When it comes to hospitality, Ovolo Hotels could never be accused of doing the same thing twice. Each and every hotel and in-house restaurant is different in its design, approach and cuisine. Their latest restaurant has just burst on to the Brisbane dining scene with a suitable Ovolo flourish. Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to ZA ZA TA Bar & Kitchen.
Last year, Ovolo Hotels re-imagined a Fortitude Valley 5-star hotel into something much more Rock ‘n Roll. No idle idol has hoisted a TV into the glamorous pool yet – but it’s still early days at Ovolo The Valley.
With no in-house restaurant, interior design superstars Luchetti Krelle were called in to create an altogether different dining space. The 200-seater is divided into multiple spaces and takes its design cues from some very different sources. Victorian-era conservatories, with sub-tropical Queenslander subtleties blend with Middle Eastern style with plush velvets and Persian accoutrements.
Different, multiple purpose-built rooms make up the space. First stop, The Parlour is a glamorous old-world bar with banquette seating, high polished nickel tables and rattan stools. Just the spot for a catch-up, after work drink or for post-dinner cocktails.
The Dining Room and Kitchen Pantry with central chef’s table give diners a sneak peek at the open kitchen. The wood-fired oven takes pride of place working hard all day to turn out pita, Yemenite butter bread and other carbtastic delights.
Behind salvaged lead light doors sits the Library. Encircled by a cayenne-coloured velvet banquette, this event space also features a suitably dramatic, Persian inspired Lacroix carpet.
I had to invent a new phrase to describe the yumminess coming out of the ZA ZA TA kitchen: ‘MOD MID MED’. The menu is made up of traditional (in some cases ancient) plates to share. Blending Middle Eastern spice with Mediterranean style.
Israeli-born Executive chef Roy Ner’s CV includes Sydney’s Nour and Aria. Head Chef is Dario Manca who trained in both Italy and London before working in Attica’s kitchen and then Pilu in Freshwater for over 5 years.
The menu has been designed for everyone – vegetarians and vegans, omnivores and carnivores. The boundaries of tradition have been given a nudge. Flavours haven’t been lost in a rush to design a contemporary menu. Exotic but familiar all at the same time.
The chefs take much of the inspiration from the lively Tel Aviv bar scene with a good dose of Bubbe and Nonna’ s homey touches. And still, despite the homeliness, it doesn’t feel that you could do anything like this at home. That’s what makes the whole experience so special.
What you must eat
Two of the best bar snacks or nibbles to start are so good – why would you stop at one. Beetroot spiced pastrami, crispy smoked rye with horse radish or the fried goats cheese pretzel, house lamb bacon and yolk aioli are nothing short of magical.
Chef Ner let us in on the secret of the Wagyu bits, pickled sugar loaf cabbage & challah toastie; be dazzled and work it out for yourself.
Created for two to three to share a warm, scrolled, Yemenite butter bread comes with goats curd, zhug and chili for dipping or would that be diving? Taken from an ancient recipe the bread is butter fragrant and pretty as a picture. House-made bread is quite a feature with potato pita cozying up to whipped hummus and beef cheek.
Something larger? Charcoal short rib, bullhorn and coriander jus is a falling off the bone tender delight while charcoal rainbow trout and cucumber chilli salsa is served with herring tahini. Wow!
Need to know
The plates are Samantha Robinson Porcelain and the cutlery is vintage and imported.
Cleverly, ZA ZA TA does a very civilised brunch on Sundays from 12 to 5 with the bar offering a late night snack menu from 10pm every night.
Ovolo Group Sommelier Shun Eto should be named the MVP of wine. Saying his wine selections are inspired would be like saying Meryl Streep is an actor. The wine list has been developed with care with vegan, biodynamic, preservative free, organic and naturally made wines all featuring. (You can find out a little more about Shun’s wine thoughts from when I interviewed him last year here).
From a Non Vintage Pierre Gimonnet & Fils “Cuvée Cuis” available by the glass to the organic and vegan 2016 Punset “Neh!” Langhe Rosso blend from Piedmont, this list is stellar. Like your Rosé extra classy? Try the organic, naturally made, vegan and preservative free 2018 Harkham Estate ‘Hark Angel” from the Hunter that is made from handpicked Shiraz grapes.
The magnificence continues with the perfect dry martini made with Melbourne Dry Gin – Patient Wolf. If something exotic is more your thing, sip a Persian Daiquiri, Pineapple Sage Swizzle or a Hotel Tel Aviv from the Shaken list. Stirred? Try a Smoked Persimmon Negroni on for size. This is one of the cocktails that were so ‘hot’ they were ‘smokin’.
Why you’ll come back for more
Chefs Roy Ner and Dario Manca, Sommelier Shun Eto and Group Director of Food and Beverage, Vince Lombino have created something quite different for Brisbane diners. As Vince puts it best, “We want ZA ZA TA to be an experience for any guest at any occasion. It’s going to be a buzzy place to drop in for after work drinks and a few bites, or a long feast where you and your friends can relax, feeling as if you’re at home. It’ll be the spot to settle in for the night with friends, drink up, eat well and be entertained and swept away into a Middle Eastern oasis.”
Disclaimer: TML were invited guests to the ZA ZA TA official media launch.