Friday, 30 November 2012

Augustine's on George - old world charm

I love the Terrace Houses
There are some buildings in Brisbane that are quite unusual and dare I say it, out of place.  You would expect to find them in older, more established cities, like Sydney or Melbourne.  I grew up in Adelaide where terrace houses are the norm near the CBD and as such love the few pockets of Brisbane that are home to these stylish homes of yesteryear.  Today I found myself down the 'political' end of town in some terraces that house Augustine's on George.  The building is amazing with its deep red brick facade, intricate stonework, sweeping balconies.  stone arches and old world charm.

I was meeting with a former boss (PS) of mine who I consider to be one of the best bosses I have had in my career, with whom I now enjoy a friendship and (at times) mentorship.  What was ironic about today was that my GM was also having a working lunch at Augustines with her peers and it was just our two groups in the main dining area.

Augustine's was originally built for residential use during the Victorian era in 1889, it was designed by G.H.M Addison in a classic Italian style.  Being built for residential use, the restaurant is not your typical dining location and in many respects reminds me of Jacques Raymond in Melbourne, with small rooms for diners and a very homely feel to it.  Today, with only two groups in the main area, there was a distinct lack of a vibe and it felt very sombre.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Vintaged Bar & Grill -

One thing that my food adventures have shown me is that Brisbane is redefining its place in the culinary world and gaining a reputation as a food destination.  While this is especially true in comparison to Australian cities, it still has some way to go for international recognition.  One of the transformations that is happening, just might help with this.  In Europe and the Americas, many of the finest restaurants (often with two or three Michelin Stars) and top shelf Chefs are situated in Hotels.

This is a trend that has started to appear in Brisbane with two of this year's Brisbane Times Good Food Guide One Hat recipients being hotel restaurants, with a third hotel restaurant pushing for entry.

If it's been a while since you've eaten at the Hilton, (remember the seafood smorgasbord anyone?), then you are in for a complete surprise.  Vintaged Bar & Grill is located on the 6th floor of the Hilton hotel and has completely transformed the feel of the Hilton and the dining experience.  This transformation did not come cheap, with a reported $2 million dollars spent to help things along.  When you exit the lifts on the 6th floor and make your way to the restaurant, you are transformed in to a sleek, sexy and very open restaurant that is designed by well known architect Mark Landini to bring an interactive dining experience with the chef's on view to the diners.

Friday, 23 November 2012

1889 Enoteca - little italy at the gabba

Bar area and entrance
There has been a renaissance happening around Brisbane for some time now and Logan Road at Woolloongabba  has been at the forefront of this.  There are lots of cool hubs around Brisbane, old furniture stores are now restaurants and dinky little shops have turned into bars.  One of the restaurants to start it all at the Gabba is 1889 Enoteca and now many others have followed.

1889 Enoteca is one of those restaurants that transports you to another place.  When you walk up the the front door the alfresco area is more often than not overflowing with happy patrons and when you walk inside, you are transported to a cool little 'ristorante' that could be in any cosmopolitan Italian area.  One of the first things that strikes you is the vast array of wine that is on display, in fact you could be mistaken for walking into a specialist wine cellar.  Next, is the cozy seating arrangements booths down one side of the bar.

Most people may not realise, but 1889 Enoteca is one of Brisbanes most decorated restaurants, with plenty of hats and stars to its name and a perennial place in the Gourmet Travellers top 100 list of restaurants, currently 83 in the country.  Chef Matt Stubbing has done a fantastic job keeping 1889 Enoteca right up with the best.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Organic Char - where the wild things grow

Its like a garden party inside
For a quite a few years now we have been in the grip of a revolution, which started slowly in the back streets of suburbs like Paddington and West End.  Slowly over time I have seen the changes coming, firstly in little stores that took some getting to and more recently in the aisles of the major shopping chains, like Coles and Woolworths   I am of course talking about the Organic food revolution and its creep from the fringes of our consciousness to the main stream.

It is little surprise that this organic phenomenon should find its way to the core of the restaurant scene, after all, don't chefs love to use the freshest and tastiest seasonal produce?  What was surprising is that a restaurant like Organic Char open up as the little brother to Brisbane steak institution Cha Cha Char.  Originally conceived by well know restauranteur John Kilroy (Jellyfish and Cha Cha Char)  Organic Char takes a very different approach than it's big city brother next door.

While Cha Cha Char is well known with the Brisbane lunch time scene as a classy and upmarket restaurant, Organic Char takes a much more relaxed approach and does not take itself too seriously, a fact which becomes abundantly clear once you step through the doors and take a seat.  The interior has a bright airy feel to it and is decorated much like a fancy garden party, 'tall grass' decals adorn the walls adding to the feel of being outside on a lovely summers day.  High backed comfy chairs complete the feel of whimsy and you definitely know you are in for something a little different.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Esquire - part genius, part mad hatter

What would you do if I told you about a man with a vision?  A vision to bring the absolute best of European style and cutting edge gastronomy to Brisbane?  If you are like me, you would pay attention and keep a close eye on what he did next.

