The older I get the more I learn to appreciate any opportunity I have to catch up with good friends. A couple of weekends ago, a group of us met up for share plates and (lots of) drinks at The Apo in Fortitude Valley.
The Apo is located just past Laruche on Ann Street. The shop front is small but there's some depth to the actual dining space, with a long bar and open kitchen to look into. I didn't go exploring but from what others told me, there is an upstairs section with balcony as well. We had a really cosy table tucked under the stairs with space to lie down (perfect for once we've had a few too many drinks and nibblies).
There is a hefty drinks menu with plenty of choices of cocktails, beers and wines. I started my night with cocktails and everything I tried went down a treat.
The food menu is designed to be shared. Reading through the options I got quickly overwhelmed because this is not your standard tapas fare. Each dish sounded exciting and adventurous and I didn't even know how to begin narrowing down. Luckily, Goldilocks was much more decisive and started laying down the order. We ended up choosing a wide range of varying sized share dishes, doubling up where necessary to ensure enough for our group of 6.
Parmesan and pea croquettes (left) and stuffed green olives
The first items to arrive were the stuffed crumbed olives and parmesan pea croquettes. Several members of our group expressed dislike for olives and my inner greedy child chuckled gleefully. I personally love olives. My idea of a perfect night at home involves nothing but olives and red wine. If others were going to skip this starter, I figured it would be more for me. I found both the starters to be perfect drink accompaniments that hinted at the quality of dishes to come. The chili sauce for the croquettes was very tasty as well.
Sand crab - with beach plants, roasted fish bone dressing and nasturtium
Next came the crab and wallaby. The sand crab was kept simple and really showcased the delicate sweetness of the meat.
Wallaby - with fermented muntries, green chili and wild leaves
Contrary to our expectations, the wallaby was served as a tartare with fresh herb garnish. I've never tried wallaby in this form and thought the gamey flavour worked surprisingly well. It's probably not a dish for everyone though as it is rather strong.
Lamb ribs - with fermented harissa, pickled onion and sour cream
The lamb ribs were one of the most universally well-received dishes of the night. Each rib was flavoursome and juicy and went well with the accompanying sour cream and harissa. There were talks about ordering another serve of this but by the end of our meal we were too full.
Toastie - with raclette, comte and gruyere
What I was looking forward to the most was the cheese toastie. It's something that sounds so simple on the menu but instantly tugs at my nostalgic heartstrings. Foods that remind me of childhood have a special place in my heart and lets admit it, are usually naughty and yummy. This cheese toastie lived up to my expectations. The gooey, melty centre and the thick buttery crunchy toast that crackled with each bite was heavenly. This is comfort food at its best and so easy to eat as well.
Spice rubbed chicken - with iceberg lettuce and buttermilk
The spiced rubbed chicken was the biggest serve of food of the night and if the boys were worried about not ordering enough food, by the time they got through this they were satisfied. The chicken pieces were large and generous but cooked perfectly to be juicy and moist without any dryness. The chicken was actually something I felt 'meh' about when I read it on the menu but once I tried it, it was a lot tastier than I imagined.
Lamb rump - with potato, jersey cream, garlic and salt bush
We followed up the proteins with another lamb dish, this time lamb rump. Again, the cooking of the lamb was on point as you can clearly see with the beautifully pink cross-sections. I was too full by this point to be able to judge fairly but this dish got inhaled by the rest of the group so I can only assume positive things.
Baby carrot - with bee pollen, honeycomb, yoghurt and brown butter
To balance out all the carnivorous dishes, we also had a side of carrot. I know that carrot isn't everyone's idea of a good time but this was another of my favourite dishes of the night. It's simple but the combination of sweet baby carrot, powdered yoghurt and honey was delicious. We didn't have room for dessert but this had a pleasant desserty twang to it so my sweet tooth was satisfied.
The Apo offers a new level of bar dining. The dishes are small and designed to be shared, with drinks being the focus of the day but it goes to show there is no reason to resign to chicken wings and chips just because you want to drink and chat. The menu is expansive and thoughtful so you get a fun bar experience plus fine-dining quality of dishes scaled down. I'm loving this gastro-bar trend in Brisbane because it offers two of my favourite things (good food and good drink) without sacrifice.