Remember when tapas was all the rage? Well, it is alive and well at Aquaviva’s on Stanley Street. And here, they do it properly. Owned by father and son duo Viv and Antonio Fernandes, Aquaviva’s hasn’t an ounce of the “I’m-too-cool-for-school” ‘tude that many of its neighbours exude.
The restaurant’s double doors open onto the street, beckoning customers into the refreshingly unpretentious two-storey terrace space. On street-level guests can mingle at the polished bar before retreating to the more formal dining area upstairs for dinner. Spent the day in the office? Head to the rooftop bar for a boutique beer and a generous bowl of warm, fennel-marinated olives.
Described as a blend of Modern Australian and colonial Portuguese, the concise menu changes weekly and is designed for sharing. Most of the ingredients are made in-house such as the garlic and bay butter and the rhubarb vinegar that accompanies the complimentary basket of bread. This extra attention to detail is reflected not only in the flavour combinations but also in the presentation of each dish. A pretty dish of young calamari, cucumber and coriander, dressed with a perfectly balanced coconut and tamarind vinaigrette is subtle yet memorable.
The chickpea ‘jenga’ looks scarily similar to the children’s game with its crisp-to-bite-yet-fluffy-on-the-inside rectangles stacked in a pile and served with a smear of spiced yoghurt and pink peppercorn salt. Split prawns, topped with a nondescript foam are served with a side of peer-pressure, as diners are strongly encouraged by the chef to eat the entire crustacean – yes, that’s head, tail and flesh. It wouldn’t be fair to end a Portuguese dining experience without trying the reverse chicken and it doesn’t let the team down. But the pièce de résistance at Aquaviva’s? The chef serves every dish personally, with a detailed spiel explaining the cooking process and ingredients.
The dining room at Aquaviva’s is littered with vintage lounges, grand mirrors, guitars and mini cellos – a fitting taste of Portugese history and the passions of the family that are looking to share it with Eastern Suburbs diners.
Read more about Aquaviva’s here