Avida (greedy, covetous, open-mouthed…)
According to the Spanish online directory, that’s what Avida means. Such is the reincarnation of the old Black Harp on the corner of Featherston and Johnstone Streets into a lighter brighter spanish-style tapas bar.
The place is a bit classier feeling, with segregated dining, leaners and loungey area. There is a popular gas open-flamed fire separating the dining and leaning area imparting a warm glow (aptly named Flamebuoyant apparently, hmmm), but alas open to kids or happy punters putting their hands in and copping a good burn (apparently one or two have had to be headed off).
As others had reported, there’s a bit of disorganisation around the tables and dining area. You can’t book, they don’t have tables for two so you get sat at a bigger table (if available, which seems a waste) or share with others, they don’t tip out just the drinkers from the area to make way for the diners, etc etc etc. So be prepared to eat at high leaners, or just have nibbles with your drinks so you don’t need low tables (which is really what they’re aiming at anyway), or share a table with others, or eat elsewhere if you want a sit down dinner.
I had read about the Catalan grilled bread (bit like an oval shaped pizza), but knew it was fairly generous and would probably fill us up before we got to the real plates, so parked that for another time. I did get to eyeball one delivered to the couple at the other end of our table, and it looked worthy with loads of ingredients on the top, the crispy bottom and softer interior. Next time.
There are a range of nibbles, small and large plates, sides, and 2 or 3 full meals to choose from. I chose ox cheek with creamed cauliflower, mushrooms and lemony enhancements and a side of wilted spinach with goat cheese. R chose a chicken, bacon, chickpea, black pudding chorizo broth. Not a lot of 5+ a day hiding in that one! Although designated as sharing plates, both were pretty much meal sized (especially with a side). And both were very pleasant, with generous amounts of meat and flavoured nicely. I liked that the choices were not necessarily mainstream combinations.
In terms of presentation, there is a whole wall of wine behind wire mesh which looks impressive (to my tidy anal mind – although not sure how easy it is for them to unlock and get more wine out from behind customers if they run out down behind the bar), the beer taps come from large shiny silver pipes running from the ceiling, and you can watch the (gas-fired I think) fully glass-walled bread oven at the end of the bar where they cook the Catalan grilled breads. Helpful conversation starters (or diversions!) if required.
So, not sure how it’d be on a Friday after work, but for a mid-week nibble, quite pleasant, and reasonably priced.
As a PS, I have finally gone back to sample the Catalan bread (it’s now February 2012) and one or two other tapas. Although pleasant, the catalan bread was a little difficult to eat as the toppings are perched on top of the bread with nothing holding them on. If using fingers, everything just falls off. Think they’re pushing hard to justify at $18.
The honey and goat cheese puffs were very pleasant and I had a wonderful sticky time, while the seared gamefish (tuna) bocadillos (mini burgers) with tartare sauce were nicely presented, although remarked to be a little underwhelming taste wise. Suspect the thin layers of tuna were overshadowed by dressing and bread.
So perhaps not as good a value for money as last time, but still a very pleasant place to enjoy an after work drink and nibble.