Otto Ristorante

Felt fans dance on the ceiling at Otto Ristorante, Brisbane.
Felt fans dance on the ceiling at Otto Ristorante, Brisbane. Photo: Michael Panayotov

480 Queen St Brisbane City, QLD 4000

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Features Accepts bookings, Bar, Business lunch, Degustation, Events, Gluten-free options, Groups, Licensed, Long lunch, Outdoor seating, Views, Romance-first date, Private dining
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Will Cowper
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 07 3835 2888
Free wine for Citibank cardholders here

Les Danseuses felt fans spin from the Otto ceiling in perpetual pirouette, morphing from Dervish dancewear to the kind of floppy hat that gets blown away on a Roman holiday.

Skirt. Hat. Skirt. Hat. Skirt. Hat… skirt.

Sourced at the 2015 Venice Biennale, the fans (six, count 'em) are a shade of magenta the Bunnings' paint chart might describe as 'Mauritian Easter Nights' and our waiter reckons they cost about $9,000 each. This seems like a conservative estimate.

Butterflied sardines are played against the sweetness of muscatels, fennel and pinenuts at Otto.
Butterflied sardines are played against the sweetness of muscatels, fennel and pinenuts at Otto. Photo: Nikki To

Skirt. Hat. Skirt. Wait for it… hat!

The Sydney-based Fink Group (Quay, Bennelong) has ventured into Brisbane and golly gosh, the family-owned business has delivered. The group's chairman, Leon Fink, is Australian hospitality royalty, and the man knows how to spend money in all the right places. Those fans are quite special. Otto is quite special.

On the Parkland level of Dexus Property's shiny new Queen Street office block, the restaurant has bounding river views and a dining room bursting with blue, white and yellow. It shares the same Saatchi-and-Saatchi-designed DNA of its recently rebranded 15 year-old Sydney sibling, but with more sparkle-in-the-eye sexiness.

Rangers Valley bistecchina with roasted tomatoes and rocket.
Rangers Valley bistecchina with roasted tomatoes and rocket. Photo: Nikki To

Dexus approached the Fink Group to open in Brisbane two years ago when 480 Queen Street was a hole in the ground. There was a couple of months of will-we-or-won't-we before the Fink clan signed the dotted line to open their first venue north of NSW.

"I had a philosophy that if I couldn't drive to work, I didn't want to do it," says Fink Group creative director, John (son of Leon) Fink. "Then Dexus went all Godfather and made an offer we couldn't refuse."

Otto Sydney sous chef Will Cowper has been promoted to helm the open kitchen which pumps out southern-Italian-style deliciousness with no shortage of seafood. Sydney rock oysters are $5 a pop and, at the time of writing, from Clyde River on the NSW south coast. They're chubby, briny bits of gear, and while I prefer bivalves in a natural state (lemon, if you will, Tabasco if they're on the turn) the sugary hum of orange granita gets along great guns with the little guys' seaspray tang.  "Another glass of prosecco, sir?" My word.

Otto Brisbane's potato gnocchi with braised rabbit and gremolata.
Otto Brisbane's potato gnocchi with braised rabbit and gremolata. Photo: Nikki To

The oiliness of butterflied sardines ($28) is played against the sweetness of muscatels, fennel, pine-nuts and brioche crumb. Pippies in white wine ($44) couldn't be fatter and happier than with their nduja sausage, garlic, white bean and basil plate-mates. Tajima wagyu short rib with pickled carrots ($48) is perfect for the corporate expense-card crowd (especially when paired a with lean Piedmont red), while a taste-of-grill Rangers Valley bistecchina ($45) topped with roasted tomatoes is ideal for sharing between couples. Steak can be romantic too, you know, and a floor-to-ceiling window seat at Otto is the hottest date spot in town.

Solo diners can enjoy their own company at the Marblo resin bar with a glass of rosé and gnocchi with braised rabbit and gremolata ($30/$40). Rabbit + rosé + passport-shredding weather = success. Baby barramundi fillets ($44) with a keen and green salsa verde also make for an excellent light lunch, especially when there's Brussels sprouts fried with pancetta and onion ($12) riding shotgun. The barra fillets have been a special at Otto Sydney for a while now, only swimming off the menu once. (Herringbone-clad regulars rioted until they returned to the carte.)

There's bowl of strawberry panna cotta ($18) you should probably, definitely order. Served with fresh strawbs, crushed amaretti biscuits and yoghurt gelato, it's refreshing enough to make you think it's healthy. It's not. Neither is a vanilla-bean gelato affogato ($18) with Blackstar espresso and everyone's favourite walnut-hazelnut liqueur, Nocello. Like chicken salt and twiggy sticks, Nocello is something I'm not trusted with unsupervised.

Al fresco views at Otto, Brisbane.
Al fresco views at Otto, Brisbane. Photo: Nikki To

Brisbane Times 2013 Good Food Guide Sommelier of the Year, Alan Hunter (you might remember him from E'cco and London Fields), is head booze bloke and he's assembled a thumping drinks list in collaboration with Fink Group wine consultant Ned Goodwin.

Brimming with belters from The Boot and locally-grown Italian varieties, there's enough here to satisfy all tastes and budgets. A Denavolo 2013 Dinavolino ($18/$85) out of Emilia Romagna is a fine idea at anytime of day, at any point in the meal - malvasia, ortrugo and marsanne grapes macerated on skins and tasting like a spring afternoon underneath the apple tree.

Service, meanwhile, is as smooth as punters have come to expect from a Fink operation and here's hoping the high standard can be maintained as the restaurant settles in.

John Fink says there's chance of another Otto opening in Australia or maybe Japan. Does this mean we're looking at the new Jamie's Italian? No way. Not even close. Otto is a bespoke Brioni blazer to Oliver's off-the-rack sports coat. Now bring on summer and sunsets and long pours of crisp, cold, white deliciousness on its balcony. Cin-cin, Brisbane. Cin-cin.

If you like this, try: 1889 Enoteca, Woolloongabba; Tartufo, Fortitude Valley.

Otto Ristorante was named Best New Restaurant in the Brisbane Times 2017 Good Food Guide. Queensland's dining bible is now on sale in newsagents, bookstores and online. All Guide purchases receive free access to the new Good Food app.

Pro Tip: Look out for the flying kamikaze koalas in the bush mural when riding the escalator to the entrance. They’re excellent for convincing overseas mates that drop bears are a very real threat.