Every week, a barefoot chicken farmer from the Sunshine Coast hand-delivers the birds for one of Matt Moran’s favourite new dishes.
The Brisbane restaurant co-owned by the chef is synonymous with fine dining, and after seven years it was time for a rebrand. But it’s beyond the freshened-up front-of-house that Aria has changed most.
When the Sydney restaurant first expanded to its second location in Brisbane, there was a struggle to live the Aria ethos. Regular deliveries of top-quality seasonal produce proved harder to come by in Queensland than down south. Moran is happy to report that's all changed. “That’s a great thing for Brisbane,” he says. “It goes to show that the producers and farmers are very dedicated up here.”
More than ever, fresh produce is the star, something that Brisbane head chef Ben Russell and Moran have reflected in a new, pared-back menu. “We haven’t gone down a level. I think it is more refined than ever,” Moran says. “It’s [about] letting those ingredients speak for themselves. People are guilty quite often of putting too many things on a plate and it spoils it.”
A complete rebrand, menu shift and small renovation has again aligned the Brisbane fine diner with Sydney’s Aria, which received an extensive no-expense-spared renovation late last year. “Aria Brisbane isn’t as old as Sydney, but we thought we had to keep them in tune with each other,” Moran says. “The biggest thing was to actually change the menu to the same format and obviously to rebrand the whole logo.”
The menu is no longer a la carte as such, diners instead offered an extensive set menu of one to four courses, or a tasting menu with matched wines. The promise of local produce is delivered via Fraser Island spanner crab with grilled cos, citrus and apple; or a Moreton Bay bug dish accompanied by shiitake and seaweed butter; and North Queensland cobia (a broad flaked, firm, sweet flesh reef fish) with clams, sugarloaf cabbage and black vinegar (the local producers and suppliers are dutifully listed at the bottom of the menu).
The changes to the dining room are a refinement. The same friendly staff is on hand, the same comfortable chairs, warm wooden tones and white linen. The refresh comes by way of new light fittings and carpet, fresh artwork and new crockery to play with. “It was only seven years old so it wasn’t like we had to do a big refit,” Moran says.
Unlike the Sydney site – which Moran owns – Aria Brisbane is on lease. There’s talk of redevelopment for Eagle Street Pier but Moran is confident the restaurant has firm roots in Brisbane. “I know I’m there for at least another five years,” he says. “So then it’s just our commitment to Brisbane and our commitment to fine dining.”
Eagle Street Pier, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane City
(07) 3233 2555
Mon to Friday 12pm – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 10pm
Sat 5pm – 10pm
Sun 5.30pm – 9.30pm