A mere two years old and this restaurant has already been hailed as Brisbane's best - but not just by locals. Australian Gourmet Traveller last year awarded this luxurious yet rustic restaurant the title after discovering its Spanish delights. And what delights they are...
From the street, you see the warm light reflecting dimly off all the ballooned wine glasses that hang from the ceiling and magnify the red brick. Once you've finished your first drink and a small tasting plate of preserved meats, you move downstairs to dine. (Yes, double the Ortiga!)
Down here, you realise the value of a crisp, white tablecloth and polished silver cutlery. Be seated at your table against the exposed brick wall and dream that one day you will live here, right next to the (full) wine rack and cellars which take up a whole wall. Sigh.
Having stroked the brick long enough and watched, with starry eyes, the chefs move around the kitchen casually, the waitress decides it's time to interrupt my blossoming love affair. A beautiful menu, full of white space (hooray) is presented to us.
We all take one look before looking back at our waitress who proceeds to tell us, in her Spanish accent, all about the menu which was (of course,) written in Spanish. Each meal is explained to us and we are ready to order... everything. But self control kicks in and we decide on the dishes, not knowing we will crave them in a couple of weeks time.
It is not long until the croquetas arrive and, at $3.50 a serve, they are an immediate favourite. We may or may not have ordered 3 more servings as soon as we finished the first. But those crispy, deep fried parcels of cheesy love only signals the beginning.
Romesco sauce with fried vegetables is the next order. Out comes a beautiful salad of rocket, green and white asparagus and beautifully light, fried zucchini flowers, all sitting atop a wonderfully rich orange sauce. Whoever thought of using pasta sauce as a salad dressing is obviously a genius!
We decide a break and another glass of white wine is needed as we sit, again, marvelling at the place and watching the chefs prepare our food. A huge rib eye on the bone catches our eye as it is whipped from the grill to rest. After a while, a chef begins to slice the steak and the blushed pink flesh is revealed to somewhat of an audience who all seem keen to get a slice. It's not ours, but our next course is not far behind.
We've ordered the famous Arroz Caldoso de Marisco (a kind of seafood soup with rice) and the so very amazing, slow cooked lamb shoulder with patatas lo pore and lemon puree. My gosh. The waitress explains how the lamb was cooked but it is going in one ear and out the other. We are transfixed, watching her use a spoon and a fork to peel the meat from the bone. It shreds and falls apart with the slightest touch and that roast lamb smell illuminates the table when it meets the tang of the lemon sauce.
After some meals I want dessert just to top it off, but at Ortiga our dining experience was topped off after the entree. It is magical, heart-warming, tastebud-pleasing food.
446 Brunswick Street