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La Pinta

  • Restaurants
  • Reservoir
  1. An exterior shot of La Pinta, a Spanish tapas restaurant and wine bar in Reservoir.
    Photograph: Stephen Laurence
  2. Five plates on a table featuring a variety of tapas dishes.
    Photograph: Stephen Laurence
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Time Out says

A raw, Spanish-inspired restaurant and bar grappling with newfound fame

La Pinta is overflowing at 6.30pm on a Thursday. Brimming, it is. Looks great in there; a busy horseshoe bar and open kitchen around which sit 30-odd chinwaggin’ folks looking very much at home, framed by an orange light and a dodgy coastal mural. Casual, creative and approachable, the former espresso bar is now in the hands of Catherine Chauchat and Adam Racina, who describe La Pinta as Spanish-inspired, and boy, do they have a hit on their hands.

From the back of the line out on High Street, we clock a blackboard detailing what Spanish-inspired means here: veg-leaning share plates that prioritise regenerative farming and local businesses, with a pan-Mediterranean bent. Nothing over $20. It might be wild and tamed mushrooms with celeriac and toasted buckwheat. It might be beef heart with pickled red onions, parsley and parmesan. On this attempt, however, it will be alternative arrangements, after what has been a 75-minute wait with another 30 to 45-minute forecast. Lesson one: La Pinta is extremely popular.

At 5.20pm on a Wednesday, there are five people at La Pinta. At $5 per glass, the Beechworth apera, a Spanish-style sherry, truly is a steal. It's a savoury complement to our first arrival, a cute, small plate of fresh whiting served on a glossy almond puree. It’s an adorable start, but it’s followed by a 25-minute wait for the next plate, a beetroot salad with the beetroots sliced thinly for maximum, oil-soaking surface area. It’s another sweet little thing, and had it been deployed alongside something more substantial, it would have been a fine supporting act. Alas, it’s preceded by another great wait, during which time the restaurant has reached capacity and the operational cracks begin to widen. Lesson two: La Pinta is extremely busy.

Our remaining dishes land after just over an hour from ordering: rich chicken fat potatoes, a charming section of pumpkin served with pumpkin seed cream and a few slices of roast topside served with a sweet relish. It’s homey, it’s categorically unpretentious, it’s cheap, and, above all, it’s here.

Interestingly, it’s the action inside the takeaway cabinet where La Pinta hits its stride. A slice of tortilla de patatas will run you $5 and is a subtly salty pleasure, while the burnt basque cheesecake makes for an even denser, humbler and more beige after-dinner companion. Dine-in or takeaway, there’s a reason these two have become synonymous with the restaurant, and neither should be overlooked. Lesson three: good things come in creamy colourways.

People love La Pinta, and fair enough. It’s been an important part of a very community-focused community for some time, and the no-fuss menu and service no doubt would have played more rustically when the number of staff and systems were commensurate with the patronage. But for better or worse, La Pinta is currently riding the hype rocket and appears to be bearing a load that it is struggling to successfully uphold.

So what to do? For the punter, one option is to arrive before 6pm, hope for the best and order something from the cabinet to tide you over (the diner beside us, an old hand, opened with the bread – go the tortilla). Option two: see option one, but do it at 10pm (La Pinta is open until 11pm). Option three: book. If you’re five people or more, you can book. You’re subject to the tasting menu, but the systems that a tasting menu calls upon may well work in your favour.

La Pinta has captured the hearts of many in its short life, but with its meteoric rise in popularity comes the challenge of how to keep them. It’s a good problem to have.

After more tapas? Here are the best Spanish restaurants in Melbourne.

Written by
Frank Sweet

Details

Address:
791 High Street
Reservoir
Melbourne
3073
Opening hours:
Wed-Fri 5pm-11pm; Sat 12pm-11pm
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