Arriving at Ostani on a Friday night is like walking into the hottest party in town.
It’s full of public servant grads, Parliament House staffers and office workers clocking off for the week.
You might feel out of place if you’re not wearing a workplace lanyard or staff ID on a retractable cord, but the vibe is buzzing. There’s a TGIF mood in the air and it’s a good night to catch up with an old friend.
Anticipating a long wait at the bar, we quickly join the throng queueing for drinks, but the staff are impressively fast at pumping through multiple orders. One bartender is pouring a long line of espresso martinis with flair, while another deftly stacks a tray with wine glasses, and we are served pretty fast.
We’ve opted for beer tonight and there’s a good mix of local and imported beers on tap and in the fridge. You can’t go wrong with a Capital Brewing Co beer, but I’m a teensy bit disappointed to be missing out on some of the beautiful cocktails (but I’ll be back for the Pineapple Sour).
Drinks in hand, we set out to find ourselves somewhere to sit. There is a short wait for tables in the main restaurant area, and the high-top tables are mostly full with larger groups, but there are still a few seats scattered around the covered outdoor area.
We find ourselves a cosy corner outside near the fireplace where a very well-behaved puppy is snoozing while its owners socialise. Sinking into the low-slung lounges, we check out the menu. I order the Salsiccia pizza while my friend opts for the Ostani burger – we also grab a few snacks to share.
When we order at the counter inside, we’re told to expect a 25-minute wait, which is reasonable at 7:30 pm on a busy Friday night. So we are once again pleasantly surprised when the food is ready after only 15 or so minutes. Ostani has definitely got quick, reliable service down to a fine art!
When we chose the popcorn cauliflower, we expected a vegetarian-friendly version of the classic popcorn chicken: deep fried, crunchy and definitely NOT a healthy option. But when it arrives, it’s actually a bowl of baked, spiced cauliflower pieces with strips of roasted red capsicum and herbs, served with a delicious romesco salsa on the side. We’d also ordered the dips with crisp flatbread. Together, these two dishes make a really nice mezze-style entree.
The Ostani burger is exactly what you want a burger to be. A big, juicy, flavourful patty, smokey bacon, sharp mustard, fresh pickles and the tang of tomato sauce. It’s what I picture when I think about a classic burger, and the pizza is similarly excellent. Sausage meat, pecorino and field mushrooms give it an earthy, meaty base and then little pieces of spicy ‘nduja salami pop through with chilli. The base is thin and perfectly charred with a good chewy crust that I use to mop up the last of the dips from our starters.
Although we opted for pub classics this time, I found myself eyeing off a couple of other dishes. I usually wouldn’t order a salad at the pub, but there are four really good-looking salad options on the menu with interesting flavours and I also spied a delicious-looking prawn pasta heading to another table and experienced a brief pang of order envy. I’ll have to return on a quieter night and have a proper sit-down dinner in the restaurant next time.
Ostani is at 18 National Circuit, Barton. It’s open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Monday to Friday from 6:30 am until late, and Saturday and Sunday from 7 am until late.