Simon Hill, Palate Pleaser, Ortiga

Stop navel gazing and get on with it ...

For years, Brisbane was renowned for its lack of fine-dining restaurants. But in 1997, when a paragon of fine dining appeared on a corner of Brisbane’s then red-light district, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane was changed forever. Its name was ISIS Brasserie, and over the next ten years it would become renowned across the country as one of Queensland’s finest destinations for exquisite cuisine and impeccable wines. The man behind this gastronomic jewel was Simon Hill, who eventually tore ISIS apart at its peak to become what is now the renowned locale for Spanish fare, Ortiga. Oh, and he also found time to cultivate the alfresco waterfront Italian restaurant Bar Alto, at Brisbane Powerhouse. The Weekend Edition spoke to Simon about what makes a great weekend.

How do you like to start your weekend?
Not at work. Sadly on weekends this is a rare occurrence. Saturdays are big in both venues and Sunday is Bar Alto’s biggest day.

What’s your favourite thing to do on a Saturday morning?
It’s my day to make the kids breakfast, which is generally ‘bacon-eggs’ for Hugo and pancakes for Lulu. It is my dream that one day they both like the same thing.

How do you like to unwind?
Cooking. Strange as that may seem, I get quite excited about taking the back end of a day off and getting dinner ready.

What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?

What’s something you’ve been meaning to do on the weekend but haven’t got around to yet?
I want to get up the Granite Belt and spend some time at La Petite Mort, my favourite Queensland winery. And perhaps shoot something.

What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday evening?
I finish work early Sundays and like to shop for dinner with no fixed dish in mind (although it usually ends up featuring clams), then get wine to match, pick herbs with the kids and cook.

What are you looking forward to next weekend?
Rachael, my partner’s 40th birthday and the porchetta that Saj, Bar Alto’s chef, is preparing.

What are you reading at the moment?
The hospitality award. You never get sick of it because someone keeps changing it.

What inspires you?
True believers.

What was your childhood dream?
Don’t know. My young adult dream was to own a restaurant. I guess we all get what we deserve.

What has been your greatest achievement?
Work wise it would be winning best new restaurant and best wine list in the Gourmet Traveller awards.

What is success to you?
Looking at your well-oiled machine. Haven’t quite nailed that one yet.

What are your words of wisdom?
Stop navel gazing and get on with it.

Only a local would know that … Double Island Point seems to always have an extra foot of swell.


Perk up … Thai Wi Rat in Fortitude Valley (it’s the chilli).
Relax … Straddie.
Dine …  Esquire, Brisbane City.
Indulge … Noosa.
Shop … Pennisi Cuisine, Woolloongabba.
Catch-up … Cru Bar + Cellar, Fortitude Valley.
Be inspired … At work.


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