There’s no denying Paddington, a bit removed from the city crowds, can be a hard place to start a business. Three “For Lease” signs are visible when you peer out Margo’s frosted glass window, with another half-a-dozen on the walk up Given Terrace.

It takes flair and a lot of grit to make it happen here. Thankfully, after more than a decade working at Brisbane fine dining heavyweights like Urbane, The Euro and Bacchus, owner and head chef Americo Fernandes has both.

Margo has taken the place of the popular Montrachet, opening only a few weeks after Shannon Kellam and Clare Wallace closed the doors on the French restaurant to relocate to Bowen Hills. Because of the quick turnaround, the interior retains the classic bistro charm: red leather booths, mirrored walls and wooden floors.

Also familiar are some of the cooking techniques, but in his own restaurant the Portuguese-born, French-trained Fernandes isn't being constrained by any one particular cuisine. “With Margo I'm allowed to go all around the world,” says Fernandes. “The techniques are very French but the flavours are different. We don't have to stick to anything traditional.”

So while Margo’s baguette with smoked butter, beef tartare or steak frites might be about as French as it gets, the restaurant also serves lamb rack with baba ghanoush and a chimichurri cauliflower steak. Early menu favourites show off the best market seafood: scallops with curry leaf, or Moreton Bay bugs with chorizo.

The fish changes regularly, but if the coming options are half as good as the exquisite mulloway with crispy salted skin that’s on the menu right now, it’ll still be the best you’ve had this year. “Being an owner has brought me a lot more stress, but I’m still going to the market every morning to see what are the most beautiful and most fresh ingredients that day,” Fernandes says.

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With such memorable food, it’s easy to forget the “bar” part of Margo Restaurant and Bar. But the drinks list has a respectable lean towards Australian and French wines and classic cocktails.

Margo Restaurant and Bar
224 Given Terrace, Paddington
(07) 3367 1516

Mon 6pm–9.30pm
Tue to Fri 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm–9.30pm
Sat 6pm–9.30pm