First Look: Otto, Brisbane
Author: FIONA DONNELLY
Photography: Nikki To
"Take a look at King's Row," suggests John Fink, indicating the space alongside a floor-to-ceiling window with views of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. "This will be the el primo seating - but every chair here is good." We're at Fink Group's first interstate restaurant, Otto Brisbane. The 120-seat northern outpost for the group behind Sydney venues Bennelong, Quay, Firedoor and Sydney's original Otto on the Finger Wharf will open on 14 June and fills a generous chunk of the fourth-floor atrium at Dexus Property Group's 480 Queen Street office building.
If you were expecting a faithful replica of Otto Sydney, think again.
The branding is intact - white linen and striking water panoramas in place - but the menu veers in the opposite direction to Sydney's, doffing a cap to southern Italy, rather than the chillier north. Will Cowper, former sous-chef in Sydney for eight years, will head the open kitchen, with Alan Hunter, former longstanding sommelier for E'cco Bistro in Brisbane, wrangling wines. Sam Pask (ex-Selah, Sydney) will lead the floor.
Sydney's $100 lobster spaghetti won't make the trek north, but signature baby barramundi fillets with salsa verde will, along with the likes of pepper-crusted swordfish with Noosa red tomatoes; Sardinian-style globe artichokes; white anchovies with fennel, muscatels and pine nuts; spatchcock with char-grilled lemon, and more. Otto Brisbane will also serve a vegan menu, as Sydney does.
Smoked ham hock carbonara, pecorino
Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer have used elements of Otto Sydney's DNA. But there are distinctly Queensland touches: timber flooring, timber-slatted Jenga-style screen walls, and dramatic magenta and purple fabric fans, "Les Danseuses", sourced by Fink Group chairman Leon Fink at the Venice Biennale. A private dining room with seating for 20 overlooks the copper dome of Brisbane's Customs House.
A covered alfresco bar, Bar Otto, sits adjacent to the restaurant, offering all-day dining with coffee from Brisbane roaster Blackstar and milk from Maleny Dairies. "We want to serve the best coffee in the area. There are 4,000 people upstairs - we want to rust them on," says Fink.
An aptly Italian wine list, featuring Italian and Australian-grown Italian varieties, has been drafted by Hunter and consultant Ned Goodwin. It fields a clever selection of biodynamic and natural wines, but Fink says there will also be a healthy smattering of wines people "just want to drink".
Otto Brisbane opens on June 14, Parkland Level 4, 480 Queen St, Brisbane, QLD, (07) 3835 2888, ottoristorante.com.au/brisbane/