Mid Wednesday afternoon in an otherwise ordinary week and a message pops up on my monitor ‘find a restaurant for dinner tonight, it’s time we got out more’. So much travel during this year that the last few months we’ve been doing alot of eating in lately. I’d walked past Barolo a couple of times, and been curious about what chef/owner Russell Armstrong (previously of Seasalt @ Armstrongs (Inchcolm Hotel), Ciao Bella (Albion) and various others) had come up with on the former Felix on Felix site.
Already tarted up from its original incarnation as Vroom, Felix on Felix was a restaurant with an identity crisis. Not quite cafe, not quite fine dining, it provided serviceable food and service but never really fired. Barolo sees the busy corner location between Eagle Street Pier and the Belgian morph into a sophisticated and seductive fine diner, a fantastic addition to the inner city restaurant scene. It strikes an excellent balance between a place to pull out all the stops and spend up big whilst allowing the diner to be equally comfortable dropping in for a quick bite and a glass of wine.
The menu offers Italian flavours with a modern twist, with entrees, mains and an excellent selection of house made pastas. We were seated and served an excellent sourdough along with Joseph olive oil. Although I’d read the menu on line when I made the reservation, it didn’t make it any easier to decide from the many delicious sounding options on the menu. After some deliberation, we started with half a dozen pacific oysters doused with salt water vinaigrette, citrus and extra virgin olive oil and an excellent risotto of sautéed chanterelles, shaved Western Australian truffles and creme fraiche. The oysters were plump and smelt of the sea, the best I’ve tasted in a long time. The risotto was generously dressed with shaved truffles with a lovely balance of earthy flavours. We treated ourselves to glass each of the R’ De Ruinart, a fitting accompaniment to the excellent entrees.
Sitting on at a banquette table under the plush retro orchid wallpaper and mood lighting, we were surprised by the lone female diners to either side of us, one busily texting between mouthfuls of steak and the other ducking out between courses for a quick smoke. Barolo doesn’t have the pretensions of some of its neighbours and seems equally welcoming to groups, couples or those just looking for some where reliable to eat when they’re visiting on business.
Pasta dishes are available as entrees and mains, and given that all pasta is freshly made on the premises each day I settled on the hand rolled ribbon pasta with chilli, garlic, lemon, crabmeat and Qld scallops. This dish did not disappoint and along with the roast rump of Victorian lamb served with polenta, ratatouille and roast garlic jus further demonstrated the assured work of Armstrong and his team. Given the restaurant’s name, we thought it would be remiss not to try the Nebbiolo blends on offer. With 6 to choose from this is possibly the largest selection of Nebbiolo on any wine list in Brisbane. We settled on the 2003 Elio Altare Barolo la Marra from Piedmont, a nice example of the style with cherry and cinnamon flavours and a finish as smooth as silk.
Service at Barolo is earnest but not quite as refined as you might expect given the otherwise high standard. Staff were friendly, but lacking confidence and a little awkward. Credit to the Sommelier who seemed genuinely excited to have patrons who turned straight to the Nebbiolo section of the wine list. Overall, the wine list shows a nice balance of Australian and European wines and mark ups are quite reasonable.
Desserts merit a return visit, but on this occasion we rounded out the meal with ripe brie presented with slices of nashi pear, crackers and dried white figs. A wider selection of whisky would be nice to see but probably saved further damage to the nights bill.
Barolo is a confident, calm and welcoming space serving beautiful food without fuss and we will definitely be back.
Cnr Felix & Mary Street, Brisbane CBD
Phone 3211 7101
Open for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Espresso
Monday to Saturday