Hot Plates: Vaquero Dining, Albion

Author: Fiona Donnelly
Photography: Courtesy Vaquero Dining

No cowboys are to be found at Albion's newest smart-casual spot. Instead there's plenty of charcuterie, batched cocktails and a slick fit-out.

There isn't usually much call for queue-control measures outside restaurants in inner-city Albion, but the latest offering from Nick Pinn and Laurie Rogencamp, operators of Newstead's Malt Pier, Brisbane's Malt Dining and boutique bottle shop Malt Traders, is a bona fide attention grabber with a doorway cordoned off with a red silk rope.

Yarra valley trout with tiger prawns, white onion, currents and pine nuts.

Vaquero packs pleasing swagger. Access to the casual but smart restaurant and bar is through a tiny butchery nook out front, which retails dry-aged beef and charcuterie, much of which is made in house. The smoky, meaty tang of smallgoods raise expectations nicely. The store is separated from the restaurant by a glazed charcuterie and dry-ageing cabinet and the long, slender space beyond is open plan, but neatly divided into sections.

At its core, there's an eye-catching brass-topped bar and a variety of seating, ranging from a large communal-style table in a covered, cobbled courtyard at the rear to curved banquettes, and a variety of bar and table dining. A line-up of batched cocktails adorns a backlit bar to bolster the drinks they make to order, plus there's a commendable line-up of interesting wines by the glass and a decent beer selection.

Corned beef cheek with pickled cucumber and celeriac cream.

Just as the flattering fit-out and well-balanced drinks list pack in texture, so too does the lightly Spanish-influenced sharing menu.

Rounds of briny-sweet scallop boudin sausage are offset by pickled fennel, vibrant dots of parsley oil and an airy scallop mousse topped with deep-fried cauliflower.

Char-grilled octopus tentacles share a plate with a chilli-laden, ink-black sobrasada oscura and a dollop of forthright tomato pickle, while savoury Manchego custard and a toasty hazelnut dukkah prove happy sidekicks for a mix of coal-grilled carrots.

It's not the sort of sustenance you'd envisage a stereotypical Latin cowboy vaquero fuelling up on - we're thinking here of the dry-aged rump cap that's cooked sous-vide before hitting the Josper oven (why?). But Vaquero is assuredly a spot worth roping in a crowd for.

Vaquero Dining, 344 Sandgate Rd, Albion, Qld, (07) 3862 3606, vaquerodining.com.au







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