Ryan Squires is part genius and part mad hatter, he has to be for the food that come from his mind and kitchen is hard to describe but very easy to fall in love with.  Ryan Squires is a Brisbane boy who has spent time in some of the best restaurants in history, with stints at El Bulli and Noma, both of which have spent time anchored at the top of the S.Pellegrino Worlds Top 50 Restaurants, along with time in Thomas Kellers top restaurants French Laundry and Per Se.  Locally, Ryan was the head Chef at Urbane and Buffalo Club, both of which were recipients of Two Hats while Ryan was in charge.  Achieving two hats at two different restaurants is no mean feat, but Ryan has achieved one step further by acquiring Three Hats, indeed the only restaurant in Queensland with the coveted triple hats.  Lastly, but not least, Esquire is the top ranked restaurant in Brisbane in the Gourmet Traveller top 100 restaurants, coming in at number 25 in the country.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Gourmet Shoot Out Fish and Chips versus

The Champion versus the Contender

One of my staples over summer and for many Australians is the humble serving of fish & chips.  I'm not sure why, but during the colder months I don't often think of eating fish & chips, but once the warm weather strikes, I eat it pretty regularly.  The thing about a meal like fish & chips is that everyone has their favourite place to go and ends up being quite parochial, and I am no different, usually sticking to my own favourite.  Every so often though, along comes a challenger that makes you sit up and take notice of what they have to offer and my post today is about the two vying for my attention right now.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Rush Bar Dining Express - lunch in rush hour

For quite a few years now, Rush has been a place that has met the needs of Brisbane CBD workers for a quick bite to eat and has been a mainstay for Friday afternoon drinks.  It used to be quite a dark and secluded spot, with much of the dining completed in dark little booths along the inside but quite an open area for casual dining and drinking along the Post Office Square side.

Something happened a little while ago and Rush closed its doors for some renovations.  Being a city dweller I pretty much walk past Post Office Square a couple of times a day and, generally loving any redevelopment in the CBD, kept an eye on this one.  As months went by, I really wondered if anything was going on behind the erected barriers.  This renovation was taking a very very long time until at last one day you could see what was going on behind those barriers.  The transformation was astounding, no longer was Rush seemingly small and 'dingy' but transformed (by a reported $2 million dollars) into a spectacular looking bar, dining, cafe.

Rush is not normally a place where I would go and eat, but after an extremely busy week on a project we found ourselves here combining lunch with a project meeting.  I won't bore you with too many details about this but it had to do with a capabilities list for blah blah blah.............  So, I found myself seated at a table with 5 work colleagues, a pile of work and some decisions on what to eat.  I had heard that the tapas was ok here so after some consultation with the group, we agreed that tapas it would be.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Alfred & Constance - this place has a Vibe

This place has a vibe.........

Kitchen area, see the
Alfred and Constance had its official opening tonight and I was pretty keen to check it out.  I had heard some talk around town that a great new food and beer destination was going to be opening soon....... but time dragged on and there were delays and I forgot about it.  Then on Wednesday night eating with a few friends I was reminded that the grand opening was Friday night and that I should check it out.

Located on the corner of Constance and Alfred streets in the Valley (no prize for guessing why the name) SC and I decided that a Friday night stroll into the Valley for dinner would be a great way to start the weekend.  If only the weather had played its part, it pretty much rained the whole walk over, oh well, at least it was still warm.  As we crested the hill of Constance street and started down towards the tastefully renovated old queenslander, there was a buzz and 'hubbub' coming from the building, I could not yet see any people, but I sure could hear them.

Once we walked up the steps of Albert & Constance, we were affronted by a wall of people, many of whom were clearly dressed for a night in the Valley.  We were greeted by a friendly waitress who found us the only table that had a couple of seats for us.  The style of the establishment is very much along the lines of shared seating, so SC and I had a spot in the middle of a long bench table.  This was actually pretty cool and there was immediately a feel of togetherness with the people around us, everyone was clearly happy to be here.  We were given some menus and it was time to decide.

The first thing we noticed about the menu was that it was in alignment with the current trend of share plates and the second what that it had a lot of meat....... a lot!

