Nina from Nina Will Eat and I have had some Murphy's luck with trying to catch up over a meal. A couple of failed attempts later, we finally managed a lunch meeting at Popolo.
I walk through South Bank a fair bit but I'd never noticed Popolo before. It's in a portion of the parklands called River Quay, which is waterfront and further towards the Goodwill Bridge than Victoria Bridge.
We scored a waterfront table. Spring had declared its arrival with vigour - the sun was out in force and the sky line was stunning.
Between us, Nina and I decided to go with an entree, a pizza and a main to share.
I had a cup of coffee and she, a glass of red. The coffee wasn't anything special.
Sfogliata con funghi e capperi - bocconcini sheet filled with mushrooms, red reduction and fried capers
Boy, did our food take a long time to arrive. The entree was the bocconcini sheet filled with mushrooms. It sounded nice on paper but when I tasted it, I didn't know what I was supposed to be tasting. It was textbook bland and felt like chewing on cold rubber smeared with goo (goo that was supposed to, but didn't taste like mushroom).
The crunchy capers livened things up a bit but they were working solo. Nina also mentioned that the sauce had a bitter aftertaste that she didn't like. I just didn't enjoy the whole thing. Cold entree. Lack of flavor. Boring.
Popolo margherita - with tomato, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil
It was another good chunk of time before our pizza arrived. There were a couple of mishaps in between where plates were tantalisingly waved in front of us before being redirected to other tables. The pizza looked appealing. I love a thin base and this was indeed thin and crunchy. I chose margherita because it's one of the most basic and I prefer minimal topping on pizzas. The sauce was a huge letdown. I was racking my brain trying to think of what was wrong with it. Nina said she could do better at home. I found myself thinking "too sweet" a lot. Then it hit me. It just tasted like supermarket jar sauce. With extra sugar. The bits of pizza that had fresh basil were good because the basil gave it a nice kick and I did like the base but overall, another disappointment.
Lattonzolo e pesche - Kingaroy suckling pig, spiced peach compote and anchovy sauce
Our main was the Kingaroy suckling pork, which was also the dish we were most excited about. This was served with a spiced peach compote and anchovy sauce. The pork itself was very tender.
My first bite was pretty much all fat... but I didn't mind because it was delicious and the skin was crispy. I was surprised by how well the anchovy went with the pork. It served not only to add an extra dimension of flavor but also to cut thorugh the fatiness.
Eccetera insalata - zucchini, ricotta salata, asparagus, fresh mint, peas, etc.
We also ordered a side of zucchini salad to inject some vegetables into our meal. This had sounded so promising on the menu but like the entree, it just lacked flavor. I'm a huge fan of zucchini and I still didn't enjoy eating this. I do like how they use the word eccetera in the dish description though... it still sounds vaguely italian and authentic. Lol!
This lunch took us close to 3 hours because of how long the food took to come out. There were SEVERAL mix-ups with orders being brought to the wrong tables. We were both annoyed with Popolo by the end of the meal that's for sure. The entree was barely edible and the pizza was 'ok' but ther are plenty better on offer out there. We grudgingly admit that the pig was tasty but the zucchini salad was another miss. We definitely won't be back. I can only hypothesize that the place is so busy because of their winning location.