El Perro's advertising material says it has an "authentic Spanish Dinner menu" but our meal was nothing like anything we have experienced in our visits to Spain and indeed the food was nothing like the descriptions on the menu!
Penguin's supermarkets and takeaways close by 7pm on a Saturday night. El Perro and the local hotel are the only options for out of accommodation eating and drinking after 7pm in the town. Only a third of the tables were occupied at El Perro on this Sat night in Early June but service was not attentive and the claims of Spanish authenticity were already looking shaky after we learned of the establishment's pride in the House Pot Pie - "Cottage pie", described as "meatballs with veggies and a topping of mashed potatoes". We were not surprised by the Australianised pizza offerings with the addition of Spanish ham (although cranberries, pineapples and chicken pizza were a new touch).
The young friendly female table attendant clearly and enthusiastically explained the menu, including that the house Tapas were "like entrees". Her recommendation about the very good Alhambra beer ($11) was spot on and after a joint effort to uncork the excellent Spanish red (Ebano tempranillo $42), we looked forward to tasting some food. To begin, we ordered a shared serve of the Pork Belly with Apple purée and shavings of sweet potato ($20) - four large lightly spiced slabs of succulent pork - many times tapas size but very tasty. We became cautiously optimistic about the rest of the meal but our Mains were very disappointing, not the least because they bore no resemblance to their descriptions given on the Menu or by the wait staff.
As one of us has an allergy to both chilli and paprika, we read menus very carefully to avoid issues but at El Perro this was not possible. The serve of "Tasmanian mussels cooked in white wine with our house bread and lemon" ($20) did actually have one small slice of chargrilled toast and one lemon cheek on the side but instead of the expected fragrant poaching in white wine, the mussels had been cooked in a tomato-based sauce containing too harsh chilli and/or paprika that totally overwhelmed the taste of the mussels, many of which were also over cooked and shrivelled.
The second Main described in the Menu as "Char grilled chicken breast with lemon on parsnip purée" ($28) was in fact a messy pile of shredded poached chicken strewn over a smear of purée along with many stewed lemon slices and lots of very al dente broccoli flowerets - not a charred item in sight.
To accompany the protein-based mains we had also ordered a side of 'tapas' fried Polenta ($13) but without the Bravos sauce, being wary of chilli. This plate of fried polenta slabs was inedible with a stale, chewy, oily consistency and a very tough crust. Photographs of all these dishes have been included with this review.
El Perro markets itself as a "Spanish restaurant with a difference" but diners should not have to tolerate so much difference between the menu descriptions and the meals on offer.