Being share plates, all of our dishes came out in quick succession and we soon had every available space taken in front of us, and quite a bit in front of some other diners too.  The first thing that I tried was the Chorizo Scotch Egg.  I quite like a good scotch egg and normally expect to see quite a dainty quails egg or similar but what was put in front of me was far from dainty.  I was confronted with a huge red egg, clearly as a consequence of the chorizo, along with what looked to be a spicy aioli.  Unsure of how to proceed with such a monster, I finally decided that I would try to 'crack the egg' by cutting it down the middle, to see if the yolk wold be under or over cooked.  Unfortunately my cutting skills are not up to scratch and only managed to crush it into thirds.  I did not see the ooze that I expected but it was not hard boiled either, so only slightly over.  I am a massive fan of chorizo and loved the taste of this, there was a great amount of heat coming from the chorizo crust, which was cooled down by the aioli and the yolk.  It was quite yummy and I would easily have eaten half a dozen of these.

Chorizo Scotch egg intact, then smashed!

Pork Belly with Rhubarb and Ginger Relish was the next dish to be devoured.  Those of you that are regular readers of my blog know that I love pork belly.  This was beautifully presented on the plate with three lovely looking pieces of pork.  There was a great contrast between the burnt colouring of the pork skin and the rhubarb and ginger relish and the garnish.  The pork belly was perfectly cooked with just enough crunch through the skin and the soft almost gelatinous fat from the belly.   On its own it tasted fabulous, but with the relish, a lovely slight bitterness offset the succulent sweet meat.  SC kindly gave me two of the three pieces, which I was very grateful for.  It was around this time that the others seated near us started to show interest in what we were eating and started ordering the same!

Great pork belly with rhubarb & ginger 
SC ordered an A&C hamburger with crispy bacon and fries.  This was probably the most disappointing element of the meal all night.  The burger itself was dry and overcooked and there was not enough sauce to compensate.  In addition to this, the bun was too crunchy, hard and dry, which led to an overall feeling of dry mouth when eating, in fact the bite I had was hard to swallow it was so dry.  In addition to this, the cheese that came along with the burger was also dry and flakey, overall not a good experience here.   The chips were not too bad, thick and crunchy and well cooked.  I love chips cooked with the skin on as was the case here.

Skip the burger & go for the meat

We were starting to feel a little full now but we still had one of the stars of the night to eat.  Roast Pig carved from the whole pig with crackling was next.  This was sold by the weight and you could get 250g, 500g and 1kg.  I am glad we opted for the 250g serving size, otherwise we would have had to be rolled out.  The pork was simply stunning.  Soft, succulent and perfectly roasted on the whole pig it was a joy to eat.  Mixed in with perfect pork pieces was the crackling and skin of the pig.  The contrast between the soft pork and the hard sticky skin was a marriage made in heaven, and once the apple sauce was added, took this to a new level.  Pork and apple sauce, such a classic combination!

Pork by the gram, delicious

As good as the pork was, the last item that we had selected was my favourite by far!  The flame grilled Lamb Cutlets with Anchovy and Parsley Mayo was spectacular.  This was rustic food at its absolute best.  More often than not, when you have lamb cutlets, they have been french cut, that is the fat has been cut off the bone.  This was not the case tonight, so not only was the lamb supremely cooked, there was more of it to go around.  My first mouthful of the lamb was a revelation!  Sweet lamb perfectly cooked to a stunning pink along with the lovely caramelised fat, with the slightly salty anchovy mayonnaise.  Sometimes with a lovely dish, the first bite is the best, not so with this.  Each progressive portion of the lamb just simply got more delicious.  SC who was pretty full by the time we started on the lamb had a couple of bites and also fell in love with this.  Next time I come to Alfred & Constance I would be hard pressed not ordering three or four plates of the lamb and ignore the rest of the menu.

Dish of the night, lamb cutlets - a taste sensation

By the time we had finished our dinner the place was pumping, with people everywhere and customers lined up to wait for seats to be vacated.  Given that tonight was the official opening night, things ran pretty smoothly.  Sure, the wait staff looked a bit stressed and rushed off their feet, but we never felt at any time that we were not being looked after and the wait staff remained friendly and helpful throughout.

Snout to Tail philosophy - here is the tip!

Alfred & Constance is the creation of Damian Griffith who is also the owner of Limes Hotel, just down the road.  His idea for the establishment was a warm rustic gastro pub and 'entertainment village'.  There is a restaurant, beer garden and bar upstairs.  The principals of the food offering is to deliver warm, old world charm twisted to modern tastes.  When we walked in SC and I felt that Damian had hit the mark with his vision, with some extra elements thrown in.  If you are looking for a cool place to have a beer and gastro pub meal, then this is the place to come.  My view on the philosophy of the food is very much the 'snout to tail' approach and the meat served here is second to none.  Its fun and the seating arrangements really lend to a community feel.

As I said, this place has a vibe........

Alfred and Constance on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bistro One Eleven - the return visit, good as the first?

