(EDIT: Bodega de Pintox is now closed)
Bodega de Pintxos (pronounced Pin-chos) opened in late 2012, and I’ve walked past it about 50 times saying “I really want to go there”. So, when Valentine’s Day rolled around for 2014, I suggested to my single girlfriends that it would be a good place for us to hold our “Gal-entine’s dinner” (unashamedly stolen from Parks n Recreation’s day-before-Valentine’s tradition). Apart from some interesting sounding Tapas, the selling point was definitely the $10 Mojitos on Friday nights.
Sadly (for me) our friendship group has dwindled in the “single ladies” numbers over the years, so it was only three ladies that participated in the annual dinner this Gal-entine’s Day – and even then, one of the ladies is actually married, but her husband is in Afghanistan for 9 months (we adopted her as an “orphan single”).
Bodega de Pintxos didn’t give off a good impression at first, despite the lovely person I spoke to when I accidently booked the wrote date (shhhh!), the staff member who answered my call on the day was rude and disinterested in confirming my booking – she put me in a bad mood that carried on until we reached the restaurant. Thankfully that was the only bad service we received that day.
As expected, Kingston was absolutely buzzing on the warm Friday night – most of the restaurants were full and there was a happy vibe about the place. We rocked up to Bodega de Pintxos, located next to the Kennedy Room (on Kennedy Street, gettit?), and after a short wait we were escorted to our table towards the back of the restaurant.
Bodega de Pintxos is a large open restaurant, done up in what I can only describe as a “Mexican barn theme” – there’s lots of wood and bright paintings all over the walls. It’s quite a striking restaurant, and something a little bit different from the usual experience in Canberra. Some areas are dark and intimate, while the areas towards the front are more open and fun.
The waitress who escorted us to our table informed us that there was a set Valentine’s Day menu on that night, something that was not advertised on their website and mentioned to me on the two occasions I spoke to someone at the restaurant about the booking. I told her that we were not actually Valentine’s, and we had a vegetarian with us (the VDay menu was heavily meat influenced) and she was amazingly helpful in obtaining normal menus for us and persuading the owner and chef to let us order off the normal menu – I saw a few other people after us order off the normal menu too, so props to them for being lenient. I hate places that force you to do set menus without prior warning.
The waitress lit our “mood candle” and explained the menu to us in simple, easy to understand but exciting terms. The general idea is that you get Pintxos (small “tasters”) for yourself, as they are usually only one or two bites, and then get Tapas to share. Within 30 seconds of her walking away, someone appeared to take our drinks menu… we hadn’t even picked up the menus yet! A few minutes later we’d made our drink decisions: I ordered a frozen Mojito (supposedly only $10 on Friday nights); M ordered a frozen mango Daiquiri; and S was really excited and got a Sprite – she’s a Mum, so we’ll let her slide. We had to ask for water to be bought to our table too, but this was done quickly and with a smile.
The Mojito came quickly, and it was the greenest green thing I’d ever seen. Even weirder is that it tasted like a mint lolly, disgustingly sugary (I was making faces after most sips) and there was not even the smallest hint of rum. Having been in Cuba last year, I’ve grown accustomed to STRONG Mojitos – the sadness I felt cannot be put in to words. I didn’t complain because I thought maybe Cuba had desensitised my rum senses, but eventually I got my friends to try it and they couldn’t taste anything either. However, something is better than nothing, because M’s mango Daiquiri could not be made (no mango apparently) and the strawberry one she ordered to replace it with never showed up. After we’d finished most of our meal M managed to flag down a waiter and asked to swap the swapped Daiquiri with a Caprioska – which came promptly, but tasted 98% of soda water. The whole drinks thing was really strange – you’d think a Tapas Bar would get their cocktails right…
As for food, M and I ordered Pintxos and S ordered some garlic bread. M ordered the Albondigas de Paella y Chorizo (House made spicy chorizo and paella balls) and I got the Queso Frito (Pan fried fresh Yarra Valley goat’s cheese).
The Queso Frito was unremarkable. The cheese was not fried long enough, or it had been left after frying for too long and it was rubbery and cold, not warm and melty like I was expecting. The small piece of bread it was laid on top was soggy and fell apart. The sauces it was served with were nice, but were not fully balanced due to the rubbery cheese.
M’s Paella balls were also cold, and she said she didn’t enjoy them as much as she had expected to. S’s garlic bread was nice, but not very garlicy. It seems the food did not live up to expectation across the board when it came to the Pintxos.
We also picked five tapas dishes and ordered them to come out in a staggered order (instead of all at once). As we had a vegetarian in our mix, we ordered three vego dishes: Patatas Bravas (Sweet paprika marinated potatoes roasted with garlic, chilli and fresh tomato); Setas al Ajillo (Terracotta tossed mixed wild mushrooms, garlic chilli oil); and Verdura Asada (Terracotta tossed seasonal vegetables).
I’d heard people speak about the mushrooms here, and our waitress said they were her favourite item on the menu. I don’t know if they were having an off night, but all I could taste was mushroom – I could not recognise any chilli or garlic flavours in the mix, sadly. The potatoes were much better, I could definitely taste the flavours and spices on this dish, and they were cooked well, I’m just not mad on potatoes.
For the two remaining omnivores, we also ordered Fuego Negro (Pork belly balsamic crusted “fuego negro”) and Chorizo (Grilled house made spicy chorizo, red wine jus and roasted garlic sauce).
Both of these dishes were really nice. The pork was definitely my favourite dish of the night, although a little cold, it was tasty and served in decent sized pieces. The apple sauce on the base was a nice touch, and the “fuego negro” sauce was deliciously thick and shiny. YUM! The Chorizo was nice and spicey – it had good flavours, but there wasn’t enough sauce for my liking.
For dessert all three of us ordered the churros – because who doesn’t love churros!
The Churros were round, which is strange to me – I’m used to them being long and skinny. The outside was a little too crunchy for our liking and then inside was more hollow than doughy. The chocolate dipping sauce was nice, but due to the random shape of the churros, it was hard to utilise the sauce. There wasn’t a lot of sugar on the donuts either and no cinnamon which is always a nice addition.
When we went to pay the bill we found out that the Mojitos were not $10, but the usual $15, and that they had charged us for the mango Daiquiri that never arrived. They were happy to fix the Daiquiri, but I didn’t enquire about the Mojito price because by then I was over it and wanted to leave. I also decided to pull the old blogger move “I won’t complain, but I’ll bitch about it on my blog”. Also I’m lazy. And I hate confrontation. Don’t judge me.
I really want to reinforce how good the service was at Bodega de Pinxtos – everyone was lovely and helpful, efficient (except when chasing down the mango Daiquiri) and ridiculously beautiful (seriously!?!?). However, you go out to eat the food and what I ate that night was a letdown for me. The pork was delicious, but the other dishes just didn’t have any impact. Perhaps we ordered the wrong dishes? At first I thought to blame the vegetarian (what can I say, I love meat!), but I’ve had vege tapas many times before and really enjoyed them.
Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be returning to Bodega de Pintxos any time soon. I’m going to Legends in a week, so it’ll be interesting to see the comparison between Canberra’s Spanish influenced Tapas bars.