He’s moved barely two kilometres to open Aquitaine but for restaurateur Nick Pinn, who is used to working in his city restaurant Malt, South Bank is proving to be a surprising change of pace.

“It’s totally different from the city — everyone seems so happy,” he says. “It’s so relaxing to be at work watching joggers, bike groups and kids go past.” The view from the bar is not too shabby either he admits. In addition to Malt, Pinn owns Glass Bar in Fortitude Valley.

Aquitaine Brasserie, his latest venture, has just opened up at South Bank’s River Quay complex. The restaurant name, based on a region in south west France was born from a happy miscommunication between Pinn and his wife, Krissy. “It was going to be French and I knew I wanted it to have a French name so I was on the internet searching for something suitable. Krissy was in the other room, and unbeknown to me was looking at places in Southern France for our belated honeymoon. She yelled out, ‘How about L’Aquitaine?’ She meant it as a honeymoon destination but I assumed she meant it as a restaurant name. I liked it, so Aquitaine it was.”

The 140-seat restaurant not only boasts unimpeded views of the river and cityscape from every table, but some unique design features too. Unusually for a Brisbane restaurant, there’s a fireplace for the odd cool night, set into a copper feature wall adorned with butterflies. A plushly carpeted mezzanine floor is home to a table for private dining and has a quartz crystal encrusted feature light that looks like a circus trainer’s flaming hoop. Downstairs there’s another semi-private table for a group in a wine alcove. It’s all a lot more luxe than Pinn envisaged. “My original brief to the interior designer was ‘from farmhouse to the Champs Elysee — rustic to contemporary without being too themed. But we ended up moving further from the farmhouse to a more luxurious style,” Pinn says. “Most important to me always though is that it makes the diner feel comfortable. I wanted to make sure that as soon as diners walked in, they felt relaxed.”

The food reflects this philosophy with an appealing French accented menu. “We have a strong kitchen team, but we don’t attempt anything we’re not qualified for. We are more contemporary than classic French but there’s a lot that most people can associate with typical French dishes,’’ Pinn says. The menu incorporates typical ingredients from L’Aquitaine too. A trademark of the region is foie gras, encased by a rustic duck and rabbit terrine, served with thin slices of baguette. Then there’s duck confit, the Agen prune, espelette chilli pepper (whipped into the butter) and France’s oldest spirit, Armagnac. The wine list has a slight French bias, but also incorporates Australian wines made in the French style, many on offer by the glass.

Words by Natascha Mirosch  |  Images by Gillian van Niekerk