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Address: 6 Beresford Square (off Pitt St), Auckland
Ph: (09) 368 4281
The question worrying us as we arrived at the Beresford Square Wine Bar was a biggie. Would we get enough to eat? Several hours later, after nine generous tapas plates between four, I'm happy to report that we left feeling relaxed, happy and, if anything, over-full.
Part of Beresford Square's attraction is the place itself. Here, tucked behind what used to be the stylish old Beresford St toilet block, is a bar such as you might stumble across in the back alleys of Madrid or Barcelona. Small tables line the walls. The crowd is fashionable without being pretentious. Cool jazz sets the mood without being overpowering. The service is friendly and fast. And the food? Well it's definitely tapas style and reasonably short on choice but, having said that, we had one of the more memorable meals we've shared in a long time.
Another attraction was the variety of drinks available. This may be a wine bar, but they'll whip you up a cocktail if you're in the mood (as Mary was). The beer choices include such specials as Barcelona's Motitz on tap and Kapiti's Tuatara, while the wine list ranges from local to Spanish, French and Italian, most of them by the glass.
You're encouraged to sample. And then, of course, there's sangria by the carafe.
We began our evening with drinks, which arrived in a flash, and were accompanied by complimentary almonds and marinated olives to munch while we surveyed the tapas blackboard menus. These are thoughtfully placed high on both walls so all four of us could study them at the same time without craning our necks. So it was gazpachos all round, served cool, pink and spicy (rather than hot) in chunky glasses and accompanied by small and crunchy crostini rather than the mozzarella bruschetta, which I'd ordered as an accompaniment. That arrived later - which was sensible, given that it was served hot, topped with roasted tomatoes and melting mozzarella.
But we needed more. Much more. Next came the Spanish anchovies, which arrived glistening with oil. They were much bigger than the sort we buy in jars and cured rather than smoked. Mary declared them the highlight of her meal.
The salmon served three ways translated into a mound of creamy mousse, several slices of delectable cured salmon plus a decent-sized slab of hot-smoked salmon.
Brian's selection of pates and terrines was similarly generous. There were at least five different versions for us to share. Alas the pizza was not so thrilling, but we demolished our smallish slab quickly.
All this time our smiling waiter kept the tapas coming, the plates and cutlery jammed on to the small table, the drinks flowing while we kept the conversation rocking along.
We tried the only dessert listed on the blackboard, a mousse. This turned out to be a fabulous, light and creamy concoction laced with chunks of chocolate. All four spoons kept creeping back for more until the glass was clean. However, we realised another serving would have been unwise.
Like everyone else in the place we were treated as long-lost friends by the team which is headed by Pascall Murello and Manuel Garcia, late of Grey Lynn's Mondiale. A night to remember.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $195.50 for two glasses of wine, one sangria, one cocktail, a bottle of cider, four soups, five tapas plates and a dessert to share.
Wine list: Less extensive than we'd expected, but a good selection by the glass. Tasting is encouraged.
Verdict: A wine bar and tapas joint so friendly, fun and authentic you could be in Barcelona.