I think its fair to say that Il Centro is one of Brisbane's iconic restaurants. It's been at the Eagle Street Pier in the City since 1992 and is still going strong. Il Centro is incredibly popular with the business crowd - walk past at lunch time almost any day of the week and you'll find it full.
Although Il Centro is through and through an Italian eatery, it has a definite Queensland focus. All through the menu you'll find crab, barramundi, Moreton Bay bugs, king prawns and even crocodile.
It's also a perfect spot for lunch because of the great view out over the river through to the Story Bridge. The combination of the great view and the Queensland ingredients are also popular with tourists.
Every time I eat here, I always find it hard to choose from the terrific menu. The entree menu itself is pretty wide extensive. It covers a range of breads, pizza, soup, Moreton Bay bugs, oysters, scallops, crocodile, gnocchi and carpaccio. Starters which sounded good were the fantasia di granseola (a seafood selection of fresh crab and avocado salad with tomato gazpacho, crisp soft shell crab with fennel salad and salsa verde, and the renowned sandcrab lasagne - $23.50 per person), the sauteed scallops with lime carnaroli risotto, asparagus, prosciutto and tarragon jus ($22.50) and the char grilled Moreton Bay bugs, cauliflower with vanilla bean and baby cos salad, lemon aioli ($28). As good as all of those options sounded, there was a sandcrab and asparagus salad on the specials board, which was exactly what I felt like to kick off the meal. Our excellent waitress described this dish perfectly - layers of iceberg lettuce, chunks of avocado and lots of beautifully sweet sand crab. This was the perfect elevation of a couple of fairly simple, but high quality ingredients into an excellent dish.
By now the place was pretty much full with a big lunch crowd, but that didn't slow down the service of our mains, which came out after a perfect pause between courses.
There are also plenty of mains to choose from. A number of the entrees can be served as either starters or mains, so if there are a couple of entrees that take your fancy, then you can have them both.
First of all there is Il Centro's famous sandrab lasagne ($34). This dish was created by Gillian Hirst and has been a staple of the menu for years. It is a beautiful dish, but be warned, it's also very rich. You may find that the entree sized portion a bit more manageable. By the way, if you are a big fan of Gillian Hirst's sandcrab lasagne, you can now buy an eat at home version from a selection of good food stores around Brisbane - you can find more details here.
If you've already tried the sancrab lasagne, there are of course plenty of other options. If you aren't looking for seafood, there is also chicken, duck, veal, kangaroo, beef and lamb. I was tempted by the marinated kangaroo striploin with desiree mash, braised lettuce and pancetta, mustard fruits and red wine jus ($31.50) and the selection of Queensland seafood with saffron risotto, tossed with tomato and a touch of chilli ($37.50).
In the end, I decided to order the grilled North Queensland barramundi with desiree potato mash, new season asparagus and balsamic jus ($36.50). The barramundi was perfectly cooked, the crispy skin on the bottom of the fillet contrasting with the delicate flesh of the fish. Again, this was not an overworked dish, and allowed the flavour of each of its components to shine through.
The wine list complements the Italian food, and there are plenty of good whites to match with your seafood. It's also fairly reasonably priced, given its location and views over the river.
The other thing which has always been a constant at Il Centro is the excellent service. I've always found the staff here to be very knowledgeable, approachable, efficient and friendly. Our service on this visit was up to the usual standard. Although I thought our service might have been a tad overly business-like today, that's probably just a reflection of the customers who fill the place day after day at lunchtime.
Il Centro is not a destination for cutting edge culinary adventures. But if you want excellent Italian food or seafood, cooked with beautiful ingredients and teamed with excellent service, then it's hard to go wrong at Il Centro.
What does all this mean? Top notch Italian food, with a focus on Queensland produce
food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Top Shelf
Ambience - Smart surroundings with a great view out over the Brisbane river
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Good
Vegetarian - OK
Eagle Street Pier
P - 07 3221 6090
E - firstname.lastname@example.org
W - http://www.il-centro.com.au/
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