Friday, 28 December 2012

Gerard's Bistro - best new restaurant of the year?

What an amazing year 2012 was for the opening of new restaurants in Brisbane, in fact, I can't quite remember a year like it.  While a number of southern state restaurants have opened up in Brisbane, it's fantastic to see locals opening up new establishments too.

Gerard's bistro is a bit of a departure from the Moubarak Brothers, who have primarily been involved in cool bars around town (Laruche in the Valley and Lychee Lounge in West End), and have now opened a quintessentially cool restaurant experience.  Opened in July and located in James Street, Gerard's is a little hard to find initially but after a bit of poking around and a short stroll down one of the newly created lane-ways, you will find it.  Gerard's is not a super large bistro, but it is a great space with funky decor and a great view of the bar and kitchen from almost every seat.

Running the kitchen is Head Chef Ben Williamson, who has garnered a heap of press lately by being listed at number 32 on QWeekend's list of Queensland's 50 bright stars.  Ben has worked at some of Brisbane's best restaurants including Urbane, 1889 Enoteca and Cha Cha Char (Organic Char).  Ben has created a really interesting menu at Gerard's that has a distinctly Middle East and Northern Africa (with touches of Southern Europe), which really highlights Ben's time working in the Middle East (Bahrain) for Gulf Air creating and delivering the in-flight menu for first class passengers.

I was really excited about finally getting to Gerard's for dinner after hearing great things about it around town and first hand from one of my best mates, who has been a number of times now.  The menu at Gerard's is all about sharing and after perusing the menu we decided on a number of small plates and one large to share.  SC then ordered a Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred and then felt very James Bond when it arrived!

We started off with half a dozen freshly shucked oysters to share, three each.  Five of the oysters were large and plump and very fresh.  They were presented very simply on a bed of ice with a slice of lemon.  I was lucky as my three oysters were wonderfully smooth and creamy with a hint of the ocean, and were enhanced with a squeeze of lemon.  SC on the other hand had two oysters that were perfect, but the third was off.  After putting it in her mouth, almost immediately it came out.  We had a smell of it and it was definitely off with a rotten smell.  To the credit of Gerard's they offered us some more oysters to compensate, but this was not that appealing to us, so they completely removed the oysters from the bill.

After a couple of visits to Gerard's already, my good friend CI had recommended the octopus and I was very excited when the first small share plate to arrive was the Warm Octopus, Butter, Almond, Chilli and Smoke.  A very pretty looking dish, it consisted of some large tentacles artfully placed in the bowl with garnish of almond and some dehydrated green strawberries sliced really thin.  I have been eating a lot of octopus lately, but this one was by far the best I have had.  It was expertly cooked and soft, yet just a little chewy and had an incredible smoky flavour that was infused into the intense butter sauce.  The butter sauce itself was amazing, it was smooth and creamy, with a sweet buttery tomato flavour, with a hint of hickory from the smoking that lingered for a while on the palate.  I found myself using my knife to scrape up every last drop of this wonderful sauce.  SC was not a big fan of the sauce or the octopus, so I got to eat pretty much all of this one!

SC's choice for a starter was Saltbush Lamb 'Tangine', Purple Carrot, Pickled Dates, Candied Orange and Green Olive.  This was a good selection for SC as she is quite a fan of Moroccan spices but I have never been a big fan, so SC got to mostly eat this one.  It was a very strong flavoured dish with the spices coming through very strongly, however the sweetness of the dates cut through the spice and worked very well together.  I am not sure what happened to the purple carrot, ours looked like normal orange carrot?  The carrot added some nice texture to the dish and also worked well with the Moroccan spices.  The lamb was tender and well cooked and it literally fell apart under the knife.  It was a nice dish, but not one I would order again personally, but SC quite liked it.

I find it really hard to pass on suckling pig when I see it on a menu, so it was no surprise when we selected the Suckling Pig, Jerusalem Artichoke, Pear and Walnut as our main share plate.  As with all of the dishes we had seen so far (and looking at other diners plates) the food was beautifully presented in a really cool bowl (the bowls look very similar to those in Esquire).  The suckling pig was simply wonderful and cooked to perfection.  There were two pieces of pork for each of us, which were succulent and delicious.  The skin was crisp and the sweet pork meat so tender you could easily cut through with a butter knife.  Suckling pig does not have much fat on it as the pig only makes it to about 4-6 weeks before it is slaughtered, so there is not a lot of time for it to 'fatten up'.  The benefit however is that you get lean sweet meat.  The jerusalem artichoke had a lovely char on it that added to the flavour of the dish.  The pear and walnuts were a little lost in the sauce that came with the meal, but overall the combinations were very nice.  Accompanying the main was Coal Grilled Broccolini, Black Cabbage, Kale, Shallot Oil and Lemon.  The grilling of the broccolini in combination with the shallot oil provided a wonderful contrast to the suckling pig.  My only complaint about the suckling pig was there was not quite enough for two to share, there needed to be an additional piece of pork for each person to make this good value.

My dessert was an absolute triumph!  The Light Lemon Sponge, Lemon Curd and Mandarin was delicious, with light lemony sponge pieces of all shapes and sizes perfect for mopping up the amazing lemon curd.  There was a nice contrast between the sweetness of the curd and the slightly bitter taste of the lemon, that together delivered bags of flavour.   There was an ice-cream that was also smooth and delicious, but did not taste of Mandarin (in fact I could find no mandarin on the plate?) along with fresh blueberries and raspberries.  There was some additional contrast with some of the raspberries being dehydrated and provided a little crunch to the dessert.  Loved it, loved it, loved it!

SC was in two minds about dessert, but was still a little hungry so decided to have the Spiced Date Cream, Pistachio and Halva Biscuit, Honeycomb and Vanilla, which our waitress indicated was her favourite dessert on the menu.  This was quite a rich dessert, with an interesting flavour combination. There were lots of contrasting texture combinations going on too, with a heap of crumbly pistachio pieces with biscuit pieces and crunch honeycomb working in harmony with the creamy spiced date and vanilla ice cream.  There was a smear of chocolate to add a little extra complexity to the dessert.  SC really liked this dessert, but it got a little rich towards the end and I helped her eat some of the honeycomb, but there was still a little left over.

I had built up quite high expectations about Gerard' Bistro after reading all of the press and especially after hearing first hand accounts from friends.  There is a real danger when building such high expectations that they will not be met.  In this instance I am happy to say that my high expectations were met and surpassed!  The food is delicious and has very strong flavours and interesting flavour combinations, which work really well together.  The staff were really friendly and helpful and we never had to wait to have our water glasses filled or plates taken away.  There is a great vibe in the restaurant, which was mostly full by the time we finished our meal (great considering it was their first night open after the Christmas break).

It's clear that the Moubarak Brothers are onto a winner here.  Ben Williamson is doing some amazing things in the kitchen.  There is no doubt in my mind that some big accolades and awards are coming the way of Gerard's - the only question for me is will it be one Hat or two?


Fully stocked bar means some excellent cocktails and a great wine list
Kitchen and Specials Board.  I love the owl 
On a hot night, sitting outside would be pretty nice

Gerard's Bistro on Urbanspoon


  1. It's the Moubarak brothers too. You seem to have anglicised their Lebanese name.

    1. Thanks, it was a typo / spelling error, which as now been rectified


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