Review: Vamos, Melbourne CBD

If I was to ask you where you might find a great little Spanish/Latin-style tapas bar in Melbourne, Little Bourke Street’s Chinatown probably wouldn’t be your first guess. The hip enclaves of the inner North perhaps – Fitzroy, Brunswick, Collingwood. Or the yuppie South – Prahran, South Yarra. The top end of Little Bourke Street in the city would hardly figure on your radar.

Yet that’s where you’ll find Vamos, a busy tapas bar located on the first floor of a fairly non-descript building. K and I headed there for a date night one evening after getting a 50% off food offer through Dimmi and lucked out with a little table overlooking the street below near the solo guitarist who was playing that night. Talk about setting the atmosphere!

Coconut Mojito ($16AUD) and a Pineapple and Coconut Frozen Mocktail ($12AUD)

We had a coconut drink each – a Coconut Mojito for K and a Pineapple and Coconut Frozen Mocktail for me. With the Australian summer heat still plaguing us, both drinks hit the spot perfectly in terms of quenching our thirst and refreshing our spirit. 

While most of you will know that I tend to opt for mocktails over cocktails on most occasions, this was a very particular choice on part as we’d just made the decision to start trying for a baby and I was cutting out all alcohol as a result.

Patatas Bravas – Spanish spicy fried potato with bravas sauce and chipotle mayo

We opted to order from their $35 per person menu, which allows you to order one dish from each section of the menu – $9, $14 and $18 tapas. Between the two of us, that meant sharing six different dishes and only paying $35 as we had the 50% off offer. What a bargain!

First up on the $9 menu was the Patatas Bravas, a favourite tapas option for us when we were travelling through Spain in 2015. What’s not to love about crunchy chunks of deep-fried potato smothered in garlicky spicy tomato sauce? While they served it with chipotle mayonnaise on the side, you really don’t need anything other than the bravas sauce with these patatas.

Mexican black bean and corn salad, coriander. lime and chilli

Our second $9 dish was the Mexican black bean and corn salad. As much as a bean and corn salad is a staple in our household (side dish out of cans – easy!), we very rarely use black beans as they’re just that little bit harder to get hold of when compared to chickpeas or cannellini beans. After having this version however, I might try a bit harder to get hold of black beans – or at the very least, adding some Spanish onion and coriander to my bean salads, because this mix was superb!

Seared scallops with brown butter, fresh chilli, avocado, chive cream and traditional corn chips

My highlight dish of the night were these Seared Scallops off the $14 menu. Perfectly tender, a little bit caramelised, and wonderful with the fresh avocado and chilli. A simple dish executed perfectly. K could tell that I enjoyed it so much that when I (very generously) offered to split the third scallop with him, he told me to just eat it and stop pretending like I was ready to share!

Free range grilled chicken skewers with Mexican cacao and cinnamon sauce, sultanas and Spanish rice salad

Next up the Free Range Grilled Chicken Skewers, which unfortunately I didn’t love as I found the cacao and cinnamon sauce strange. I couldn’t quite make the mental leap from ‘cacao – it’s dessert’ to ‘cacao – it’s savoury’. This is more my own personal fault though, as K had no issues with this and really enjoyed the dish!

Twice cooked pork belly, celeriac and chipotle slaw, apple and basil puree

We could both agree on this dish though – Twice Cooked Pork Belly. In fact, K loved the crunchy crackling and tender pork so much that I generously offered the third piece to him rather than insisting that we share it. It was, I think, the herbed sweet apple puree that really made this dish stand out. Is there anything better than apple and pork as a combination?

Roasted mushroom caps with charred sweet corn duxelle, Manchego, salsa roja, sour cream and fresh herbs

We finished our meal with the Roasted Mushroom Caps – juicy mushrooms topped with a mix of cheesy, corny, creamy goodness. A lovely lighter vegetarian dish to finish on after the heavier pork and chicken dishes.

While we dined at Vamos on a 50% off voucher, we both agreed that the food was so good that we would definitely return to try some of the other tapas dishes. While we haven’t yet had the chance, I can definitely see us bringing my in-laws here next time they visit Melbourne. A top pick for tapas in the city.

Vamos is located at 37 Little Bourke St in Melbourne CBD.

