Rico Bar & Dining brings Spanish and South American vibes to Eagle Street Pier
Aria’s surprise closure earlier this year left a sizeable hole in Eagle Street Pier’s dining array, but come Friday the precinct will officially welcome a new operator – one giving the storied tenancy a South American-inspired shake-up. Rico Bar & Dining is the name of the new eatery and nightspot, gamely stepping into the Aria-shaped void and reinvigorating the far end of the pier with a cross-section of culinary delights.
When Aria shuttered in June this year, dialogue amongst foodies was split between sincere mourning and curious speculation as to what would fill the beloved restaurant’s now-vacant riverside tenancy. A successful reputation built over ten years is hard to top, so as far as a replacement was concerned, consensus agreed that there were some big shoes to fill. In August, it was revealed that Michael Tassis – owner and operator of George’s Paragon and Massimo Restaurant & Bar – had gamely stepped up to take over the venue, instigating a major overhaul in dining style and cuisine for new concept Rico Bar & Dining, which officially opens tomorrow Friday October 11. Michael and his team – long-standing Eagle Street tenants and seasoned hospitality veterans in their own right – saw an opportunity to energise Eagle Street Pier’s southern end, moving away from Aria’s moody and cloistered aesthetic and turning it into a hub for casual al fresco sips and snacks, and group-friendly dining. As for the restaurant’s culinary direction, much of Rico’s influence can be divined by its name. Translated from Spanish to mean rich, delicious and wonderful, Rico’s flavour-forward amalgam of Australian, Spanish and Latin fare looks to complement the abundant culinary options already available nearby (Rico’s neighbours include Cha Cha Char, Pony Dining, Il Centro Restaurant & Bar and Saké Restaurant and Bar), while an aesthetic overhaul aims to expand the venue’s appeal to all comers.
Rico Bar & Dining’s makeover is substantial. Clui Design and construction specialists Tonic Projects were engaged to spearhead the transformation (both were also involved in crafting Massimo’s look), which involved opening up the venue –pivoting towards an airy and spacious feel. The changes start outside, where an open-air terrace area offers guests the chance to soak up river breezes in view of the Story Bridge. Here, proximity to the bar and handy table service allows for a lively and pared-back drinking and dining experience. Concertina doors have been installed to open up the interior dining area to the exterior, with a lower patio space and lush mezzanine dining area boasting acoustic panelling to mitigate ambient noise, air conditioning curtains to keep temperatures comfortable and a seating plan conducive to both intimate couples and group dining. Down near the bar, groups can cluster in stylish booths shielded by sheer curtains, while a private-dining space at the venue’s rear can hold 40 seated patrons comfortably. Rico’s interior palette boasts neutral tones built upon a foundation of concrete – think speckled counter tops, copper accents, light-wash timber tables, plush textile covered seats, terracotta-coloured banquettes, polished brass lamps and sea foam-coloured tableware.
The food and drink
When it comes to dining, guests are free to opt for share-style feasts or dishes that are suitable for solo consumption. Top-notch produce is filtered into an array of dishes that boast distinct Spanish and South American influences, while a strong seafood focus ties everything together with a noticeable modern-Australian slant. Proceedings start with a selection of picadas – an Argentinian style of presentation of cold cuts and cured meats – and pintxos (small snacks), ranging from panko-crumbed croquettas, Iberico jamon with caramelised fig, and the signature bug brioche with lettuce, lime and chilli aioli. Portions gradually escalate with a selection of tapas (think chargrilled octopus, braised beef-cheek empanadas, grilled bone marrow and eggplant fritters), four kinds of ceviche and freshly shucked oysters from a nearby oyster station. The main affair kicks off with three kinds of paella (seafood, vegetable and live marron – the latter sourced from the marron tank at the bar), shareable portions or raciones (pork cutlets, whole chicken and lamb shoulder), seafood (snapper tail, whole baby squid, ocean trout), and prime steaks (eye fillet, rump cap, rib on the bone, striploin). Three kinds of banquet are available too, ranging from economical to luxe. Rico’s bar is well provisioned with wines from Spain, Argentina, Chile, France, the Unites States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as tap and bottled beers and spirits. On the cocktail front, the bar concocts a mixture of classics and Rico signatures, as well as red, white and rosé sangria jugs – just in time for balmy summer sips.
Rico Bar & Dining officially opens to the public tomorrow, Friday October 11. For more details, head to the Stumble Guide.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.