Don’t think of Una Más as a restaurant. Think of it more like sitting in the beachside dining room of a rich friend while the help pour drinks and prep dinner. A sea breeze drifts through the arched windows, ceramics fill the shelves, 20th-century portraits and still lifes – is that a Picasso? – hang carelessly on the wall. A Spritz lands, but it’s a new thing your host is trying, with sherry vermouth instead of Aperol, and pét-nat to top up. Nice. You secretly prefer the original, but of course you’d never say it.
Glance at the kitchen and a Josper oven is running hot. On the marble counter, bread boards and artfully chipped bowls heave with plus-sized lemons, tomatoes and oysters on ice. Jamón legs swing lazily overhead. The only thing missing is the Smeg x Dolce & Gabbana fridge.
Except you’re not at a house, you’re at Coogee Pavilion, Merivale’s multi-floor beachside behemoth. Downstairs kids jump and scream; upstairs 18-plusses do the same. But here in the middle it’s soft touches, ocean views and a new kind of fantasy, one where the line between restaurant and home is blurred magnificently, and luxury is sourcing outstanding ingredients then leaving them well enough alone. Step into Mimi’s, the flagship fine-dining restaurant across the hall, and this looks like caviar, mud crabs and Grand Cru Chablis. At Una Más, it looks like an homage to Iberian tapas bars. Not the stand-up, two-bite kind chef Jordan Toft apes at Bar Topa, but the sit-down, plate after plate, three-or-four-mouthfuls kind.
Here the flavours are clear and vibrant, enhanced rather than overshadowed by their garnishes. Tuna crudo, for example, comes as slices spread over fine-diced salted pineapple and topped with yuzu kosho, olive oil and sea herbs – equal parts sharp, fruity and delicate. Charred octopus is cut into lengths and spread in a dish strewn with lively fermented habanero purée. Simple, smart stuff. The flesh is a little firm, sure, but you’ll be too busy sprinkling over leaves from the fried thyme sprigs and squeezing lemon on top to really care.
So much of Toft’s food, be it at Bert’s or elsewhere, pays attention to details that others overlook. The olive oil served with the bread rolls, for instance, is preloaded with flaked salt. The radishes that come with a can of Olasagasti anchovies, salted butter and housemade “salata” crackers are clean and fresh enough to eat the leaves with the bulbs. Pippies, tossed through linguine slick with garlic cream, have been removed from their shells in a move that’s both understated and downright helpful.
Where things get heavier there’s always something to bring it back. It might be the preserved lemon and lemon thyme keeping absurdly rich pig’s head – pressed to keep the flesh, fat and golden skin together – in check (although the promised fennel flowers have gone AWOL). Or it might be the dainty napkins to wipe fingers clean from the harissa they picked up pulling apart crisp and salty quail.
There’s no fuss – the music’s up, service is no-nonsense, dishes can be ordered together or one by one, and if you time it right with the no-bookings thing you can stroll off the beach straight into a bar seat. Cut to drinks and a single page of sunny, new-wave wines – all under $100 – sees the likes of organic 2019 Ephemera vermentino and Ochota Barrels pinot noir alongside a handful of Europeans. Flip it and it’s sherry, vermouth and amari to go with thirst-crushing lagers, ales and mixed drinks.
Skip the custards for dessert and go straight for the hollowed-out half lemon filled with lemon freezy and finished with lemon thyme and olive oil. It tastes so convincingly like a Calippo that in this setting it manages to feel, like so much here at Una Más, right at home.