Texture. It’s what the Brisbane dining scene still occasionally lacks. This city boasts restaurants and restaurant groups a match for any in the country – brilliantly conceived and operated places such as Agnes and Stanley and Otto and Southside. But it’s the Joys, Essas, Elskas, 1889 Enotecas and Clarences we’re sometimes short on: those intimate spots that help add shade and colour to a suburb or locality.
Over the past three years, Nota has become one of those venues. It helps that it’s in a part of the city, Paddington, that actually has smaller tenancies – for a long time a relatively tough find in Brisbane – that seem custom-made for operators to come in and throw a few ideas at the wall. In recent times, the suburb has welcomed moody wine bar Noir, heaving pizza spot Elementi and slick Vietnamese restaurant Ngon.
Nota’s Sebastiaan de Kort and Kevin Docherty took the celebrated old heritage-listed Montrachet premises and, by applying a background in fine dining to an approachable European-inflected share menu, managed to make it their own. Go in any night of the week, and you’ll see de Kort and Docherty in the kitchen or poking their heads out on the floor. That familiarity has seen it become enormously popular with locals – so much so that the restaurant is now expanding into a next-door tenancy previously occupied by boutique Miss Henry to become Nota Restaurant & Wine Bar.
“We’ve always talked about knocking out the wall,” de Kort says. “And it just makes sense. This is us now. It’s Nota. It’s not ‘the old’ anything. We’ve been here for three years and it’s our own brand. And this makes it our space.”
The new space, which opens this week, is less about creating a dedicated wine bar and more a straightforward expansion that allows de Kort and Docherty to further loosen their aprons and invest in the snackier elements of the Nota concept. Previously, in a relatively tight 40-pax restaurant, it was difficult to give away a table for a couple of small plates and a glass of wine. Now, with the addition of another 50 seats, you can book for dinner and go large with mushroom risotto, Brisbane Valley quail with sweetcorn polenta and burnt butter jus, or a 200-gram Black Onyx eye fillet with frites. Or you can simply stop by in the afternoon, or before a game at Suncorp Stadium, for four-cheese arancini, savoury churros with Ortiz anchovies, and tempura-fish sangas with house tartare and wasabi, helped down with vino lifted from restaurant manager Yanika Sittisuntorn’s 90-bottle list of small-producer wines from Australia, Italy and France.
“We’re no longer having to turn every table,” de Kort says. “It’s the nature of the beast that some people pop in for 40 minutes, and some people are here for three hours. So if someone comes in at 6pm and wants a specific table for a snack and a wine for an hour, we can now do that. We couldn’t do that when we just had next door.”
The new space works harmoniously with the warmth of the original dining room. It shares the same white brick walls and high ceilings, and de Kort and Docherty have darkened its elegant parquet floors to match a long set of shelves where Sittisuntorn organises her wines. Comfy banquette seating has been slotted into the bay windows. Elsewhere, the original venue remains much the same.
“A lot of locals are really excited by the new space,” de Kort says. “They’ve been by our side the whole way and see us reinvesting in the business, and it’s good for the community … People come to this restaurant because they like the story, they want to be part of it. It’s personal. That’s why we do what we do.
“In Brisbane, there’s a new generation of owner-operators coming through, which is really exciting. I’m keen to see how the next five to 10 years go, and what the Brisbane dining scene will be like. And that’s what we’re investing in – to be at the top of our game by then.”
Nota Restaurant & Wine Bar
224 Given Terrace, Paddington
(07) 3217 6116
Wed & Thu 4pm–late
Fri & Sat 12pm–late