By Michelle Karaman-Jones
Naming your restaurant Delishus sets high expectation but it is one which Richmond restauranteurs Jose and Sally Fernandez consistently exceed.
Since opening Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant in the Hawkesbury in October 2009 with no restaurant experience, the couple has won the Foxtel ‘I Love Food Award’ for Best Spanish Restaurant in NSW 2014 and the Dimmi Awards for ‘Best Rated Spanish Restaurant’ in Australia and Best for Parties & Groups twice in 2013.
With the flavours of Madrid emanating from the kitchen, the fire of matadors in the red and yellow décor and the suave maître’d Jose greeting every diner at the door, it’s hardly surprising.
“We try to give people the full Spanish experience,’’ Jose said. “After visiting us, people who have never been to Spain want to go. For Spanish people, it reminds them of home. Many customers bring us things back from Spain for the restaurant.’’
My first time tasting Spanish tapas and dining at Delishus restaurant is a very good experience that I will not forget. Sampling the range of delicious tapas whetted my appetite for more Spanish food and to get to learn more about that exciting country.
“People can eat at home but they come here for the experience,’’ Jose says. “People have become friends after meeting here.
“Spain is a melting pot for many of the old world empires. Beginning with the Phoenicians who came to Spain about 400BC, then the Romans and then the Moors, who all brought foods and spices from their respective empires. Finally, all the new produce brought by the Spanish Conquistadores from the Americas has been blended together over the centuries to produce what is now a distinctive and wonderful Spanish cuisine with many of the Spanish colours featured in the foods such as the yellow of saffron and the red of peppers.
“We are passionate in Spain about food – we don’t eat because we have to eat, we eat because we want to eat. We even celebrate our food with festivals for different food dishes and produce.’’
Food from the Delishus kitchen is as fresh as possible, with as many ingredients sourced from local and regional suppliers as possible.
But the Delishus experience is also infused with the spice of life – Jose and Sally’s life.
Born in Madrid, Jose never knew his father, was tormented at school and raised by his beloved grandmother Pila, only for her to die when he was 11, leaving him virtually alone to fend for himself.
Amazingly, “I have had a wonderful life really – I wouldn’t change it for the world,’’ Jose, who enjoyed a successful business career before opening Delishus, says.
Former health industry professional Sally began cooking in earnest at the age of 10, a skill learned from her mother Neta who was raised on a farm near Orange and cooked meals for up to 40 farm workers from the age of 15.
In many ways, the couple’s restaurant is an extension of their own kitchen and dining room – Spanish-style. As Sally says. “This is like the ultimate dinner party.’’
Everywhere at Delishus is grandmother Pila’s influence, beginning with the Croquetas de Jamon made by Sally to a secret family recipe only she knows.
“This is food I was raised with,’’ Jose says. “In some ways I am chasing my own heritage by doing this, and then sharing it with others.’’
Delishus delivers true tapas food and dining. Although customers do sit at tables rather than stand around the bar or high tables in the traditional way, they are encouraged to move around and mingle.
“It’s not just about eating – you can eat at home,’’ Jose says. “Tapas is about being looked after and having a bit of fun.
“The idea of tapas is to taste a lot of things but not fill up on any one thing. Food is about taking your time and enjoying it. It’s not about quantity but quality. I would like people to take their time, come here at seven o’clock and leave at ten. After you’ve had tapas you’re not bloated but the senses are going `Wow’.
Apart from the exceptional food quality, diners at Delishus will notice outstanding customer service beginning with Jose’s personal welcome at the door following by the serving of a drink and nuts and olives within five minutes of being seated.
The wait staff (often Jose himself) will then describe dishes on the menu: “I say things in Spanish and then I paint a word picture of the dish so that by the time I have finished they want it – it’s about creating desire.’’
Diners should allow between 90 minutes and two hours to fully savour a famous Delishus 10-course degustation with matching wines.
For an average $40 a head for lunch and $60 for dinner (most diners order two entrée-sized tapas each and share), customers can be assured of quality. Produce is bought fresh and as needed, hardly anything on the extensive menu is pre-prepared. All desserts are made fresh daily.
Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant, located ar 122 Windsor St, Richmond. Open from 12pm to 2.30pm and 6pm to late Wednesday to Friday, 12pm to late Saturday and 12pm to 4pm Sunday.
For bookings contact +61 2 4578 6999 or visit www.delishus.com.au.