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El Bulli del Punto: The Spot, Randwick

Author: Posted on: April 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm

At last month’s Food and Film Festival at the Spot in Randwick, we had the chance to try some of the local restaurants’ cuisines with the view of dining at those places that have made a good impression. El Bulli del Punto’s paella stand was a winner so we decided to go there at the first opportunity. A couple of friends have dined there in the past and gave it a good recommendation yet our experience did not meet expectations.

Here on Gourmantic, we do not see any value in reviewing a place that we did not enjoy since we believe in the old adage that any publicity being good publicity. But we have decided to publish this review for a reason.

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El Bulli del Punto occupies small premises opposite the Ritz cinema in the busy dining strip known as the Spot in Randwick. We arrive on time for our booking and take note of the number of people standing outside. We’re led past the tables that run parallel to the busy bar along a narrow hallway and into the main dining room.

El Bulli del PuntoEl Bulli del Punto

The restaurant is gearing up for a second sitting and in time it is near full capacity. Long tables of boisterous diners contribute to the high noise levels bouncing off the walls. Soft cushions and banquettes make up the seating against the walls but do very little to absorb the sound. Trompe-l’oeil murals designed to give an illusion of space do very little under the dim lighting but add a pleasing effect nonetheless.

El Bulli del PuntoEl Bulli del Punto

The cocktail selection is impressive, featuring drinks from Latin countries. We have to shout to place our order but the waitress is most apologetic for the noise. Within 15 minutes we are drinking a toast.

El Bulli del Punto

On the left is a Classic Margarita (Mexico), made with Tequila and Cointreau shaken with fresh limes and lemon, strained and served in a chilled salt-rimmed Martini glass. Behind it is Livin La Vida Loca, Pisco and apple Schnapps shaken with fresh limes and apple topped with ginger beer and served in a hurricane glass.

On the top right, Pisco Sour (Peru) is made of Pisco shaken with fresh lime juice, sugar, egg whites, laced with nutmeg and served in a chilled Martini glass. On the bottom right is Banderita (Little Flag), three separate shot glasses filled with El Bulli’s sangrita, fresh lime juice and Herradura Reposado Tequila. All cocktails are $15.50.

The cocktails are most enjoyable. I get to sample each one and vote Banderita as the favourite. Depending on the order you sip from each shot glass, you get a different taste experience.

We make a selection from the extensive tapas menu.

El Bulli del PuntoEl Bulli del Punto

The first item to be served is the complimentary Bread, Mayonnaise and Garlic. The bread is fresh with a good crust but the mayonnaise is bland and watery with only a hint of garlic.

El Bulli del Punto

Next to arrive is Pan Con Tomate, toasted ciabatta rubbed with garlic, tomato and sea salt. This dish was also complimentary and we divide the three pieces among four people.

El Bulli del Punto

Time to swap our empty cocktails glasses for a jug of Sangria. Our glasses are filled, clinked and the fruity wine goes down easily.

El Bulli del Punto

The first of the tapas we ordered arrives. Boquerones ($15.50) are baby sardines filleted in a garlic olive oil dressing. The sardine fillets have a fresh taste that we all enjoy, even those of us who aren’t fans of oily fish. Bread is used to mop up the garlic-infused olive oil, a good start to the meal and one of the favourite dishes of the evening.

El Bulli del Punto

Chorizo A La Sidra ($14.50) is described as crispy panfried chorizo and Spanish onion in a cider glaze. We all love a good chorizo but this one lacked any bite and spice. Some pieces are well cooked and crisp just the way we like them, others could have been tossed in warm oil. The dish lacks consistency and flavour. We ask for some chilli to compensate for the taste but what we’re given can only be described as the mildest of mild.

El Bulli del Punto

Gambas Al Ajillo ($19.50) are pan-fried prawns in garlic oil, salt and pepper, with a hint of chilli oil. The prawns are nicely presented in a cast iron pan but one bite reveals that they are undercooked. It is difficult to see under the dim lighting but a closer inspection shows that the prawn flesh is translucent. We send it back and ask for it to be cooked. When the dish is returned, the prawn meat has shrunk as if it had been put in a microwave and it had no taste. The oil with the garlic and chilli makes for some good bread-mopping which we have to request.

El Bulli del Punto

Caracoles Al Ajilo ($16.50) are oven-baked snails in a garlic butter. The mollusks come served in their shell with an accompanying crab pick. The snails are soft and cooked but once again, they lack any flavour. Even the hint of garlic was easy to miss. When you remove a snail, the inside of the shell is dry. Two out of the four of us cook escargots at home while the other two are seasoned eaters, so we know our snails. These could have been lightly smeared in butter then stuffed inside a shell for decorative purposes.

