On the ground floor of the newly refurbished Fox Hotel at South Brisbane, the Meatball Co. (with a sign outside that just says 'Balls') offers an upmarket yet fun interpretation of a dish that has long been a home-style classic.
Yep -- the humble meatball has been reinvented here as a gourmet offering. Balls of all kinds star on this menu, ranging from beef, pork, chicken, and lamb balls to seafood and vegetarian options. All cost $14 for a serve of three.
For those seeking something other than balls, the menu also features five different salads (all $9), and sides including pasta, potatoes, and wild rice ($8 each). You can also get a charcuterie plate ($26) or cheese platter ($30), and finish with an ice-cream sandwich ($12).
I've visited twice since the restaurant opened, once in its first fortnight of trading, and again on the night of the Fox Hotel's re-opening party. Both times I enjoyed my meal.
On the first occasion, two friends and I tried the pork and veal balls, the pea and rice balls, and a beetroot and walnut salad. I found the pork balls nice though not overwhelmingly tasty. My vego friend loved her arancini-style balls, and we all thought the beetroot salad was a standout.
On opening night, my carnivore companion and I tried the beef balls served in smokey tomato sauce, and the cod, prawn and scallop balls. Both delivered a satisfying flavour hit. The beef dish was hearty and aromatic, while the seafood offering was delicate and delicious, with just the right touch of dill. A blue cheese salad rounded out our meal (good, but not as good as the beetroot version in my opinion).
Service was friendly and efficient on both occasions that I visited, with meals emerging promptly from the open kitchen. The décor is modern and fun, with artwork by West End painter Adam Lester splashed across the ceiling. Large windows open to the street, making this a great spot for a balmy summer's night.
Any downsides? Well, big eaters might find the bill at the Meatball Co. a little steep given the size of the servings, but I felt that the quality of the ingredients justified the prices, and I left feeling full both times that I dined there.
My carnivore companion also pointed out that all the balls would benefit from a free side of bread to mop up the sauces, and I have to agree (though you can order bread separately, which we did). I also found the salads pretty heavily dressed, so I will ask for my dressings on the side next time I dine there.
So my verdict overall? A definite thumbs-up. I think that the Meatball Co. is a great addition to the eating options near QPAC and South Bank's arts precinct. Servings aren't huge and prices are a little higher than you'll find at many of the other nearby options, but I've left happy with the quality and quantity of what I've eaten each time I've dined there.
Just as importantly, The Fox has a great vibe that's fun to be part of, and its ground-floor restaurant is a great way to get a taste of that.