We’re only halfway through 2016, but already we’ve seen a number of exciting restaurant openings. There’s plenty more to come, too, but first let’s recap some of the year’s highlights.

Otto Brisbane
One of the most anticipated openings of the year, Otto Brisbane is restaurant number eight in the Fink Group’s fold. Taking cues from its Sydney counterpart, Otto Ristorante, the cosy 130-seat eatery overlooks the Brisbane River and Story Bridge, subtly tapping into Otto’s links with the sea. In a warm and inviting space slatted wooden detailing, a lively colour palette and an open kitchen set the scene for a menu that comes straight from the Otto bible – albeit with a distinct southern-Italian influence, tapping into Queensland’s warmer climate. Find Otto Brisbane at the end of an interminable, anticipation-building escalator ride in the newly completed 480 Queen Street development.

Sichuan Bang Bang/Pizzeria Violetta Paddington
First came Sichuan Bang Bang for Kenmore, then Pizzeria Violetta. Now Renata Roberts has inched closer to the city, opening second incarnations of her two restaurants in a conjoined space in Paddington. It’s hard to draw parallels between Chinese and Italian cuisines, but in this case the two restaurants are bound by the logic of fast-paced, uncompromisingly authentic food. Impressively, Pizzeria Violetta’s oven pumps out a traditional Napoli-style pizzas every 90 seconds. Over in Sichuan Bang Bang, former Masterchef China winner Kieran Zou dishes up crispy duck with Sichuan chilli sauce and Shanghainese pork spare ribs. On weekends, both venues put their own spin on breakfast.

Blockhouse Eat/Drink
Nundah might be the last place you’d expect to find one of Brisbane’s best champagne lists, but the opening of Blockhouse Eat/Drink signals the area’s awakening from its suburban slumber. Owners Jerome Dalton and Angel and Oliver Markart have run venues across Brisbane for more than 15 years, and their confidence shows at Blockhouse. Dalton – a long-time lover of champagne – has curated a menu of Champagne Collet and sparkling wines that is exciting yet affordable. From the kitchen, bar food such as duck-skin crackles and cognac-glazed pork sausage is intended for grazing, either with a glass of bubbly or one of the few wines and tap beers. As a cafe, Blockhouse serves a morning “toast and oats menu” and there is also takeaway coffee for those en-route to the nearby train station.

The Apo
Expectations are high when the Moubarak family opens a new venue, and it was no different for The Apo in January. Set in a heritage-listed former apothecary, The Apo occupies a fantastical split-level bar and bistro setting. Throughout, 19th-century brick, leather curtains, polished-concrete floors and marble feature walls accentuate the building’s ambience. Furniture and fittings by Alexander Lotersztain and Michael Anastassiades pepper the more intimate spaces. Perryn Collier’s imaginative bottled cocktails are a subtle nod to the building’s past and chef Braden White’s food is similarly adventurous. The menu is always changing, featuring share plates served in the moody downstairs bistro and snacks delivered to the breezy bar area atop the giant oak-lined staircase.

Ginger’s Diner
Jamie Webb knows how to have fun with his venues, which include Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall and Sonny’s House of Blues. Serving Korean food in a space inspired by the hit TV show MASH, Ginger’s Diner is no different. The original idea for the restaurant came from a far more practical source of inspiration, though. That is, to provide no-fuss Korean food to the throngs of people who visit Caxton Street on weekends and game nights. Dishes such as kimchi crepes and beef short ribs with edamame and horseradish dominate the menu, as well as peninsula classics such as pork bibimbap and braised-pork bo ssam. The MASH theme is subtle until you get to the cocktail list, which offers drinks like Klinger’s Closet, Mail Call and Seoul Sojourn.

Honourable mentions:

Crosstown Public House, Woolloongabba
A local icon fine-tuned and reopened, serving pub-style fare.

Factory 51, Coorparoo
A restored factory provides a welcome, backstreet venue south of the river.

Nickel Kitchen & Bar, Fortitude Valley
A sophisticated spin on retro dining in an Art Deco-inspired setting.

Botero, Brisbane
Visit this CBD cafe for dinner and tapas on Thursdays and Fridays.

Venues to look forward to:

There’s plenty still to come in 2016.

In the next few weeks, the duo from The Stables Craft Bar & Kitchen will open Vietnamese eatery Hello Please in a container on Fish Lane.

By early next year, Neil Perry’s Burger Project will move into South Bank, bringing with it the star chef’s little-burgers-that-could.