Carino Tapas Bar
492-494 Mt Alexander Rd, Ascot Vale VIC
03 9326 0328
Food and family are inseparable in Spanish culture, so it was only natural that when Isabel McGeary established Carino Tapas Bar in 2011, the whole family was behind her. Her eldest daughters Natalie and Lara take care of front of house service, while Rebecca, her youngest is charged with the meals’ creative presentation. The family influence extends beyond their involvement – Carino means ‘darling’, and references the affectionate term used by the girls’ grandfather.
As Head Chef, Isabel draws upon recipes handed down by her family in Madrid to bring authentic, restaurant quality Spanish flavours to Melbourne’s north. Most of her ingredients are sourced locally, aside from beautiful imported jamón and a wide variety of Spanish cheeses. The drinks list also showcases both Australian and Spanish speciality wines and beer, but it’s hard to resist the allure of a jug of sangria, best sipped on a warm summer’s evening in the Mediterranean style courtyard.
There’s hardly a better combination than sangria and a selection of tapas. If you’re finding it too hard to choose just ask the friendly staff, they’ll happily share their favourites with you. Standouts include the refreshing ceviche of salmon, hake and octopus infused in lemon, coriander and mango; pan-fried chorizo in a red wine reduction; and the verano salad, a summery mix of baby fennel, caperberries, salted caramel walnuts, sangria-poached apple and Valdeon blue cheese.
Plenty of old classics and new favourites are on offer for ‘raciones’, larger dishes. It’ll be hard to choose between options such as chicken, lime and pistachio meatballs with Romesco sauce, and steaming black mussels with chorizo
in tomato, garlic and chilli. That’s before you catch sight of the cabrito – goat slow cooked over seven hours in red wine, raisins and olives and served with a warm zucchini and mint salad.
Paella, made according to the family recipe, is also a highlight. Fresh seafood sits atop sunny saffron-hued Calasparra rice – the traditional style used for true Spanish paella. A vegetarian option is also available so everyone can get involved. If you’re planning on bringing a group, book out the private back room and order a sizzling pan of paella to be guaranteed a great time.
Finish off your evening of feasting with the Santiago tart – a Galician-style almond tart with a scoop of creamy white chocolate and paprika ice cream,
or try the orange flan topped with honeycomb and candied orange.
The family’s passion for their culinary heritage shines through in each dish at Cariño, whether it be a fresh take on an old favourite or a much loved regional recipe perfected over generations. And with its unique layout of three distinct spaces – an art deco style Spanish bar, a relaxed back room suitable for private dining groups, and a beautiful Mediterranean courtyard – there’s something for every occasion.