SIMON Hill, owner of Ortiga, is a mate of mine. Thats no big deal. I have a bunch of friends in the restaurant business.
While I can predict mutterings of favouritism, the greater danger, however, lies in the fact that I’m nervous about seeming biased and, therefore, am at risk of not doing a place justice.
But Ortiga is something special – daring, ambitious, exciting.
The menu will scare some folk and irritate others, but it thrilled me as it would anyone who has a keen interest in food and a taste for the unexpected.
The downstairs restaurant is moody and theatrical, thanks to a gloriously exposed kitchen separated from the dining floor only by a low bench.
The waiters are impeccably drilled and their product knowledge seems to go well beyond the rehearsed.
And with this menu and wine list, that’s what’s needed.
Let’s start with that wine list. It’s the sort of thing I generally despise – riddled with runs of expensive bottles and carrying a huge amount of confusing, befuddling weight.
But there is more to the Ortiga list than mere show. The Spanish content is carefully considered, with explanations (although not enough) to ease folk into each section, plus there’s a knowledgeable sommelier treading the floorboards.
Chef Pablo Tordesillas is a Spaniard and a talented one at that.
His menu, in typical Spanish fashion, is made to be shared, and pays homage to an array of traditional dishes, some more experimental, modern affairs and a few large joints of meat for two or more.
We tried revuelto with chistorra, bacalao and piquillos (a version of scrambled eggs with sausage, salted cod and peppers, $17), morcilla de burgos with granny smith jelly and broad beans (blood sausage, easily the dish of the night, $20), croquetas ($3 each), gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns, $24), inset, mar y montana of veal sweetbreads and cuttlefish with pedro ximenez reduction ($24) and, the most startling of the lot, oysters with pig trotters and stinging nettle picada ($17).
The food ranged from understated and delicious to quite challenging, with the oyster-pig trotter affair the most likely candidate for blood feuds and divorces.
I found that particular dish oddly intriguing but utterly captivating.
I encourage the adventurous among you to experience Ortiga for yourselves.
Not only is it the most exciting addition to Brisbane dining in a long time, but it’s also impeccably planned and delivered.