Za Za Ta, Brisbane Brisbane’s love affair with Mediterranean cooking has drifted towards the Middle East in recent years. First, Gerard’s Bistro Yiasou George, Adelaide At its heart, it’s a tricked-up Greek taverna, with tan leather banquettes, timber panelling and a bar stocked with plenty of spirits and ouzo. But the catch-cry of the waiters is defiant – “We’re a Mediterranean restaurant!” Perhaps it’s how they justify some of the menu’s anomalies: potato and cabbage gratin, for instance. In the end, it’s semantics because the food is good, the portions are generous and the vibe is fun so who cares if a few more broadly Euro dishes join the Greek party? Start with the meze: haloumi, tzatziki, taramasalata – the latter is bright and tangy – all served with warm, pillowy pita from the woodfired oven.
In the small plates section, spiced cauliflower gets the popular vote but deep-fried quail, with its light batter and nutty hit of sesame, is also a worthy contender. Whole barramundi established itself on James Street as one of the country’s best contemporary Middle Eastern eateries. Now it’s been joined a few blocks over by Za Za Ta, a 180-seat restaurant and bar that slots neatly into the ground floor of Ovolo The Valley hotel.
Executive chef Roy Ner (formerly of Sydney’s Nour and Lillah) and head chef Dario Manca’s share-plates menu traverses recipes from ancient to modern times. There’s Yemenite butter bread served with goat’s curd and zhug chilli, charcoal rainbow trout with herring tahini and cucumber and chilli salsa, and woodfired cauliflower shawarma with pickled fennel and blood orange. The multi-room venue exists to be explored, with finishes ranging from Queenslander-style tongue-andgroove walls to mirrored ceilings, mural wallpapers and richly patterned fabrics. Nights here inevitably end at the bar, where servers ply a G&T menu and shared cocktails such as the Arabian Punch and a Smoked Persimmon Negroni.
1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley; (07) 3253 6999; open Wednesday-Friday and Sunday for lunch and Tuesday-Saturday for dinner.