Thornbury’s newest dining resident, Chato is turning heads with a seasonal menu that is full of vibrancy, character and the flavours of Spain.
Open since 13 July, the family-run venue by Darebin residents Maria and Jenny Echevarria-Lang places a focus on the community, with small and Melbourne-based businesses supplying much of the kitchen’s produce. The local spirit of Chato is seen at every level, from the coffee by Reservoir roaster Niccolo and fairtrade organic teas from Melbourne-based tea trader Somage, to local meats supplied by Thornbury Meats, free-range poultry by Poultry N More and other produce from Melbourne’s much-loved Casa Iberica.
Well-respected in the hospitality industry, head chef Maria brings a wealth of experience to Chato. Chef and co-founder of Melbourne’s iconic Caffe e Cucina, Maria then moved on to establish Ramblas in South Yarra followed by the popular café Lorca in Centre Place, Melbourne.
Born in Madrid, Maria came to Australia at the age of four with her family, who emigrated due to persecution by the Franco regime after running tapas bars that assisted the opposition. Maria maintains strong contacts in Spain, travelling there often to visit family and be immersed in the vibrant Spanish culture and cuisine that Melburnians have grown to love.
The space is warm and reminiscent of a small, intimate Spanish street bar. A rustic timber surround makes up the front bar, and maroon and green tiles wrap around the front bench. These colours are infused throughout the venue, including a white wash speckled with green that has been applied to the original red brickwork.
The wine list is made up of equal parts Australian and Spanish wines. We highly recommend the Marques de Caceres Rioja Tinto Crianza. A robust and fruity wine with hints of chocolatey oak and delicious tannin structure, it was a great accompaniment to our Spanish feast.
Left: Whole Portuguese sardines char-grilled; Deep fried Basque sausage wrapped in thinly sliced potato with a sherry vinegar reduction
We commenced with a selection of tapas.
The sardines were a delight, boasting a wonderful depth of flavour.
The Deep fried cauliflower in a saffron and manchego batter was encased in ethereally light and crispy tempura batter. This dish was vegetarian comfort food and would make anyone with a distaste for cauliflower reconsider.
From left: Deep fried cauliflower in a saffron and manchego batter; Spinach sautéed with currants and almonds; Meatballs
The seemingly casual dish of spinach sautéed with currants and almonds was delicious. Carefully and intelligently composed to combine texture and flavour in exciting ways, the wonderfully wilted spinach was delightful.
Traditional comfort-food classics, the meatballs were sufficiently seasoned and wonderfully flavoursome.
Ox cheek braised in PX
The Pork cheek confit was outstanding. The cheek was tender and delicious, with caramel undertones courtesy of being marinated in pedro ximenez. It was a brilliant amalgamation of flavours which produced a hearty comforting dish.
The paella was exquisite. Cooked with seafood and chicken, the paella delivered a great amount of flavour. Served in a paellera (paella pan), there was a beautifully crusty/slightly burnt bottom which had the infused aromas of being cooked over an open fire.
Leche Frita - Fried Milk drizzled with an orange honey syrup and vanilla bean ice-cream
Simple, yet seductive, the Leche Frita was utterly irresistible. An extra thick milk pudding which had been dried, breaded, and then fried to golden perfection, the result was a creamy milk-pudding centre encased in a warm and crunchy fried shell. Delicious!
Churros - as served in Spain with a thick sweet drinking chocolate and no icing sugar
The churros were superb. Moist and light on the inside with a crispy exterior, we enjoyed dipping them in the accompanying thick chocolate sauce. We loved the slightly savoury flavour profile of the churros which provided balance to the dish.
Chato brings Spanish flair to Thornbury with its outstanding offerings. Expect flavoursome dishes and friendly service with Spanish twists along the way that will take you straight to Spain.