Riparian Plaza, 71 Eagle Street Brisbane, QLD 4000
|Opening hours||Tuesday to Saturday, noon-midnight; Sunday, 7am-11.30pm, Monday to Friday, 8am-11.30pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||07 3211 9020|
People love to knock celebrities off their pedestals and when you're a celebrity chef, you better plant your feet pretty damn solidly and prepare for the blows.
Reading public comments on the internet about Riverbar & Kitchen it struck me that many people are doing a bit of chef-bashing (co-owner with Peter Sullivan is Matt Moran) and, furthermore, they've grabbed the wrong end of the stick with which to pummel him.
As the name suggests, this is a bar. This is not Aria. It's not even a cut-price Aria. It's a bar with food. And from my recent experience it's a bar with good food. Yes, there is room for improvement. I think some of the bar food could be a dollar or two cheaper. And the staff seem a bit too … vague, even for a laid-back spot like this. But it's arguably one of the nicest casual spots on this stretch of the river to while a way a lunchtime or for post-work drinks.
Certainly on a Friday at lunchtime it was humming, with the crowd equally divided between the outdoor tables overlooking the water and inside, where the nautical decor sails close to being over-themed but pulls up just in time.
Diners order at the bar, take a table number and wait staff ferry it over when its ready. Which as it turns out is pretty quickly.
The menu is divided into bar food (available until 11.30pm), a handful of pizzas, salads and mains. As for liquid refreshment there's a short list of cocktails, jugs of punch and sangria and a fairly pedestrian wine list. Interestingly, there's not a single beer listed on the menu, although surely they are there somewhere?
From the bar menu, prawn "popcorn" are moreish nuggets, served with a smoky, well-balanced jalapeno mayo, while a snow crab slider with pickled cornichons is perfect grazing size, the bun pillowy, the crab and pickles a delicious pop of salty and sweet.
From the main selection, the lamb shank pie exceeds expectations, the pastry golden and crisp, the meat inside falling apart – tender and bathed in a rich gravy. It comes with a little dish of baked veg – purple baby carrots and baby swede. The barra too was very good, perfectly cooked and served with spiced eggplant and crisp potatoes.
Normally I wouldn't order dessert in a casual bar-focused place like this, but the quality of the mains had given me pause for thought. Bingo! Chocolate fondant, served with Lick vanilla ice-cream, oozed hot liquid from its interior once excavated with a spoon and, while properly richly chocolatey, it wasn't cloying. The passionfruit tart too was impressive – silky and beautifully tart.
While most of the negative comments on Riverbar & Kitchen seem to be about the food, for me it was the bar rather than the kitchen that was lacking. It'd be great to see some more interest on the wine list and perhaps a craft beer list.
I reckon Brisbane drinkers are sophisticated enough to warrant a bit more envelope pushing when it comes to libations.