not represent great value.  After having so many yummy and large tapas plates up front, seeing the small serving size left me a little hungry.  I also found that the side of beans that came with the spatchcock were stringy and hard to eat.  I kind of wished I went for some more tapas instead of this.

Time for dessert and there was little chance I was going to pass on the classic apple tart with cream.  I was not disappointed when the tart was placed in front of me, in fact I knew from the look and the smell emanating from the plate that I was in for a treat.  Visually it was stunning and it was one of the best apple tarts I have eaten.  There was a delicious creme anglaise surrounding the tart and a quenelle of ice cream in the centre.  The contrast of the hot tart and the cold ice cream was incredible but when combined with the creme anglaise, was heavenly.  For me, this was the way a dinner should finish.

CI was pretty excited about the chocolate pannacotta and really enjoyed the first few mouthfuls of the wonderfully set dessert.  The only problem was that it was so rich and chocolaty that it became overpowering.  The fig and burnt caramel ice cream only added to the richness of the dessert.  There was some biscuit that accompanied the dessert, but it was not enough to balance out so much sweetness.  CI liked it, but just could not finish it off.

We really enjoyed our visit to Simpatico.  We had a fantastic seat by an open window with a great view of the hills surrounding Paddington on one side and the action of Latrobe and Given on the other.  The wait staff were really friendly and attentive without being in your face.  When we first arrived, there were not many customers about, but after an hour or so there was a steady stream of regulars in the restaurant.  I think there would be a great vibe on a Friday or Saturday night.

Most of all we enjoyed the food.  Apart from the spatchcock, the rest of the food was well thought out and delicious.   The thing I loved most about Simpatico was the price of the food, with most of the tapas we ordered in the $8 to $12 range and considering the portion sizes this represents amazing value to me.  We had a goal of having some tasty food without spending a heap of money and this was certainly achieved.   While this was my first time to Simpatico, I will definitely be back.

(sim-pa-ti-co/: pleasant, congenial, likeable).  Check!


Simpatico Bar Bistro EspressoSimpatico Bar Bistro Espresso on Urbanspoon


  1. So I went back on Friday night... The food was exceptionally tasty but the service was dismal.

  2. It sucks when the service does not live up to expectations, over half the experience is how you feel leaving


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