Portello Rosso… tapas in the CBD

Tapas – oh my goodness!  Ever since that brilliant night in Jaleo – in Washington DC – I have had a craving for great tapas.  Where will I find it in Melbourne???  There must be some brilliant places, but never having explored the options in my own fair city – I’ve been at a loss.  So, a girl’s got to start somewhere – and Portello Rosso seemed like a likely candidate.  Situated less than 2 blocks from my apartment, just off Little Bourke Street, proximity played a large part in its selection.  However, good friend C had another criteria for visiting entirely – and that was the pork belly!!

Joselito Jamón Iberico de Bellota – from the black-footed, acorn-fed Iberian pig (30g)

We started with some gorgeous jamon – naturally we went for the best!   Pigs that eat acorns happen to be very happy piggies – and apparently produce the best pork.  It does come with its own bread –

However, happy memories of Jaleo flamencoing through my head, I wanted the tomato bread to go with it.

Pan catalan – grilled bread rubbed with roast tomato and spices served with confit garlic.

 Alas, it wasn’t the same as Jaleo – but it was still good! Especially with that confit garlic that was so beautiful, we just spread it on the bread like it was butter! Hello!

Patatas Bravas – crispy potato dusted in sweet smoked paprika with spiced tomato sauce and aioli

No night at a Spanish Tapas restaurant is complete without patatas bravas.  This was a lovely version, but I have to say that Pelican in St Kilda do a better one.  Nonetheless – we happily picked away at this throughout the night in between courses.

Gambas Alijio – Garlic prawns cooked in manzanilla sherry, tomato & basil

Absolutely gorgeous plate of prawns – with a fantastic balance of flavours.  It was garlicky and buttery, and definitely didn’t have too much acid from the tomato – you know how sometimes the tomato can overpower the prawns.  Not so in this dish – pure magic!  Thanks to Miranda and Co. on the next table for letting me take a photo of theirs, as we had gobbled ours down so quickly, we realised we had forgotten to take a photo!! That’s how good those prawns were!!


Crispy pork belly over almond & garlic puree

Hello you beautiful thing!!  Look at this divine piece of pork belly – it tasted as good as it looked!  The waitress told us a story about a little 4 year old girl who came in and all she ordered was 3 pieces of the pork belly.  And she sat there and ate them all.  I so wanted to be that 4 year old girl.  Definitely one of the dishes of the night. 

Chickpea, manchego & sweet potato fritters
Piquillo pepper stuffed with spanner crab and fish mousse and dill

Still feeling a little peckish – we ordered a couple more dishes.  A special on the night, the fritters were a golden, burnished brown – intensely crispy on the outside, and gorgeous and soft on the inside with a riot of flavours.   The stuffed peppers were a real surprise treat, there was a good proportion of spanner crab – but the fish mousse, which bound it together, was beautiful – delicately scented with the dill, it was absolutely delicious.

Portello Rosso is a great little Spanish tapas restaurant locked away in the heart of the CBD – a genuine find – especially just around the corner from the spruiking mayhem that is Hardware Lane. It too, lives down another quintessential Melbourne laneway, and from a tapas perspective, it hit the spot in many respects.  The great thing about it is that there’s something for everyone.  I could bring Andrew here and he would be quite happy chowing down on that pork belly, some chorizo and patatas bravas!   Definitely worth checking out!

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