Review: Jai-Ca, Barcelona Spain

After our successful venture into tapas-dining in Sevilla at Duo Tapas, K and I were keen to make the most of our time in Barcelona and enjoy more tapas meals. Unfortunately, he was struck down with the flu during our time so we spent time recuperating at home and didn’t head out as much as we would have liked. Still, we managed to squeeze in a few good meals, and our tapas lunch at Jai-Ca in the Barceloneta district definitely was a highlight!

Recommended by our Airbnb host as one of his favourite restaurants in Barcelona, it came with a caveat – “you like seafood right?” Jai-Ca is known as a tapas restaurant that specialises in seafood, as the owner comes from a family of fishermen – a lot of their dishes come directly from the family fishing boat!


We started our meal with a few of the complimentary nibblies from the kitchen – a small selection of olives, gherkins and carrots pickled in a chilli sauce. The chilli was very subtle, but a nice addition as we hadn’t experienced many chilli flavours in our travels as it just doesn’t seem to be used as often in French and Spanish cuisine.

Cod Fritters, 5.50 Euro
Cod Fritters, 5.50 Euro

The first tapas dish to come to our table was fresh fried Cod Fritters – and it’s nice to see the cooks in the open kitchen preparing your tapas right in front of your eyes! These fritters had a lovely crispy batter and a soft centre, not unlike a croqueta but with a more rustic appearance. The cod mix was very well herbed and just that little bit cheesy as well. Absolutely delicious!

Spanish omelette, 3.80 Euro
Spanish omelette, 3.80 Euro

The Spanish Omelette was delivered with two slices of Barcelona’s famous tomato bread – basically just baguette slices soaked in a tomato salsa sauce. The omelette was really more like a slice of cake rather than a traditional flat omelette. Surprisingly, the multiple layers of thinly sliced potato all cooked through evenly without some of the mushy or overcooked parts that you might reasonably expect. A warning that the omelette is very eggy though, which may not suit all tastes.

Grilled squid, 4.80 Euro
Grilled squid, 4.80 Euro

The large grill with its dancing flames is a real highlight in the open kitchen. We ordered the Grilled Squid, and I completely fell in love with the delicate smoky charring on the tender squid. It’s with dishes like this that you truly begin to understand why seafood is the highlight of Jai-Ca, as this was absolutely the freshest squid you could find anywhere in Barcelona. The super tender and creamy flesh on the body required almost required no chewing whatsoever, while the squid tentacles were nice and crispy and crunchy. A winning dish all around.

Anchovy with fried fishbone, 2.40 Euro
Anchovy with fried fishbone, 2.40 Euro

The next dish we ordered was the Anchovy with Fried Fishbone, apparently the house specialty. While the two slices of anchovy were just as salty as you would imagine (it’s not for everyone!), the fish bones were absolutely delicious. Fried in a thin herbed and salted batter, these bones were super crunchy and tasty. I’m only disappointed that there were so few fishbones offered in the dish, as I could have easily eaten it all by myself without sharing with K!

Grilled prawns, 4 Euro
Grilled prawns, 4 Euro

We finished off our meal with another dish from the grill – two plump and juicy Grilled Prawns. With a bit of lemon squeezed over the fish, the marinated prawns were just delicious, bursting in your mouth with a strong ocean flavour. I’m not normally a fan of sucking prawn heads, but I did in this case as they were so fresh that you didn’t get that dirty savoury flavour that you would normally get with prawn heads.


Jai-Ca serves up some amazing tapas dishes. It’s not the cheapest restaurant around by any means, and you’ll find many other tapas restaurants for almost half the price. Don’t cheap out though – go to Jai-Ca because you will know for sure that the seafood you’re eating is by far the freshest you will find anywhere in Barcelona. I’d definitely go back the next time I’m in Barcelona!

Jai-Ca is located at 13 Carrer de Ginebra, Barcelona.

Review: Duo Tapas, Sevilla Spain

Our stay in Madrid was unadventurous on the food front – as I’d mentioned, I’d not yet gathered up the courage to navigate the unfamiliar world of ordering tapas. By the time we got to Sevilla though, I was determined to shake off any misgivings and give it a try. Luckily when I mentioned to David our Airbnb host that I was uncertain about tapas etiquette, he very generously spent time with us going through the best ways to order tapas (you don’t have to order everything at once, you can order it one dish at a time!), and recommended his favourite modern tapas restaurant as well.