Not so long ago, at the start of my journey into the world of food blogging, my first attempt at a blog (here) was at a new restaurant that had just opened up a few hundred metres down the street from where I live.  Bistro One Eleven was the new kid on the Eagle Street precinct and had only been open a few days when SC and I wandered through the glass sliding doors into a shiny shiny new establishment.  I had a pretty good time that night, the food was great and SC and I were the centre of attention......  This was mainly because there was only two other tables filled while we were there :)

Fast forward a few months and I was invited along the the media launch of the restaurant with a few other food bloggers and some journalists from some papers and food magazines.  There were some faces I recognised from the E'cco event from the previous week and some new that I would get to know better throughout the night.

Bistro One Eleven is the new passion for creator and owner,  Phillip Johnson,  Before we kicked off the meal for the night, Phillip spoke a little about the idea behind his new dining experience.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Beccofino - my favorite Italian

The view on the way to Beccofino
Sunday night is pasta night.  I can't really say when this tradition started but SC and I have found ourselves imbued with a ritual of Sunday pasta.  Sure, there are times when we succumb and have something else, in fact for a short while Sunday became Mexican night (Guzman y Gomez), but we are always drawn back to pasta.

For the last few years Beccofino has been our mainstay and is located near the water over at Newstead.  It seems as if Beccofino has been around forever.  While we only 'discovered' it a few years ago, I had heard about it from many friends who described it as having the best pizza in town.  Beccofino also has a 'no reservations' policy so if you come late, it can be quite a bit of a wait at the bar for a table to become available.  This is not normally a problem for us as we like to eat early on a Sunday.

We live in the CBD and Newstead is within easy walking distance, so what better way to spend a glorious Sunday evening than walking to Beccofino and building our appetite for what lay ahead!  The walk took us around 30 minutes and we had the opportunity to enjoy the fabulous setting that is Brisbane at this time of the year.  With the sun slowly setting we finally reached our destination and were warmly greeted and ushered to our usual table.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Montrachet - Paris near the heart of Brisbane

Jusqu'à la route sinueuse à un coin de paradis gastronomique réside un bout de Paris à Brisbane ville.
Paris on the edge of Brisbane

High in the hills of Brisbane town....  Well, not really, just up the road in Paddington resides one of Brisbane's gems.  It is my opinion that Montrachet is arguably the most successful restaurant in Brisbane, how else could you explain a fine diner that is only open for dinner from Monday to Thursday evening?

While Paddington does not have a very Parisian feel to it, once you walk through the doors of Montrachet you are whisked away to a lovely traditional French Bistro that would not be out of place in any small town or big city in France.  Like all great French restaurants where you are likely to see the proprietor greeting his guests or fussing in the kitchen, Thierry Galichet is indeed behind the bar hovering near the kitchen.  Thierry is the proud owner of Montrachet and head chef and it must be said is a master of his domain, in all ways.  Montrachet was opened in 2004 and in that time has had the privilege of being one of Brisbanes most popular restaurants and has been since it first opened.  Montrachet of course has a Brisbane Times Good Food Guide Hat, but in the past has been the recipient of two Hats and once held the title of Brisbane top restaurant.

It had been a good five months since I last visited Montrachet, it was a special treat then with one of my best mates, The Big Boy (henceforth known as BB) who was having a final 'fancy' dinner with his very pregnant wife before they went overseas to have the baby.  Well, the BB recently returned from Taiwan and after not seeing much of each other for a few months and I could think of no better place to return that his favourite restaurant in Brisbane!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

E'cco, a true Brisbane institution

I still remember the my first time.  E'cco is that type of restaurant, you remember it and that memory holds you and calls out to you.  For those of you who just moved to Brisbane, E'cco is an institution, a stayer, a leader and certainly one of the true gastronomical experiences you can have.

E'cco is the love and joy of Phillip Johnson and has been a mainstay of the Brisbane food scene for over 17 years.  Located in a century old tea house on the City fringe, the area has seen some significant changes.  At one time this end of the city was the restaurant hotspot in Brisbane, with the Jamesons building housing another cutting edge restaurant Circa.  Well the Jamesons building is long gone and Circa a distant memory, but Phillip Johnson's E'cco is just getting stronger.  Once named the best restaurant in Australia, it is a perennial performer with a top 10 ranking in Brisbane through the Gourmet Travellers list of top restaurants and of course a Chefs Hat through the Good Food Guide

I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a special event, hosted by Phillip and attended by some of Brisbane's top food bloggers and food journalists for the launch of the new menu.  It was great to be invited along and meet a whole heap of really passionate foodies and spend the night talking about our the one thing that binds us all together!  After arriving at the E'cco bar underneath the restaurant, I spend a while getting to know the other guests and discussing, you guessed it, food and blogging!

Onto the menu.  One of the big challenges in life for me is coming across a menu that has so many enticing options that you get analysis paralysis (I know, first world problem).  Of the seven items on the entree list, I would happily have selected six of them, but unfortunately I could only pick one.  I would normally head straight for the scallops, but I was feeling adventurous with a whole heap of new friends.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...