I like to think that I’m across what’s happening in Brisbane. I read the weekly digital mags, engage on Twitter, read the Brisbane Times every other day and generally collect bits and pieces along the way that gives me a pretty good idea of what’s hip and happening. So how is it that Toro Bravo has escaped my attention all this time? Have I been living under a rock? Apparently. Because Toro Bravo is very happening. I was invited* by the restaurant to enjoy an evening of wining and dining and what a great evening it turned out to be.
The spacious front bar has lots of wooden surfaces, twinkling candles and leather seating and, on the chilly night we visited, a nice little open fire against the back wall. Restrained elegance and very much like a room you might see on one of the Scandi dramas around at present. The back half of the room is divided by the bar and wine wall, opening onto an intimate dining space with striking artwork on the walls and low lighting that is so loved by venues and so hated by bloggers trying to take photos. I didn’t want to use a flash or light when taking photos as I didn’t want to disturb other diners. My photos in no way reflect the excellent quality of the food at Toro Bravo.
Toro Bravo draws it’s menu from Spain with some small incursions into the North of Africa. It has an extensive wine list with Spanish wines by the bottle and glass and excellent quality Australian wines by the bottle only. Of course there are tapas, as well as their bigger brother raciones, larger meals and a range of sides. Before we go any further let’s talk about tapas. We all know that tapas originated in Spain. Originally a simple piece of bread (a lid or ‘tapa‘) used to cover a drink to protect it from thirsty flies, it has evolved into a small dish of tasty snacks with classic such as albondigas, patatas bravas and croquettas. Along the way the concept of tapas has been hijacked by the food industry. It’s a lazy tag for non traditional tapas items. Spring Rolls are Spring Rolls. They are not tapas, no matter how you dress it up. It’s also the perfect way for restaurants to charge very large amounts of money for very small amounts of food and tell people it’s ‘shared style dining’. Meanwhile, back at Toro Bravo I am happy to report that none of this is happening. In fact, it’s completely the opposite.
We ordered the montadito (small sandwich – $3.90) to nibble on whilst we perused the menu. When it arrived on our table, the ‘small sandwich’ turned out to be a decent bread roll, loaded with slow cooked shredded pork with pickled zucchini. More than a few bites, it presaged what was to come. As the tender calamari and moist meatballs in darkly spicy sauce started to arrive at the table is was evident we had underestimated the size of a portion at Toro Bravo. The Manchego & Breadbrumbed Zucchini Batons w Aioli ($8.90) were a delight. Tender without being soggy and with a delicious crunchy coating, I continued to ferry these to my mouth, knowing that at the same time I was doing a disservice to the meals yet to arrive. All great dishes and all so more-ish. Three for three suggests that other items I saw going past such as the tortilla and massive paella would have been just as good. These three dishes alone would have sufficed as a decent meal yet we still had mains on the way.
A sticky Slow Roasted Pork Belly w Leek & Cider Sauce ($26.90) and an unusual foray for me into the world of Mixed Seafood Grill ($37.90), offered far more than we could comfortably fit in. The grilled calamari was again surprisingly tender given the heat applied and the prawns also benefited from being cooked quickly, offering an intense smoky sweetness. The bronzed heads were also included for those who enjoy these crunchy treats. Though some of the octopus was a little chewy, most was tender but the snapper was bordering on dry and chewy. It was cooked for far too long. A more robust fish that can take the intense heat of the grill such as mackerel would perhpas be a better option for this dish. Nonetheless, the dish had good quality seafood that spoke for itself, rather than relying on fancy marinades and accompaniments and would be bound to keep the seafood lovers happy.
As the meal progressed, the bar slowly filled, the chatter increased, the outfits were glitzier and the music became more contemporary. We were here for a meal but others had started to trickle in for a night on the town. There’s dinner full and there’s dessert full. So, to complete our evening we shared a Crema Catalana w Almond Biscuits ($12.50). With floral citrus scents and flavours, it ticked all of the boxes with a smooth, rich custard and burnished sugar top that cracked under the back of a spoon. The rustic almond macaroon was a great accompaniment for scooping out the remnants and once again, the serve was enormous, certainly more than enough for the two of us after so much food.
We had a brilliant evening at Toro Bravo. I was super impressed by the service, menu and pricing structure. So much so that I have started negotiations with my notoriously frugal colleagues to have our Christmas lunch there (got to start early with this bunch!). The clientele were stylish groups who were interested in a good night out but had sense enough to stay away from the dreadful ‘nightclub’ zone, a few blocks away. With my meal, I enjoyed a glass of dry, savoury crisp La Purisma Rosado (rose’) which had only the faintest tint of pink to it. At $8.50 a glass, it was very good value and would be perfect at the bar on your way home on a Friday night with say…. a plate of Zucchini Batons. Get yourself there as soon as you can and, come hungry.
*TIFFIN found out where the real hipsters hang out as a media guest of Toro Bravo
455 Brunswick St
Fortitude Valley Qld 4006
Visited: Saturday 3rd May 2014 – Dinner Service