There's a surreal moment when you first step inside La Paula. Its bare shopfront gives no indication of the colour and vibrance within. I headed here for this month's Time Out Sydney column, and as we sat on plastic chairs in a dining room filled with gaudy streamers and Chilean flags, sinking our teeth into warm empanadas and lomitos, I almost convinced myself I was somewhere in Santiago, and not downtown Fairfield, Sydney.
La Paula, Fairfield
WHAT IS IT?
A Chilean bakery and café in Fairfield that specialises in empanadas and dulce de leche sweets.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Step through the non-descript shopfront and you’ll find a festive interior strewn with Chilean flags and giant crepe paper rosettes and streamers in patriotic red, white and blue. You’ll hear a constant soundtrack of Spanish dialogue as locals pick up takeaway orders of sweets from the bakery, or sit down for a quick snack whilst watching Chilean cable TV.
WHAT SHOULD I ORDER?
Empanadas are the specialty: a stuffed pastry that comes baked or deep fried. Empanada de Pino ($3.70) is the most traditional, filled with beef mince, onion, olive and boiled egg, but you’ll also find tuna, chicken, ham and seafood. Empanada de Queso ($2.60) is particularly good, deep-fried until its special blend of cheeses is deliciously gooey.
Emapanada de Pino $3.70
Baked beef, onion, olive, egg and spices
Empanada de Pollo $3.70
Baked chicken, onion, olive, egg, spices
Empanada de Espinaca $3.70
Baked spinach and cheese
Empanada de Queso $2.60
Fried with homemade cheese filling
The lomito pork sandwich is Chile’s answer to fast food. A towering Lomito Completo ($7.80) gives you the lot – tender pork slices, tomato, sauerkraut, lettuce and lashings of mayonnaise in a soft white bun. Chacarero is the beef version: thin slices of steak with tomato, mayonnaise and sliced green beans, a cominbation that sounds odd, but surprisingly works.
Lomito completo and palta $7.80
Sliced pork meat, tomato, sauerkraut, avocado and mayonnaise
Inside the lomito pork sandwich
Chacarero and Palta $8.80
Steak, tomato, green beans, avocado (palta) and mayonnaise
Inside the chacarero steak sandwich
You’ll also find completos hot dogs (from $3.50) that are amped up with tomato, sauerkraut and mayonnaise. Everything tastes even better with the addition of palta (avocado). Wash it all down with mote con huesillo, a summer drink of sugar and cinnamon served with cooked barley and a rehydrated whole dried peach.
Tamales, El Salvado-style $2.50 each
Inside the tamales
Bistec a lo Pobre $14.50
Scotch fillet steak, chips, two fried eggs and sauteed onions
Mote con Huesillo $3.90
A display cabinet shows biscuits sandwiched with manjar, the Chilean version of dulce de leche caramel made from condensed milk. Berlin custard-filled donuts are a popular local treat that originated via the large German community in Chile, but the store pick is the tres leche, or three milk cake, a butter cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream and then smothered in blowtorched meringue.
[clockwise from top]: Chilenito, Alfajore and Maizena Chica
Maizena Chica (made from cornstarch and gluten-free)
Tres leche cake
Inside the tres leche three milk cake
Alfajores de Maizena
Horns filled with manjar (dulce de leche)
Sopaipillas pumpkin fritters (savoury)
Hot dog, lomito and chacarero menu
View Larger Map
Unit 1, 9 Barbara Street, Fairfield 2165
Tel: +61 (02) 9726 2379
Open: Monday to Sunday 7am-5pm
This article appears in the November 2010 issue of Time Out Sydney in the Food & Drink section. Read online
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11/04/2010 02:31:00 am