Adelaide’s a tough place for a business, I’m not going to lie to you. So to be told that a six-week-old restaurant/wine bar is causing such a buzz in the social restaurant scene – so much so that Greek singer Nikos Vertis chose to eat there before his recent Adelaide show – one has to ask, what are they doing that is causing this stir? They have to be doing something right.
And that something right has a lot to do with one of the owners, Danny Koutoulogenis. One of the most gregarious, engaging and entertaining men I have ever met, it’s little wonder this man chose a career in hospitality. A hospitable man by nature, which he credits to his Greek heritage, Koutoulogenis has a knack for making you feel at home wherever in the world you are. I should know, I’ve dined with him in Adelaide, Melbourne and Athens.
But for now, the young entrepreneur has teamed up with Pietro Veri and Eddie Saleh to create the North Adelaide restaurant/wine bar, Espana. “Being young in business has its pros and cons,” confesses Koutoulogenis.
“The network of friends that I have is a good way to boost business and they are a mix of young and old. Having a fresh face and a fresh attitude in business is also a good thing. And being young creates a dynamic atmosphere for the business.”
Establishing a new business is no easy feat, and Koutoulogenis says that while there have been challenges along the way, he is lucky to have a strong support network. “My business partners have been in restaurants before so we have that experience behind us but it still is a challenge to get a new restaurant up and running. Making sure that everything is right and consistent – the food, the service.”
Given the rave reviews this place has been receiving in just under two months of existence, it’s safe to say that the food, atmosphere and service is all top notch. “The food is Spanish. It has all the classics for tapas such as pan-fried chorizo, chargrilled prawns in Spanish oil garlic and fresh herbs, chargrilled octopus with paprika – a lot of seafood, scallops, mussels, whitebait. For mains we have your paellas, pork belly with chorizo, chargrilled rib eye steaks.” But Koutoulogenis is quick to point out the similarities between Greek cuisine and Spanish. He tells Neos Kosmos that both nationalities are “about making people feel welcome through the food, just like one big happy family”. “Greek food and Spanish food are very similar both being Mediterranean. Both cuisines use a lot of seafood; the only difference is in the spices we use.”
The beauty of Espana is you can chose to have a three course meal in the restaurant and indulge in desserts to finish up – the churros come highly recommended – or you can chew the fat over a glass of Spanish wine and nibble on tapas in the wine bar with your friends.
“You get the best of both worlds here, you can have a restaurant meal or just have some tapas in the wine bar. We have couches too, and an outdoor area to emphasise that relaxing, comfortable atmosphere.” The extensive wine list features highly with international and local favourites. South Australia is represented perfectly in this selection with the Clare Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley all present. But in addition to that, you can get yourself a bottle of Tempranillo from Spain, sparkling wine from France and some great wine choices from Portugal and Spain.
Alongside the impressive wine list is a selection of cocktails – sangrias, mojitos, margaritas and espresso martinis. And with experienced bar staff and a plethora of spirits to boot, they can whip up whatever tickles your fancy.
The decor is rustic – wood, marble, stone dominates here but classic in style, creating a homely and comfortable atmosphere. With tablecloths adorning the restaurant area and dim lighting throughout, it’s hard not to feel relaxed.
“The atmosphere is vibrant,” explains Koutoulogenis, “the feedback we are getting is that it’s very relaxing, very comfortable and inviting.” For the future, the restaurant is looking at incorporating some live Spanish acoustic guitar but for now, if they keep on the path they are going on, it’s a definite certainty that Espana is on the way to a successful life.
Espana is located at 98 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide. For bookings and function enquiries contact (08) 8239 1345.