Saturday, 15 December 2012

Riverbar & Kitchen - new kid on the river

Every once and a while something good comes out of something bad.

A while ago, Brisbane suffered through its worst flooding in over 30 years and many of Brisbane's riverside restaurants and bars were impacted.  The Boardwalk Bar and Bistro was one of the unfortunate restaurants that was not able to recover and the spot remained vacant for around 18 months.

Sometimes misfortune leads to opportunity and Matt Moran has taken that opportunity with both hands, picking up arguably the prime spot on the Brisbane river to launch his new establishment with partner Peter Sullivan.  This is the second venture for the pair in Brisbane, with Aria Brisbane now being one of Brisbanes best restaurants.  Riverbar and Kitchen departs a little from the fine dining of Aria and is a much more relaxed environment that has already become a favourite of the Brisbane afterwork set.

As luck would have it, I had two Christmas events in two days at Riverbar and experienced both the afterwork feel on Wednesday night and then lunch on Thursday, pretty serendipitous really.  Both times I have been at Riverbar and the numerous times I have been out for a jog and run by, I have never seen it quiet, in fact it's pretty much always packed.  There are not many new openings in Brisbane that can lay claim to that......

Wednesday night was an industry event and there were a heap of my peers from the Contact Centre industry gathered together to enjoy a drink and a feed to celebrate the year that was.  As usual it was great to catch up with people from my industry and share experiences and, on this night, share a meal.  The style on the night was to be big plates of share food brought out to the tables along with 'finger food' and there was plenty of it to go around.

First up were Cajun Chicken Pies with Avocado which were quite nice; creamy sauce with well cooked chicken and crunch pastry.  The avocado added a nice dimension and for a chicken 'party pie' it was pretty good.  The next finger food out was Peking Duck Pancakes with Shallots, which were OK, a little dry with no real sauce on offer to offset the dry ingredients.  The duck was nicely cooked and the pancakes fresh and tasty.  I had a couple of these and enjoyed them, but where was the dipping sauce?  Pizza was next and what better way to have pizza than on a 10 foot long wooden board with the pizza placed in pieces in a straight line?  Even better, my favourite, Margarita!  The pizza was pretty good, nice crispy base and a lovely rich tomato sauce and melted mozzarella.   It's amazing how may restaurants get a simple margarita wrong, happily Riverbar is not one of them.

My favourite bite of the night was the Salt & Pepper Squid, Coriander & Lime which were supremely cooked and literally melted in my mouth.  I have not had better cooked calamari and they had a lovely heat to them with a little chilli, just delicious (orgasmic with a squeeze of lemon).  It's amazing how a simple bucket of prawns can make you smile, but we had at least three buckets of prawns, so my smile was big!  Cooked perfectly and peeled for us, they went really well with the cocktail sauce provided, my second favourite dish of the night.  Sticking with fish there were deep fried shrimp which were not that interesting and I didn't really enjoy, they were a bit too much like a cheap Chinese dish.

Last of the dishes I tried was a bucket of fish and chips with tartare sauce.  I am not sure what fish was on offer tonight but it tasted OK, but the batter was a bit soggy with big tartare dollops on the fish.  Not a pleasant texture and the chips were the same, a bit soggy too and definitely the worst of the dishes tonight.

Because I loved them so much, I have included another photo of the calamari.  Seriously, get down to Riverbar and order some.

Next day was a celebration lunch for the project team I have been working with and was a more traditional sit down affair.  The menu at Riverbar & Kitchen is split into a number of sections;  Bar food (sampled last night which is pretty much share plates), Pizza, Salads and Mains.  Prices range from $28-$30 for mains and about $15-$18 for everything else.  Most of us decided to have mains, but a couple of the team shared some bar food (which I talked about earlier)

My selection for lunch was the Wood fired prawn, romesco sauce and lime and when the plate was first delivered my initial thought was that it was a generous plate of prawns.  The prawns were large and five of the six were perfectly cooked, with one of them being a bit under and a bit slimy.  The romesco sauce was delightful, with a rich tomato flavour that worked really well with the prawns, however, there needed to be more of the sauce to balance out the dish.  There was a lot of salad here as well, which as it turns out was used to 'pad' the dish, making it look more substantial than it was.  I think for the price, another couple of prawns would have been appreciated.

There is no doubt that Matt Moran is onto another winner here with Riverbar and Kitchen.  It's a fantastic spot and was crying out for another reasonably priced option in amongst the fine dining that surrounds it.  Overall the food was pretty good, but not without its faults.  My one under-cooked prawn was a shocker but probably the biggest issue was the timing of the meals coming out.  There were about 9 of us there for lunch and pretty much none of the meals came out together.  Some of us were finished before others had their food delivered.  Ours was not the only table that was experiencing this, with general comments and observations from other tables showing the same occurring.

I'm being a bit critical here as the Riverbar and Kitchen has not yet been open a week, but am positive that these teething issues will be resolved, after all, how many new restaurants are packed out so completely in the first week, with standing room only?

Riverbar and Kitchen is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week and there is no doubt in my  mind that it will continue to be a favourite for some time to come.  I think I will wander down over the weekend to check out the breakfasts!


BS had the Linguine, asparagus, pesto & herb.  Well cooked pasta and asparagus that could had done with some
more of the tomato to help balance out the pesto and herbs.  Quite a small size as well

KK had the seared kingfish, ginger, ponzu and miso.  This looked beautiful on the plate and was extremely tasty

Pretty much packed out everytime I have been by.  This is a great sign for the Riverbar and the Eagle Street
precinct in general

A definite nautical theme throughout, which is well suited to the river 

Riverbar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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