It’s incredibly difficult to find a decent cup of coffee west of King William Street these days after dark. Aside from some of the elite dining establishments, most of the good food has disappeared too. And while there are divey nightclubs, there’s a surprising dearth of really nice bars. But then there’s Casablabla, which magically ticks each of these boxes with style.
Casablabla - "multicultural tapas lounge bar" - took over the corner shop space on Leigh Street, just off Hindley, from Sarah’s Café. Like Sarah’s, it’s primarily a modern restaurant, this time with a Spanish theme. But it’s also a cocktail bar, tapas lounge, function room, beer garden and Latin dance classroom. On Friday and Saturday nights it’s bustling, with a stream of unusual (and great) DJs providing an energetic backdrop to a range of cocktail pleasures. There’s pizza Thursday through Saturday – on Thursday night, you can get it for $10. And Tuesday night is paella night, with a short menu of $10 cocktails, a tasty wine list and Latin dance classes on the mezzanine.
That paella is absolutely delicious; it comes in traditional (seafood) and vegetarian varieties for $15 a plate. There's a tapas menu offering a little something for everyone at prices ranging from $7 to $12. As always, we recommend the haloumi, but the dip and pita looked nifty as well. From the cocktail menu, the orange margarita stands out, all tang and sweetness with a little kick at the end. Upstairs, a suave expert takes a range of enthusiastic couples through some simple moves, twirling round their partners with steamy eyes and sensuous lips. Sometimes we felt for the exotic fish swimming in the tank downstairs, having to live through the vibration of clattering dance steps, the racy rhythms of the samba and the tantalising aromas of Spanish cuisine.