Barcito, as explained on the menu, means “little bar for the neighbourhood”.
While it’s not that little, it does have the feel of a relaxed neighbourhood bar, somewhere you can pop in any night of the week (except Monday and Tuesday when it’s closed) and enjoy a drink, a nibble, or a full meal.
It’s relaxed and casual – perfect for socialising big or small (in group size and degree) – and the meals are designed to be shared, or not. You can graze or you can gorge, whatever you feel like.
The cuisine is South American using Latino ingredients. Think ceviche, empanadas, tortillas, meats and corn and potatoes. There’s goats cheese, black beans, lime, avocado, chilli . . . you get the picture?
It’s fresh in two ways: the produce and the execution. South American food often features fresh and colourful ingredients – many of the dishes are so pretty to look at. But the kitchen at Barcito is creative with the way it presents the key ingredients.
Pescado curado features Patagonian-style cured ocean trout. Five pieces of glossy pink fish arrive, lined up on the plate like fillets drying in the sun. Sprinklings of sweet juicy pomegranate seeds, smoked crunchy almonds, small pops of salty roe, and slender green onion shoots makes this dish taste as good as it looks.
Three Guatemalan tostadas are vibrant and brimming with fillings. The soft baby tacos have had a bit of charring, so they are nice and smoky. These fully loaded pockets have pulled chicken, avocado, piquillos, black beans, corn salsa, shaved manchego, chilli, fresh lime and coriander. There’s a pleasant heat coming from the dish but I can’t quite put my finger on whether it’s the chilli or the chicken. Either way it doesn’t detract from the combination of flavours. Each bite is enjoyable.
Moving onto the larger dishes indicates a step towards heartier, richer plates.
Although vegetarian, the berenjena, or smoked eggplant, has an earthiness and strength to satisfy a carnivore. Eggplant is served three ways – a large piece is grilled and charred, smaller baby eggplants are smoked and it all sits on a smoky puree. Tart tomato, loads of coriander, shavings of manchego and a dollop of creamy goats cheese add diversity.
We step up a notch and go for the cabrito – goat ragout. It’s highly seasoned, with an element of sweetness. Served with a salty parsley puree, beans, greens and manchego toast, it’s a bit uglier than the other dishes, but really, it’s a goat stew. Use the cheesy bread to scoop it up with.
There’s lemon to squirt on to cut through the richness as well as the blanched greens and beans. It’s a dish where you’d want to like goat because the flavour of it can't be hidden. It will work well throughout the colder weather.
The drinks have an Argentinian and Chilean focus. With a selection of imported beers and eight rotating on tap, as well as a big range of cocktails and wines, there’s something for everyone. Try a glass of the carmenere – a big bold Chilean red. It goes well with goat.
On Sunday you can experience an Argentinian Asado barbecue, or opt for the banquet any night of the week to try out a selection of Latino flavours.
The restaurant itself is large, with an indoor area, outdoor seating (no table service out there so order at the bar), and around the back are cabanas for larger groups.
The staff are knowledgeable and accommodating – it’s a family affair with strong South American roots. And it’s good that they’ve planted them here in Newcastle.
- What: Barcito
- Where: 37 Beaumont St, Hamilton. 4023 4929. barcito.com.au
- Hours: Wed - Sun 11am until late
- Chef: Paul Niddrie
- Owners: Teighan and Leandro Laino, Grace and Mario Laino, Arron Carroll
- Drinks: A great selection of South American wine, beer and cocktails.
- Vegetarian: Plenty of options.
- Wheelchair: Side access to level courtyard.
- Bottom line: Small plates $8-26; large $26-44
- Do try: The tostadas.