Welcome to Melbourne Foodie. The blogspace of a young foodie with a passion for cooking, fine dining and quality food and produce. Melbourne Foodie, along with the other sources I write for is my way of casually expressing and recording some of the experiences I have had for others to enjoy. I always welcome any feedback, comments or restaurant suggestions you may have and would love to hear from you soon.

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Monday, October 29, 2007
Bar Lourinha (City)
On Saturday night Nick, Lana, Robert, Kat and myself had dinner at Bar Lourinha, located at the top end of Little Collins Street. It was a great choice by Nick, who found it in a deck of cards of Melbourne's restaurants secrets, as I have been wanting to try this place for a while. After my recent enjoyment at MoVida a few nights earlier I was certainly in the mood for more Spanish, even though Bar Lourinha is actually a Portuguese restaurant, I have now found out.

Having read mixed blog reviews including those by Thanh (neutral) & Serenity (positive) I was not completely sure what to expect but had generally high expectations. I must say though that I feel both reviews were accurate in their own ways. I generally do not tend to compare the dishes at one restaurant directly to another, but it is hard not to here after having such amazing dishes at MoVida which make some of the dishes here seem quite underwhelming. ***These two places are very different beasts though, with different food styles and different aims, hence they really should not be compared in this way and my comments will basically reflect my enjoyment of the food in a restaurant context, rather than the bar that Bar Lourinha is.

In my opinion the food at Bar Lourinha was good, but just that, not excpetional and not the sort of stuff that I would be rushing back for, especially when I can have a superior meal at MoVida for the same price. Anyhow, I am not in any way bagging Bar Lourinha, as my score will reflect. It is a good place to eat (if uncomfortable) that serves tasty food in a cosy little space, with astute and informed service to match. The seating in my opinion though is not the best - the bar stools on the communal tables are hard and uncomfortable, but that could just reflect my state at the time, looking for a better way to relax after a long day at work.

Bar Lourinha is a small establishment that is not fussed about with in its design or otherwise. There is a small lounge area at the front, long bar along the back and a couple of large communal tables; all with a view into the kitchen. A cosy place with a good feel about it, but it is so noisy that having a conversation with the person next to you can be a real challenge.

***I have now done some more research on Bar Lourinha, and must thank Stickyfingers for her comments and should report that Bar Lourinha is really that, a tapas bar, rather than a formal restaurant and hence the experience is suppose to feel this way. Its suppose to be a way to begin the evening, rather than a formal night out. In my opinion though this is not how the place is used with most guests seeming to make a night of it at Bar Lourinha.

Anyhow it is the food that you want to hear about so I will cut to the chase. We tried 10 different dishes of varying success and value. Some were reasonably good value, whilst others could be seen as a complete rip off such as the special of "lamb skewers" which at $13 each were chewy and not worth half the price.

Heres a summary of our dishes. I did enjoy most of them, the same cannot be said for all my dining companions though, but you can't please everyone.

Yellow tail kingfish 'pancetta' & lemon oil ($14) - Fresh pieces of kingfish very thinly sliced, seasoned and finished with a light lemon scented oil. A good dish but no great range of flavours. Still succeful nonetheless.

Salted cod croquette ($15) - A special - Hot, crunchy croquettes with a well seasoned, soft cod centre. Finished simply with some herbs and a tartare sauce. I enjoyed this item. We are served five pieces instead of the usual four.

Jamon ($15) - A small plate containing a few thin slices of this air dried Spanish ham, drizzled with a little olive oil. Good flavour, particulalrly the fatty bits which were gelatinous and excited the tongue, as it is not something you get to try everyday.

Lamb skewers ($26 for two) - Probably the most dissapointing dish of the night, especially given the price. The lamb was chewy and had very little flavour apart from a little olive oil and corainder. $13 per stick was not justified at all.

Grilled piri piri chicken winglets ($14) - Once again good but not great. They are basically just little wings with a spicy basting, chargrilled and finished with coriander and mint. Similar to the wings at Nandos really, but much smaller.

Twice cooked octopus and pickled cucumber ($16) - I enjoyed this. Tender pieces of octopus sat atop some slices of fresh cucumber with an acidic dressing (sorry you cannot call that pickled). This dish is once again finished simply with some corainder, and the combination of the cucumber, bitter dressing and salty octopus went together very well.

Wagyu 'carne cruda' & shaved horse radish ($15) - This is more or less a spanish interpretation of beef tartare. The difference being that it lacks all of those wonderful things added to the beef that make tartare so enjoyable. This is more or less a ball of finely chopped beef (lacked the sweetness and marbling generally associated with wagyu), with some horseradish shaved over the top, served alongside a simple salad. The meat was of a decent quality but the dish lacked additional flavour, a little bland as it was not seasoned and could thus not be enjoyed at its best. I still liked it though, which is more than could be said for the rest of the table.

Roasted mushrooms and garlic cream ($13) - Yum! I really liked these mushrooms, which were cooked perfectly, and the garlic cream sauce was absorbed by the mushrooms and tasted really good. Sorry, we dug in before the picture.

House made chorizo and apple cider ($15) - A reasonable dish but nothing exciting or special. The sausages were well made and cooked, but did not do a lot for me, nor did the sauce made from apple cider, paprika and a few cubes of apple.

