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Corto Maltese Tapas Bar in Dorchester – Interview with Sara Fernandes

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

Corto Maltese is a new tapas bar which recently opened in Dorchester. Run by Sara Fernandes (part of the team at Basilico), the new tapas bar offers traditional Iberian flavour with a creative approach, combining seasonal local produce. Everyone is very much invited to come along for a journey of flavours through Spanish and Portuguese wine and food.

The name Corto Maltese derives from a graphic novel character of the same name whose mix of mediterranean cultures was a perfect inspiration for the tapas bar.

We went along to find out a bit more about the exciting new venture with business owner Sara Fernandes…

Sara Fernandes corto maltese dorchester

What is the history behind you and your business?

“I went to university in Portugal at a culinary school followed by an internship in France and Le Corden Bleu in London. So I have had some professional training and experience across Europe which I am proud of. I look back at that time fondly, but this business here in Dorchester is my true passion. I like to combine cooking with creativity and this is what Corto Maltese is all about.

With my partner Gennaro our first business venture in Dorchester was Nonno Peppe, during this time I was also working at a hotel in Somerset. The location was not quite right so next we relocated to Basilico on Trinity Street and we also have a food van for outdoor events.

Unfortunately, the opening of Corto Maltese has been delayed due to the pandemic – but we are at last open. There have been other challenges with the sourcing and supply of various ingredients but we are up and running. It feels quite brave what we’re doing in challenging times – the reality of it is long hours and hard work in the kitchen – but this business is my passion!

corto malteste dorchester
What made you chose the location here in Dorchester as a place to open the tapas bar?

“We believe the tapas bar is something very unique in Dorchester, and have been building up to the opening for around 2 years. We were ready to open Corto Maltese before the pandemic but decided to wait. Not only do we now live in Dorchester, we like the place and the people. Most people are supportive and acknowledge you on the street when you walk past – which is lovely!

At Corto Maltese we offer our neighbours friends and visitors of Dorchester a combination of Portugese, Spanish, Mediterranean, English foods, all of the highest quality and bring people together in a way nothing else could, and this is the purpose of our business.”

How are you finding Dorchester as a place to trade since you opened Corto Maltese?

“It’s very early days but we’ve had a good reaction so far and a positive launch day in May. This particular event was extremely busy and we thank everyone who attended.

Lots of loyal customers from Basilico are supporting us and its encouraging to see new customers and our audience growing. I’ve found that the concept of a tapas bar is not something that everyone necessarily gets straight away.

I’m excited to share my passion with people in Dorchester and beyond and hopefully introduce them to something new.”

Can you describe your business in 3 words?

“Creative, Ambitious and a breath of fresh air!”

What makes Corto Maltese different from other restaurants in Dorchester?

“It’s worth considering that tapas bars offer a very different experience to restaurants and this is what makes us stand out. Tapas dishes are small and full of intensive flavours, including spices that you won’t find in traditional English cuisine.

Sometimes with a normal restaurant meal you end up over eating or under ordering and being hungry at the end. With a tapas bar you can just keep ordering small dishes until you are satisfied, just leaving enough room for a delicious dessert!

It’s a small and intimate location and I hope people will come for the food and experience. Community groups and functions are welcome to hire out the venue. Perhaps people will fancy a jug of sangria and sharing board with friends after work as something a bit different.

In the evenings we welcome people to come people just come for a drink in the bar if they choose to – we have a late license until 1am.”

What are the most popular items on your menu so far?

“Bifana, which is marinated pork in mustard, paprika and cruz campos. The tarta de naranja de sevilla (orange pie) is our most popular dessert and of course sangria!”

Have you any exciting plans for the business in the future?

“At the moment we’re working on our new cocktail list, which is an exciting addition and will hopefully encourage more visitors in the evenings. We are planning to launch a website soon with more details of our menu.

Part of the unique appeal at Corto Maltese is our ever-changing menu – which changes every week – depending on seasonality and which local produce is available. There is always something new to try!”

Find Corto Maltese at 2 Princes Street, Dorchester, DT1 1TP or call 01305 549272 opening times are: Tuesday-Saturday 12-3pm and then 5pm til late.

Follow Corto Maltese on Facebook for updates, news and the latest menu highlights.

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