El Bulli del Punto

Chipirones ($14.50) are char-grilled baby squid in a salt and garlic sauce. For a much anticipated dish, this one is voted the worst serving of the night. Tough under the knife, rubbery under the teeth, dry and lacking in oil or sauce, the taste is so insipid that we may as well be chewing on old gum.El Bulli del Punto

Next to arrive are Champiñones Al Ajillo ($11.50), sautéed mushrooms in garlic, parsley, white wine and olive oil. The aroma from the dish is noticeable the moment the earthenware plate is placed on the table. One bite into a mushroom and we get an explosion of flavours. The white wine is easily discernible, the quantity of garlic is generous and the mushrooms are juicy and pack a flavour. We mop up every drop of oil with the bread after we ask for one more round.

This is the dish that makes us wonder if a different chefs are cooking different dishes. one of the best dishes of the night. If the strength of flavours extended to the other dishes, it would have been a winner.

El Bulli del Punto

Mejillones En Salsa Picante ($18.50) arrives, described as a giant pot of chilli mussels cooked in a traditional Spanish salsa, pumped up with eshallots, basil, chilli and garlic. The camera struggled with this dish and so did the palate. While the mussels themselves were soft and plump, it seemed like they were steamed in water then the tomato sauce added on top. Furthermore, the tomato in the salsa was acidic and undercooked. There was nothing picante about this salsa, and once the last mussel was had, the remaining liquid in the dish was no salsa but a watery concoction.

El Bulli del Punto

At this point in time, we ask our waitress if the owner is on site. She explains that he used to be regularly in the restaurant but he has taken a back seat of late. We say no more.

El Bulli del Punto

Looking around the other tables, jugs of sangria are being replenished and empty plates are being cleared. We are surprised that nobody has ordered the paella, ($28.95) considering it was the main attraction at the food festival.

When it comes to dessert, we are a little reluctant after our experience. There is a choice of three desserts, quesos frescos ($21.50) a selection of Spanish cheeses, churros ($13.50) and crema catalana ($12.50). We decide to pass on sweets and ask for the bill.

El Bulli del PuntoEl Bulli del Punto

Four complimentary glasses of sherry are presented with the bill. Upon checking the tally, we note that they have charged us for an additional cocktail we didn’t have. After fixing the error, the bill is presented without a pen to sign the credit card vouchers.

El Bulli del Punto enticed us at the Food and Film Festival with their delicious paella and sangria and their friendly staff but our dining experience was far from acceptable. The dishes we ordered were not difficult to cook, and for the price they didn’t offer value for money. They mostly lacked flavour in the most basic ingredients that make good tapas and Spanish food. We believe that El Bulli del Punto has potential to improve therefore we have decided to publish this review.

The sherry is a nice complimentary touch to round off the meal. It has a sweet taste in the mouth but much like our dining experience, it does not linger.

El Bulli del Punto

El Bulli Spanish Tapas
40 St Pauls St
The Spot, Randwick
Sydney NSW 2031

El Bulli Spanish Tapas on Urbanspoon

Corinne

Corinne is the founder and editor of Gourmantic. An avid scribe, she has taken pen to paper since the age of five. Her repertoire includes long works of fiction, short stories and travelogues.

She is a winner of the GT travel writing competition, has judged the Australasian Whisky Awards for 2013 and several cocktail competitions. She is also named in the Australian Bartender Most Influential List for 2013.


This article is posted on Gourmantic.com. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2014

El Bulli del Punto: The Spot, Randwick was last modified: May 4th, 2014 by Corinne

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12 Comments to “El Bulli del Punto: The Spot, Randwick”

  1. betty says:

    the pan con tomatae looks nice :) i love spanish food its like spanish yumcha :O)

  2. Donna Hayley says:

    Went to El Bulli, Randwick tonight, this is the worst dinner experience I had. We sat outside in a great spot, under the heater watching the world go by, and enjoying our food when we were told that we have to move to a smaller table, so we carried our food, drinks ourself

    Then while we continue eating our food, one of the waitress came and spill the Sangria all over me, the food and table.The waitress didn’t even offer us a replacement sangria and food. I spoke to the manager and he didn’t do anything.

    The food was not so great, there are better places out there

    So we just asked for the Bill and left!!!!!

