Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How bizarre, Argyle Bazar

If it’s been a while between drinks at The Argyle in The Rocks, you may be in for a bit of a shock. Not a huge one, just a slightly bizarre aesthetic one.

The Argyle, The Rocks, Sydney
The stiletto-threatening (but so pretty) cobblestones are still there, as are the outdoor bar area that’s often filled with suits, the sandstone and timber features within and the unisex(-ish) bathroom inside. But enter the main bar area and the makeover should be noticeable.

Gone are the dark, bulky booth lounges, replaced with high and heavy white tables with leopard-patterned chairs to match. A little bizarre, a lot different.

Dining settings at Argyle Bazar
In any case, as part of the renovations a new restaurant has been installed along the western edge of the interior, while the kitchen is out yonder somewhere. Argyle Bazar carries the same look as the rest of the inside bar, if not with a touch more Euro luxe – fitting of the contemporary Spanish tapas menu.

Dining settings at Argyle Bazar
Miguel Maestre (formerly of El Toro Loco; now of Kings Cross’ Aperitif, co-owned with buddy Manu Fiedel of My Kitchen Rules, Boys Weekend and Paddington’s L’etoile) is consulting chef – whatever that means these days – while head chef is Regan Peterson.

The menu reads as contemporary riffs of all the classic favourites, including patatas bravas, champinones al ajillo, albondigas, chorizo, tortilla de patatas and churros. I'm excited as I haven't really experienced any tapas other than traditional really (yum cha does not count as Cantonese tapas; nor sushi trains as Japanese).

Glass of sangria
After a few sips of the seriously fabulous sangria – fruity with a syrupy-smooth orange hit and just the right sweetness – we were more than keen to dig into the menu which is split into starters, seafood, vegetarian, meat and dessert.

Cucuruchos de Jamon Serrano
Certainly modern, the spectacular presentation of the cucuruchos was more than enough to whet my appetite for the promise of jamon serrano and potato puree.

Each golden cone was topped with a perfectly poached quail egg and microherbs; the egg which is best taken in one or two bites before the runny yolk ends up everywhere.

The jamon 'wafer' makes for an ideal dipping contraption, while the rest of the cone is filled with creamy, well seasoned potato mash flecked with tiny pieces of jamon and chives.

Pan seared scallops
Three scallops arrived on the shell, just lightly seared so as to retain a natural juiciness within. Atop was a colourful salsa medley of pineapple, tomato and coriander - one that works quite well with my favourite of all molluscs.

Crisp pork belly
I was keen to see the contemporary Spanish twist on the pork belly, though it didn't really eventuate. Four large-ish cubes of golden crackling topped pork belly were arranged with ribbons of vegetable garnishes and a house-made green tomato chutney.

While the pork was nicely cooked and the crackling super crunchy, the dish almost seemed like it would be more at home in a modernised version of neighbouring Lowenbrau than a tapas menu.

Kinkawooka Bay mussels
Entirely appropriate and rave-worthy, however, were the mussels. Perhaps not obviously Spanish, these gorgeous specimens of South Australian mussels were cooked to delicate perfection in white wine, bacon and parsley.

Within the dark shells, the smallish mussels were an absolute treat - tender, sweet and so fresh, faultless with just enough saltiness from the bacon and greenery from parsley.

I was tempted to order another lot of the mussels after polishing off the first hastily, but instead made do with dipping the grilled sourdough bread into the remaining pool of oil and juices.

Valencian bread salad
The Valencian play on Italian panzanella, the bread salad seemed more bread than salad - not that I'm complaining when it's crunchy, balsamic and olive oil dressed sourdough bread.

Tossed with red and yellow capsicum, roma tomatoes, Spanish onion, pine nuts and parsley, this salad is miles away from iceberg lettuce and cucumber.

Patatas bravas
The classic tapas dish of patatas bravas was had a distinct flavour of barbeque crisps - or so I thought. Deep fried potato cubes with skin made for an exciting textural play, served with chilli aioli, while the combination of spices, including paprika, made this tapas just like barbeque crisps come to life.

Ceviche del rey de Los Peces
The ceviche didn't look like I had expected it too, appearing covered in a curry-like dressing that was particularly tart. The small cubes of kingfish were a bit lost under the heavy helping dressing, helped somewhat by the addition of candied sweet potato that was served in a glass alongside with more of the citrussy dressing.

I would have like more of the fresh ingredients like onion, chilli and coriander, and less of the dressing to go with the fish, but it was nonetheless an intriguing dish.

