Barulho — a Portuguese word, pronounced “barule-yo” and meaning noise that often has connotations with parties and celebration. The first time I went to Barulho it was a warm autumn Friday night. The trademark, long, brass-covered table extended out on to the street, the nearby trees were strung with lights, the place was bustling, with chef/owner Sarah Ginella turning out delicious tapas and entrees and co-owner, chef Nico Mendez, on the street, tending a huge seafood paella.
The music and wine were good and I was reminded of lazy evenings in restaurants in Buenos Aires and Spain. Barulho describes itself as a “Euro-Latin bistro bar”, which ticks all the boxes for me.
It is a tiny establishment tucked away in leafy Faraday St in Parnell. Like all others who set the trends rather than follow them, no one is serving food like Sarah and Nico, let alone in a place so evocative of the relaxed restaurants and tapas bars in the little streets that run off the Ramblas in Barcelona.
It is not mere novelty that makes me return to Barulho, it is the credentials of the chefs and their food. I know that at Barulho I will eat handmade meals prepared by two experts with many years of experience and with a knowledge of delicious cuisines not often encountered in Auckland.
After her training, Sarah did a stint at the legendary Quaglinos restaurant in London in the 90s, so got a crash course in European ingredients and dishes that were only vaguely being acknowledged in New Zealand at the time. She worked and lived in Barcelona, was chef at the British Embassy in Uruguay for a couple of years and returned toNew Zealand to be chef at one of Auckland’s first Spanish influenced restaurants, Rocco.
This was pioneer territory back then as Kiwis hardly understood the concept of tapas, shared food to eat while talking and drinking — a concept that has since become completely familiar (to the point where we now just about share every meal in a tapas-like manner when we eat out).
Her partner Nico, a Uruguayan, trained with Argentinian celebrity chef Francis Mallmann (who features in the Netflix Chef’s Table series) and worked at a luxury hotel in the small town of Garzon, which Mallmann is accredited with revitalising.
Talented Nico is also responsible for the beautiful fit-out of Barulho, which features a wall of turquoise and gold tiles (above). To me it is very clever — if I had tried it, it would have looked like it had been done by Salvador Dali as the warped background for a surrealist painting.
Barulho is open Monday to Friday, 9am until late, and everything is cooked by Sarah and Nico. They wanted a restaurant small enough so they could have direct control over the food.
It is all handmade, from the melt-in-the mouth empanadas, through the tender stuffed pasta, their signature moqueca (a Brazilian-style fish soup/stew with spices and coconut) to the signature alfajores, the small South American cakes that in their most traditional form consist of two thin chocolate shortcake biscuits sandwiched together with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate (below).
Sarah doesn’t stop there with many other flavoured alfajores, a favourite of mine being the homemade plum jam and marshmallow ones, which taste like a superior mallowpuff. They pay particular attention to ingredients using the best they can — the chocolate is Valrhona and their meat, organic.
Nico’s experience with wine means friendly, unpretentious wine knowledge is always available. The smallness of the restaurant ensures Sarah and Nico’s touch is felt throughout and gives the ability to respond to seasonal availability of produce and the changing menu, without the drama of constantly retraining a large team.
The menu changes weekly and the food is made fresh each day. There is no industrial catering going on here. The food must indeed be good, for after only a month or two of being open they already have a devoted clientele of regulars and, after popular demand, have opened for dinner.
They are also expert caterers and Barulho can be hired complete as a venue. Barulho is at 7-15 Faraday Street, Parnell, website to come, but it is already on Facebook and Instagram.
You could use store-bought dulce de leche instead of the condensed milk for this recipe, just ensure it is nice and thick. Get the recipe