Securing a seat at this Spanish-style bar and eatery can be a bit of a challenge. Even on a weeknight. Keeping things quick and casual, it only takes bookings for groups of five or more (for a set share menu). If you find yourself dining with a smaller party, La Pinta is worth rocking up early for.
The chalked-up, tapas-style menu changes regularly. While it’s not strictly Spanish, it leans heavily that way while incorporating other European influences. It might be wallaby tartare, lamb heart skewers, house-made pumpkin agnolotti or a slice of tortilla de patatas (Spanish-style omelette with potatoes). Mussels are also on regular rotation and might come in a bright and zesty escabeche – perfect for mopping up with house-baked sourdough. There’s always a clutch of vego options, and many dishes can be tweaked to become vegetarian or vegan, too.
Dessert is simple. Think a slice of Basque burnt cheesecake, chocolate torta or plum financier (French almond cake) topped with seasonal fruits.
Seasonality is a strong focus for owner Adam Racina (ex-Napier Quarter, Pinotta), who also calls upon lesser-used ingredients. That includes meats he considers anomalies in the food scene (think mutton, retired dairy cows, cockerels and plenty of offal). Most ingredients are supplied locally, by the likes of Mike’s Mussels in Portarlington and Lakey Farm in Sunbury. And the team makes a lot in-house – from the crunchy sourdough for starters to merguez sausage for mains, right down to the garum (fermented fish sauce) that bolsters many of the dishes.
At the central bar, waitstaff pour glasses of Yarra Valley cab sav, Boatrocker pilsner and Maidenii vermouth from the taps. Organic and lo-fi winemakers are also a strong focus, with producers Lucy Margaux, Travis Tausend and Little Reddie lining the menu. Plus, classic cocktails like Martinis and Negronis, as well as the Spanish Tinto de Verano – a perfect marriage of red wine and house-made lemon syrup.
The buzzy, warmly lit space has a bar in the centre, which leads to an open kitchen out back. There are a few small tables out the front along with a rear dining area for larger parties of up to 24. Most of the interior is lined with mid-century paintings that remain from the Italian espresso bar and billiard room that came before.
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