I was never cool when I was growing up. I wanted to be, desperately. I’d dress up in my jeans with an armful of bangles and practice “cool” looks in the mirror. I thought if only, one day I could be 19, called Carly or Samantha, and have a denim jacket then I’d be cool

Bodega is cool.

In fact I’m not sure I’m cool enough to go there today . I still can’t even figure out how to pronounce it properly.

It’s in that secret hidden part of Surry Hills that I never really knew exactly where it was- to me it was the Bermuda triangle of Sydney dining, full of one way streets and places I’d only ever been to after too many daiquiris.

That was until I started working just around the corner and stumbled upon it one day when trying to walk off a bad meeting over lunch.

Bodega’s got a big mural of an agitated bull on the wall.

The chef’s have serious ink on their arms and there was a six year old who dressed better than me who I had to bargain with for a seat when I got there.

But you sit down, you have a glass or two of a Spanish rose that’s suitably savoury and suddenly you don’t worry quite so much about your choice of outfit.

We got there at 6.30 on a Tuesday night, and I’m glad we decided to pop in at such a grandma/ un Spanish/ uncool time. Any later and we’d been hard pressed to get a seat at all.

But it’s popular for a reason. It was just awarded Best Mediterranean at this year’s good food awards it successfully quashed my long held belief about Spanish food in Sydney; quickest way to spend a lot of money and still be hungry.

Now I’m not saying the bill was cheap at the end of the night. But I was certainly full.

The olive oil that they pour to dip the fluffy white bread dipped in starts everything off with an immediate heel stomp of pepper across your palette. Not a lot at Bodega is subtle. Most of the time it’s exciting and a jolt to your senses.

The Hungry One and our friend the Chef who came with us were both keen to try as much much of the tapas size plates as our bankcards/ belts would allow. Three people, three dishes at a time. It seems like a perfect formula.

You always have to order Chorizo, even just for the shits and giggles of being able to say Choritho in a public place. And then make two large men say it as well. Many times over. When it’s good, it’s good, the fat in it mellows, it’s squishy but not subservient in your mouth. There’s a gentle kick of spice and lots of hot oil dribbling around in the bottom to dip the aforementioned bread in.

The beef empanadas were great, the minced beef clings more to the beef than the mince part of it’s identity and the relish to go with it manages to be elegantly zippy.

My favourite of the first lot was the silver beet, chickpea and fried cauliflower salad. They’re certainly making friends with this salad. There’s lots of fried garlic to give it a bit of crunch, lots of lemon juice, lots of olive oil. Zesty, excitable, so good that I had no idea that cauliflower could be that much fun. Where I came from it was always steamed with broccoli, and only on rare occasions gussied up with a white cheesy sauce.

We then had more rose, conversations about tattoos and motorbikes and were feeling much cooler than when we first came in. I think there’s something about the place that’s kind of contagious.

Then it was time to branch out to the big boys- a tongue salad that felt almost kinky to eat -and sounds kinkier to write about, but it was stunning; pillowy meat, mint, vinegar heavy salad, all balanced together beautifully.

Then the beef chimmichurri- pinky pink sirloin, seasoned perfectly with the delightful green swirls of the chimmichurri, parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil to dip and frolic your fork around in. We managed to share that between the three of us, but only because I was the chivalrous one and bowed out after two pieces. I could have eaten a lot more of that.

I’d heard great things about the desserts at Bodega- Though I can’t necessarily say that on our visit they lived up to expectations.

Curiosity here got the better of me. I had a visiting instinct that the “Twinkie” of chocolate, with passionfruit and carrot granita might be something of a car crash/ jumble sale of flavours. The closest thing I could put it akin to was a honey jumble crossed with a Florentine, with a glass of carrot juice on the side. Not something I’ve personally felt the need to construct.

But the coffee was great, I wasn’t mocked too mercilessly for the daggy decaf/ skim latte selection and left feeling cooler than I have in a while.

We only got through about half the menu too. So it looks like we’ll have to go back. If only so we’re seen there and our cool status can be bumped up even more. Next time I’ll remember to bring my denim jacket.

Bodega: Shop 1/216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. lunch Wed-Fri noon-3pm; dinner Mon-Sat from 6pm