Wendy Hughes – U on Sunday, June 16 2013

Adaptable and delicious radicchio is so much more than a prized ingredient, writes Wendy Hughes

How’s that radicchio? Such a loveable guy, fits in with everyone – great in salads, maybe with candied walnuts and goats cheese, but equally delicious when roasted and served warm. That evocative deep winey hue is eye candy for the appetite and that sharp bitterness reminds you this is no ordinary leaf.

So it was a happy thing to find crisp leaves of radicchio, and its closely related endive, in a starring role at New Farm’s Bar Alto in central Brisbane on a recent visit. The leaves fan out around a little dipping dish, an “anchovy hot bath: that made for a moreish combination as a $4 pre-dinner snack.

Bar Alto, of course, is set into the understatedly elegant concrete wonderland that is The Powerhouse and so has become a loved piece of the city’s cultural landscape.

The Food here is consistently great and the kitchen, with chef Sajith Vengateri at the helm, takes the Italian theme touring with monthly lunch menus that focus on different regions – Lombardy for June, for example. In July, it’ll be Emilia Romagna.

I couldn’t hold back from the radicchio – partly because my companion wasn’t keen on anchovies and I was excited to have the whole delightful thing to myself – but, as we talked, we tore chunks of ciabatta as well, mopping up an excellent herbaceous olive oil. So, when it came to order mains, I opted for an entrée, a wonderful warm house smoked freshwater trout terrine that escorted me back to a childhood before iPods when trout-fishing was the afterschool thrill du jour.

The terrine came in its own little lidded dish with pickled Lommbardo peppers and horseradish crema.

My friend chose the rich, comforting homemade pappardelle with goat ragu ($27) for which Bar Alto has won many hearts. I hope to get back soon because francobolli is calling – a ravioli of roasted duck and mascarpone and wild mushroom ragout. That and the radicchio.

Wendy Hughes – The Sunday Mail, January 13 2012

Now, I love a bit of Bar Alto action before or after the show at Brisbane Powerhouse and this month there’s a ver crab-alicious reason to get along to the riverside restaurant and bar. They’re calling it The Feast of the Crab and there are two dishes available for lunch and dinner throughout the month, for sharing between two or a group.

They are Granchio Arrosto – oven roasted whole spanner crab, garlic, chilli, herbs ($32) and Linguine al Granchio – suitable for sharing, hand-cut fresh linguini with local sand crab, chilli, cherry tomatoes and basil ($32 half kilo/$64 full kilo) They’re on until the end of January.

Vicky Moore – Our Brisbane

Close your eyes, click your heels three times and say “there’s no place like Sydney.” Or just take the CityCat to New Farm Park, because in a town where a good water view is generally accompanied by a surf ‘n’ turf smorgasbord, and where dining at a performing arts venue is something you previously only did after a matinee with Nanna, Bar Alto is dramatically removed from your Brisbane preconceptions. On the first floor of the Powerhouse Live Arts Centre, with the precinct’s trademark graffitied brick and concrete walls, it’s also about as unpretentiously chic as it gets (on a council budget, anyway). The spectacularly open kitchen means there’s as much theatre in the galley as there is on the stage outside, but the real star here is the top Italian cuisine.

Why not raise a glass of Valpolicella to the folks aboard the Kookaburra Queen, exorcise your demons by devouring a voodoo-doll-like quail saltimbocca, or test your powers of strategy as you mobilise cutlery forces towards your partner’s perfect goat ragu?

Alison Walsh – The Courier Mail, June 30 2007

I FELT almost hysterically happy. On a cool, wet night, as the wind whipped off the river that meandered black as a strand of squid ink fettuccine just beyond the window, I sat with a glass of Chianti in hand and a steaming oxtail risotto before me. How better to ward off winter’s icy grip than to huddle in Alto, a new Italian restaurant and bar in New Farm’s freshly renovated Brisbane Powerhouse?

The open kitchen radiated warmth across the bustling dining room, fitted out in bomb-site chic with chunks torn from concrete pillars, chipped brick walls with the paint partially blasted off, and concrete floors. Bare bulbs reminiscent of a World War II interrogation room dangled in the bar, while upfacing searchlights lit the faux retro bare tables teamed with white moulded plastic chairs. An adjoining deck with an exhilarating river panorama sported a strip of roofing that sheltered two parties of weather-resistant diners.

Owners Simon Hill, Jason Peppler and Rachael Duffield from Isis Brasserie and chef Pablo Tordesillas (ex Sydney’s Otto and Water’s Edge, Canberra), have devised an Italian menu that steers away from greatest-hits fare. The risotto, its flavour deepened by red wine and adorned with radicchio, was honest and delicious, as was our other entree of light ribbons of homemade pappardelle woven through chunks of rich goat ragu, which showed all the benefits of long, slow cooking.

In their wake came mains of char-grilled, succulent korubuta pork (from a premium black pig breed) snuggled on a blanket of gorgonzolainfused polenta; and hearty, short, spare ribs with mashed potato. By now we’d had enough practice to interpret the accent of our outgoing waitress, whose thick Glaswegian burr combined with the din meant we were often baffled by her remarks.

We wrapped up with paper-thin chestnut crêpes stuffed with ricotta and served with a ball of honey and vanilla bean ice-cream; and three triangles of ruinously rich chocolate and nougat semifreddo, which would easily have been enough for two.

Alto is not a fine diner: it’s noisy and buzzing and busy, and it’s meant to be that way. The food is excellent value, the staff are hospitable and the shortish wine list embraces Italian varieties.

The only downside is the no-bookings policy, which meant 20 minutes propping up the bar before a table became available. But in a busy arts venue, the idea is that people will pop in and out for a bite rather than being restricted to set times. Anyway, it’s quicker than a trip to Italy and that means we can go back all the time.