When it comes to dining, Melburnians are increasingly wanting to go casual and restaurateurs are getting the message. So it went with the transformation of semi-high end restaurant The Aylesbury into Bomba, a Spanish bodega/vermutería (all the rage in Spain at the moment).
The space has been warmed up with the judicious use of wood, burnished copper and handwritten chalkboards and the casual feel has been enhanced by lifting the tables along the bar/kitchen wall to bar stool height. You can even dine right by the kitchen’s coalface (so to speak) with the charcoal grill’s fire fanning your face.
Bomba‘s level five rooftop bar is as lovely as ever, with a glittering view of Melbourne’s skyscrapers which brings to mind the nickname ‘Melbhattan’.
The copper bar serves up drinks with a specialisation in vermouth, poured into a glass with a slice of orange and an olive (it will even be available on tap).
The menu comprises simple, sharing dishes with Spanish roots. I was invited to a soft opening of Bomba so any of my constructive criticisms are to be read with that in mind.
From the aperitivo section, try the pickled Spring Bay mussels with Iberico migas ($3 each), a fresh and tart palate cleanser perfect with your first glass of wine or a vermouth.
The charcuterie consists of jamon, jamon, pickled pork belly, wagyu beef and then a segue into Mojama (air dried tuna). We ordered it since it was described to us as the ‘jamon of the sea’ but it never arrived. We weren’t too perturbed as there was plenty of other food on offer but it will be something for which I’ll return as I’m quite curious about it.
My friend once described tapas as ‘random stuff on bread’ and at Bomba there is a whole menu section devoted to Montadidos ie ‘stuff on bread’. The smoky tortilla with paprika alioli on toast ($4.5) was a classic rendition of a typical Spanish tapas dish and I liked the fact that the tortilla wasn’t too eggy.
We then jumped to the tapas section proper. The crunchy on the inside, gooey on the inside croquetas were filled with chicken, manchego and smoked paprika ($3.5 each) and were a great way to start the drinking proper. The quail with pistachio and buckwheat ($6.5 each) was cooked to just the right tenderness but I would have preferred more crunch from the nuts and buckwheat combination as a textural contrast. The bird came butterflied, making it relatively easy to share.
The raciones are larger sharing dishes and our waitress predicted that the Pedro Ximenex braised pork jowl with celeriac ($16.50) will become Bomba‘s signature dish. While it was not the most attractive food to photograph the melting tenderness of the meat and the puree will leave you sighing in fatty delight. Definitely a dish to savour and share.
My two favourite dishes of the night also came from the raciones section – some Shark Bay king prawns in a piquant pil pil sauce ($15.50) and thinly sliced charcoal grilled 6+ score wagyu rump cap with a stripe of mojo verde and sharp horseradish ($24).
If you’re with a large enough group I recommend sharing one of the paellas. We chose the arroz negro with prawns, pippies, calamari and mussels ($36) – a deliciously messy mixture lustrous with squid ink.
We had been warned that this was a wet paella ie you won’t get that wonderful crustiness at the bottom of the pan but I still would have liked it to be a touch drier with a more firm bite on the rice granules.
From the side dishes we tried a sunny Valencian salad of baby gem lettuce, honey, shallot and orange ($7) and a popping, crunchy freekah and cauliflower salad with pine nuts, pomegranate seas, mint and sumac ($7).
Choosing dessert was an easy affair – we basically ordered everything that was available on the menu! For me the pick of the desserts was a slice of parfait with shattered turron ($10) though I suspect that Bomba are hoping that the chocolate croquetas with custard and hazelnuts will become the must-try dessert ($10).
By that time of the night I’d eaten quite a bit of fried food so I didn’t find fried chocolate that tempting. That may also explain my less enthusiastic response to the pale churros with chocolate ($8) though our table agreed that the sticks of dough had not been fried enough as they were stretchy rather than crunchy.
The goat’s curd sorbet with rhubart and pistachio ($8) is a finisher for those who don’t have a very sweet tooth and the Portugese custard tarts ($4) are the ones famously sold at Casa Iberica.
Bomba‘s site has seen a few restaurants come and go but I think they’ve hit the right combination of food, ambience and price in its current incarnation. The mix and match approach means you can have a nibble pre-theatre, enjoy a set lunch or feast your way through course by course. They will even be opening a coffee window in the adjoining laneway soon, meaning you can order a Sensory Lab coffee along with a boccadillo, Portugese tart or even churros.
MON – SUN
3PM – LATE (lunch opening soon)
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