    Never Ever go back to that place and not recommended!!!!!!!

    • Gourmantic says:

      Donna, I don’t even know where to start… your experience makes ours seem like a drop in the ocean! I’ve had wine spilled over me elsewhere but they offered to pay for the dry cleaning bill and they replaced the drink. But to be asked to move and carry your food/drink? I wasn’t aware it was a fast food joint!

      I don’t understand why managers don’t act when something of this magnitude happens. It’s only going to give them bad publicity.

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. Sorry you’ve had a such a bad experience.

  3. HB says:

    Had a dinner there last night. Agree totally with your comments about the decor, noise, food quality and overall value. A guy with a mohawk seemed to be the manager and I overheard him literally screaming and swearing at the floor manager about the chefs.

    This restaurant does have the capacity to improve, but in large part because the only way is up. There’s a big need for a reasonably-priced good quality tapas place (o veinte) in Sydney.

    • Gourmantic says:

      Hi HB, from your comment and the one above, it seems like it has deteriorated further since we were there last. I’d have to agree that the only way is up. Or out. Let’s face it, there are other places to go in The Spot. Word of mouth spreads fast when it comes to a restaurant with a bad reputation. I was hoping there would be improvements since we’ve dined there, but it looks like things have declined.

      Thank you for your comment and for contributing to the discussion.

  4. HB says:

    Hi there Gourmantic,

    It’s interesting that we were there on the same night as Donna, and one of our party also had a bottle of water spilt on her. Two staff members did actually go to some effort to assist with the problem, and of course, it was replaced.

    I agree that word of mouth is pretty important (I found your blog via Urbanspoon, whilst trying to submit my vote for El Bulli).

    It’d be great to have some really good Spanish food, without having to go all the way to Spain.

    Great blog by the way. It must take some effort to remember all the details after sangría.

    HB

    • Gourmantic says:

      HB, sounds like a series of bad moments at El Bulli!

      Agree. Good tapas isn’t exactly fine dining and there should be some good places to eat. Soni’s in Newtown do good tapas but I haven’t been there in a couple of years. There’s also Emmilou Tapas Bar in Surry Hills that has great reviews.

      Thanks for the compliment, HB :) I’m glad you found us!

  5. Dee says:

    Having read mixed reviews of El Bulli Randwick, we were anticipating a night fraught with havoc and mayhem. While we didn’t have the good fortune to experience the ‘dinner and a show’ promised by one of these reviews involving the restaurant manager sporting a mohawk screaming and abusing his kitchen staff, there were still many redeeming features of the experience. The food in particular was tasty and served punctually even if the sangria was overly sweet to the point of overwhelming my tastebuds. When a large dish of mussels appeared the meal took a promising turn. However, my hopes were dashed when the flesh that could be extracted from each mussel shell was small and inadequate. I was, however, assured by my dining partner that “a few” of the mussels were “reasonably sized”. One of the waitresses kept trying to take away our unfinished mussels (presumably because their small size makes the fresh and empty shells barely distinguishable from one another), with other wait staff apologising to us for it being “her first night”.

    Apart from not being able to fit all of our seafood dishes on the rather small table amongst the overly sweet Sangria, the cramped tables and close proximity to other diners meant that I was constantly having hair flicked onto my shoulder by the woman sitting behind me. The music was a strange mix of barely audible reggae with inaudible traditional Spanish. Although we were treated to the spectacle of a waitress spilling garlic butter on the floor, I can’t help but feel shortchanged at missing out on seeing the mohawked manager entertain patrons by spewing forth vitriolic diatribes at his overwhelmed staff. He must go easy on them on their first night.

    Highly recommended. Best Spanish tapas venue in Randwick.

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Dee and thanks for your comment . I’m glad you had a more pleasurable experience than other readers, even though it lacked theatrics! I’m also pleased the food lived up to expectation since what we had was almost a 50/50 split between the good and the bad. I can’t say that I witnessed the ‘show’ either but we were privy to a(nother) waitress’s first day on the job.

      I agree with you about the sense of space or the lack thereof. They tend to pack them in and the noise gets a little out of hand, though I can’t imagine hair being flicked on your shoulder being any fun!

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

  6. Dave says:

    Can’t say I agree with the comment above. Tasteless overpriced food and slack service don’t make it the best tapas in Randwick.

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Dave – Agreed. I haven’t tried the other tapas in Randwick so I can’t give an opinion. Nor have I been back to El Bulli del Punto since this review so I can only surmise that opinions remain divided for now.

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