Balcon’s wine list is impressive. As far as Spanish wine goes, the only other list in town that even gets close to rivalling its detail and length is Tapavino. Balcon is Tapavino’s big brother, a wine-bar-restaurant hybrid that came about because Tapavino’s owner, Frank Dilernia, needed somewhere to store all the wines he was importing.
Each section of the wine menu is either divided by region (to a very specific degree) or varietal, and most wines (as well as vermouths, sherries and other Spanish drops) have unpretentious taste descriptions for the uninitiated.
Dilernia says he wanted the fit-out to mirror Tapavino. “The green walls are based on the doors at Tapavino, these are the same table tops. It looks different but there are links.” Balcon is the more upmarket of the two – the 80-seat outdoor pavilion is the highlight.
Food is also more refined. “[Tapavino] is more about being a buzzy, rustic wine bar and here is more of a restaurant.” Dilernia says one of the reasons he brought in ex-Wine Library and Buzo chef Todd Garratt was to help in his mission to redefine people’s perceptions of Spanish food.
Doing this involves representing the dishes Garratt and Dilernia have eaten in Spain, which Dilernia says were nothing like what Spanish food is here. “In Spain you don't see garlic prawns.” The Galacian-style crispy pig’s head sees the skin of the head stretched, crisped, salted and served with lemon. More typically Spanish dishes are the short brunch menu’s potato-filled omelette; the range of Spanish cheeses; and the 10 different jamón dishes with sides, such as buratta and pickled onion or rockmelon, mint and aged balsamic.
The other way to redefine Spanish cuisine in Sydney is to make completely original dishes. Garret’s morcilla schnitzel with cumquat mayo and charred lemon is an example of this. Being a notoriously unstable fried food, the blood sausage is wrapped in fried pig ears to keep it crisp. “The grilled chicken and the lamb shoulder are fantastic, but you can get that anywhere. You can't get this everywhere,” Dilernia says.