As Spanish cuisines have been such hot items in the last five years I was not surprised to locate Piperade (meaning Basque sauce) not far from the tourist Mecca on the wharves. But even more so to discover essentially Basque style food in an establishment run by a Frenchman from Biarritz. Even with memories of Paradour resort dishes such as suckling lamb and the Spanish never-ending romance with peppers, Piperade is a refreshing reminder of a special northern Spanish cuisine.
The menu has traditionalism in a Californian style – small plates (tipiak) and big plates (handiak) with a Bacalao salad small plate chosen. As the white wine of Rias Baixas, albarino is so heavily mis-introduced to Australia and is rapidly being re-named savagnin, and in the absence of a Californian I chose Vina Cartin 2008 (AUD 10.35 / glass). The wine is quite oily and a little dull (skin shows which accelerates browning/aging) but the salt cod was brilliant, served rolled out carpaccio-style with four plump but small local oysters, finished in an amazing mayo using special egg ingredients. The albarino paired well texturally by balancing the mayo consistency with its chewiness – which was relieving.
Next was lamb chop; three quite large bone-in loin pieces, defatted, served rare with lamb sausage and a moorish relish (a pun on the original inhabitants of Spain really); of course it was based on red peppers which are adorable. Wine came from Parador Cellars Tempranillo 2004, Rancho Chimiles Vineyard in Napa (AUD 65.50), 14.5%, unfiltered but not bretty, medium colour, robust but correct for the tempranillo palate, French oak but not too much, (90). www.calwineries.com
Piperade gets a tick with its Iberian accent in a part of the world which very much understands its language and aspirations in life. Score 15/20, fair value, AUD 140 px, a different Basque classic dish is served each night, ribs, shellfish soup etc; 1015 Battery Street. www.piperade.com