Deep fried squid, calamari, salt and pepper squid – whatever you want to call it and whichever way you want to fry it – it comes up on every other menu in Brisbane. From pubs to fine diners, Italian institutions to the local fish and chip shop, we scooted around the city to see who's frying up the cephalopods in the most interesting of ways, and letting you pay for your salty fried treat using your American Express.
Stab your fork into tender strips of calamari at Hatch & Co then add a douse of lime juice and dunk of sweet housemade chilli jam. The big, breezy space in Newstead’s groovy Gasworks Plaza is a top spot for a casual lunch or dinner and you can bulk your entrée-sized calamari out with a pizza and salad, or go all out with a seafood platter.
The Gunshop Café is one of West End’s darlings, plating up calamari with a Middle Eastern spin. The plump white flesh is battered in-house and comes seasoned with lemon and sumac salt before being arranged atop a slightly sticky, corn-like Lebanese couscous. A smoky peach aioli provides the perfect condiment and a few tendrils of watercress pretty things up. Calamari sails over the pass from lunch through to 5.30pm.
We’re calling it: Coppa might just plate Brisbane’s best calamari. The elegantly presented starter comes as a mix of crunchy tentacles and soft rings alongside a generous dollop of tartare sauce. Translucent chilli slices, parsley leaves and lemon rounds add well balanced zing. To freshen up the dish, side your calamari with a rocket salad, or order it as a prelude to one of Coppa’s epic wood-fired pizzas.
Further along at South Bank, you can take in prime views of the Brisbane River from the Jetty. Calamari features on the afternoon and dinner menus, so you can tuck in as a sundown snack or order as a warm-up to your main. The dish is a delightful combo of house-battered tentacles and plump body slices served with a lime wedge and vampire-repelling garlic sauce. Add smooth tunes and good service and you’ve got yourself a winner.
While not salt and peppered, Bloodhound’s chargrilled baby octopus, speared between slices of smoked chorizo, is a worthy squiddified contender. The tapas plate comes with toasted ciabatta, lime mayo and a simple red onion and tomato salad, making it a good stomach-lining snack while you work your way through Bloodhound’s rotating list of tap beers. Other tapa-style plates include pulled pork fries, tacos and chilli wings.
A Mexican joint might not be the most obvious spot to front up for a bowl of salt and pepper squid, but South Bank’s Mucho does it well. Small rounds of calamari come dusted with light and crisp batter and are devilishly moreish. Cut through the saltiness with a Margarita or Mojito from the extensive cocktail list, then carry on the seafood theme with a fish taco.
Moo Moo might be a specialty steakhouse, but they also knock together some damn fine calamari. The entrée is presented like a work of art, with a neat row of squid rings stacked on a subtle chilli and ginger caramel sauce. A sticky honey glaze adds a hint of sweetness to the Shanghai-style dish, cut through by a smear of lemon gel and a delicate sorrel garnish. It’s a little bit posh and every bit delish.
After 15 years in East Brisbane, the Fishmonger’s Wife moved to Hawthorne in 2017 where they keep churning out fresh sea-caught goodness. The calamari strips here are deliciously salty and a wee bit garlicky, and can be made gluten-free. The side option of regular fries is nothing spesh, so consider upgrading to sweet potato chips. You can either eat in at a wooden table at the back of the premises or take away.
You can pretty much order anything at the Riverbar & Kitchen and feel content, given its riverfront digs and breezy atmosphere. But crunchy, salty grub goes ace with a beer, so hook in to a bowl of Riverbar’s calamari wrapped in flaky batter. The dish is topped off with slivers of kaffir lime leaf and a side of tangy sweet chilli sauce, while a few coriander sprigs freshen things up.
Although more salt than pepper, the thick chunks of squid at the Vietnamese are tender and tasty. Don’t expect finesse amid the raucous atmosphere of this lantern-strung restaurant, but do expect a squid mountain piled over a simple salad of shredded cabbage, shallots, capsicum and carrot. Ask the waitstaff to deliver a silver pot of housemade chilli sauce to your table for extra kick.