I tried not to like Bar Nacional. It’s nominally located in that cursed part of Melbourne, the Docklands, and celebrity chef Pete Evans is one of the backers. But I couldn’t help myself. It turn’s out Bar Nacional is actually located in that extension to Collins street which is in the no man’s land between the Docklands itself and the city. It’s not the best location for a restaurant but Bar Nacional is doing everything it can to make up for it’s location.
I was invited to Bar Nacional by the restaurant’s publicist Fi. It’s really interesting to eat at a Spanish restaurant with Fi as she’s pescatarian so lots of menu classics like jamon and chorizo are off bounds. What impressed was the dishes Bar Nacional still delivered even with these restrictions.
Tiny silver salty boquerones on toast ($12) were a taste sensation complete with a slick of warm confit garlic. The daily specials menu draws on produce from Bar Nacional’s own garden including some delicious watermelon radishes served thinly sliced in a salad with smoked octopus. It tasted as good as it looked and that is saying something.
Bar Nacional is one of the few restaurants in Melbourne to have a Josper oven. These ovens get seriously hot and can turn out food with an amazing char and smoky flavour. The Josper added a whole new dimension to the roasted baby flathead ($17) which was cooked and served on orange wood to give this amazing smoky smell and taste.
From the dessert menu, Bar Nacional has been receiving lots of deserving accolades for its crema catalana. This is the Spanish take on a créme brulee and Bar Nacional flavours its crema catalana ($12) with burnt orange and tops it with fennel seeds and crumbled Spanish shortbread known as polvoron for a textural contrast. We got a small serve but the standard serving is perfect to share between two.
If the a la carte prices put you off, Bar Nacional is doing some really good deals at the moment. In the mornings there’s a $6 coffee and pastry deal and at lunch time there’s an $18 special. These cut price deals seem to be a sign the restaurant is struggling to attract the number of customers it deserves as a result of its location in no mans land. Don’t let the Docklands address or Pete Evans’ involvement put you off visiting.
Gourmet Chick was invited to review Bar Nacional.
Details: Bar Nacional, 727 Collins St, Docklands (Ph 03 9252 7999)
Damage: Reasonable but on this occasion I didn’t pay.