Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Gordita, Penny University, Francoforte Spaghetti Bar, and Gin Long Canteen.
This little corner of southern Spain made its début only weeks ago, but already it feels like it's been around forever. You can see hallmarks of owner Jamie Webb's three other Brisbane venues in the smart service, moody lighting and curved, marble-topped bar. Fold-back windows to the street, come-hither leather booth seating and a seductive "Gordita" mural by Sofles (apparently created overnight) combine to make it a hard spot to overlook. The overall result is a winning tribute to decades of collective experience. Menus follow the ubiquitous small plates/large plates/bigger-plates-to-share format, but rustic treats - an Andalusian oxtail stew with "musical potatoes", and lush, lick-the-bowl-clean prawns Tio Diego in a deeply savoury, garlicky, mushroom sauce amped up with Serrano ham - are a cut above. Add in a smart drinks list that cherry-picks hard-to-resist bottles from both the Old and New Worlds, and you're ready to party. Gordita, 11b/100 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley, Qld, (07) 3666 0605. FIONA DONNELLY
Blackboard menus? Tick. Single-origin coffee roasted on the premises? Tick. Eclectic and occasionally uncomfortable furniture, and vintage tableware? Tick and tick. With the recent opening of Penny University, the south-side has joined the national capital's rapid hipster revolution. Breakfast runs until 3pm, with options spanning the healthy (low-GI summer pudding, say, or muesli) to the decadent (croissant French toast with caramelised banana and cinnamon mascarpone). Lunch highlights include the sirloin steak sandwich with beetroot relish and a fried egg, and burgers stuffed with pulled pork and a slaw of fennel, cabbage and pear. Penny University, 15 Kennedy St, Kingston, ACT, (02) 6162 1500. GARETH MEYER
Francoforte Spaghetti Bar
As a symbol of Northbridge's hip new future, success stories don't get better than the Williams Lane commune. There's a perpetually busy burger bar with a keen eye on provenance, and a handsomely stocked record store, where, once you're done rifling through boxes of funk 45s, one of the state's early adopters of the small bar licence is on hand to slake thirsts. And then there's Francoforte Spaghetti Bar, the new kid on this charmingly higgledy-piggledy block. Granted, this plucky, BYO, cash-only spaghetti joint has little in the way of fine-dining aspirations - its pasta comes out of a box and the décor is best described as sparse with touches of basic - but its cooking demonstrates gusto rarely seen at the sub-$15 pasta price bracket. The kale pesto number is an early highlight; so too the carbonara, a luxurious, well-sauced combination of al dente noodles, egg, crisp swatches of guanciale and pecorino and parmesan. Fun with two Fs. Francoforte Spaghetti Bar, 4/189 William St, Northbridge, WA, (08) 9227 9289. MAX VEENHUYZEN
Gin Long Canteen
Nu Suandokmai, one of Adelaide's favourite Thai chefs, returned late last year after a decade in Sydney and is now cooking at North Adelaide's Gin Long Canteen, a sharp-looking casual eatery created by the team behind contemporary Chinese restaurant Concubine. Although it's big on cocktails (from Tamarind Gin Long to cane sugar soda), Thai-inspired street food is the main focus at Gin Long; notable dishes include betel-leaf cigars, smoked-trout lettuce cups, "nom nom" barramundi and lychee duck curry. Suandokmai came to Gin Long after a short stint at hot new Adelaide eatery Golden Boy ended in a dispute with its owners about taking a share in the business. He plans to open his own restaurant later this year. Gin Long Canteen, 42 O'Connell St, North Adelaide, SA, (08) 7120 2897. DAVID SLY
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