Tucked away in a corner of Ettalong Markets is a new tapas bar serving up a Spanish-inspired dining experience with gusto.
It takes us a few attempts to find Gusto Tapas Bar in the labyrinth of the retro market complex which is eerily quiet after hours.
When we finally arrive at the Spanish burrow we find refuge in the cosy arms of a red velvet couch and a stiff drink.
It’s an unseasonably warm Autumn eve, that has echoes of a balmy Barcelona night, and we gather around the faux fireplace, in the shadow of a Flamenco dancer, feeling as though we’ve landed in Penelope Cruz’s living room.
The Ettalong bar and restaurant has been open for about six months and flows into several areas.
There’s a bar, lots of comfy couch ensembles, tables for two and al fresco dining for the warmer months.
Throughout the night, Ben Reekie, the passionate and sharply-dressed man who calls the bar his casa, ensures we try the best of the cocktail menu.
He’s like a proud dad as he delivers some home-brewed cold drip tequila, like a chilled espresso shooter that packs a caffeinated punch, and what will surely become Gusto’s trademark novelty shot – an Iced Vo Vo: a creamy concoction of Malibu, Baileys and grenadine. One for the sweet tooths.
In an authentic touch, there is a nice selection of Spanish wine on the menu. We have no idea about the brands but anything that starts with Ole! and is made from Spanish Tempranillo is fine with us.
For something a bit different and hobo chic, the Doss Blockos pale lager is served snugly wrapped in a brown paper bag. It’s true what they say, beer tastes better out of a brown bag.
Ben also makes a mean margarita with blood orange liqueur, like Cointreau on steroids.
Our appetites raging like a Spanish fighting bull seeing red, the tapas begin to arrive.
There is sweet and juicy chorizo braised in white wine; moreish meatballs in an almond tomato sauce; garlic chilli King prawns fresh from WWFW; and a succulent Morrocan lamb rump with a chili, thyme, coriander and cumin rub.
For tapas with an Asian twist, Gusto does pork belly lettuce wraps with chimi churri sauce – like a very gourmet and delicate take on san choy bau.
To end on a sweet note, try the churros with zesty orange and chocolate dipping sauce.
Coastal Chic Tip: To help you find Gusto, the bar backs onto the car park at the rear of Ettalong Markets – so that’s the best place to park/enter the complex