Up until 10 years ago in Sydney there was a Spanish quarter on Liverpool and Pitt Streets in the city. There was a club and a good selection of restaurants. It’s almost all gone now but one restaurant, the best of the lot, has lived on. After opening its bocadillo (like a Spanish baguette) deli on Bathurst Street it has just opened its third venue, a half-deli half-tapas bar in Lane Cove.
“This was a vision we’ve had for a long time,” says co-owner Maria Barona, who took over the original En Casa with husband Fransico “Pachi” Rodriguez in 2008. “This is where I live, my kids go to school here. It feels like home and we wanted to do something for the community here,” says Barona.
They have merged the two pre-existing En Casa concepts into one. The deli, serving bocadillos, cured meat, canned fish and coffee, is the red-tiled façade of the restaurant. Behind it there’s a thin alley of wooden tables, share plates topped with what Rodriguez calls “mama cooking”, and, right at the back, the restaurant’s very own Spanish wine bar (which is currently awaiting licensing).
In a way, this is the most Spanish of all the En Casa venues. While the Pitt Street stalwart has been serving pizzas and pastas for years, here it’s strictly what you’d find in a Spanish home or a neighbourhood tapas bar. “There’s enough pizza and pasta in Lane Cove already. If you come here you're going to have Spanish and you're going to share,” says Barona.
Some of the new tapas dishes include pork-and-beef meatballs swimming in Rodriguez’s mum’s tomato sauce; lightly battered calamari with a rich squid-ink aioli; beef cheeks soft enough to warrant the use of a spoon; and bravas, fried potato smothered in aioli and spicy salsa. All of the imported jamon, cheeses and anchovies sold out front are available too.
Barona says the restaurant will soon open for breakfast as well. “It will be eggs and toast but there'll be a Spanish twist. We'll do Spanish-style omelettes and big breakfasts with South American corn cakes.”