The ongoing pandemic has created a ripple effect filled with Sliding Doors moments, particularly within Brisbane’s dining scene. As lockdowns and travel restrictions put the kibosh on countless plans and schemes, new ones formed in their wake – we’re talking ideas that might never have coalesced had 2020 been any different. New Fortitude Valley wine bar and restaurant Rosmarino’s provenance can be traced back to the chaos of last year, when Lauren Smith and Andrea Gatti found their plans to relocate overseas suddenly quashed by the battening of international borders. The couple, who previously held prominent roles at superstar restaurant Hellenika, were set to embark on a European odyssey with the aim of honing their hospitality skills in the continent’s culinary crucible. Instead of gallivanting across Europe, the duo spent lockdown at Lauren’s family’s farm out near Beaudesert, enjoying a laid-back existence while simultaneously calculating their next step. In the end, they decided to make lemonade out of lemons and act upon their long-held desire to open a restaurant of their own – one that was a pure expression of Lauren and Andrea’s love of hospitality. It was at this point that Rosmarino first started to take shape.
After a elongated location-scouting process, the couple struck gold when they inspected a site nestled within the Stewart & Hemmant Merchants building, which is perched on the corner of McLachlan and Marshall Streets. Northshore Group was in the early stages of a substantial revitalisation that will see the old clothing manufacturers turned into a boutique hospitality, retail and office hub. In love with the space’s raw elements, such as its exposed-brick walls and enclosed courtyard out the back, Lauren and Andrea signed on as tenants, initially envisioning Rosmarino as a cosy wine bar. It wasn’t until the couple recruited the considerable talents of Dario Manca – formerly head chef at ZA ZA TA – that the concept’s full identity as a restaurant-bar hybrid was realised. The venue is divided into sections – a 12-seater wine bar at the entry that caters to walk-ins, while the main 30-seat dining space flows past the kitchen and a glass-encased wine cellar towards the rear courtyard. Life House Interiors took the lead on the concept’s aesthetic direction, enhancing the established materiality of the space with dark timbers, pendant lights and splashes of rosemary green, in homage to the herb that inspired Rosmarino’s name. The venue is intimate with a touch of traditional glamour, with a warmth and approachable personality underpinning both its vibe and service model.
Rosmarino is softly launching first as a wine bar, with a pared-back menu encompassing nibbles such as meats, cheeses and house made focaccia. When the restaurant officially unveils its dine-in menu, guests will be free to traverse a tight list of appetising options, from light antipasti bites and pasta dishes to mains and sides. Dario has taken a punchy and fun approach to the offering, which harmonises authentic flavours and modern twists, while also making the most of his fixation with bread making. Rosmarino’s small plates include beef tartare with tomato and stracciatella served with crispy farinata (a thin unleavened pancake made from chickpea flour), double-cooked duck eggs in fried sourdough with artichokes and nettle, and cured kingfish crudo with verjus, bottarga, green apple and burnt buttermilk. The primi selection is where you’ll find Dario’s pasta dishes, all of which are made using a multipurpose Monferrina P-Nuova sheeter machine. Here Dario is eschewing prototypical Italian recipes in favour of those more off-piste varieties, starting with culurgiones cacio nduja (Sardinian-style ravioli filled with potato, pecorino cheese, mint, burnt butter, nduja and cacio e pepe), casarecce al coniglio (short pasta twists with rabbit ragu, shallot, goat curd, lemon thyme and white wine) and crespelle ai funghi (savoury crepe, porcini mushrooms, tallegio foam, parsley oil and crunchy lardo). Those saving room for secondi will be able to savour Rosmarino’s lambetta (rolled lamb belly slow cooked for 24 hours), anatra (dry-aged Maremma duck breast with potato mash, a l’orange sauce, duck jus and amaretti crumble) and steak al cioccolato (tri-tip with a five-plus marble score aged in white chocolate served with black bagna cauda and persimmon). Andrea, formerly head sommelier at Hellenika, is relishing the chance to build a wine list of his own. Rosmarino’s selection of vino has been curated through a rigorous blind-tasting process to ensure every drop available has been given Andrea’s personal seal of approval. The current list boasts roughly 150 varieties (a vast majority of those are organic and biodynamic), with a curatorial fluidity ensuring new kinds of each reference are offered when a similar drop runs dry. Though Andrea has cast a wide net for inspiration, Rosmarino’s wine list does feature a discernible Italian lean – Italian reds are a strong focus as are mineral-heavy wines cultivated from the volcanic soil around Mount Etna in Sicily (plus plenty of Andrea’s drop of choice, champagne). As the wine cellar has room for 800 bottles, expect the overall range to expand over time. A cocktail list features and array of signature sips that take cues from the classics, which are also available.
Rosmarino is open from tonight, Friday July 16, as a wine bar, and will slowly introduce more menu items next weekend ahead of a full reveal on Wednesday July 28. Head to the Stumble Guide for contact and booking details.