My restaurant wishlist is growing so large, that in a momentary panic, I voiced on Twitter how desperate I was to try out a new restaurant…. and so began a series of tweets back and forth that led to us having a “blogger date” with Melissa Loh and her hubby, T. Melissa’s blog post on our restaurant of choice, Popolo, is situated here and features much better photos than ours. Unfortunately we were having a bit of a ‘doh’ moment with our camera, combined with poor lighting.
Popolo opened earlier in the year/late last year in the newish dining precinct at Southbank, on the river near the Goodwill bridge. Other restaurants closeby are Stokehouse, Cove and The Jetty and all of them have amazing river views, which certainly would be delightful in summertime, but in the middle of winter created a somewhat chilly atmosphere. Thank goodness for heaters.
Popolo’s dining concept is share plates which range from much smaller offerings through to pizzas and larger meals. There is some flexibility as the larger plates come as either a full or half serve. L and I were at first greedy and decided on full serves of our choices, however we were told to hold off and go with the half serves, something which I am glad we did as we definitely wanted dessert.
L and I shared the burrata with toasted ciabatta to nibble on as our starter. Burrata is like a mozzarella but with a creamy centre, and Popolo apparently makes their own. Serving it straight from the refridgerator was a bit chilly especially on a winter evening (room temperature, anyone?) and the cheese wasn’t as creamy as I had hoped. The ciabatta was also extremely firm, some softer bread would have been appreciated.
Melissa and T went for what was in hindsight, a much more winter friendly starter of Polpette, pork and veal meatballs in a tomato sauce. The meatballs were moist and flavoursome.
L and I shared half serves of the Controfiletto con prugna sugo (roast Darling Downs sirloin with wilted greens, sun-dried plum jus and capers), and the Lattonzolo e pesche (Kingaroy suckling pig with spiced peach compote and anchovy sauce).
The roast sirloin meat came as requested and recommended, medium-rare and the meat was lovely and tender. Unfortunately, I didn’t really use any of the accompanying jus, as I found it intensely concentrated to the point where it was virtually Vegemite flavoured. It was salty and too strong for my tastes.
The Kingaroy suckling pig is the dish Popolo seems most famed for and was definitely worth ordering. Melissa had her doubts about how well anchovies would go with a pig/peach combination, but L was convinced from the very start. A little dab of the salty anchovies on your fork with some pork and peach was definitely a good combination, and the saltiness was balanced by the delicious peach.
Melissa had a bit of an issue with her Peperoncino vongole; Kinkawooka SA clams with chilli, garlic, olive oil and herbs. The flavours were amazing and the juices were fabulous sopped up with some soft bread afterwards, however several of the clam shells were smashed into small pieces. We were unsure why this was, but it made eating very difficult, having to pick out tiny bits of shell to be sure you don’t cut your mouth or break a tooth isn’t a pleasant way of eating.
T ordered the Trota di fiume con peperonata, a whole oven-baked Goulburn river trout with saffron, red pepper relish and preserved lemon. No sooner had this dish arrived at the table, a waiter was there asking if he could fillet the fish for us. He talked about how he enjoyed filleting fish the whole time. I hope he actually worked at the restaurant, and wasn’t just a random guy who walked around to restaurants spotting fish to fillet (but seriously, this was good service). The relish on the fish was amazing in flavour, but this flavour didn’t really transfer to the flesh of the fish.
For dessert, Melissa and T shared the Crostata di fiche, a frangipane and fig art, topped with mascarpone and manuka honey. The tart was incredibly sweet and they both liked it, but secretly if I was eating it, I would want more mascarpone.
L and I shared the tasting platter for dessert, which can only be described as an extravangaza on a plate, and is a true testament to how much we can actually eat (how embarrassing).
The tasting platter was a selection of three desserts on the menu; Semifreddo al pistacchio e biscotti (amaretto parfait, pistachio praline and lemon biscotti), Canoli fragole e basilico gelato (strawberry canoli and sweet basil gelato), and Zeppole cioccolato con arancio (chocolate donuts rolled in orange sugar on pistachio crumble).
The highlights of these are definitely the strawberry canoli, very sweet and crisp, and the chocolate donuts which were incredibly rich and intense, however the winner for me was the fluorescent green basil gelato. With a defined basil flavour followed up with an incredible sweetness, we just couldn’t stop talking about it. It was a definite crowd pleaser.
Popolo seemed to have a few hits and a few misses, but seems successful enough that I am sure it will find its feet.
CPopolo Italian Kitchen and Bar 3 Sidon Street River Quay, Southbank South Brisbane Ph 07 3846 7784 Open Lunch Tues-Sun, Dinner 7 days www.popolodining.com