My first visit to Cantina 663 was back in July last year for my ‘I’m-not-having-a-Hens-but-I’ll-go-out-for-dinner’ soiree. It was when they had a special truffle menu and it was a seriously delicious evening. Ever since that visit I had been keen to return. So when the BFF, Mrs M, proposed a dinner catch up I suggested Cantina 663 and it was locked in for a Tuesday night.
Now the bonus of Tuesdays (and also Mondays) at Cantina is that it’s BYO night. So before arriving I called into the bottle shop across the road for a choice drop and then skipped happily to the restaurant with the bottle in tow.
It was a particularly balmy evening but they did have a few fans set up to keep the air moving and once you’d been there for a while you did acclimatise and the breeze did seem to pick up which was helpful.
Service was friendly and attentive from the get go. Bottles of water and glasses were presented almost instantly, along with wine glasses and an ice bucket. With a glass of chilled white at the ready we proceeded to suss out the menu. There were some very tasty sounding options! We decided that it would be best to share a bunch of the dishes, to get to taste as many as possible.
When we rattled off our choices to the waiter he advised us to get some of the dishes first, then have the rest brought out later, just so that our table didn’t overflow with plates. That worked for us and we started with the Salumi Platter, House pickles ($22) along with the House Bresaola, Roast Beets, Goats Curd, Saba ($16).
They both presented beautifully and there was a generous selection of meats on the salumi platter. Included in the mix was morcilla, which I had learnt on a recent visit to Duende was Spanish blood sausage. This turned Mrs M off, but I have to say it was actually really delicious. It did have a strong flavour, but more of a stronger meaty taste than anything else. I liked it. Then there was some spicy chorizo, delicious cured ham and regular salami. The house pickles were interesting, but they provided almost a zesty refreshing finish after the meaty goodness.
And there was more meat to enjoy with the bresoaola dish we had chosen. There was actually bresoala on the salumi platter, but it was nice to get to enjoy it teamed up with the sweet roasted beets and the creamy goats curd. The combination of flavours worked well, balancing well with the slight saltiness of the meat.
The first two dishes were a good size and had helped to put a bit of a dent in what had been a growling tummy when I first arrived. Our next two dishes were the Ocean Trout Ceviche, Preserved Ginger, Mustard Seeds, Basil ($17.50) and the Pan Fried Gnocchi, Stewed Peppers, Goats Curd, Aged Balsamic ($25.50) and also the salad of Mixed Leaves, Apple Sherry Dressing ($9).
The ocean trout was just perfect. Wafer thin slices of deliciously non fishy fish. And I really liked it alongside the ginger and mustard seeds, which added a real kick of flavour. We did notice at this point that perhaps the sprinkling of parsley that had been included in this dish was perhaps slightly over generous. Depending on the forkful it could overpower the delicate flavour of the fish.
And the trend of ample parsley continued with the gnocchi. It just seemed to have been incorporated into every dish, and granted there wasn’t as much in this dish as the last. I seriously loved the gnocchi. It was a plate of perfectly light pillows of gnocchi goodness, which just melted in your mouth. The richness of the stewed peppers along with the goats curd – just a lovely dish. On a return visit I would love to enjoy a bowl of this solo, but was happy to share on this occasion
After the rich gnocchi it was nice to finish with the mixed leaf salad. Would have been better if one of those leaves wasn’t parsley! Tehehe ok I sound like I’m really anti parsley, I’m definitely not. If anything I found it more comical than anything else the sheer volume of parsley that had been used in the dishes we had chosen. It was fine, but it can be a strong herb.
I was tempted by the desserts menu but we decided on this visit to partake in a cheese board. It came with a selection of three cheeses, of which the specific names escape me, but in keeping with cheese board etiquette there was something soft, something hard, something borrowed and something blue. Ok there was no borrowed cheese Along with the cheese came fresh slices of pear, fresh honeycomb (so yum!), fruit and walnut bread and these oat cookies. They were great cheeses and provided us with the chance to leisurely finish our bottle of wine and continue chatting.
I had thoroughly enjoyed my second visit to Cantina and couldn’t wait for the chance to head back with Mrs M and our respective others because they have this set menu that they will do for groups of 4 or more. The chef creates dishes based on the ingredients available on the day. Sounds wonderful!
Cantina has long been a popular part of the Beaufort St food scene and it’s easy to see why. Yum indeed.