Teasing. Tempting. Titillating.
That’s what you would expect from a menu that apologises in advance for occasional nudity.
Open Emmilou’s tri-fold menu with a sexy woman on the front then avert your eyes. The nudity between the covers assails your senses with a photo of a large dude with overhanging man boobs. Look beyond the ghastly image, and you find yourself totally tempted by a selection of Pinchos, Tapas, Bigger Bites and a sexy Tasting Menu matched with cocktails or wines.
Alluring, cheeky and provocative. At Emmilou Tapas Bar, it is about having fun.
Inside the converted terrace in Surry Hills, the party is in full swing. The occasion tonight is the launch of the new menu as well as celebrating the birthday of Emmilou’s Chef and Owner, Chris Cranswick-Smith.
The restaurant is cleared of the central tables and ghost chairs allowing beautiful people to mingle with ease while some elegantly lounge on the terrace. The music is a little familiar from our last visit with the sound of Sade, upbeat rhythms and French singer Camille with her popular song, Ta Douleur.
The bar area is transformed into a tapas bar reminiscent of hot, late nights in Spain with guests helping themselves to a selection of dishes that tempt the eye and the palate.
Chris is behind the bar, greeting every guest with his delightful charm and the warm welcome you experience at Emmilou. Dressed in a black chef jacket, a striped apron and party hat might seem a little understated for such an occasion, until you take a closer look.
Tonight, it’s not only the menu that is showing a bit of cheek.
The entire Emmilou team, including Chris, are wearing tight Teamm8 underwear, matching the fiery red colour of the restaurant’s décor.
Beer, Cider and Wine
The bar has been relocated to the verandah and there’s a good selection of beer, cider, cava and wines from Spain, France, Argentina and Australia.
Cider and Beer: Escanciador ES Cider, Rosita d’Ivori and Estrella Galicia
White wines and rosé from Spain, France, Riverina and Argentina
Red wines from Spain, Argentina and the Barossa Valley
I check for potential pirates in their underwear before I make a less adventurous selection. I choose to stick with one drink and pick the 2009 Mocen Verdejo from Rueda in Spain. Mr G opts for the 2009 Les Jamelles Sauvignon Blanc from France. Both wines are very pleasant to drink while enjoying the wonderful company of Alvin Quah from Masterchef, Brian, Judy and Denéa from Gourmet Rabbit.
Judi Craven, Alvin Quah (Masterchef), Denéa Buckingham (Gourmet Rabbit) and Brian Long
Pinchos, Tapas and a Taste of Spain
The menu at Emmilou is inspired by the time Chris spent working in and around the Basque regions of Spain and France.
Aceitunas – marinated olives with lemon and rosemary
The offerings tonight include a combination of bar snacks, tapas and pinchos (pintxos in Basque) that remind you of San Sebastián in the north-east of Spain.
Jamón is difficult to resist, particularly when it is thinly-sliced and lying seductively on a wooden board with sourdough bread and olive oil for company.
Sobrasada plays on one’s curiosity with its deep, rich colour and paste-like consistency. Made of minced chorizo with honey and white pepper, it packs strong spicy flavours that are not overly sweet from the honey.
Anchovies can be divisive but not these Boquerones, or Spanish white anchovies with crispy garlic chips. Served with bread to mop up a little of the oil, they can easily be savoured on their own, as I did, which is testament to their flavour that doesn’t assault the palate.
The presentation of Calamar, or baby squid posing languidly alongside ‘shrimp butter’ and gremolata has you picking up a piece with your fork and and studying the content. Stuffed with cooked red cabbage and what looks like chick peas, the chargrilled squid is very tender and flavoursome.
The seared blue eye trevalla, or Bacalao, with angled skewers has ‘pick me up’ written all over it. Lightly seasoned on the outside, the fish is moist, not overly flaky and served with dried bacalao and asparagus.
Pimientos mean peppers in Spanish, and the allure of these potato and crab croquettas reminds you that beauty is not just skin deep. Look beyond the crunchy texture and you see that the red peppers are stuffed with potato and crab then dressed with grain mustard. As with all things beautiful, it leaves you longing for more.
Hiding beneath shredded apple coleslaw is Cerdo, pork belly that has been slow-cooked for 16 hours. Tender and moist, this is a comforting and satisfying dish. Like big bear hug from your best male friend, it makes you feel good all over.
Ensalada is a reminder that some things sound better in Spanish. Language aside, this mixed leaf salad with citrus dressing and crispy onion rings is an enticement to eat your green leafy vegetables.
Not originally on the menu, Gambas, or prawns served with gremolata and crisp eschallots made a short-lived appearance as the plates were quickly emptied.
Emmilou’s Churros with Chocolate and Rum Sauce
We finish with Churros, light and crispy, served with a silky and sensual chocolate laced with rum – a richness you want to indulge in, alone or in special company, guilt-free, with the aid of a spoon.
If the selection of dishes presented tonight is designed to impress and entice you for more, then it has delivered. Reading through the rest of the menu, there are many temptations such as Huevos, the crispy quail eggs with celery salt and corn, Calabacines Tempranos, stuffed zucchini flowers with goats cheese and truffle honey and to finish, stuffed cigars with toffee apple foam and burnt orange, guaranteeing a return to Emmilou.
Unisex toilets and restaurant lights
Cocktails at Emmilou
After playing it safe with wine, I am in the mood for something new, strong that has vibrant energy. With the recently launched cocktail list that includes Emmilou Staff (are hot) Favourites, there are many temptations on offer.
Emmilou Staff are Hot
Zach mixing my cocktail
I leave the decision up to Zach, the Bar Manager, and watch him at work as he stirs Don Julio Reposado Tequila over ice with Pedro Ximinez sweet sherry then serves it straight in a coupette with an orange twist.
Tequila and Raisin Martini
The result is a Tequila and Raisin Martini that delivers a strong kick and ends with lingering warmth.
Private Chef Solutions
Over the course of the evening and with a glass of Cranswick ‘Saurus’ Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, I take the opportunity to chat with Chris about his other business venture. I learn that there is more to Private Chef Solutions than what the name implies with private catering.
Chris Cranswick-Smith – Emmilou Chef and Owner
Just as I discover on the evening, Emmilou is an experience. And that is exactly what Private Chef Solutions delivers. It brings the Emmilou brand to a client’s chosen venue, combining food, drink and a cocktail bar with a party ambience, customised music playlists and all the fun and professional energy from the team including Chris himself – a private Emmilou experience wrapped up in a great package.
The Emmilou Team
As the party winds down, I am pleased to have met Chris’ team, a group of dedicated individuals whose energy and enthusiasm for their work made the event into a memorable evening.
The Emmilou Team (L to R) –
Dave Kynaston (Boutique Argentinean wine importer and casual employee), Karl Burton (1st year apprentice chef), Ryan Christopherson (section waiter and regular face), Liam Dooley (Restaurant Manager), Chris Cranswick-Smith (Chef and Owner), K (sous chef), Jib (newly appointed Head Chef and long term employee) and Zach McGill (Bar Manager)
Gourmantic attended the Emmilou New Menu Launch Party on Wednesday 30 March 2011 as guests of Chris Cranswick-Smith.
Emmilou Tapas Bar
413 Bourke Street
Surry Hills Sydney NSW 2010
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