Thursday, 6 June 2013

Casual Dining - Aquila Caffe Bar

Tennis season is a risky time for me.  I have a regular 'sportsman' bet with a mate about games, usually between Federer and Murray and the loser buys the next lunch.  It's pretty even at the moment and the last lunch was on EC because Djokovic beat Nadal and I was on the "Joker's" team for this one.  Score, free lunch for me!  Because we pay for this lunch ourselves, and not from expense accounts, we normally look for somewhere in the CBD that's reasonably priced but still pretty nice.

As it was EC's time to pay for lunch, he also got to choose the venue and after perusing a list I compiled, he decided that it was time we gave Aquila Caffe Bar a go.  It had been ages since I last visited Aquila and it was for a breakfast, so I was pretty surprised to see how much the place had changed since my last appearance.  It looks as if Aquila had bought out the space next door and completely remodelled; it looked great and was huge.

Aquila is located just down the street from me in Eagle street, in fact I can look over my balcony and see it anytime I want!  Last time I went, it was a pretty decent breakfast menu but didn't really excite me for lunch, but the latest menu is transformed.  Aquila is now pretty much a full Italian restaurant in the CBD.  There is a really broad range of options including share plates, gourmet sandwiches, heaps of pasta and a broad range of pizza too!  I was a bit gobsmacked by the options and that I didn't even realise that Aquila had transformed so much right under my nose.

We started off with a couple of drinks, the obligatory ginger beer for EC and I went for something a little different, a caramel milkshake.  We also got a side of grilled haloumi in pita bread, lemon and oregano.  One of the things I normally love about haloumi is the lovely golden colour and flavour that comes from it being grilled.  While the haloumi cooked in pita bread still had that lovely texture of haloumi, it had lost much of its flavour.  On a very positive note, the caramel milkshake was superb and really brought me back to my youth, I'm not sure why I stopped drinking caramel milkshakes but I'm back on them now.

After having a really good look at the menu and the specials board, we both decided to order pizzas.  As I mentioned, there was a broad range of pizzas and EC decided that he would roll with the seafood pizza, which came with buffalo mozzarella, calamari, prawns, cherry tomato and red onion.  While it was called a seafood pizza, there was not a lot of seafood on the pizza.  The base was really crisp and crunchy and it's not too often I will say this, but it might have been too crisp, it was pretty hard to cut through with a knife.  Overall the flavours were pretty nice but it could have done with a little more variation with the seafood options, a mussel or three would have worked a treat.

Call me a traditionalist but there is only one pizza for me and that is the margherita, and when a margherita is done well it's truly a beautiful thing.  There is something about the balance between creamy buffalo mozzarella and a zingy tomato base that does it for me.  There is a large school of thought that there is only one type of pizza that a traditionalist should order and I tend to agree, but then I am biased.  As with the seafood pizza, I found the base of the pizza to be a little too firm and crisp, so it was a bit hard to eat.  The flavours were OK, definitely not in the top echelon of margheritas that I have had, but serviceable.  

While the food didn't blow me away, we only had pizzas and there was a lot to sample on the menu, so I will have to go back another time to check out the pastas.  What I really liked about Aquila was how fabulous the service was on the day.  We had our own little Italian waiter that was extremely attentive and patient.  We sent him away a couple of times before we had ordered because we were busy catching up and chatting.

I also really love the new makeover, which is huge and very modern but still retaining a bit of old word charm that an Italian cafe should have.  I was really intrigued by a very old looking coffee machine, which seemed to be a centrepiece in the cafe.  It was quite an odd looking contraption with huge wheels that I can't quite figure out what they would be used for.  There was also a huge bar at Aquila now, which seemed well stocked and there were walls of wine everywhere, so I imagine that this is a pretty hot spot on a Friday afternoon and evening.

I was really pleased that we checked out Aquila, it's not the sort of place I normally eat, even though it's a stone's throw away from my apartment.  There is a shortage of cool little cafes that do a decent lunch around the CBD, although that seems to be changing quite a bit lately.  Given it's still in the middle of tennis season, I am sure there will be many more opportunities for EC and I to check out places like Aquila, with the only question - 'who will pay for the next one?'


The haloumi lost a bit of its flavour cooked in the pita bread
Weird looking contraption that I can only assume is a coffee machine
Everyone at the table..... surely a great idea
Pretty nice day to be enjoying an Italian lunch
Quite a few options on the specials board - heaps of wine too!
Aquila is a pretty well stocked bar 
Now over two spots
Aquila Caffe Bar on UrbanspoonAquila Caffe Bar

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