Corrie of Brisbane Devoured lamented Brisbane’s food scene was bursting with too many new places to try – too much food, too little time – over Twitter. We got to exchanging a couple of tweets, and thought we’d check out a new restaurant together.
A couple of restaurants were taken into consideration, but in the end, we made a booking at Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar at Brisbane’s South Bank during the Queen’s birthday long weekend to see what the hype might be about.
Located just a skip away from the Goodwill Bridge, Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar is smack-bam in the newly completed South Bank playground. Diners are offered unobstructed views of the Brisbane river, almost in Champs-Élysées cafe style with Brisbanites strolling along hand in hand, with prams or dogs to take in the mild winter weather.
Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar‘s dining concept is for everyone to order several items on the menu to share. The portion sizes are not teeny-tiny, with some mains offered in half-serve portions, but if you’re hungry, disregard the wait staff’s warnings about ordering too much food. It is not that generous if you’re hungry.
Corrie and L opted to start with the burrata, described as a “handmade creamy centred curd cheese with toasted ciabatta”.
I had to do a little googling to work out what burrata is supposed to be and according to Wikipedia:
Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. It is also defined by some sources as an outer shell of mozzarella filled with butter or a mixture of butter and sugar.
Right. If the Wiki description is anything to go by, what was served didn’t really match up. While the burrata was certainly oozy once cut open, I wouldn’t describe it being much more different than the ooze of warmed up mozzarella. It was just room temperature and certainly not sweet, so it wasn’t made with butter and sugar.
As for the ‘outer shell’, would that have been the hard knub of cheese on top? L cut it and its firmness and the way it crumbled was more akin to a hard cheese.
The SO and I went for something a little warmer – the polpette. The standard dish comes with 4 pork and veal meatballs in a rich tomato sauce and a little melted cheese on top.
These meatballs are delish and not tiny either. I could have possibly chomped down on one whole, but would have risked choking on it.
I like that you can order more meatballs if you are with a larger party than four and it would be at the exact same price as the original 4 meatball serve.
Whenever I see vongole, I am reminded of my best friend back in Singapore. The woman is a fiend when it comes to slurping the little buggers down and would never say ‘no’ to the dish. So with her in mind, I ordered the Peperoncino vongole. These Kinkawooka SA clams (500g) are served cooked in chilli, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs. Delish! I even ordered a side of bread to mop up all the lovely sauce.
The only drawback of the dish is the supplier or chef smashed the clams, so almost every mouthful came with shell shards and my skull would reverberate with my teeth crunching down on the calcium carbonate. This made for very frustrating eating and would be the only reason I would never order this dish again at Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar.
Corrie‘s controfiletto con prugna sugo is the roast Darling Downs grain fed sirloin (250g) with wilted greens (silverbeet in this case), sun-dried plum jus and capers. Popolo‘s chef recommends the meat done to medium rare.
The SO and L both had their eyes on the Lattonzolo e pesche - Kingaroy suckling pig (250g) and served with a spiced peach compote and anchovy sauce.
I on the other hand, was not convinced pork and anchovies would make a good flavour combination. I like anchovies and I like pork. I just was not sure the two should ever be together.
L offered me a sample and it was actually pretty nice, especially with the sweet peach compote. Who would’ve guessed?
The SO gave up on the Lattonzolo e pesche and went with the Trota di fiume con peperonata instead. This whole oven-baked Goulbourn River Trout is infused with saffron, a red pepper relish and preserved lemon.
And what was even more awesome was a wait staff came up to ask if we would like for him to fillet the fish for us. Not that we really needed the help, but what the heck. Yes please!
The SO loved how perfectly cooked the fish was, but was disappointed the fish itself was so bland in comparison to the amazing pepper relish. I was happily picking at that relish with the preserved lemons, because it was simply bursting with flavour. Perhaps the relish might have been better suited to a fried fish, like grouper or snapper.
The SO and I shared the crostata di fiche – a fig and frangipane tart, topped with vanilla mascarpone and drizzled with manuka honey. The kitchen baked these really nice – the figs were caramelised beautifully.
On the other hand, Corrie couldn’t quite decide on which desserts to try, so our waitress made a suggestion – the dessert tasting platter for two. For AUD$24, the dessert tasting platter has the 3 dessert menu items: the semifreddo al pistacchio e biscotti (amaretto parfait, pistachio praline, lemon biscotti), canoli fragole e basilico gelato (strawberry canoli served with sweet basil gelato) and zeppole cioccolato con arancio (chocolate donuts rolled in orange sugar on pistachio crumble).
These strawberry canolis are a delight! The canoli are crisp and hold up well to pick them up and pop straight into your waiting mouth. We did spend at least 10-15 minutes discussing how brilliantly fluoro green the basil ice-cream was. To me, it looked almost blue. If you can get pass its colour, the ice-cream is an interesting surprise. It definitely tastes of basil and is sweet, which one might think is weird, but it works.
The chocolate donuts are brilliant, but I wouldn’t want to eat more than one at a time. The size of a golf ball, these little spheres are dark chocolate bombs with more cocoa and less ooziness.
On their own, the asemifreddo al pistacchio e biscotti is AUD$13, canoli fragole e basilico gelato and zeppole cioccolato con arancio are AUD$14. So while the portions of each item is smaller than the single orders of each, it still makes the dessert tasting platter a really good deal if you just cannot make up your mind about which dessert to round off your meal.