Evoking the great tapas haunts of Seville, The Bohemian is most promising.
If one views Melbourne as an amoebic organism with the CBD as its rightful nucleus, the Docklands precinct is a pseudopod and South Wharf its newest embryonic offspring. Both are partly formed, yet vibrating with potential life. Located at the outer reaches of South Wharf, The Bohemian is a secluded bar-cum-restaurant venue with a wide-windowed, papered-over exterior evoking the great tapas haunts of Seville. The warm glow of the kitchen and of boudoir bronze lamps alight upon two dining areas — a tightly-spaced enclosure of tables for dining and a set of long communal perches for bebidas. The spirited melody of European accents meld with the easy chatter of diners, creating an altogether atmospheric space.
MoMo & Coco visited for an after-work dinner. Unfolding a hefty embossed leather menu, The Bohemian was unabashedly focused in its ethnicity with the Spanish tongue detailing numerous options under the titles of “tapas, bocadillos, charcuteria, paella, plato principales and postres.” There was great flexibility to go individual or shared plate, but we opted for the sharing spirit because that is the tapas philosophy. First to be sampled were the Chupa-chups de codorniz ($11), little so-called lollipops of quail thigh that must have been unfortunately sourced from foetal-stage quail rather than normal-sized quail. More Southern Chinese than Espagnol in flavour, they required less soy, more spice. Similarly, the highlight of the Albondigas ($8.50) were not the meatballs, but rather the rustic romesco sauce. We could have sworn that the meat was a little too rare. Eeek! Fortunately, the dinner crescendoed with the subsequent tapas dishes — a dashing plate of Galican-style Pulpo a la gallega (grilled octopus and paprika, $17), the very fine surprise of Potato bravas ($11) presented not as its usual potato wedge formation but rather here, as a perfect military line-up of crunchy stubs enclosing a creamy body. There was also the show-stopping Heuvo revuelto con chorizo y espuma de ago ($6.50) where a heart-warming froth of egg, chorizo and confit garlic foam was set in a cute egg cup. We didn’t sample the paella nor the plato principales, so are not qualified to say anything about those. Special mention though to the covetable wine list, better than most, although perhaps not as niche as San Telmo‘s.
The Bohemian offered three desserts, with an ice-cream option also. MoMo & Coco bypassed a brioche pudding because we personally prefer sugary desserts rather than carbohydrate-based desserts. The first sweet irresistible was the “Bunelos de Chocolate” ($11). If you are a lover of very dark chocolate, this is your type of dessert. A trio of deep fried orbs were filled with an emphatically bitter, gritty molten chocolate, relieved somewhat by pieces of cumquat. If the typically car battery acid levels of cumquat had been retained rather than tempered with some sweet-sour coating of sorts and a peck of salt, the impact of this dessert would have been greater. Nonetheless, it was a more powerful rendition of chocolate doughnuts in comparison, for example, to that sampled at another relative newcomer and a MoMo & Coco favourite, Henry & The Fox.
The second irresistible sampled was the “Brownie de Chocolate Blanco” ($11). Don’t be fooled by the name — this dessert comprised of three slightly disparate components. Sitting on squirty squiggles of pungent blue cheese cream, the first component was a soft cake mound with a brulee-ized surface. It was a sweet cake, with a slight perceptible tone of white chocolate. It sidled up to a pile of just-poached bear balls and sticky fig ice cream. MoMo & Coco could not fault the constituent parts of this dessert, but we were not entirely convinced by the continuing sweet-savoury in The Bohemian’s desserts. Perhaps it will suit those with a lesser sweet palate?
On our visit, service was friendly, welcoming and timely. The wait staff were also very attentive which is more than can be said of many Melbourne restaurants. Nothing of significance to fault, really.
What you will find at The Bohemian is this: well-balanced traditional tapas dishes with a little flamenco twist here and there, diverging from the fried, salt-ridden enemies of the arteries pervasive at other such culturally-inclined restaurants in Melbourne. If one can perhaps overlook the few blips (and the divisive savoury slants of the desserts), The Bohemian is promising. However, it is not unforgettable. Nonetheless, it deserves a place in the burgeoning ranks of Spanish and otherwise Hispanic-influenced dining venues — the forefather being Movida, the rest being Portello Rosso, Bar Lourinha, Anada, Aylesbury and the Newmarket Hotel (the last three being our favourites). The Boheman is more down-to-earth than Movida, Aylesbury and the Newmarket, a little less rustic than Anada. Here’s a toast therefore to its longevity, deserving a permanence rather a bohemian, pseudopodic existence.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: The Bohemian Restaurant, 35 Dukes Walk, South Wharf, Melbourne CBD, Vic 3006.
- ☑ Budget: $$-$$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Restaurant dessert. Neo-classical Spanish.
- ☑ Must-eat: The “Bunelos de Chocolate.”
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Evoking the great tapas haunts of Seville, The Bohemian is most promising.