Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Bar Nacional, Bread in Common, and Red Rabbit.
Sitting on the curiously lifeless stretch of Collins Street where the CBD meets Docklands, Bar Nacional is a welcome beacon of Spanish-flavoured good times among all the corporate bland. The second collaboration between Pete Evans and Gavin Baker (the first was Little Hunter), the compact space with its central horseshoe bar is based on the pintxos bars of San Sebastián and is decked out in theme-appropriate timber, tiles, leather and brass. There's quality charcuterie hanging at the bar (including 36-month-old jamón Ibérico) and a compact menu chock-full of punchy, vibrant morsels such as crisp pig's head with carrots and horseradish, charred Brussels sprout croquettes, chopped razor clams tossed with tomatoes and fresh herbs, and fried wagyu served with brilliant pickled vegetables. Dessert whiz-kid Shaun Quade is in charge of the postres and his burnt orange crema Catalana with toasted fennel seeds and textbook polvorón is worth crossing town for.Bar Nacional, 727 Collins St, Docklands, Vic, (03) 9252 7999. MICHAEL HARDEN
Bread in Common
Nic Trimboli is having a busy 2013. Eight months after opening inner-city coffee roaster Gordon Street Garage, the veteran restaurateur has flung open the doors to Bread in Common, an ambitious, cavernous new venture in Fremantle's west end. Like the name suggests, bread is a focal point and under the supervision of Yallingup Woodfired Bread's Gotthard Bauer, the loaves baked in Bread in Common's wood-fired ovens hit the mark for chewy, slow-rise pleasure. Doughy goods aside, the menu thrills with bold, straight-talking flavours. Think fatty lamb ribs accented with mint and black garlic or a springtime medley of asparagus, peas, cracked wheat and a soft, fudgey egg: just the sort of fare to partner with equally fun wine and drink selections. If the weekend queues are any indication (fear not: despite reservations not being taken, wait times are surprisingly minimal), the signs look good that Trimboli and co have backed another winner.
Bread in Common, 43 Pakenham St, Fremantle, WA, (08) 9336 1032. MAX VEENHUYZEN
Red Rabbit With the closing of one door comes the opening of another, or so the saying goes. Earlier this year Sydney fine-diner Claude's bid its farewells, and it recently reopened as Red Rabbit - an Asian-influenced restaurant and takeaway joint adding to the new wave of ever-so-popular casual eateries in Sydney. The food? Chinese-inspired seven-spice tofu, South East Asian-leaning lamb neck curry and roasted rice ice-cream are among the hits, while other, more adventurous renditions of classics such as salt and pepper squid (the salt and pepper aspect of the dish reduced to a scattering of tiny deep-fried balls of batter) feel a little lost. It's a "walk, don't run" space, but it's one to watch, nevertheless. Red Rabbit, 10 Oxford St, Woollahra, NSW, (02) 9331 2325. MAYA KERTHYASA
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