Outside, the Subsolo sign hangs just in front of the entrance.
You may be familiar with the famous Spanish saying, mi casa es su casa, and you know a greeting such as that would inevitably make you feel welcome if you ever stepped into a friend’s home for a lovely Spanish dinner. So when you enter into a Spanish restaurant that promises to entertain you with soft, background Spanish music and a menu filled with traditional dishes of the country; you wouldn’t be surprised if one day you were greeted with a new saying, mi restaurante es su restaurante.
Subsolo Spanish Restaurant and Bar is tucked away in Sydney’s CBD, revealing only a sleek, black, rectangular sign hanging above the head just in front of the main entrance. Curiosity will soon drive you to peer inside this underground restaurant which conceals any hint of the restaurant’s décor and design. The only features to lure you in are the wired light features that hang above the velvety red staircase and the bulb-like golden lanterns when you reach the bottom.
The staircase leading into Subsolo's main dining entrance
As you finally make your way to the bottom of the steps, you’ll be captured by the two different scenes of the restaurant that somehow work uniformly to embody a sophisticated dining space alongside a typical modern bar. The dim lighting creates an intimate dining atmosphere, which is further emphasised with deep, velvety red shades and copper brown.
Subsolo's bar atmosphere
To the left of the restaurant and situated near the entrance, the bar sits in an open L-shape, with black leather bar seats surrounding the wooden counter. A few more group bar tables are set up surrounding the area, making it the perfect seating for just drinks, or tapas to share as well.
The main dining area is further divided into two sections. The centre dining is filled with varnished wooden tables and black leather seats. Wooden pillars and frames decorated with wire add division to the room. Dividing the centre dining and the back dining area is a curtain of shimmering rain beads.
Bacalao Croquettes - fish croquettes on the Tapas menu
If there is one thing you need to prepare for when visiting Subsolo, it would be the all-Spanish lunch menu. At this point, once the menu hits your table, there may be a chance you’ll be referring to Google Translator over the next fifteen minutes when deciding what to order. Alternatively, the waiters and waitresses are very friendly, and are happy to entertain those who might know very little Spanish.
It’s always a sacred food lovers tradition to order a plate of Tapas when visiting a Spanish restaurant. The Bacalao Croquettes ($12) are perfectly cylindrical and arranged neatly on the serving plate. These croquettes are made with dried, salted cod fish, fried to a golden crisp on the outside while leaving the inside fluffy and soft. Little dabs of garlic aioli add extra flavour to balance the saltiness of the fish, and the roasted capsicum also adds a little colour to the dish.
Manchego Croqeuttes - a cheesy alternative
An indulgent alternative to the croquettes are the Manchego Croquettes ($9). These croquettes may not be as neatly shaped as the Bacalao, but they are equally delicious as they are made up entirely of cheese. As you cut your fork through the croquette, the cheese oozes away from the golden exterior, leaving you with a smooth cheesy inside and crispy outer batter at the first bite. This plate of tapas is also garnished with a few more dabs of garlic aioli, and topped off with a few crunchy flakes for texture.
Seafood Paella - exquisite presentation
Once you’re finished with the tapas, you’re ready to move onto the main meal. A classic Spanish dish is Paella, and Subsolo offers four types in the lunch menu. The Seafood Paella ($24) is enough to share between two people, served straight in the hot saucer on top of a clean, white cloth and golden plate. The presentation is highly commendable, with generous amounts of seafood including whole prawns, clams and mussels mounted on top of the medium grain rice. Mixed inside the fragrant tomato rice are pieces of squid and baby octopus, along with corn, peas and a wedge of lemon. The seafood is cooked well with no rubbery texture, and the rice itself is neither dry nor soggy. Add a squeeze of that lemon wedge to give your Paella a slight acidity and punch of flavour to add a little extra wow factor to the dish. Just note that you'll need to allow roughly 30 minutes before your Paella is served.
Delicious Spanish Churros filled with Dulce De Leche
If the Spanish savoury dishes have already won you over, Subsolo’s desserts will be the perfect way to end a dining experience of classic Spanish meals.
The Churros with Dark Chocolate Sauce ($9) aren’t like your usual churros. They’re extra special as their hollow centre is filled with a smooth, sweet dulce de leche sauce. It’s thick enough to ooze out slowly as you dip the cinnamon sugar covered doughnut in the dark chocolate sauce, and take a bite into the dessert. The dark chocolate, although bitter, balances the sweetness of the caramel centre and sugar coating. It’s crunchy, crispy and very indulgent - that despite being an ideal dessert to share between two, it wouldn’t hurt to order a second helping.
Crema Catalana, blow torching in action.
A Spanish spin on a classic vanilla dessert, the Crema Catalana ($9) is served with small biscotti on the side. It mirrors a crème brulee where sugar is caramelised over the top of the set custard. The exciting thing about this dessert is the fact that the sugar is caramelised at your table, so you’re able to witness the hard caramel forming right in front of your eyes. The Crema Catalana has a very smooth and creamy texture, with a flavour that is light and fragrant due to the hint of lemon and cinnamon infused throughout the custard. It’s a sweet yet refreshing dessert, and a great one at that to end the meal.
A lovely, thin hard caramel on top of a smooth custard.
Despite Subsolo’s ambience being quite modern and sophisticated, the food speaks highly of the flavours and dishes of the Spanish culture. If you’re in the mood for a little Spanish cuisine experience, treat yourself at Subsolo. Share a few Tapas; enjoy a serving of Paella; have a plate of classic Spanish desserts, and sit back to soak up the food culture of Spain right in Sydney’s CBD.
A great place to taste a little Spanish cuisine
Where: Subsolo Spanish Restaurant & Bar, 161 King Street, Sydney NSW.
Why: Friendly staff, beautiful interior, and the food is presented as lovely as it tastes. The desserts are amazing, so it's highly recommended that you finish off your savoury dishes with a dessert to leave you satisfied.
Cost: Moderately priced. Lunch menu: Tapas from $9-$18, Paella from $24-$29, and Desserts from $9-$14. Other lunch mains range between $19-$39, and side dishes from $2-$19.
When: Tues-Fri: Lunch from 12pm, Dinner from 5:30pm. Sat: Dinner from 5:30pm. Sun and Mon closed. Lunch is a good time to benefit from the special lunch menu, however Dinner has a lot more variety.
Good for kids: Due to the bar atmosphere, it might not be recommended.
Take away: Not sure, however, the Bocadillos are available for take away hot or cold. Orders placed at the bar.