Chato Brings Spanish Flair to Thornbury

Written by Lil Williams

Visiting Chato in Thornbury is like looking through a wonderful little window into Spanish culture. Chato is off to a ripping start, and is open late Thursday to Saturday (as well as normal daytime hours seven days a week).  The restaurant is family-run, with Maria and Jenny Echevarria-Lang sourcing most of their produce from Melbourne-based suppliers, including Somage fair-trade teas and coffee by Reservoir roaster Niccolo.

Carmen Sevilla (above), is a classic example of what you’d find in a Madrid breakfast diner. Toasted baguette slices rubbed with fresh tomato and olive oil with thinly sliced manchego cheese and Serrano ham: not just your average cheese on toast! This was a real highlight for The World Loves Melbourne and despite being the first thing we were served, we finished it off without much regard for leaving room for the rest of the meal.

Sangria is an iconic Spanish drink and a visit to Chato just wouldn’t be complete without it. It’s as good as it looks!

Chato means ‘small glass of wine’ in Spanish and Chato will be serving an exciting mix of Australian and Spanish wines on their evening menu. The restaurant has a cosy feeling, with the styling a cool mishmash of modern and vintage, designed to reflect a Spanish street bar. The talented head chef, Madrid-born Maria, can be seen working busily through a rectangular window into the kitchen, bringing old family recipes to life with new twists. 

One of my favourite things about Spanish food is the rich tomato flavour at the core of so many dishes. This Flamenco combines tomato and chorizo ragu with eggs and crispy serrano ham, so grab your breadstick and dig in. The egg and ham balances the rich chorizo and tomato well, and this is a great light meal if you’re not looking to eat your weight in food (like we were).

Open since 13 July, the family-run venue by Darebin residents Maria and Jenny Echevarria-Lang places a focus on the community, with small and Melbourne-based businesses supplying much of the kitchen’s produce. The local spirit of Chato is seen at every level, from the coffee by Reservoir roaster Niccolo and fairtrade organic teas from Melbourne-based tea trader Somage, to local meats supplied by Thornbury Meats, free-range poultry by Poultry N More and other produce from Melbourne’s much-loved Casa Iberica.

Head chef Maria certainly knows what she’s doing around food, with her experience as chef and co-founder of Melbourne’s iconic Caffe e Cucina in addition to establishing Ramblas in South Yarra, as well as hotspot café Lorca in Centre Place. An impressive pedigree!

If you’re a seafood lover, go no further than the Fideua de Gandia, a pasta dish not unlike paella with a selection of seafood cooked in a saffron fish fumet. The pasta balances the rich seafood and the variety of textures is exciting and if, unlike me, you have finesse when using a lobster cracker you have nothing to worry about.

Fried milk is a concept I’d certainly never heard of before but Leche Frita is a creamy custard surprise, deep-fried and drizzled with an orange honey syrup and vanilla bean ice-cream. That golden crunch mixed with the soft custard and solid milk is something else, and sweeter than you’d expect. Definitely a good pick if you’re looking to try something unique.

Like sangria, how could we go to a Spanish restaurant and not sample the churros? Served the authentic Spanish way with thick drinking chocolate and the sugar topping noticeably absent, this dish showed me I was finally getting the real deal. The teardrop shape were a nice added touch, reflecting Chato’s dedication to top notch presentation.

This was the perfect way to finish off an authentic Spanish experience. 

Chato’s seasonal menu is full of Spanish twists, seen in the flavours and cooking techniques, and offers plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Breakfast diners are transported to the streets of Madrid with modern Spanish flavours in dishes such as Carmen Sevilla: toasted baguette slices rubbed with fresh tomato and olive oil with thinly sliced manchego cheese and Serrano ham. For lunch, the Menu de Dia ticks all the boxes with one each of an entrée, main and dessert from the special’s board. Well-respected in the hospitality industry, head chef Maria brings a wealth of experience to Chato. She was chef and co-founder of Melbourne’s iconic Caffe e Cucina, before moving on to establish Ramblas in South Yarra followed by the popular café Lorca in Centre Place, Melbourne.

Born in Madrid, Maria came to Australia at the age of four with her family, who emigrated due to persecution by the Franco regime after running tapas bars that assisted the opposition. Maria maintains strong contacts in Spain, travelling there often to visit family and be immersed in the vibrant Spanish culture and cuisine that Melburnians have grown to love.

Northcote-based Kalliopo Vakras Architects have designed a warm space reminiscent of a small, intimate Spanish street bar. A rustic timber surround makes up the front bar, and maroon and green tiles wrap around the front bench. These colours are infused throughout the venue, including a white wash speckled with green that has been applied to the original red brickwork. Open seven days from 8am – 3pm and until 11pm Thursday through Saturday, Chato is set to become a favourite of Thornbury locals and visitors alike.

Chato is somewhere The World Loves Melbourne would definitely go back to and with Chato opening for tapas evenings, we might do just that. See you there?

921 High Street, Thornbury
Ph: 9484 8554
Open Seven days 8am – 3pm
Thursday – Saturday until 11pm

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