It had been a year since we had first tried El Toro Espanol, and once again on a cold, windy night we headed down to Semaphore for the little morsels of food the Spanish call tapas. Although I had booked for 7:30, when we rocked up it looked like a full house and no one was even close to finishing! Had we got the wrong day? Hesitantly, we approached the counter and stated our booking time. To our relief, we were told our table had been set aside in a function room out the back. Through a short alley way we were led to a small, dimly lit room already bustling with activity.
Now onto more important things – the food! One of my favourite things about tapas is the variety one gets to choose from. Evidently that’s why yum cha is my favourite food. For four big eaters, we ordered a total of 10 raciones (larger sized tapas for the unacquainted) with 8 large slices of crusty bread.
Starting with the highlights first - garlic prawns with paprika sauce (Gambas al ajillo) were juicy and succulent with the perfect amount of bite that comes with fresh prawns. Similarly, the calamari with lemon and aioli (calamari frito) were fresh, lightly fried and tender. Moving to crispy pork belly, this gave Chinese style pork a run for its money! This pork had one of the crunchiest cracklings I have ever tasted – and I get Chinese style roast pork at least once a week.
Stepping down a notch, but not by much, were the pan fried chorizo (chorizo frito), mussels in white wine (mejillones), potatoes fried with aioli (patatas aioli) and capsicum with roasted garlic crostini (pimientos picantes). The chorizo tasted as it should, however a definite added bonus to this dish was being able to dip the bread into the paprika infused chorizo oil. Amazing! Mussels were plump and soaked in a flavoursome broth and the soft capsicum was a good contrast to the crunchy crostini. Patatas aioli was as nice as potatoes and aioli could be, however some cubes of potato were slightly undercooked.
Lastly were meatballs slow cooked in paprika sauce (albondigas), white bait and chicken croquettes (croquetas). Although these dishes were nice, they were nowhere near as delicious as previously mentioned dishes. I consider these dishes to be filler food – food that is ok to fill stomach space but I wouldn't go for seconds.
|More tapas selections!!|
All up the meal cost around $130, with the raciones being between $ 9 and $14 each. This included a bottle of wine and all four of us had definitely eaten to capacity. This proves that delicious food at a reasonable price is still possible! I don’t think you can get tapas cheaper anywhere else. I am definitely looking forward to spending many balmy summer nights at El Toro, working my way through a jug of sangria. However, a word of warning – I don’t recommend El Toro’s paella (made that mistake last time). It doesn't do it for me and it leaves a lot wanting in regards to a crusty base and the usually punchy paella flavours. It’s also weirdly yellow. Aside from the paella, El Toro is ticking a lot of boxes.
Jess gives El Toro 8/10 chops on the chopping board (minus 2 for previously encountered sub standard paella).