As you spill out onto the adjacent laneway after a night of tapas and sangria at El Gordo, it may take you a second to remember that you’re not in Spain after all, but Bendigo.
When Chad and Haley Aldred took over El Gordo in late 2015, this is exactly what they wanted – for customers to experience a casual European dining experience in Bendigo. The couple has combined their love for French and Spanish cuisine and injected it into a simple, yet stylish menu that can be enjoyed from the ambient laneway.
With more than 17 years experience as chefs, Chad and Haley are what you might call hospitality veterans. Chad was trained at Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast, before moving to Victoria and starting a string of roles as a qualified chef. These included stints at The Point at Albert Park and the award winning Paringa Estate on the Mornington Peninsula. When Chad and Haley relocated to Bendigo, Chad took up the role of Head Chef at GPO, but the lure of creating and owning their own place was too much.
While Chad has a wealth of experience in the kitchen, Haley brings her knowledge and experience to the front-of- house positions at El Gordo. The two work together to design the seasonal menu and drinks lists, which focus on simplicity, quality and of course, local produce. Salad mixes come from Peppergreen Farms, and breads arrive fresh from Good Loaf Bakery, while the olive oil is sourced from Salute Oliva and herbs are picked fresh from Bendigo local, B&B.
The menu is suited to both customers in a hurry, and those wanting indulge in a more relaxed dining experience. The daily salads and baguettes – try the grilled pumpkin baguette with peppers, red onion, spinach and chevre – are perfect for grabbing lunch on the run.
The tapas and raciones, available on Friday and Saturday nights, are ideal for an evening spent grazing. For a tasty bite try the heirloom beetroot and goats’ cheese ball with walnut candy, the crumbed pork belly with carrot escabache, or the chicken and chorizo paella bomb.
For those with a sweet tooth, El Gordo does not disappoint. The menu offers waffles with a selection of toppings, as well as irresistible desserts on Friday and Saturday nights – think churros with a warm sauce, and chocolate mousse with pedro ximenez jelly and salted caramel.
El Gordo has been designed to match the quirky lane that it lives on – a walkway that features contemporary local art, unique retailers and street art – promoting buskers and hosting live music in the laneway frequently. It even has its very own vertical garden and a beautiful big window that allows the beauty of Chancery Lane to shine through to the cafe.
El Gordo offers a unique opportunity to experience European dining, without having to leave Bendigo. With a selection of food from the excellent menu, a glass of sangria and some live tunes to serenade you, El Gordo is the ultimate relaxed and happy dining experience.
Where: Shop 3/70 Pall Mall, Bendigo
Ph: 0401 412 894
You can read all about these fantastic venues and much more in Smudge Publishing’s Flavours of Victoria, out now. Available from smudgeeats.com.au, the featured venues and all good bookshops.
Provided by Smudge Publishing
Photography by Kevin Li & Katie Wilton