Ortiga @ Fortitude Valley

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Ortiga has been on our ‘wanna-visit’ list since it opened. Other reviews have given Ortiga gold stars all around and they deserve every one of them – they are a chic sophisticated Spanish restaurant wrapped in rustic charm.

While the who’s-who are sipping on their beverages and nibbling on their tapas at the bar above, the true heart is down below in the restaurant. The restaurant seats about 40 people and larger groups have the privilege of sitting closer to the open kitchen and the wall display of wines.

From where we sat, I was impressed with the open kitchen concept. Having the kitchen open to scrutiny can be a challenge, but Ortiga have done this very well. The air is devoid of cooking food fumes and it is comforting to watch how focused the kitchen staff were. They each had their stations and while they may talk to each other, there wasn’t any horsing around or yelling. These guys run a tight ship.

To start, we were presented with 2 pieces of puffed pork crackle from the kitchen (complimentary) as we looked over the food and wine menu.

Neither of us know any Spanish and while the menu has English, we would’ve been lost without the wait staff. She very patiently explained and described each dish, including the day’s specials, which – if I recall correctly – were peppers. We chose our dishes (2 smaller dishes and 1 main) and the kitchen would stagger their delivery to our table.

And seeing how the wine menu was a tome, we simply asked our wait staff for recommendations. After asking about our preferences and tossing a few suggestions, she delivered a really smooth drinking red for the SO and a refreshingly sweet white for me. Simply impeccable service and product knowledge!

Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician braised octopus with potato and pimentón). AUD$21

The vibrant red of the paprika dusted over tender pieces of octopus served on tall discs of firm potato in the Pulpo a la Gallega makes one heck of a statement at the table.

Ajo blanco with smoked eel and grapes. AUD$24

Ajo blanco is a traditionally cold soup made of bread, crushed almonds, garlic, water, olive oil, salt and sometimes vinegar. Ortiga‘s take with their Ajo blanco with smoked eel and grapes is a work of art! The smoked eel and grapes are finely diced and topped with an almond foam, which is divinely delicate. I would have happily had this one all to myself.

Patatas a lo pobre

Roughly translated, Patatas a lo pobre means ‘poor man’s potato’, but there’s nothing poor about this dish. It comes with the whole slow cooked lamb shoulder and is cooked in lamb juices and peppers, so each bite is bursting with flavour.

Lamb jus and lemon puree

The lamb jus and lemon puree are perfect, though we were warned to treat the lemon puree as we would mustard as it is really strong flavoured. And I adore it! The citrus yumminess is not sweet and complements the lamb so unexpectedly well.

Whole slow cooked lamb shoulder. AUD$75

This is how the whole slow cooked lamb shoulder arrived – the air was dripping in its warm savoury aroma. It is apparently ‘sous-vide’d with herbs, including lemon peel, for about 2.5 hours before pan seared and cooked for another 15 mins.

Our wait staff asked if she could ‘carve’ the meat for us and have a trainee watch. While she did so, I asked how popular the whole slow cooked lamb shoulder is at the restaurant. Her reply was a nonchalant ‘500 or so’. That is a lot of lamb!

And I say ‘carve’, because the meat is so well-cooked, it literally falls off the bone with little encouragement. She would simply press into it gently and the succulent flesh came away.

The meat all ready to dig in!

Slathered with the lamb jus or the lemon puree, this dish is downright glorious if you enjoy lamb on its own. Its flavour is not complicated and invokes a sense of homeliness – sort of like home cooked roasts, except a million times nicer. And there was even a little bit of crackling on the edges close to the bone.

By the end of this, we were bursting at the seams and I was disappointed I did not have tummy space to try a dessert. The lamb with potatoes is recommended for two, but I reckon a third person could’ve easily shared our portion without any trouble.

All around, a fantastic restaurant with some impressive grub. Expect top-notch service (professional and not snotty), so save up to give it a visit for that special-occasion.

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