Locanda Osteria & Bar is one of the new additions to the M&A Lane in Fortitude Valley, but unlike the others, they are located a little further back in the laneway – just behind Gordita. Perhaps its slightly more secluded location or the fact it was a Tuesday evening that although there were a group of diners ordering off the banquet menu in a private dining area and 2-3 other diners who came and went, we otherwise had the rest of the indoor dining area right next to the kitchen to ourselves.
As an osteria, Locanda Osteria & Bar is focused on simple inexpensive food and wine, with an emphasis on traditional handmade pasta, grilled meat and seafood and we found they did just that.
To kick off the meal, I started with the Cocktail Sgroppino, a surprisingly not-as-citrusy-as-I-expected mixture of Ketel One Citroen, Lemon Sorbet and Prosecco served in a martini glass. The chilled beverage came with a soft pale yellow head of creamy foam and I got a bit of a show from watching the bartender shake it up. It’s not the most amazing cocktail I’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t shabby either.
The SO on the other hand, was impressed to see their Birra della Spina (beer on tap) included Burleigh Brewing 28 Pale Ale and Stone & Wood Pacific Ale (a reasonable AUD$7.50). Stone & Wood Brewing Company is based in Byron Bay and Burleigh Brewing Co. is a Queensland brewer, so it was nice to see a restaurant supporting local brews.
Locanda Osteria & Bar‘s menu has 5 sections: the antipasti, insalada (salads), pasta, secondi (mains), contorni (sides) and dolci (dessert). Each offers between three to seven options and head chef Daniel Jones has done a fine job of offering quite a variety of options… making our job in deciding what to have a little bit harder.
Who knew that buffalo milk mozzarella, local figs and vincotto could make for such a harmonious marriage? Served slightly cooler than room temperature, the alternating slices of marshmallow soft white buffalo milk mozzarella and fresh figs. I was surprised the figs were not syrupy sweet on their own (I tend to eat them overripe), yet when eaten with the clean mozzarella and drizzle of vincotto, it just works.
Unfortunately figs are coming out of season, so this dish might not be on the menu for very much longer. But while they’re on there, I highly recommend trying it for a subtle starter.
The capelli d’angelo con gambero e gremolata basically translates to angel hair pasta with pan-fried Gympie redclaw, lemon and parsley.
This dish was as stunning to look at as it was tasty. These Gympie redclaws were fresh from that morning and we got two of them, halved on the plate. We were provided with a crab cracker and using the supplied seafood fork to carefully peel the plump flesh from the bright red shell, I was surprised by how sweet these little freshwater crustaceans were. Thankfully the staff at Locanda Osteria & Bar thought ahead and brought over a finger bowl with water and lemons, as cracking into the claws can be a messy (but satisfying) business.
As for the pasta, it was well cooked, but had I not read the description, I would’ve thought it was spaghetti. Angel hair pasta tends to be a lot thinner and finer, no? The balance of lemon, parsley and olive oil was also perfect – not too tangy from the lemon, grassy from the parsley nor greasy from the oil. All in all, this was a great main for a sustainable seafood lover.
When the SO decided he really wanted to try the Spiedo misti, our waitress strongly advised we opt for a fresh veg side to cut through the heavy meat flavours and recommended the Rucola e Parmigiano – wild rocket with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It was wise advice, because the Spiedo misti had a selection of generously portioned spit roasted meats (chicken, pork and beef) and three very different sauces to go with each one: salsa dragoncello, agrodolce and salsa verde.
The meats were divine. The chicken was organic and cooked on order for about 23 mins before resting. This resulted in a very moist chicken with a slightly crisp exterior from the roasting. The beef was from a grass fed rump cut, cooked medium and was the SO’s immediate favourite of the night. The pork was a beautiful handrolled herbed porchetta, thickly sliced with plenty of orgasm worth pork crackling. A porchetta is a fattier cut of meat, so if you’re the health conscious type, you might have to do a bit of fat scrapping.
Personally, the SO and I agreed the Spiedo misti for 2 has enough meat for 4, if diners plan to sample a wider menu range with more entrees and another main or salad (and desserts). There were about 4 slices of each meat, so unless you’re a big carnivore and/or absolutely famished, order this and be prepared to ask for the leftovers to be doggie bagged for later – which, by the way, was what we did and all the meats tasted amazing as cold lunch the next day.
As for the Rucola e Parmigiano, there wasn’t a limp leaf to be seen (one of my dining pet peeves) and I really enjoyed the well-seasoned side.
But it was the sauces that really made those meats sing. While each was designed for a particular meat, there was absolutely no shame in experimenting with the flavours to see what explosions happened on your palate.
The agradolce for the pork is a reduced white balsamic vinegar with herbs and sugar to almost a sun touched syrup. This reduction was quite strong, yet made quite a complementary companion to cut the strong fatty pork down a size or two. The chicken was to have the dragoncello, a thick sauce made of whizzed up housemade ciabatta, tarragon, garlic and olive oil – a very punchy zing to a usually notoriously plain meat. And of course, the final sauce – evergreen salsa verde for the beef: parsley, mint, vinegar, anchovy and olive oil. Of all the salsa verdes I’ve tried thus far, I’d rank this one up there amongst the top: its mintiness was mild and there was a gentle hint of sweetness.
We almost walked away without dessert – we were already taking home a doggy bag. What else could we possibly fit in?!
As it turned out, we could fit in the granita. Now granita normally doesn’t do it for me. It evaporates from the tongue too quickly and hardly seems worth the effort when compared to ice-cream. I now stand corrected: this was the perfect end to the meal without pushing our already bursting stomaches over the edge. This citrusy shaved iced also contained a good splash of prosecco with fresh berries and marscapone gelato.
Now while I am in no way faulting our stunning meal, we had noted a very large bowl of exquisite looking seafood head to another diner. When asked, the waitress said it was the Insalata di Mare (AUD$24), a huge salad that is effectively a main of local prawns, Spring Bay mussels, cos lettuce, radicchio and olive oil. That would definitely be the dish I try on my next visit.