What’s it like dining at a vegetarian-only restaurant if you’re a dedicated lover of all things meat? Fantastic if you’re heading to ZA ZA TA, one of the best restaurants in Fortitude Valley. My husband and I dined at this Tel Aviv inspired bar and restaurant when it first opened in 2019 and loved the way Middle Eastern flavours were used to highlight some of Queensland’s best local produce. ZA ZA TA has since been reinvented as a vibrant Middle Eastern vegetarian restaurant.
While we loved the food on our first visit, the vegetarian only ZA ZA TA turned out to be even more impressive. It wasn’t just the taste of the food. The presentation had also been pushed to the next level with more dishes packed with pops of colour than you could poke an iPhone at. We dropped in to try out the new summer menu and began our night with a drink at Kazba, the bar adjoining ZA ZA TA, which is best described as a 1940s cocktail soiree meets mid-century European glamour with a dash of traditional Queensland architecture thrown in. It might sound a bit eclectic – and it is – but it works.
With patrons ranging in age from 20-year olds to funky 50-somethings, the crowd was sophisticed yet fun and there was no cut off age for a great night out. On Friday and Saturday nights a DJ spins vinyl with a funky mix of 80s, disco and funk. We loved drinking at a trendy Fortitude Valley bar without feeling ancient, unwelcome or uncool (or all three at once!). If you would like to make a night of it, you can book a room upstairs at the terrific Ovolo The Valley hotel which is what we did on our most recent visit. It was the perfect treat for my husband’s birthday. Stays here also come with a complimentary mini-bar and a house wine or beer on the house during the cocktail hour in funky Bar Kazba. Winning!
I initially wondered why the restaurant would move to vegetarian-only but when you think about the cuisine at ZA ZA TA, it makes perfect sense. Tel Aviv has a reputation as the vegan capital of the world and some of the most delicious and iconic Middle Eastern dishes tend to be vegetarian. Chef Michael Jackson, who previously worked his culinary magic at NuNu Restaurant in Palm Cove, joined ZA ZA TA as head chef a while ago and, while it seems impossible, his food just keeps getting better. Specialising in the farm to table movement, Chef Jackson has added a modern-twist to the centuries old flavours the restaurant is so well known for, together with a passion for sustainable cooking.
Wood smoked charcoal flavours add a multi-layered robustness to many of the dishes on offer with something to suit every palate. The word is obviously out about Jackson as the restaurant was pumping on the Thursday night of our visit with walk-ins lucky to get a table. We sampled the Taste of ZA ZA TA menu which is a four course extravaganza including dessert; a bargain at just $85. It’s also a vast amount of food – this is not one of those vegetarian restaurants where you leave hungry – so skip lunch or pace yourself or you will struggle to fit in the dessert. A tragedy as it is superb.
All of the courses on the summer menu are also available to order a la carte so I’ve included prices below in case you don’t have the stamina to tackle the multi-course chef’s menu. We began with a dish of warm olives in orange and anise ($9) before the fantastic halloumi doughnuts with chilli jam ($6) and sesame falafel with tahini sauce ($14). With this as a starter, you know you’re going to need a big appetite.
The three dishes mentioned above are technically starters but they’re quite substantial, especially when you pair them with the moreish bread. They were followed by smoked zucchini baba ghanoush with pistachio and green olive ($12), shish barak pumpkin dumplings served with burnt butter, pine nuts and buffalo milk yoghurt ($36) which has long been one of our favourite dishes here and the amazing stone-baked za’atar flatbread ($12)
The second course began with a Bloom providore beef mince stuffed pepper, eggplant kasundi, pickled beetroot and gazpacho ($38). This is a dish that will have thinking it must be meat with a ‘meaty’ texture and full flavour. It’s also very large so if you aren’t having the Tasting Menu, you might one to share one. Green wheat tabbouli ($16) made a great side dish but the triple cooked crispy spiced potatoes with batata harra ($18) were divine and worked perfectly with the Bloom ‘beef’ mince. For dessert we had the frozen chocolate parfait and salted caramel with kataifi ($18).
Whether or not you are a vegetarian, ZA ZA TA should be top of your list. Not only is the food impressive, it’s also extremely well priced, another advantage of skipping the meat in favour of more ethical eating. We’re already planning a return visit to ZA ZA TA to re-order some of our favourites.
Disclosure: The writer dined as a guest of ZA ZA TA and has also eaten at the restaurant many times at her own expense. Despite being a confirmed carnivore and lover of all things meat, ZA ZA TA is one of her favourite restaurants in Brisbane.
If you’re looking for accommodation in Brisbane, we have reviewed the Treasury Hotel, The Calile, Ovolo The Valley, W Brisbane, Capri by Fraser Brisbane, Hilton Brisbane, The Johnson, NEXT Hotel Brisbane, Sage Hotel James Street, The Westin Brisbane, Oaks Brisbane Festival Suites, Royal on the Park, Ibis Styles Elizabeth Street, Sofitel Brisbane, Crystalbrook Vincent, The Inchcolm by Ovolo, Alex Perry Hotel & Apartments, and Pullman Brisbane Airport.