The popular local Spanish restaurant, Meigas, has this week installed a wooden stage in preparation for what promises to be a party to remember.
Flamenco dancers from Melbourne will grace the stage on Wednesday as part of a Good Food Ballarat event celebrating the food and culture of San Sebastian, a resort town in mountainous Basque Country.
The restaurant’s owner and chef José Fernandez says “La Noche en San Sebastian” will be a chance for the people of Ballarat to try something different and to socialise with new people.
“We will have big tables where people can share,” he said.
“We will try to break the ice and then the people in the end will be talking as if they’d met a long time ago and they’ll be enjoying their night.”
On offer for guests will be at least 30 or 40 different types of pintxos – small snacks traditionally eaten in bars – along with Spanish wine, sangria and Spanish beer and cider, all included in the ticket price.
Mr Fernandez is particularly excited about his Tortillitas de Camardnes, a dish made from small prawns he picked up at Footscray market, as well as his take on Queimada, a drink made from grapes, fruit and spices which will be set alight towards the end of the evening.
“It’s good for people to try new things,” he said.
“Maybe they don’t like it, but yes.”
When Mr Fernandez and his then wife opened Meigas in Ballarat around three years ago it took locals a while to warm to the idea of authentic Spanish food.
Mr Fernandez said that given the prevalence of fusion restaurants in Ballarat people would often be confused about the cuisine they served.
“People were coming in to buy nachos and I would have to say ‘we don’t have nachos’,” he said.
But despite a slow start the restaurant developed a dedicated following, and Mr Fernandez said diners have even become more adventurous in their ordering.
“When we opened Meigas it took three months to sell one serve of octopus; It was too strange for Ballarat,” he said.
“Now we serve it every night.”
This will be the third time Meigas has hosted a Good Food event, having hosted a Spanish Fiesta two years ago and an Andalusian night last year but this will be the first one at the new Armstrong Street location, which Mr Fernandez moved to because demand was too great for the previous, smaller restaurant.
The evening will kick off at 7:30 pm on Wednesday and while pre-sale tickets have sold out there will be a small amount of tickets available on the door.
Mr Fernandez said he expects they won’t close until midnight or even 1 am.
“When people come here I want people to feel happy, I want people to feel comfortable; and that’s what we try to do,” he said.