Living a paella dream at Pata Negra, Nedlands
If there's one dining style that I'm often drawn to, it would definitely be tapas. There's something I just can't help but love about having several small dishes done well to share - giving you variety, choice and basically the best of all worlds.
I met up with one of my closest girlfriends for dinner last night and though we'd initially intended to try Prego (it was booked out), we decided on Pata Negra instead which neither of us have been to before. We both love our food and have a tendency to indulge a little too much, so we're happy to be trying this spanish joint.
We arrive for our booking at this Nedlands restaurant on Stirling Highway at 6pm and are seated in the back corner of this cosy, richly decorated and warm venue. Straight away I know I'm going to like it just based on our lovely waiter who is so passionate about the food and really helpful. I love the fact that he's spanish too, it just adds to the authenticity and experience of being here.
We start the night off with a cocktail each, both choosing a typically South American drink - the Pisco Sour ($17 each). It's made up of pisco (a type of brandy), lime juice, egg whites and bitters. My first sip makes my nose curl up delicately - it's very strong but as the ice inside melts down, the drink becomes definitely more enjoyable. I have to admit, I'm not the best with really strong alcohol tastes - isn't that the whole point of cocktails!
As we toast to our dinner, we stare down at the menu which is broken up into sections titled tapas, jamon embutidas, the sea, the earth, the land, the dairy and pastry. Our waiter gives us some recommendations and also reads the specials and finally we pick our choices. Though there are many more we want to try so it looks like we'll be back soon!
From the tapas section of the menu, we choose the Byesar, Cucumber & Mountain Bread ($15.50). Byesar is a Arab dish similar to hummus but uses broadbeans instead of chickpeas. The serving here at Pata Negra is immensely generous - about six large slices of turkish bread which is salty, oily and very fresh. It works perfectly with the bright green dip that is oh so flavoursome and texturally enjoyable. I love the presence of the cucumbers, they add some fresh bursts and enhance the dip. I can see why this dish comes so highly recommended by the staff!
Linda gets me to choose an item from the jamon embutidas section of the menu, so after some deliberation I settle on the Redondo Iglesias Serrano 40g ($22). I love my cured meats and this is what this restaurant is named after our waiter tells us. They use organic, acorn only fed black pigs which creates a nutty taste in this melt in your mouth meat.
I love it.
It literally disappears upon impact with my tongue and is so jam packed with addictive flavour I could happily devour a whole plate packed full of slices.
When we hear the specials of the night, both of our eyes light up at the sound of the Swordfish & Scallop Fritters ($4.50 each) so we decide to order two of these for each of us. They come out sitting on a bed of garlic aioli and a couple lemon wedges on the side to squeeze over the top.
When I hear the word fritter I normally think of something fried and crunchy - but these were so much more than that. These are soft and fluffy, jam packed with seafood that tastes fresh and well respected. The swordfish inside is firm but tender; the scallops singing of the sea. They're a really moorish dish that I don't think I've had something similar to before though I would have liked a little more salt on them - but that's a personal preference.
What we're told is the most popular item on the menu (from the sea section), is the Arroz Negro Paella Rice, Cuttlefish, Squid Ink ($25). It comes out as a gorgeous little bowl of inky black rice, with a big dob of aioli on top which we're told to mix into the paella completely and then squeeze the lemon over the top.
Wow. Seriously. Wow.
I think that's all I can really say about this because it was the absolute highlight of my dinner here. The rice is al dente though the grains at the top are softer and the ones at the bottom have that fantastic crisp layer that all good paellas should have. The flavours are rich and yet subtle at the same time - working harmoniously together. I love cuttlefish and I'm happy to say it's been prepared perfectly here, it's not too rubbery or soft - it's just right!
Just writing about this really makes me want to go back and eat more of it. It's something definitely special!
By this time we're pretty full but we have one more savoury dish for the night, this time chosen from the earth section of the menu. We considering the roast potatoes with truffled butter but end up deciding on the Cauliflower with Chorizo and Slow Cooked Egg ($18.50).
Cauliflower is in season right now which makes perfect sense for them to have it on their seasonal menu offerings. It comes out as soft, tender cauliflower with caramelised onion, crunchy slices of chorizo and the most gooey egg you can image. It coats all the other ingredients inside and binds them together almost like a decadent sauce.
This dish is exciting. It's flavoursome and warming; each element done right. If I hadn't been so full already I could have really happily indulged in this.
I'm completely full after our savoury courses but somehow Linda manages to talk me into sharing dessert. Though if I'm being completely honest, it doesn't take too much persuading because I'm pretty greedy!
We decide on the Cinnamon Doughnuts with PX Ice-Cream ($15.50). For the price, I have to admit I was expecting a bit more than what was delivered but it doesn't phase me too much. The doughnuts have a nice sugary cinnamon coating on the outside, but the doughnuts themselves are a bit too savoury for my own personal tastes.
The ice-cream is really interesting - flavoured with Pedro Ximenez and topped with juicy raisins. I quite like the flavour but it is a bit too intense for me so I only manage a few bites until I run out of raisins and then throw in the towel. I was way too full for this course anyway!
All up our dinner came to $148.50 which was about what I was expecting. It was a great range of dishes with some fantastic flavours and ingredients. I've heard feedback that the service isn't that great here but I have to say that my experience was fantastic. Our waiter was attentive, sweet and basically the whole package. I really, really enjoyed my dinner here and am happy to cross another place of my eating wishlist!