Hermosa… a direct translation to beautiful

New restaurants are a venture into the unknown. There’s so many question marks as you walk in the door, committing to try a meal there with no idea of what it’s like, no peer reviews to spur your order choices. Sometimes it can end up with pangs of regret, eye rolls of pleasure or hit and miss occasions. But it’s all part of a life devoted to loving food – explore, be adventurous and seek perfection. 

With a never-ending list of venues I’m desperate to try in Perth, it’s really rare that I get to a place within a few days of it opening. This usually works well for me as it gives the restaurant enough time to iron out any teething problems, plus I can drool over food porn worthy images on Instagram. 
However on Saturday when catching up with my best friend Carly for lunch, we decided to give the new Cambridge Street addition Hermosa Cantina a go – it had only opened days before. From the team behind my local Tropico, there were reasonably sizeable shoes to fill. But I was excited to see what it would have in store for us. 

The decor is simple but aesthetically pleasing. They’ve taken some of the design elements from Tropico, but there’s also a really lovely Spanish vibe with the warm accents of colour, the rustic tiles along the bench and the use of wooden textures. It’s the kind of place I could imagine at night with candles flickering would be cozy and welcoming, perfect for an intimate night out with a bottle of red.

We take a seat along the communal bench on high stools, relaxing to view the menu after we order a drink each. I don’t mind high benches but given the restaurant was less than half full, and there were two couples on either side of us, I would have liked the choice to sit at a table instead – they’re much more comfortable when settling in.

For those coffee inclined, they serve Will & Co here which Carly orders a long black with a side of cold milk. It comes out in a cute enamel cup but is scalding hot – even the mug is too hot to touch at first.

My freshly squeezed orange juice is vibrantly zingy. I’ve actually been drinking so much tea lately when dining out that I haven’t been getting my normal juice kick – so this definitely hit the spot. And while I don’t love paper straws, I’ve grown accustomed to expecting them now – and at least they look pretty. 

Once we’ve picked some dishes to share on the menu and place and order, we’re surprised with a complimentary serve of green olives with orange zest. Were it anyone else, I’m sure they would have been rapt… but Carly and I both couldn’t help but laugh – neither of us like olives! But we quickly told our waitress and she took them off our hands with a little wink that we were missing out. I’m sure one day I’ll love them… but I’m just not there yet.

Focussing our attention on the menu, there’s a lot to take in. I’m a person who struggles with too much choice so we ask the waitress nearby for some suggestions… she advised us that she hadn’t tried any of the dishes. While I can understand it’s a new venue, I have to say I was a little disappointed and surprised – I would expect a new restaurant in particular to have tastings with their staff to get them up to speed.

Dining tapas style means that the food comes out as it’s ready – which suited us since we were happily sharing our meal that day (it means you get to try more items). First up to hit our table was the cornbread with cultured butter and spiced popcorn ($8.00).

Ummm. Yes. Is that enough to communicate how much I enjoyed this? As far as cornbread goes this was really morish – soft in the centre, buttery and toasty on the outside. It wasn’t stodgy like other cornbread I’ve had elsewhere, but the flavour was also milder. The cultured butter from Margaret River was hand churned and phenomenal. I know I love my butter, but really ticked the boxes for me.

The spiced popcorn though tasty didn’t completely convince me of it’s necessity on the plate. I think I would prefer more cornbread in substitution. It felt a bit alien and out of sync.

The second dish of courgette, salted sheepโ€™s cheese, oregano and olive oil ($12.00) was a beautiful tangle of green hues. I thought it had really lovely flavour, though there was a lot of garlic so a word of warning for those who don’t love that intense garlicky taste. The courgette was soft but still had a little bite to it, and those there wasn’t much salted sheep’s cheese the flavour of it really complimented the freshness of the other ingredients.

While slightly expensive for a dish of this dish and with these ingredients, I thought this was a really diverse offering to salads you’d find in other restaurants. A nice play on ingredients though in the end the garlic did prove too much for me and I couldn’t finish the last few bites on the plate.

