A week after the 'failed' anniversary, A and I decided to give our Romantic Evening another go. This time, I declared, it would be on our real anniversary and it would be up to me to plan the date (because nothing can go wrong when I'm planning it, clearly). No bouts of indigestion, no problems with food allergies, nothing to spoil our perfect evening. Right.
(Note: Incidentally, whilst tramming down to our destination, A made an offhand comment about oil (don't ask), and something clicked in my mind - Indian food is predominantly cooked with peanut oil. Not especially helpful when the boy is allergic to peanuts, and thus the source of all our problems. Mental head thunk!)
I spent the week racking my brain, trying to come up with places that we'd both like. The boy isn't exactly only the level of food connoisseur (yet - I'm trying to change that, but baby steps), so places like Vue de Monde and Three One Two wouldn't necessarily be his scene. I wanted somewhere that was good and happening enough, but not so much that we wouldn't be able to have a quiet evening to ourselves, so Cookie (my next option) was out. He's also a bit of a vego-phobe, so Soul Mama at St. Kilda was also out.
A friend suggested that morning I try the Docklands, which sounded like quite a good idea. We made our way down there that evening to find that yes, it was definitely quiet enough. Man Mo looked interesting, A commented, and was half-full of customers. Whilst giving him a quick lesson on Asian food (I don't usually trust overly polished Asian restaurants - case in point, Red Emperor on Southbank was, in my opinion, not half as good as anything I've ever had in Chinatown), we happened upon Liquid Bar. The menu said it served tapas, and that cinched it for me.
Deciding to forgo the wine list, we perused the menu. The dinner menu comprised of tapas, starters, Coca's (Spanish pizza's), mains, pastas, salads and sides. Your average restaurant, really. In my opinion, everything except the tapas were things I could have ordered in any restaurant. The only dishes I could really have said to be 'spanified' was the Fresh Seafood Paella and the bowl of hot chilli as a side.
I had my heart set on the tapas, but A cited extreme hunger and decided to order a main of Crisp roasted chicken breast with fennel, celery, apple and spanish onion salad, finished with chorizo oil. More tapas for me, I told him. The dish itself was presented beautifully, with the crispy skinned chicken breast sitting proudly on top of the pale green salad. The bit of salad I tried (which, incidentally, is the part of the dish A didn't eat - boys) was quite tasty.
I ordered the grilled bread with dips as a starter. Tapas consisted of baby calamari with green apple aioli, saganaki fried with lemon and rocket, chorizo served warm with potato and mint salad; and sweet pork empanadas. I wish I had pictures to show you all, but photos would not have done them justice.
The grilled bread was quite a substantial dish, as they were very generous with the bread (and olive oil that was drizzled over them). The hummus was clearly home-made and very thick, whilst the tzatziki was very tart and very good with the hot bread. The calamari was fresh out of the fryer, all crisp and hot and wonderfully salted. It paired beautifully with the green apple aiolo (which had two little pieces of carved apple pieces on the side for decoration, how cute!). The saganaki proved quite rubbery in texture, but I enjoy having a bit of a chew on my cheese, especially pan-fried cheese. The lemon was a freshing tang on a moderately strong tasting cheese.
The chorizo slices were fried quite crisply, and had the little cubes of potato on top. I honestly couldn't figure out where the mint salad came in, as there was no taste of mint anywhere nor was there even a little pile of salad sitting on the side, as there was on the saganaki. The fact that they were sausage slices was probably the reason they became quite oily, but I quite enjoyed the spicy kick they provided. As for the empanadas, they came (3 to a serve) sitting prettily on a bed of what looked like a chunky tomato sauce. They provided a lovely dipping sauce for the empanadas, which had delightfully crunchy pastry.
The restaurant was very quiet, with only one or two other tables being occupied during our entire meal. The decor itself was very tastefully modern, just right for the type of night we were having. The wait staff, though not having much else to do, were very alert and came over periodically to ask if we needed water, or wished to order anything else. Usually I find this annoying, but the guy was so nice about it that we couldn't help but like him. The price was, to us poor uni students, quite expensive, but worth it for a good night out like ours. Between us, we paid about $80 for our meal. Upmarket, yes, but we figured it was a one-time thing anyway.
I didn't expect to be so full from my meal (I'd actually already picked up dessert before we even started the meal), but I walked out feeling pleasantly full. A nice romantic walk along Docklands after dinner was enough sweetness for me.
50 NewQuay Promenade