Spain on the brain

19:48, Jan 24 2012

It's Spain or bust, as Sara skips off to Sumner to check out its tapas bar.

Spain on the brain

With its searing heat, sultry guitar, boisterous fiestas and midday siestas, Spain is about as crammed full of the cool factor as a plump chorizo sausage ready to be sliced into a simmering paella. But, alas, this isn't a travel story.

Lacking the moolah to hop on a plane to the Mediterranean, we took a rusty Mitsubishi on a trip to Sumner to visit what seemed like the next best thing: Almeidas Tapas Bar.

We arrived at the door just after 5pm on a balmy Saturday and were told to come back in half an hour. A bunch of about 10 good-natured revellers dressed in fluoro, the last of a group enjoying a private function, were just finishing their drinks and the few bar staff on deck looked flustered.

On returning, we were told the fluoro crew was due back in about an hour, but we were welcome to have some drinks and nibbles in the meantime. Not the languid Spanish-style grazing we were after, but we were still curious to check the place out.

The drinks list had a nice range of wine from quality Kiwi vineyards, such as Trinity Hill, Mt Difficulty and Wither Hills, as well as some robust Australian reds, all about $6 to $12 a glass. Beer drinkers could choose from Stella Artois on tap and a standard selection from Speight's and Mac's breweries on the menu. A small range of classic cocktails, priced from $12 to $18, is also available.

We were disappointed to see no Spanish wine on the list. Nor was there any hint of the sherry, liqueur or sangria to which the party-loving Spanish are partial.

After ordering glasses of Kopiko Bay sav and Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg merlot, we turned to the tapas menu.

Starting with a page each for specials and breads, the lengthy menu is arranged into three main sections: from the garden, from the farm and from the sea, plus a page of children's fare and a modest sweet selection.

The food at Almeidas is clearly a nod to Spanish-style dining, but we felt the menu didn't go far enough to be authentic. A few more traditional Spanish treats, such as the cured ham delicacy Serrano, would have been welcome, and the dishes seemed light on flavourings such as chilli and pimentón.

Out of the handful of bites we chose, the crumbed eggplant with slow- cooked cherry tomatoes and goat cheese ($8), and the mushroom, rocket and parmesan flatbread ($12.50) were particularly tasty.

When friendly owner Gareth D'Almeida, fresh from Bondi but with Spanish blood from "way back", stopped by to ask how we found the food, we quizzed him about the menu. For now, he says, he's playing it safe and testing the water to see how Christchurch diners react before getting too Spanish. We say bring it on! Meanwhile, we'll keep saving our pennies in the hope of one day taking that long-awaited trip to the Med.

Where: 41 Nayland St, Sumner.
Prices: Standard and fair.
Ambience: Casual, lighthearted.
Amicable and sincere.