I arrive at Vertigo with hope in my heart and fear in my belly. Like many venues, Vertigo has rules – just not the usual unspoken social ones. You can’t use the toilet. You are breathalysed on entry. You are harnessed to eat dinner and so is your cutlery. Diners swap Insta-worthy outfits for wind jackets and practical shoes. The sight of the exclusion zone below – to protect passers-by from plummeting plates – makes one thing abundantly clear, this is eating on the edge.
As I’m fitted with a full-body harness holding more carabiners and heavy metal than the love lock bridge in Paris, I suspect I’m in for an exposure therapy session, not dinner. I must face my fear of heights and the very real threat of camel toe, while simultaneously reliving childhood memories of being strapped into a highchair to eat. It's confronting and thrilling in equal measure.
Up here, feet dangling, trapped in my seat, I look forward to the three-course meal with feverish anticipation – and it doesn’t disappoint. Preparing and serving food at this height presents challenges, but my starter of burrata, heirloom tomatoes, basil and aged balsamic hits the right notes. Even if a few basil leaves go flying in the wind, the globe of creamy cheese bursting inappropriately over ripe tomatoes is an instant crowd-pleaser.
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The brodetto of Moreton Bay bugs, king prawns, mussels, calamari and saffron is a strong second act. The bug meat is soft and yielding. The mussels and calamari have the requisite slipperiness and the bite and tension that only a seafood-deft chef can deliver. We finish on a bonet alla Piedmontese chocolate caramel custard with a hazelnut biscotti, which crunches and collapses with perfection.
Service is kind, thoughtful, well-informed and eager to please. The wine list is fairly basic, but this is made up for by a postcard-worthy sunset, uninterrupted city views and the stretch of river twisting and turning below.
Is this five-star dining? Not really, but it’s bloody good and comfortingly familiar; designed to feed rather than wow you with its inventiveness. Serving comfort food in an uncomfortable setting is clever and diverting – the adrenaline-heightened senses, amazing views and phobia of rope burn are the main events, the food is simply the corps de ballet of the experience.
As my fear of camel toe is fully realised with a dropline jump down the building’s facade to finish the night, it is a lovely (if not confronting) reminder of the role our senses play in our experiences and enjoyment. In modern life, it’s rare to face a situation where we’re trapped for any time with nothing to amuse and distract – let alone at a great height. Vertigo may seem like a gimmick to some, but the push and pull of the senses asks us to redefine our boundaries and sense of space, making the experience genuinely intriguing (and really kind of fun).
119 Lamington Street, New Farm
(07) 3358 8622.