One of the standout dishes for me was the fried baby squid with squid ink mayonnaise ($14.00). Perfectly cooked and seasoned. Perfectly accompanied by that lovely viscous mayo. Fried squid is already such a crowd pleaser, but one like this is definitely proof why – it’s simple yet punchy, especially with a good squeeze of lemon over the top. Was it worth the $14.00 price tag? I’m not quite sure, perhaps a few extra pieces of baby squid might have felt like value for money.

The smoked hock and morcilla croquette with heirloom carrot escabeche ($12.00) was easily my favourite dish of the day and looks so vibrant on the plate. There’s so much crunch thanks to the crisp coating of the croquette and the filling is just plain tasty. That unctuous gelatinous pork hock is all kinds of good, and the blood sausage offers richness and seasoning. I will definitely go back for this again and again.

The pickled strips of carrot are mild and another crunch element, countered by the silky smooth carrot puree underneath. It’s sweet but slightly salty at the same time, and brings in a creaminess to bind it all together.

Our final savoury item is the W.A rankin cod, cooked on cider wood and served with miso eggplant ($28.00). I have so much love for cod, especially with that umami miso flavouring we all know go hand in hand together (thanks for that little gem of knowledge Nobu). This was cooked well, with the delicate flesh just slightly transparent in the centre.

The eggplant on top is almost like a puree and is jam packed with garlic (no kissing boys after this meal). It’s soft and slightly salty which works well with the squishy sweet cherry tomatoes. It’s a small serve of fish, but that seems to be the case these days with cod… gosh it drives me nuts how expensive seafood is getting!

And while we could have stopped there, we were unanimous in declaring we couldn’t leave without trying their lime churros with brown butter & lemon curd and warm white chocolate ($14.00). And thank god we did because these are delicious. Just damn delicious.

The tart, bright curd is so good I’d happily have eaten it out of the jar on it’s own. The churros are on the money – crisp on the outside with their lemony sugar, and inside just the tiniest bit soft in the centre. It’s not often you find churros like these and I was in heaven munching away. I did find the warm white chocolate a little strange in that it was quite foamy and milky, with the bubbles reducing to leave almost a milk sauce. I really liked the flavour of it, but I would have preferred a little more viscosity to it personally.

And with that last scrape of sugar off the board finished up our meal at Hermosa Cantina. I have to say, I was really impressed by what we tried – especially considering it was in it’s infancy of opening. The Spanish theming is evident in the flavours and ingredients, and they have a great range of dishes from meat to seafood to vegetarian. While the prices were a bit too steep to be able to go in for tapas on a regular basis, they did have dishes like truffle and cheese waffles, chorizo hot dogs and the like – so you can go down the solo route for a much more affordable price.

I can’t wait to get back for breakfast soon – I have my eye on more than a couple of their dishes!

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  • Reply
    21 July 2015 at 6:29 am

    Aaargh, its 'morish' not 'moorish'! The latter refers to the Moors,muslims living in the middle ages. Morish means what I think you mean, ie you want more (not moor)!

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    21 July 2015 at 7:18 am

    Thanks for letting me know! Haha I didn't realise I've been spelling it wrong all along ๐Ÿ™‚ I've fixed it up

  • Reply
    Martine @ Chompchomp
    24 July 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I love the look of these breakfast dishes…. Much better than hum drum hollandaise! Being a total popcorn addict, I have to say I would probably be one of those freaks that love that spiced popcorn….actually I think I have tried some of Hot Pot Popcorn's Peri peri popcorn which I'm guessing was a bit similar. I didn't realise how spicy it was when I bought it and the Boy absolutely hated it. But then again he is a sook when it comes to hot spicy food. Lucky for me because it meant I got the whole bag to enjoy by myself!

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    26 July 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I still can't help but love a good hollandaise haha (i.e. I love butter) but I do love more inventive dishes like this.

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