NSW Restaurants

Cara o Cruz Terrigal: Tapas Bar & Restaurant, Central Coast

The silhouetted bull on the bold blue mural outside Cara o Cruz will pull you in.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Cara o Cruz sign

You’ll find the contemporary Tapas Bar and Restaurant just off the main strip at Terrigal across from the Crowne Plaza. Cara o Cruz, heads or tails in Spanish, opened in July 2011 with a 60 seat capacity and an alfresco courtyard which is perfect in summer.

Inside, Andalusian beats, flamenco guitar and upbeat Spanish tunes accompany the modern and inviting décor. Dark chocolate tones accentuate a vivid blue wall. Contemporary light fittings are at home with a silver chandelier hanging over the bar with a silver mirror on one wall. The welcome is inviting and you could easily think you’re dining in Sydney’s east or inner city.

Restaurant Manager, Luke Wright, was former Sommelier at Bilson’s Restaurant in Sydney. Together with French-Italian trained Head Chef Sean Mawbey, whose culinary experience extends to Buon Ricordo in Sydney before doing a stint in London with Pierre Marco White and working as pastry chef at Orrery Restaurant in London’s Marylebone High Street, they wanted to do “tapas on steroids” in a casual dining environment.

Peruse the menu and you are spoilt for choice. There is the option of the Matador’s Menu at $55pp or you can choose from a good range of vegetarian, seafood and meat dishes which are all reasonably priced. Six tapas dishes between two people is the recommendation.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Interior of Cara o Cruz

There is a good selection of classic cocktails such as Margarita, Mojito and Negroni, a cocktail speciality list as well as local and Spanish wines by the bottle and the glass.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
(L) The Matador’s Quiff, Tempranillo – (R) Adults only gazpacho

The Matador’s Quiff cocktail has Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Amaretto and Botrytis sweet wine stirred with lime and mint. You get the initial Bourbon taste, followed by the sweetness from the Botrytis and ends with the bitterness from the Amaretto. The flavours are well balanced and after a couple of sips, the cocktail kicks hard. The Elefante Castilla Tempranillo/Shiraz 2009 from La Mancha in Spain is a delight to accompany the entire meal.

Adults only gazpacho gets its name from the addition of Belvedere vodka. A little spicy with a hint of chilli, this is a good starter for the palate but the vodka is lost on me after the mix of flavours in the Matador’s Quiff cocktail.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Ceviche de vierira

The Scallop ceviche dish, or ceviche de vierira, has 4 scallops on the shell served on a bed of salt. Fresh and zesty, they pack a lot of flavour with the lemon juice, olive oil, chilli and coriander. One tip when you order this dish, don’t spill any of the liquid because you’ll want to drink the marinade. It is simply that good.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Duo de calamares

The Duo of squid, duo de calamares, is squid two ways – a tender and crispy salt and pepper calamari on one side with calamari braised in tomato and chilli sauce on the other. The components are separated by dollops of aioli. The flavours here are very fresh and the braised squid is the most tender and flavoursome I have ever tasted.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Cuernos de Toro

Cuernos de Toro, or Bulls Horns are difficult to resist. Savoury cones are filled with a warm mixture of potato purée and chorizo that has been braised in apple cider. A spicy and textural dish that makes you want to order another immediately. A vegetarian option of the Bulls Horns is also available.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Croquettas de manchego

Manchego croquettes, croquettas de manchego, have manchego cheese mixed with mashed potato, crumbed and served with a side of capsicum jam. Crisp, crunchy with a gooey and tasty cheese, they stand on their own without the accompanying capsicum sauce.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Pancita de Puerco

It’s difficult to overlook the pork belly, pancita de puerco, with its melt-in-your-mouth pork meat beneath a crispy and addictive crackling. The dish is accompanied by a radicchio and pear salad which balances out the flavours.

You may be tempted to skip dessert for more tapas dishes but the sight of dessert plates floating around the dining room will change your mind.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Panna cotta de moras de verano

The panna cotta de moras de verano is a silky smooth summer berry panna cotta served with a dark chocolate ganache and berries.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Chocolate parfait

The piece de resistance is the chocolate parfait, mousse congelado, encased in a dark chocolate shell and served with wild preserved berries, which puts a decadent end to a most satisfying meal.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
Head Chef: Sean Mawbey (L) and Restaurant Manager Luke Wright (R)

Cara o Cruz will be opening a cocktail lounge* above the restaurant early in 2012. They have teamed up with Belvedere Vodka and Moët & Chandon to bring a cocktail lounge experience with table service in relaxed surrounds which will make it a well-sought after venue for an aperitif, after dinner drinks or just lounging in good company.

Cara o Cruz Terrigal
El Toro mural

If you’re visiting the Central Coast, put Cara o Cruz at Terrigal on your culinary radar. The ingredients are treated with respect. The dishes are well paced, well presented with flavours and textures to match. The service is welcoming, friendly, efficient and unpretentious. If you’re living on the Central Coast, chances are you’ve already discovered this sparkling gem.

Cara o Cruz
3 – 5 Kurrawyba Ave,
Terrigal NSW

Note: Gourmantic discovered Cara o Cruz while holidaying on the Central Coast. The quality of the photographs (taken with an iPhone and a point-and-shoot camera) do not give the food justice but we wanted to share this wonderful experience with our readers.

* Edit – July 2012: The Cara o Cruz Lounge Room is now open.

Planning a visit to Cara o Cruz? Don’t miss our Guide to Avoca Beach on the Central Coast

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


  • Sounds like a great find! The dishes look great and they’re a good serving too.

    PS Love the bull!

    • They’re a good serving, aren’t they. So glad we didn’t have to fight over the Bulls Horns!

      PS My star sign, so of course I was drawn to it 🙂

    • They’ve only been open a few months, maybe you’ve seen the place that was there before. Definitely check it out, and the cocktails 🙂

  • Loooooove this place!!!!!!!!!!!
    Highly recommend but be prepared….you will HAVE to go back especially if you try a Chocolate parfait or two or three. Great service, asthetics, atmoshpere & aromas, all my favourite “restauranty” things.

    • I agree! Although we’re in Sydney and it’s a long drive to get there, but will be back next time we’re over that way.

  • mmm….croquettes….I’m sold! 🙂 I like the sound of the Matador’s Quiff, but can see how it might be difficult to start the meal with that and lose the vodka in the gaspacho. Looks like a lovely time though!

    • It’s definitely the strength of the cocktail (although I did check with the waitress). Great find, and a place that would sit well at home in Sydney as well!