With David’s suggestions in mind, K and I headed off that night to Duo Tapas, a modern tapas restaurant in the hip Alameda district of Sevilla. We arrived at 8pm which is considered a reasonable dining hour in Spain, and in fact we were probably part of the early dinner crowd as the restaurant didn’t really heat up until about 9.30pm!


We got a table pretty easily, and the waiter was very accommodating as well. While he started off speaking Spanish, he soon figured out that we weren’t understanding him and he switched effortlessly to English. Breathing a sigh of relief, we ordered drinks – a simple lemonade for me, and a glass of the full-bodied house red for K.


You get some nibblies delivered to your table at Duo Tapas, and unlike other Spanish restaurants, you don’t get charged for these! While I like olives, I particularly liked the tiny pickled onions which were crunchy and juicy. Unfortunately the bread didn’t seem quite as fresh as it should have been, but that was fine – we weren’t there for the bread!

Ensalada Barbetena, $4 Euro
Ensalada Barbetena, $4 Euro

We started with the Ensalada Barbetena to whet our appetite – a surprisingly delicious mix of varied lettuce leaves, tomatoes, avocados, sprouts, and a light sprinkling of fried onions for texture and a burst of flavour. Lightly dressed with a very thick balsamic and paprika, it was just the type of fresh salad I was looking for.

Magret de Pato, $3.50 Euro
Magret de Pato, $3.50 Euro

David suggested that we order the Magret de Pato, his favourite tapas dish at the restaurant, so we decided to go with his recommendation. It is absolutely superb, and you get three generous slices of tender, juicy duck breast with the most superbly crispy skin served with a variety of roast vegetables.

The duck is the real highlight here, and for a moment I regretted only getting the tapas-sized dish for $3.50 Euro when paying $8 Euro could have gotten you a main-sized version of this dish – a real bargain! Still, tapas is all about tasting morsels of many different things, and there were more tapas dishes to be ordered and tasted.

Hamburguesa Elvis, $3.50 Euro
Hamburguesa Elvis, $3.50 Euro

All the other diners seemed to be ordering the Hamburguesa Elvis, so we ordered one as well. A house specialty perhaps? Delivered to our table was a little slider burger made up of a fried egg with a delicate soft yolk perched on top of a spiced chunky mini beef patty, cooked rare. I got a real visceral delight out of squishing the top of the burger bun on top of the egg, and having the creamy yolk soak into the bun! The dish is accompanied with some fat hand-cut chips on the side which unfortunately pale in comparison to the gloriously tasty hamburger.

Tokio Rolls, $2.90 Euro
Tokio Rolls, $2.90 Euro

We were getting pretty full by this point, but decided to order two more smaller tapas dishes to round off the meal. I was keen to try the Tokio Rolls, as I had some vague hope that they might be sushi rolls, which I had been craving. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed as spring rolls were delivered to our table (with a pair of chopsticks to boot!). Still, one can’t deny that these were surprisingly decent spring rolls with a light and crispy pastry that wasn’t too oily, and a tasty veggie-based filling that went particularly well with the sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Marisco Croquetas, $2.90 Euro
Marisco Croquetas, $2.90 Euro

We finished off our meal with some Marisco Croquetas, sat on a bed of creamy mayonnaise. The crumbed crust on these croquetas were lovely – very very thin so that the least bit of pressure meant you could break through to the creamy seafood mix inside. My only disappointment is that croqueta mix didn’t include chunks of seafood. It was clearly a seafood mix as there was a strong shellfish flavour, but there wasn’t the chunks of seafood to make it really tangible, or even to introduce some variety in the texture of the croquetas.

Duo Tapas definitely isn’t a standard traditional Spanish tapas restaurant serving standard tapas dishes. It’s modern, hip, and tries to incorporate elements of other cuisines into their dishes for some fusion fun. If you’re keen on trying innovative tapas in a cool restaurant, Duo Tapas is definitely the place to go!

Duo Tapas is located at 10 Calle Calatrava, Sevilla.