To finish - Churros with a caramel sauce ($8) - A great way to end the meal. Crunchy, soft centred Spanish style doughnut sticks rolled in a cinamon sugar with a sweet caramel sauce. Really good, and priced appropriately as well. Sorry, we didn't get a picture of this one.

Bar Lourihma received a score of 14.5 out of 20 in the Age Good Food Guide. I think that is being a bit too generous here.

MY SCORE: 13.5/20 - Recommended
Overall good food: 7/10 Knowledgable service 3.5/5 Ambience 3/5 - Noisy, uncomfortable stools and paper napkins are all turn offs. This is a tapas bar though, to be expected I guess.

Thanks to stickyfingers for your comments and helping me to see Bar Lourinha in a different way. Stopping by for a glass of sherry and a couple of tapas plates before a formal dinner could be a great way to enjoy this little gem :-)


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  posted at 11:00 PM  

At November 2, 2007 at 11:16 AM, Blogger stickyfingers said...

Jon, I appreciate they you are simply noting your experience, but when making a comparison of Bar Lourinha and Movida you are not comparing apples with apples.

You may be interested to know that Bar Lourinha is not Spanish it is Portuguese. It is not a restaurant but in the tradition of the region is a tapas bar, where you start the night in a small bar with wine or sherry and a few of their small plates, and then later move on to a restaurant...and then usually another bar...and then a club. No wonder they need afternoon siesta's!

Movida on the other hand, offers both tapas and restaurant meals. Dinners are only available at Lourinha once a month in the Chapel Room upstairs.

I would say that Frank Camorra's cooking at Movida has progressed from rustic and traditional Spanish into a modern style influenced by recent trends in Spanish cuisine, whereas Matt and his brother Andrew (Circa, Three - One - Two) have always had a lighter modern approach to their concepts. After they disbanded Dining Room 211 Matt found himself in Portugal and has brought the recipes, ideas and cooking back with him to open a truly unique Melbourne venue. Frank by comparison is an Aussie who is Spanish by heritage.

Personally I favour both venues, but do so with the understanding that they are both very different beasts, just as I would not expect to find a similar offering at Tempura Hajime and Oriental Tea House.

It's good to hear of one's experiences, but a little extra knowledge can also go a long way to adding to your culinary journey in the long run. Love your work Jon.

At November 3, 2007 at 9:03 PM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thank-you very much stickyfingers. I really appreciate your comment, and yes I should have done some more research - good to know - very different places, but two which comparisons are often made to. I guess they achieve what they plan to do very well, and I did enjoy the food but could not put it onto the same level as MoVida. Will consider making some revisions and thanks again for your useful comments.

At November 5, 2007 at 11:21 PM, Blogger Thistlemoon said...

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll Jon!

At November 6, 2007 at 6:27 PM, Blogger Serenity Later said...

Hi Jon! Yay! Another melbourne food blog to ogle at! I found yours from the where's the beef folks.

I think stickyfingers was spot on about the context of the dining experience. When we tried it out, we happened to be walking past the place while looking for somewhere to linger a bit before a show. We walked in, sat at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks, some tapas (and of course those heavenly desserts *swoon!*) and had ourselves a merry old time before heading out to enjoy the rest of the evening. Having said that, there is some overlap in the types of dishes on offer between Movida and BL and its understandable why people draw comparisons. I reckon if you treat your next sojourn to BL like a gustatory apertif (for lack of a better term :P) to your evening you will have a fabulous time.

Looks like there are some great reviews looming ahead on your blog, looking forward to reading more of your posts :)

At November 7, 2007 at 6:25 AM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thanks leftover queen, and serenity. I will definitely treat my next visit to BL more in the way you have described and am sure I will really appreciate the experience even more. Gustatory aperitif – what a fabulous way to describe your “sojourn”.

There certainly will be some great reviews coming up over the summer months as I venture out and visit more great restaurants.

Tonight I am seeing Priscilla, the musical and having a pre-theatre dinner at Laksa Me, recommended by a colleague and supposed to be great. Friday will be a celebratory visit to new local favourite, Ling Wah and other plans for November will DEFINITELY include: Ezard (next week), Fenix (a long time coming) and some other establishments which I will keep as a surprise. Now that uni is over I am working more and can afford to eat out more frequently so you can look forward to lots of big name reviews over the coming months. Suggestions of hidden or undiscovered places would also be greatly appreciated – love to try new things.

In February I am also visiting Sydney so will finally get to visit the famous Tetsuyas and some other big names. Can't wait :-)

Thanks to all for your enthusiasm and support. It is really great to see that people are reading and enjoying my ramblings. It excites me immensely to read other bloggers’ comments and makes me want to continue and expand this humble little blog.

I should also mention that I have just got a new mobile phone with an excellent 5 MP camera so you can be expecting better quality pictures on all future reviews.

Happy eating, Jon!

At December 9, 2008 at 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bar Lourinha is a small establishment that is not fussed about with in its design or otherwise." I would have to say that, on the contrary, Bar Lourinha cares a lot about its design. I would guess that someone has put in a lot of work to make it look very shabby chic.


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