Beef croquettes
Vying for my equal favourite of the night were the croquettes. Not heavy like bullets as some potato cakes can be, these golden crumbed cylinders seemed to be more beef than potato - but either way, lighter for being the combination of the two.

Filled with pulled braised beef cheek, mashed potato and herbs, these golden parcels were packed with flavour, and with the pea puree and the genius addition of lemon zest, were a superb selection that I wouldn't hesistate to re-order.

Garlic Crystal bay prawns and Spanish chorizo
We couldn't go past the prawn and chorizo combination, cooked in garlic, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. It was a seriously good version of the Spanish pork sausage served in thick rounds, its saltiness sucessfully tempered by the prawns.

Churros con chocolate
We were told that we couldn't bypass the churros on the dessert menu, and good advice it was as we somehow managed room for more food. Short, burnished brown sticks of dough arrived in a Jenga pile, dusted with sugar and fragrant cinnamon, serve with Bazar's dark chocolate dipping sauce.

However, I actually preferred the warm churros on their own as the combination of the rich sauce and sweet churros was a little too much for me - although if it were dulce de leche I might have had other thoughts.

Flan de naranja
Thankfully, the sweetness was more subdued with the orange creme caramel, or flan de naranja. A cool, orange scented flat mould of custard was just the thing to end such an indulgent meal, while the caramel had a faint burnt bitterness which was pleasing to the palate.

Dining area at Argyle Bazar
While it's not a huge restaurant area, Argyle Bazar was abuzz all night with just as many tourists and groups as couples and families. In a few quick months, it seems to have made itself right at home at The Argyle, and however bizarre the new look, it seems Argyle Bazar is one new appearance that's pleasing the punters.

Food, booze and shoes dined courtesy of The Cru Media and Argyle Bazar - thanks for a great (and very filling) night.

Argyle Bazar on Urbanspoon

P.S. The Argyle turns into CarnivArgyle for the month of March as Carnivale in Rio takes off right about now. Latin American food, drinks and entertainment will fill The Argyle's cobblestone courtyard, including free samba classes and tequila tasting.

The massive CarnivArgyle Festival Party on this Friday, 11 March will feature sexy entertainment, Latin American food stalls, premium tequila and rum tasting, and more - see you there!


Sydney Hotel Discounts said...

Thanks for sharing this yummy blog. Your all food dishes are looking so yummy :)

Jacq said...

Oh wow I had no idea there was a Spanish restaurant within the Argyle. That ceviche looks a little drowned by the sauce but the croquettes look awesome!

Phillip Nom said...

Loving your blog - especially your coverage on all things new!

Will try to check this out.

MelbaToast said...

Sangria and tapas - what a perfect night. I don't mind the decor of this place either...sort of kind of similar, sort of, to the vibe The Victoria Room gives off.

Tina said...

Hi SHD - No probs :)

Hi Jacq - Yeah, Bazar is new-ish (late last year) :)

Hi Phillip - Thanks!

Hi MelbaToast - Yeah, but with much more of a glammed up Euro feel :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't notice this place when I walked past the Argyle last weekend :( I really want to get down there, I can't wait to try the flan - hope it's as good as the one I had at Movida Aqui last month!

Tina said...

Hi oh-ayana - It's actually inside THe Argyle, in past the cobblestone courtyard :)

Gaby said...

Agree on the cebiche, it's better when it's not that overdressed. I've never been able to eat churros with chocolate sauce (or hot chocolate), I prefer them with an espresso or a cup of tea.

myinnerchick.com said...

~~~~Oh, My, everything is so gorgeous, but if I could pick one thing it would have to be the "Churros con chocolate." With of course, Sangria! MMMMMM

susan said...

I didn't even know they served food at the Argyle. I haven't been there for about 5 years mind you..

Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

Oh wow! must brave those pesky uneven cobblestones to try this place. I have nearly snapped my ankle many times teetering towards the argyle - but for those churros, it looks like the risk is worth it!

So its inside the argyle..like the bar/nighclub part? what a change indeed!

Tina said...

Hi Gaby - Indeed, the churros are good enough themselves!

Hi myinnerchick - The sangria was tops!

Hi Susan - Yeah, Bazar is new-ish

Hi Gianna - Yes, so in past that pesky-floored courtyard, to the left inside The Argyle ;)

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

Too bad I'm looking at your blog this early in the day. Now I'm craving those Cucuruchos de Jamon Serrano!

Tina said...

Hi Corinne - They're very crave-able :)


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