On a very cold Melbourne winter’s night, it seems odd to be raving about a salad, but that’s exactly what Greedy Girl found at Bar Nacional in Docklands – possibly the Best Salad Ever. Ordered as a ‘light’ dish to round out some very acceptable tapas, Greedy Girl and her friend the Persian Foodie enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine propped up on a high banquette in a bar that, at 7pm, was still thronging with the after-work crowds.

Bar Nacional is the first venue opened by chefs Pete Evans and Gavin Baker in the Docklands precinct of Melbourne. The immediate area is dominated by office blocks and so the bar (and the duo’s newly-opened Italian restaurant, Chiara, just next door) doesn’t open on weekends. As a Docklands resident, Greedy Girl is a little perplexed by this, but perhaps in time …

The duo set about creating their vision of a San Sebastian tapas bar. According to the bar’s website, both chefs have worked and travelled through Spain extensively. The kitchen here is helmed by Alex Drobysz, who honed his skills in Michelin-starred restaurants, including under such luminaries as Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud while Royal Mail and Quay alumnus Shaun Quade spearheads the desserts.

While Greedy Girl hasn’t checked out what’s on offer in the mornings or at lunchtime, in the evening there’s a choice of tapas or raciones – larger plates. Settling in with a very nice rosado from Alicante and a glass of tempranillo, we initially ordered four tapas. The Persian Foodie is Jewish, so we had to avoid dishes featuring jamon, chorizo or shellfish; the bonus for Greedy Girl was getting to try dishes she normally wouldn’t get to eat, having filled up already on the meats and seafood.

Starting with the hot dishes, three plates came out first. We dived into the charred broccoli croquettes. These were moreish little bites, served on a very yummy lemon aioli.

Charred broccoli croquettes

Charred broccoli croquettes

Next up were beef empanadas – the braised beef shin was very soft and it was probably the lightest empanada I’ve ever tasted.

Braised beef shin empanadas

Braised beef shin empanadas

What’s a tapas feast without patatas bravas? These are truly yummy – fluffy bits of potato on the inside and lovely crunchy exterior.

Patatas bravas

Fluffy on the inside, crunchy outside

Our last plate featured lamb albondigas. Lamb meatballs were a welcome inclusion on the menu (Greedy Girl has had pork and duck varieties before). They were very tasty, but neither of us really warmed to the pile of smoky eggplant with mint and nuts.

Lamb meatballs

Albondigas to you too

Still slightly hungry, we opted for what we thought was going to be a healthier alternative – the amazing cauliflower salad pictured at the top of this blog. The shaved cauliflower was combined with sour cherries, capers, mandarin and a brown butter sauce, topped with a liberal sprinkling of peanuts. It was absolutely the tastiest salad Greedy Girl has ever eaten; not generally a fan of cauliflower in anything other than a puree (usually sitting beneath a pan-seared scallop) this blew her away. The sauce no doubt minimised the ‘health’ impact of eating salad but it’s a masterful dish. Go forth – try it.

With the Persian Foodie needing to head off for her ride home, we missed out on trying the desserts – another time.

Bar Nacional is a fun spot – it’s perfect for a drink and great for a snack. Even in the depths of Melbourne’s winter, it was very cosy inside. Greedy Girl is intrigued to try more.

Bar Nacional

727 Collins Street, Docklands


Bar Nacional Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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