Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tapavino, Sydney CBD

Ever been to a restaurant where you had to pay a service fee because you made a large group booking? I know surcharges still exist in some restaurants, bars and cafes for group bookings and Sunday trading. But is it really worth it?

CC and I were looking forward to trying out Tapavino simply because we loved tapas and sangria and the prices didn't look too bad. It was also CC's birthday so tapas, sangria and it's close to the Ivy = winning combination! 

Since it was a Friday night, it was no surprise that the bar was incredibly packed and noisy. Because we already did a booking, we didn't have to wait long to be seated upstairs. The top floor is reserved for those who made a booking while the walk ins are seated at the ground floor. There was a cool and noisy vibe with dark lighting (sorry for the terrible photos), which is great for after work drinks and dinner for those working around the CBD. Initially it was very quiet upstairs but as the night goes on, the floor was busy, packed and cramped for us when we need to go to the restroom. Because there was about 14 of us, we had to go with the set menu of $58 per person (excluding drinks) for groups of 9 people or more. This is a good deal considering the generous selection of 10 Spanish dishes to share on the set menu. 

There was a very extensive selection of wines to choose from. When we looked at the wine menu, there was literally pages and pages (about 30 pages?) of various wines listed including the delightful sherry. As usual, we all decided on a glass of sangria. Unfortunately we could only buy sangria per glass instead of a jug but that didn't bother us at the time. Was fruity but not as strong compared to other sangria drinks in the past.

Sangria ($11 per glass)

We started off with a bowl of warm mixed Spanish olives dosed with olive oil matched with a pickled chilli. While we thought that the olives were a bit salty, they were still addictive for us (me especially) to gobble them up before they disappear. Very pleased with the olives here actually.

Warm Spanish Olives and Padron Pepper ($6.00)

The follow up dish had a rustic texture with the pile of chopped eggplants with a dollop of goat's curd on top. The goat's curd had a strong milky and creamy taste that matched well with the saucy and tangy eggplant and the crispy tostada (which was actually a slice of crusty toasted bread).

Galician-style Eggplant, Goats Curd, Tostado ($14)

I really enjoyed the cow's milk cheese and toasted walnuts in vine leaves with toasted sourdough dish as it was a bundle of surprises. When it came to our table, I thought it was going to be stuffed with rice or assorted veggies. After cutting through, a smother of melted stringy cheese poured out from the vine leaves. I wish I could upload my before shot but it was too blurry. Lovely to have to warm yourself on a cool and windy day.

Goat's cheese and toasted walnuts in vine leaves a la plancha with toasted sourdough ($14)

And if you cannot get enough goat cheese, there is yet another dish coming up. But oh my god that jamon serrano! I could eat jamon all day and still won't get sick of it. The beetroot complemented well with the cheesy and creamy goats curd with the extra laer of flavour and texture. I could see this dish being perfect with a few slices of Will certainly come back to try the many other jamon dishes on Bar Jamon section of the A La Carte menu especially the one with the mushroom and black truffled tart with shaved manchego and the 'Pata Negra' jamon iberico.

Jamon Serrano, baby Beetroot and Goat's Curd ($18)

We were getting a meaty and goat cheese overload so we were relieved to see fresh seafood dish like the one below. It was actually the highlight dish for most of us thanks to the light, soft and refreshing tuna seasoned with the zesty, crushed almond and the sherry dressing. I think a few of us felt a tad tipsy because of the sherry dressing at this point (or the sangria was catching up to us). Definitely a dish I would recommend at this wine bar. 

Yellow Fin Tuna 'Cruda', crushed spiced almonds and sherry dressing ($22.00)

By this point we were already getting full and we are still only halfway through the menu! Thank goodness for shared plates! The first look of this dish took me back to my trip to Barcelona where I saw so many similar looking dishes with familiar flavours and ingredients. The braised chicken was so soft that in falls apart as you bite into the meat. Due to the tomato salsa and the pimenton mayo, the flavour for the dish was tangy but not too overwhelming for the taste buds. Can definitely imagine having this dish somewhere in Spain right now.

I love anything with salsa verde so having this and a squeeze of lemon with a rather substantial-sized beef short-rib made it easier for us to chow down our servings. Very tender and flavoursome. 

Braised Beef Ribs with Salsa Verde ($28.00)

I do love a good fennel salad especially after all the meat and cheese. There were bits of manchego scattered on this plate but the fennel was that light touch that we really needed. 

Shaved Fennel, Mint and Manchego Ensalada (about $10.00)

I was initially excited about this rich and dense dessert because I love chocolate but the salty and olive oil taste were too weird and strange for us to enjoy. And I liked savoury chocolate such as mole poblano. Probably good to try if you want to have something more unusual for your dessert.

Chocolate Terrine, Olive Oil and Salt Flakes ($12.00)

Thankfully, our other dessert was a crowd pleaser. Loved the light and sweet taste delivered from the strawberries. It also had a creamy texture which was matched with the crunchy macademia nut. Some of us were not too keen to share this dessert at all. 

Macademia Nut, Crema de Flan, Strawberries ($10.00)

Now everything went reasonably smoothly until it came to the bill. For group bookings at Tapavino, you need to pay an 8% service charge on top of the total bill which is mentioned on the Bookings page on the website. Personally, I don't mind paying the service fee however the issues that got up our sleeve was that apart from the friendly front of house wait staff looking after the bookings and tables, the rest of the service experience was average and not too friendly to us on the night. Plus we weren't even allowed to have the birthday cake inside the restaurant due to restaurant policy. So to pay $58 per person for the set menu because of our large group plus an 8% service fee is a lot of money to spend especially since drinks are not included. 

Despite the service and the shock from the service fee, we all still enjoyed the food here. Tapavino was actually mentioned as one of the more affordable places to eat around the CBD (with a mention in the 2014 Good Food Under $30 guide) but I would say that it actually is cheaper if it was a small group sharing a good number of plates since there would be no surcharge. We all had a really good time because of the incredibly tasty Spanish food. In fact, I thought it was one of the better Spanish restaurants that I have experienced. I wouldn't make a group booking here but I will still come back to try the food on the main menu and a few glasses of wine with a smaller group for a catch up or after work drinks.

So tell me readers: have you ever paid a service fee/surcharge when you dined at a restaurant, cafe or bar? How was the overall experience if you had to pay for that?


6-8 Bulletin Place, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9247 3221
Mon-Fri: 12:00pm - 11:30pm
Tapavino on Urbanspoon


  1. Dim lighting, the bane of all food bloggers. I agree they might be great for mood and ambience, but makes it hard to take photos. Tapavino sounds lie a great place to go for a Friday night. Looks like you had a good range off tapas there! The beef ribs sound good

    1. i so need to get a new camera especially with so many restaurants having dim lighting. sighsss

  2. I have no issues paying surcharges for groups. Shame that the service wasn't on par especially since you had to pay extra :(

    1. ahh yeah. been finding a few other restaurants that do that for large groups as well like ms g's

  3. I don't mind having to pay surcharge, I just think of it as what I would have tipped anyway. The food looks good!

    1. will still come back because the food was so yummy!

  4. Tapavino is tucked away down a little alley way(Bulletin Place) right in Circular Quay! This little Tapas bar is a great atmosphere and the food is absolutely delicious!it Is Good Spanish restaurants Rather than Other Restaurants in Sydney Cbd,