Las Tapas, St Kilda, the Spanish institution where Xavier knows best

There’s a cardinal rule in hospitality- the customer is always right. Las Tapas, the authentic Spanish restaurant in Balaclava not only defies the rules but manages to get away it.

This restaurant has become a St Kilda institution, much loved not just for its mouth watering traditional tapas and gregarious atmosphere, it’s also renowned for its host and owner. No matter what day of the week we visit, Xavier Padro, the Spaniard star himself will be there, loud and bashful in his beret ready to entertain. The menu changes daily depending on what is in season, is scribbled on the wall . Note to self, next time bring glasses, as it’s practically illegible. But in actual fact it’s irrelevant, because I’m not going be doing the ordering. In this joint, it’s Xavier’s way or the highway.

He runs around furiously, chatting with guests, but I shouldn’t even try to get his attention- as I’ll likely be ignored. He will come when he is ready. When we are finally are seen to, and provide him with dietaries for the table, we are told what we should (and will) get. I was thinking Broccolini, but the response assertively in the thick Spanish accent is ‘No, you get the zucchini. Ok then, guess that’s settled. ‘We’ll have one serve of chicken’ Abruptly ‘Definitely not! I’m bringing two’. By the end of the conversation, I realise it’s pointless trying to argue or interrupt, so I just smile and enjoy the comical nature of this complete opposite restaurant experience.

When the food arrives, we realise, Xavier knows his stuff. Start with a serve of manchego cheese and bread, and dip the crunchy crust into a thick garlicky oil that’s oozing out of the sizzling chilli prawn hot plate. (Turns out, a double serve was necessary). An innocuously humble Mediterranean salad is somehow a highlight, and part of the reason why this place can create its own rules.

The Paella is where it’s at. A massive black pan full of fluffy rice and robust juicy crustaceans is placed in the centre of the table. Looking around I see everyone’s eyes widen in delight and stomach grumble at the mere sight. If we hadn’t planned on being impressed, this simple sort of wow-ing dish makes us instantly understand why basic restaurant service etiquette is dismissed. It’s a feast for all, and while devouring curls of calamari, sucking out pearls in mussels, sipping on red sangria and laughing uncontrollably on the absurdly perplexing experience, I know I’ll be returning soon for a repeat.

Las Tapas is an exemplary example that despite defying convention, rules can be broken. And sometimes the customer isn’t always right.

Las Tapas
100 Chapel Street, St Kilda
Wed- Sun 5.30pm – Late
Sunday 12-pm – Late

About the author

Coming from an Israeli background, and being fortunate to live and travel abroad in the Middle East and Europe for several years, Darielle has been a passionate foodie with since birth. She has an inherent love and knowledge of the hospitality industry, visited over 200 cellar doors worldwide and was the chief Melbourne judge at an international Resturant guide. With a corporate profession working as a lawyer in banking for 11 years, Darielle developed a love of writing. A busy mum of 2 little girls and a woman about town, if you don’t find Darielle out on a run, a gym class or hiking to the top of a mountain somewhere outlandish, she will no doubt be visiting a winery with her partner, sampling food at the newest Resturant, or cooking up a storm in her kitchen.


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