I’ve previously mentioned that I-hide-head-in-shame don’t venture into the Melbourne CBD very often after hours, still heavily distracted by the eatery offerings in Melbourne’s suburbs that are within walking distance from the cave that I call home. However, there is one little multi-level venue that I will happily scamper to in the city if in the mood for a paella and churros feast (and controversially it’s name isn’t Movida).
When I came across the Spanish tapas bar that is Bomba, found on the Exhibition end of Lonsdale Street in the Melbourne CBD, I felt like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole and discovered a sangria-infused wonderland.
Nondescript looking from the outside, with little more than a neon sign alerting to its presence, I probably would have kept walking past, maintaining that ‘Bomba’ must be the name of a dodgy strip joint. That’s if I wasn’t in search of a restaurant called ‘Bomba’ with an 89 per cent Zomato rating and rave reviews.
Yet, despite being on a Zomato-instructed mission, that first time I still hesitated at the door, almost waiting for someone to tell me that I was in the right place. That this unremarkable, slightly seedy-looking building was indeed home to the trendy eatery I was trying to sniff out with my restaurant-sniffing nose.
Eventually building up the courage to walk inside, I discovered a styled Spanish workers’ bar bathed in red light – no wonder I thought I was being tricked into entering a Goldfingers offspring! But that’s definitely where any red light district similarities end.
Bomba serves up a modern European decor, with a side of rustic, creating a very warm, energetic and inviting vibe. Think high industrial ceilings and wood panelled walls, topped with exposed brick, comfy booths and lots of wooden tables. Plus the bathrooms are a candlelit kind of lovely, which as we know is always super important. Only I think Bomba’s stylists stole their lampshades from grandma’s house…
A Spanish feast in Melbourne
When in Spain, one must do as the Spaniards do and share a variety of small plates, and Bomba’s menu has plenty of those to choose from. All delicious.
Most recently, dining with my husband Jude, we had our fingers in practically every pie on the Bomba menu, choosing a selection of tapas, montadidos (bread-based dishes) and charcuterie (preserved meat), finishing off with a racione (a larger-sized meal).
No sooner had we placed our order, the table was laden with delicious smelling meats and breads. Like I’m talking quicker than The Shire’s stint on air.
So excited by dinner’s speedy arrival, Jude gleefully jumped to attention like he hadn’t been fed in months, only to have his greedy hands slapped away as I whipped out the camera wanting to capture the careful presentation, not a half-eaten mess. So as I was taking these #instafoodporn photos, my 36-year-old husband was sitting like a petulant child starring miserably out the window. It was as though I’d told him he would be eating only zucchini and crapsicum (his words not mine) for the next month.
Food photos out of the way, Bomba’s food was (and is always) incredible. The moorish spiced lamb cutlet, incredible. The Greenvale Farm salami, incredible. The Hervey Bay scallop with Serrano, lemon and breadcrumbs, incredible. The tomato rubbed bread with Serrano jamon, extra incredible! Even the complimentary, extra doughy, sourdough bread, served with olive oil, was above average in the bread stakes. But be warned: you will max out your daily sodium quota, with everything on the right side of deliciously salty.
Then to finish off we shared the pan-fried rock flathead fillet with pea puree, peas, radish and asparagus, which was so fresh and delicious that it forced us to have a little fork battle.
The flathead dish even prompted a, “Who knew peas could taste so good,” from the now happily-fed husband.
The drinks list is also a treat, overflowing with vermouth and experiential Spanish wines. Randomly, I even found my favourite Adelaide Hills cider – The Hills Cider Company.
Bomba is popular, so make sure you book
Testament to Bomba’s popularity, I’ve tried a total of five times to ring up during the day and make a dinner reservation for that night. Each time I’ve been Fat Amy out of luck.
However, if you don’t mind watching the mixologist at work, you can generally walk-in and find a seat at the bar (which Bomba doesn’t take bookings for). Hence, this is where you’re most likely to find me. I’ve never had to wait to be seated at the bar but if I did I’d be happily biding my time in Bomba’s upstairs, equally cool rooftop bar.
Yet, on our last jamon-eating venture, we won the lotto and, despite being booking-less, were given an actual table, and not just any table but a window-side table that brilliantly overlooked the comings and goings of Lonsdale Street. We just had to be out within the hour, which suited us given we were off to see Pitch Perfect 2 at Melbourne Central. The only downside to this was that we couldn’t order one of Bomba’s delicious paellas (my favourite is the seafood explosion of blue grenadier, prawns, calamari and mussels) given they take 35 minutes to cook.
Panza llena corazon contento. In other words, full belly happy heart. And it’s hard to leave Bomba without being in a state of happy.
Bomba | 103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9077 0451