Tapas style dining: 2 Tone Tapas Bar, Cairns

Tapas dining is a rich cultural pastime of Spain. Its origins date back to the 16th century under King Felipe the 3rd. Tapas meaning ‘lid’ was introduced in an attempt to curb the increasing levels of alcohol related offences. The law then stated, when a customer purchases a drink the bartender was to provide a small portion of food, which was then placed on a ‘lid’ on top of the glass. Today Tapas is a time honoured tradition in Spain, and has been adopted around the world.   2Tone Tapas Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge in central Cairns has based their Tapas menu on healthy Mediterranean cuisine with modern Australian influences. Maria and I have been looking forward to dining at 2Tone, and last week we finally had the opportunity.

It was a drizzly Tuesday evening, but 2Tone had a few tables full just the same. The atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed, with soft ambient lighting. Maria recognized some of the Spanish music playing in the background.

Service was professional and efficient, and it wasn’t long before we were gazing at a large plate of flatbread and dips. Now, I always say you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the ‘little things’; their attention to detail, and the effort they put into aspects that some may not deem very important. It reminded me of a function Maria and I attended some time ago - the lunch buffet included chicken, ham, and a variety of salads but the only comments that I heard from other guests over the course of the afternoon were that the bread was stale. Well, not at 2Tone…

I made a mental note to ask 2Tone’s owner/manager at the end of the night where in the world he sourced such magnificent bread. This was not the packaged supermarket pita that you may be served in some eateries; this was authentic flatbread the likes of which I have only ever found in the Middle East or North Africa. For the record, he did share his source with us, but we are bound to secrecy.

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The dips were a selection of a cream cheese-based tomato dip, an unusual tangy capsicum dip and a 2Tone version of babaganouche; eggplant dip with roasted garlic. The serving was extremely generous, so to ensure Maria didn’t ruin her appetitie for main course, I ate the lion’s share.

For main course, we choose four Tapas dishes to share; Tortilla (Spanish Omelette), Albondigas (Spanish meatballs), Chorizo (Spanish sausage), and Barramundi Fish Goujons (not Spanish in any way!) We both selected the Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany.

The Tortilla and Albondigas were a bit dry compared to the authentic Spanish product (Maria’s mother’s home cooking!) but the Chorizo was delicious, glazed in sherry and topped with finely sliced red, green and yellow capsicum.

But it was the Barramundi fish fingers (I shudder to call them f’ish fingers’) that left a lasting memory on me. Maria thinks I don’t like fish, on account of I almost never order it. That’s not because I don’t like it, but because I am very particular with my fish. Barramundi has always been one of my favourite fish, but this was the most I have enjoyed fish in recent memory. The ‘fingers’ were too big to deserve such a diminutive name, and were moist, juicy flavoursome portions of white Barramundi flesh, coated in a crispy coconut crumbing, with a lime tartare on the side. I could have sat and eaten nothing but  Barramundi Fish Goujons till I fell off the chair, but that would not be Maria’s ideal night out… and besides, she was already eyeing off the dessert menu.

I wanted to order the ‘Death By Chocolate’, but Maria beat me to it. It didn’t make sense to order the same, so I chose the Citrus Tart. Mine was delicious, although the waiter did pass on the chef’s apologies for my tart not being set, and for the filling spreading onto the plate. Maria’s ’Death By Chocolate’ was nothing short of divine, a thick chocolate mousse in its own chocolate bowl, topped with mango icrecream… the perfect end to a great dinner!

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