On a recent trip to Ballarat with my father and brother, we spent a whole day at Sovereign Hill, exploring the ‘ye olde’ way of life at the time of the Gold Rush. My brother particularly liked watching the demonstration of how they made the boiled lollies of the time, and my father enjoyed the demonstration of pouring gold into ingots. Personally, I simply enjoyed spending the weekend away with my family – living in another city means I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. Thankfully, this will change next year when K and I move back to Melbourne and start saving in earnest to buy a house and start a family!
Excellent reviews online combined with my ongoing quest to expose my father to cuisines that he’s never tried before meant that we had dinner that evening at Cafe Meigas, a tiny little Spanish restaurant down an alleyway off Ballarat’s main pedestrian mall. I highly recommend making a reservation – luckily I had made a reservation as I didn’t know how popular it would be on a Saturday night. In the two hours that we were there, we saw at least ten groups of diners being turned away due to capacity.
While perusing the menu, my eyes were definitely too big for my stomach. I ordered six dishes between three people and asked the waitress whether she thought it was enough food. “It’s probably a bit too much,” she answered honestly. “But what I can do is have all the entrees and appetisers served in tapas size, so you still get to try all the dishes you want.” What service!
During the day, Cafe Meigas also serves as a continental deli selling all manner of smoked meats, cheeses, imported tapenades, and more. No wonder then, that the Tabla de Embutidos was absolutely fantastic. I adored the subtle manchego cheese and tart plump olives, but Dad’s favourite was the thinly sliced chorizo which he had never tried before. He enjoyed this platter so much in fact, that I had to take him to the supermarket afterwards to show him where he could buy prosciutto, chorizo, ham, etc to make up his own platter in the future.
The Ensalada Iberica was my attempt at ensuring that we ate some vegetables but I was disappointed by the asparagus which wasn’t fresh. Rather, it looked as though it had come out of a jar or can as it was rather limp. The rest of the salad was lovely and fresh, but I simply couldn’t get over the disappointment of the asparagus.
The Croquetas were much more enjoyable. The fillings change every day, and we were lucky enough to have the tasty seafood croquetas on the night that we were there. With a crispy crunchy shell and soft cheesy insides, the croquetas were simply to die for. The difficult part was figuring out how to split four croquetas between three people!
The Patates con Aioli were roasted well with that special kind of crispy skin that I love. I found the massive dollop of aioli on top a bit strange though. I would have preferred the dish had the potatoes been more evenly coated in a thin layer of aioli more like a potato salad.
I almost forgot that I ordered the Albondigas en salsa de almendras, as these meatballs came out quite a bit later than the other tapas. It turned out to be a very pleasant surprise – the nutty sauce was extremely flavourful, and the meatballs were incredibly tender. I definitely could have done with a bit of bread to soak up the sauce, because it was just that good.
We finished off our meal with the Paella Mixta for two, a mix of chicken and seafood. Cafe Meigas were very generous with the servings – whereas some places might use cheaper frozen “assorted seafood” mixes for their paella, they use a great fresh range of mussels, prawns, scampi, clams and fish to make their paella. It made a big difference as well, as it meant that the paella was really infused with the fresh ocean flavours and aromas that made it a fantastic meal.
I was absolutely stuffed to the brim by this point, but I managed to convince my brother to share a dessert with me – the Churros. After all, how can you have a meal at a Spanish restaurant and not finish with churros right? These were absolutely piping hot and straight out of the fryer – but were surprisingly not too oily! Dipped in the rich melted dark chocolate, they were just delightful.
All in all, our meal at Cafe Meigas was really enjoyable. They were very accommodating in terms of their flexibility in serving things tapas style rather than full-sized entrees, and the food itself was really well done. Without knowing Ballarat very well, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the best restaurants in the area!