Cruzao offers a taste of Venezuela in Fitzroy
Cruzao specialises in Latin American street foods, including, as the name suggests, arepas.
Arepas are round cornbread pockets, lightly grilled and stuffed with fillings such as chorizo, roast pork with garlic and wine and the especially lovely slow-cooked black bean and feta. The supposed health benefits of arepas are debatable – the pork arepa mentioned above is basically a meat sandwich with class – but they certainly taste great.
Other offerings include plantain slices in garlic sauce and tequenos, which are a bit like cheese-filled donuts served with thick, mild guacamole. Cruzao, incidentally, is a vegetable and meat broth, available here served with – what else – an arepa.
The gregarious Venezuelan owner moves from table to table, sitting and chatting with diners while Latin music keeps the mood upbeat, as does a range of very cheap rum-based cocktails. It’s part diner, part bar and all relaxed. These are all good things to be, but Cruzao has a way to go before it hits the best-of lists.
The service on the night of our visit is very friendly but pretty disorganised, and the space itself is underwhelming, with little in the way of decoration or atmosphere. With bare walls and a hard floor, the narrow dining area also suffers from poor acoustics – whenever someone laughs or shouts (both things which happen a lot when there are $8 mojitos on offer) the sound booms around the restaurant.
To be fair, it’s likely that Cruzao will acquire character as the space becomes more lived in. For now though, it’s more a place to fill up before a night on the town than a bar in which to linger for the evening.