The silhouetted bull on the bold blue mural outside Cara o Cruz will pull you in.
Cara o Cruz sign
You’ll find the contemporary Tapas Bar and Restaurant just off the main strip at Terrigal across from the Crowne Plaza. Cara o Cruz, heads or tails in Spanish, opened in July 2011 with a 60 seat capacity and an alfresco courtyard which is perfect in summer.
Inside, Andalusian beats, flamenco guitar and upbeat Spanish tunes accompany the modern and inviting décor. Dark chocolate tones accentuate a vivid blue wall. Contemporary light fittings are at home with a silver chandelier hanging over the bar with a silver mirror on one wall. The welcome is inviting and you could easily think you’re dining in Sydney’s east or inner city.
Restaurant Manager, Luke Wright, was former Sommelier at Bilson’s Restaurant in Sydney. Together with French-Italian trained Head Chef Sean Mawbey, whose culinary experience extends to Buon Ricordo in Sydney before doing a stint in London with Pierre Marco White and working as pastry chef at Orrery Restaurant in London’s Marylebone High Street, they wanted to do “tapas on steroids” in a casual dining environment.
Peruse the menu and you are spoilt for choice. There is the option of the Matador’s Menu at $55pp or you can choose from a good range of vegetarian, seafood and meat dishes which are all reasonably priced. Six tapas dishes between two people is the recommendation.
Interior of Cara o Cruz
There is a good selection of classic cocktails such as Margarita, Mojito and Negroni, a cocktail speciality list as well as local and Spanish wines by the bottle and the glass.
(L) The Matador’s Quiff, Tempranillo – (R) Adults only gazpacho
The Matador’s Quiff cocktail has Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Amaretto and Botrytis sweet wine stirred with lime and mint. You get the initial Bourbon taste, followed by the sweetness from the Botrytis and ends with the bitterness from the Amaretto. The flavours are well balanced and after a couple of sips, the cocktail kicks hard. The Elefante Castilla Tempranillo/Shiraz 2009 from La Mancha in Spain is a delight to accompany the entire meal.
Adults only gazpacho gets its name from the addition of Belvedere vodka. A little spicy with a hint of chilli, this is a good starter for the palate but the vodka is lost on me after the mix of flavours in the Matador’s Quiff cocktail.
Ceviche de vierira
The Scallop ceviche dish, or ceviche de vierira, has 4 scallops on the shell served on a bed of salt. Fresh and zesty, they pack a lot of flavour with the lemon juice, olive oil, chilli and coriander. One tip when you order this dish, don’t spill any of the liquid because you’ll want to drink the marinade. It is simply that good.
Duo de calamares
The Duo of squid, duo de calamares, is squid two ways – a tender and crispy salt and pepper calamari on one side with calamari braised in tomato and chilli sauce on the other. The components are separated by dollops of aioli. The flavours here are very fresh and the braised squid is the most tender and flavoursome I have ever tasted.
Cuernos de Toro
Cuernos de Toro, or Bulls Horns are difficult to resist. Savoury cones are filled with a warm mixture of potato purée and chorizo that has been braised in apple cider. A spicy and textural dish that makes you want to order another immediately. A vegetarian option of the Bulls Horns is also available.
Croquettas de manchego
Manchego croquettes, croquettas de manchego, have manchego cheese mixed with mashed potato, crumbed and served with a side of capsicum jam. Crisp, crunchy with a gooey and tasty cheese, they stand on their own without the accompanying capsicum sauce.
Pancita de Puerco
It’s difficult to overlook the pork belly, pancita de puerco, with its melt-in-your-mouth pork meat beneath a crispy and addictive crackling. The dish is accompanied by a radicchio and pear salad which balances out the flavours.
You may be tempted to skip dessert for more tapas dishes but the sight of dessert plates floating around the dining room will change your mind.
Panna cotta de moras de verano
The panna cotta de moras de verano is a silky smooth summer berry panna cotta served with a dark chocolate ganache and berries.
The piece de resistance is the chocolate parfait, mousse congelado, encased in a dark chocolate shell and served with wild preserved berries, which puts a decadent end to a most satisfying meal.
Head Chef: Sean Mawbey (L) and Restaurant Manager Luke Wright (R)
Cara o Cruz will be opening a cocktail lounge* above the restaurant early in 2012. They have teamed up with Belvedere Vodka and Moët & Chandon to bring a cocktail lounge experience with table service in relaxed surrounds which will make it a well-sought after venue for an aperitif, after dinner drinks or just lounging in good company.
El Toro mural
If you’re visiting the Central Coast, put Cara o Cruz at Terrigal on your culinary radar. The ingredients are treated with respect. The dishes are well paced, well presented with flavours and textures to match. The service is welcoming, friendly, efficient and unpretentious. If you’re living on the Central Coast, chances are you’ve already discovered this sparkling gem.
Note: Gourmantic discovered Cara o Cruz while holidaying on the Central Coast. The quality of the photographs (taken with an iPhone and a point-and-shoot camera) do not give the food justice but we wanted to share this wonderful experience with our readers.
* Edit – July 2012: The Cara o Cruz Lounge Room is now open.
Planning a visit to Cara o Cruz? Don’t miss our Guide to Avoca Beach on the Central Coast
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