Plates of silky white-roe taramasalata, pita bread and grilled saganaki with caramelised fig sauce land on the terrazzo-tiled table. We may be overlooking the Brisbane River but the whitewashed walls and arched alcoves of Opa Bar + Mezze promise to transport you straight to Santorini.
For Opa Bar + Mezze’s owner Michael Tassis, the restaurant represents a chance to honour his family heritage. “I wanted to create a restaurant that shows Brisbane the vibrancy of Greek food and culture. Opa is a festive approach to life, and it’s very Greek,” says Tassis. “Authentic, yes, but modernising it as well and using only the best produce.”
The restaurant is part of Brisbane’s blazing hot dining scene that has been stoked by a number of key developments such as the Howard Smith Wharves and James Street precinct and the under-construction Queens Wharf. “I think the city has a lot of great operators now. And with the Olympics coming to Brisbane in 2032, it’s only going to get better.”
Opa Bar + Mezze’s menu, designed by husband-and- wife chefs Vangjel and Dianna Jorgo – who hail from Ioannina, the same northern region of Greece as Tassis’ father – celebrates the mezze tradition of small plates designed to be shared by the whole table. “It’s a joyous way to eat – it brings everyone together.”
You can expect classics such as grilled octopus topped with the holy trinity of Greek cooking (olive oil, lemon and oregano) or kritharaki (spanner crab, orzo pasta, tomato, garlic and white wine). Pair these with larger dishes, such as fillets of ocean trout with white beans, dill, garlic and tomato.
There’s equal delight in traditional northern dishes, including the hearty keftedes – beef and pork meatballs, styled up with feta mousse. And desserts like galaktoboureko (filo pastry, custard and lemon syrup) or the chocolate layered baklava.
Much like the menu, the wine list is extensive and features Greek varieties such as xinomavro and assyrtiko. And the marble counter bar is the place for blush-hued cocktails including the Aphrodite (gin with pomegranate, lime and prosecco).
Michael Tassis share his three must-try dishes that bring a taste of the Mediterranean to Brisbane
There’s no beating the joys of moussaka. “It’s a bit like a Greek version of lasagne,” says Tassis. “It’s a comforting dish but we use wagyu beef mince, which gives it that extra richness.” Served individually, it’s layered with braised vegetables including eggplant, and a bechamel sauce made pillow-fluffy thanks to the addition of egg. To finish, three cheeses are layered on top including a salty white sheep’s cheese kefalotyri for a tangy kick. And the side? “A Greek salad is a must.”
Oysters à la Opa
There’s plenty of playful moments on Opa’s mezze menu, but one that stands out is the extensive oyster selection. “The baked oysters really sets us apart,” explains Tassis. “The Spanaoysters are our take on oysters Rockefeller. Instead of butter and herbs we use the spinach and cheese mix from a spanakopita (spinach pie) and top it with a traditional village sausage called a loukaniko in place of bacon.”
For the love of lamb
“Everybody knows that Greeks love lamb,” says Tassis. And while there’s a number of lamb dishes on the menu such as the lamb fricassee served with avgolemono sauce or lamb souvla cooked on the spit (which is only available over the weekend and the meat changes weekly), Tassis favours the classic lamb shoulder. The iconic Greek dish is faithfully portrayed at Opa and is slow baked until fork tender with a marinade of lemon and oregano, served with tzatziki. “It’s a staple of celebratory cooking and something that people would expect to see on a Greek menu and I think ours at Opa does the dish justice.”