MELBOURNE | Añada Fitzroy is a restaurant that has been on my list of places to visit for what seems like an eternity but for some inexcusable reason I had never visited until recently. I love Spain and Spanish food, I’m a big fan of part-owner/head chef Jesse Gerner’s food, it’s been open for longer than I’ve lived in Melbourne (Añada arrived in 2008, me 2012) and it’s close to home. It’s one of those odd situations that just happens, like when you realise there’s a well regarded movie or album that’s exactly the kind of thing you like but you’ve never seen/listened to it, despite having known about it for years.
So, what is it that finally got me to Añada? Well a few weeks ago it was International Sherry Week and in honour of this interesting tipple, Añada, in conjunction with Spanish wine buffs The Spanish Acquisition, put on The Sherry Sessions. 4 nights of Spain’s most interesting and unusual sherries matched to a 4 course set menu inspired by the Añada team’s recent trip to the tapas bars of Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Was I in? Most definitely!
Normally, the food at Añada is strongly influenced by the peasant food of Andalucia, Southern Spain and the flavours of the Muslim Mediterranean but as I mentioned earlier, the food at the Sherry Sessions was much more regionally focused. I’ve been to Spain 3 times and absolutely love the country and its food but have only been to Andalucia once – most of my experience has been in Madrid and Catalonia. I was sure the food would be good, and was very keen to learn more about sherry, a drink which I knew next to nothing about. Each dish was matched with Sherry, and as the night progressed we moved across the spectrum of sherry – from dry to sweet.
Of course no Spanish meal would be complete without a plate of olives to start things off.
Tortilla de Camaron
Moving onto the meal proper, and the first dish was something that is simple yet very difficult to master. It’s a crispy tortilla served atop a glass of whatever alcoholic tipple you are enjoying. Why you may ask? Well historically it was to keep the flies out and over time it just became the done thing. This might look like a simple dish, but the airy bubbles and super crisp texture took the kitchen several months to master. Jesse explained to us the process of trial and error that the team went through to get these right, and how they refused to put them on the menu until they were right, despite the fact that most people wouldn’t really know the difference. It’s a pleasure to see someone still so passionate about what they are doing after so many years.
The tortilla was matched with La Goya,‘En Rama’ Manzanilla Magnum from Sanlucar de Barrameda. A dry sherry, and a perfect way to smash through any preconceptions of sherry. If you like dry white wine you’ll know what to expect from this, the youngest of sherries.
Eel Brandade Cigar
These “cigars” were crispy on the outside and very creamy on the inside. The black ends were a celery salt which was a nice touch.
Sea Urchin Montadito
At the same time we were served these delicious morcels of crispy bread topped with cucumber, white radish and sea urchin. Very unctuous and decadent, as sea urchin should be. The sea urchin and the cigars were served with a Gutierrez Colosia Fino del Puerto from Jerez, which was another dry white that matched perfectly with the food.
The next 3 dishes were served with the same wine at very different ages. Side by side we had the Sanchez Romate Amontillade ‘NPU’ from Jerez and the 35 year old ‘Old & Plus’ version. Unsurprisingly, the 35 year old sherry was much richer in flavour and as you can see from the colour, the dry whites were now a thing of the past. Kind of like moving from white wine to red, although that is simplifying things somewhat.
Calcote With Romesco
In a surprise for the night, one of the highlights were these lightly seared spring onions with a sweet tomato sauce, topped with crumbs. The crunchy texture and the charred flavours worked beautifully together.
Bunuelo De Bacalao
Croquettes are one of my favourite things ever, and I could happily eat a big bowl of these only and be satisfied. The ones we tried were filled with salt cod and cheese, yet weren’t heavy or oily.
The morcilla, an Andalusian version of blood pudding didn’t disappoint either. The dark and rich spiced sausages were served in a sauce that itself used blood. Utterly delicious and moist.
Palo Cortado Braised Venison / Beetroot Ensalada
There are many things that I miss about living in Europe and the abundance of venison on menus is one of those things. It’s understandable that you don’t see it often in Australia as deer aren’t exactly abundant in this country so whenever I do see it on a menu I get rather excited. The version we tried at this meal was beautiful, and one of my favourite dishes of the night. The venison was braised just right and cooked medium. It was very hearty and full of gamey flavour. The sweetness of the beetroot salad complimented the venison well.
This, and the following dish, were matched with one of the few authentic Palo cortados around. Palo cortado is a rare sherry that starts its life as something that’s intended to become a fino or amontillado, but for some reason begins aging oxidatively as an oloroso. Only about 1-2% of the grapes pressed for sherry naturally develop into palo cortado. The 2 we tried were the Cayetano del Pino Almacenista Palo Cortado Solera 15 yo and the Viejisimo Solera 35+ yo, both from Jerez. These deeper, sweeter, sherries were a kind of cross between the almost port-like flavour that I expected sherry to be like and the wine-like sherries that I had had earlier in the night. They went very well with the richer, heartier food.
When the table was asked if the cheese option would be desired, the answer was pretty clear. Nothing fancy going on here, just a tasty slice of manchego and quince paste paired with a Sanchez Romate Olorose ‘Don Jose’ from Jerez. This is what a snack should be.
Pastel De Pistachio With White Chocolate & Beetroot Ganache, Liquorice Powder
The dessert was a very interesting cake which was moist and nutty, and not overly sweet. The cake didn’t really work on its own however when combined with the white chocolate and beetroot ganache it made a lot of sense. A dessert where the sum of the parts was greater than the individual parts.
It was paired with a sweet, syrupy Sanchez Romata Cream Iberia which was warming and tasted like Christmas a cup with strong raisin notes – a very different drink to the earlier sherries of the night and more akin to Port of Moscado.
The Sherry Sessions might be over for another year, however Añada is still doing what it’s been doing since 2008 – serving properly authentic food from Southern Spain with an impressive drinks list to match which includes, of course, sherry. I always wanted to visit Añada for the food, which I knew would be great, however after The Sherry Sessions I want to return not just for the food, but for the sherry. Next time you’re eating Spanish food give sherry a go as I’m sure you’ll be surprised at just how different it is than you imagined.
197 Gertrude Street
Telephone: (03) 9415 6101
Mon – Sat: 8:00pm to late
Sun: 12:00pm to late