Sunday, 13 January 2013

Public - the best new restaurant in town?

One of the great things about living in Brisbane is the continued growth of the restaurant scene, in particular the rapid growth in new restaurants in the last twelve months or so.  Even better is that these new restaurants are popping up all over town and not just in one or two key areas.  Having said that, I live pretty much on the doorstep of Eagle Street so have a bit of a bias for the great restaurants in this part of town.

Public is one of those restaurants that has opened up in a somewhat unusual part of town and is located on the edge of the city at 400 George Street.  It's not a high residential area over at George Street precent (yet) but is heavy with corporate and legal Brisbane, so there is money to burn down that end of town.  The site itself is a swanky new building but the first restaurant that was on the site, Groove Train, did not last very long, so the question would always be......  Would the next one survive?

The interior of Public has been converted into a really gorgeous space, part downtown Manhattan, part bar and all kitchen.  It has great open spaces and interesting decor around the place and the first thing you notice when walking across the walkway to the entry is the massive bar in the centre of the space.  Next, when being seated is the relatively open kitchen.  There are a few separate dining spots that make use of the space available.

Public has embraced the social / share dining style of dining and consider their approach to be casual but with the finess of fine dining.  It's working for them too, with Public being named the best new restaurant in 2012 and awarded a coveted chefs hat shortly after opening from the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide.

SC and I were on a double date with good friends CI and TB for the night and had a tougher time than usual to select the items to devour on the night.  The menu is split into small plates and big plates and the waiter explained to us that even the smallest of plates is designed to share.  So, after considering everyones preferences and debate about what to eat, we settled on a range that everyone was pretty happy with.

First out was the Scallop, Pumpkin and Smoked Wagyu.  What was brilliant about this was the extra scallop that they sent out.  The usual dish came with three and seeing that there were four of us, the Chef sent out an extra, great service.  The scallops were nice and plump, with a good caramelisation and expertly cooked.  The smoked wagyu was extremely thin, more like a wagyu crisp, with a hint of the smoking process evident.  Both the scallop and wagyu were complimented with equally thin pumpkin slices and a smokey sauce.  The combination of ingredients and textures was fantastic, so we were off to a great start.  We were partway through this dish when the next arrived at out table.

When the waiter brought the Prawn, Chorizo and Pequillo we could see that they had done the same deal with the prawns, an extra one due to the extra person at the table.  What they didn't know was that CI is allergic to prawns, but this just meant an extra one for TB to consume.  The plate was extremely vibrant with the deep red of the pequillo (a variety of chilli traditionally grown in Northern Spain) and the pink of the prawn, with a lovely contrast of the green garnish.  Tasty prawns cooked very well matched perfectly with the sweet pequillo, which was surprisingly mild in heat.  The ace in the hole here was the chorizo, which did add a little heat to the dish, with the only problem that there was not enough chorizo, so slightly out of balance (if you didn't get a piece).  Again, midway through the dish the next was presented.

An amazing looking bowl of food signalled that the Hawaiian Potato Curry, Coconut and Lychee had arrived.  There was an incredible array of colours and textures in the bowl, with really pretty yellows, pinks and whites.  I am not a huge fan of curries usually, but this was very nice with lots of subtle and complex flavours working in harmony.  The lychee was an interesting choice of flavours, it really stood out, but it did work well.  The potato added some depth to the curry, which was extraordinarily light .  There was a fairly unanimous call that this was the dish of the night, although this was three against one on this (I thought good, but not the best).  As with the trend of the evening, the next dish arrived.  At one point we had all four dishes spread out over the table and we had a veritable smorgasbord of delectable bites on the go.

The next plate caused a little bit of a fracture in the group, up to that point there had been a consensus that everything was delicious and wonderfully cooked.  The Squid, Wakame and Chilli was artfully presented on half the plate and looked pretty as a picture.  Obviously a very Japanese inspired dish, there were various types and textures of seaweed on the plate, ranging from a paste, chips and the wakame itself.  It must be said that the squid was inconsistently cooked, with some pieces being soft and cooked really well, with others being overcooked and a bit chewy.  I had two pieces myself and had one of each, but even though it was a bit overcooked, it was still wonderfully flavoured with a little hint of chilli that provided some heat, that was cooled nicely with the aioli provided.  Minor faults apart, I very much enjoyed this dish.

Next up was one of the specials for the night, which we saw being delivered to another table when we were debating what to order, so this was an easy choice.  It was a Smoked Lamb Rack with Potatoes and a Jus that was presented to us a large jar that was cloudy with the smoke that had clearly been infused with the lamb.  There was some theatre with the presentation of this dish, when the waiter opened the jar, the smoke wafted out of the jar and left an amazing aroma of lamb at the table.  It was quite funny, while most of us were transfixed with the opening of the jar and the escaping smoke, TB was so focussed on the food already on her plate that she missed the excitement completely.  We all had a chuckle about that.  Theatre over, the serious task of trying this lovely looking dish took precedent.  As it was a rack of lamb, I took all the meat off the bone and we split what was left evenly.  The smoking process had left the lamb with an amazing smoky flavour that was perfect and not overpowering at all.  For such a simple dish this packed a punch and I am sure this dish will become a regular menu item for Public (hint hint).

Its at this point with share dining that you start to ask, are my eyes bigger than my belly!  Our last dish was the largest by far and was one of the two 'big plates' on offer.  We have had the Free Range Pork Belly, Asian Slaw & Nahm Jim every time we have been to Public and its a big favourite of ours.  It was also part of the serious debate at the beginning of the eventing as TB is not a huge fan of pork in general.  Each time I have had the pork belly I have been with one other individual, first time was SC and the second was CI and each time we have not been able to finish it off, it's so big.  I thought for sure that with four of us, we would be able to eat the whole belly, but I was wrong.  Firstly, let me say that pork belly doesn't get more perfectly cooked than this.  Then let me say that it's massive and there is no way two people could eat this on their own (although the waitress confirmed that this regularly happens).  The pork belly was beautiful and succulent, with the fat rendered to perfection and the skin crispy and so tasty.  Be warned, there is a lot of fat here and you do need the asian slaw and the nahm jim to help cut through the fat.  So in answer to my earlier question, yes, our eyes were bigger than our bellies (pardon the pun!) and we did not quite get through the entire belly, but it was lovely.

We were all pretty stuffed, but as the only one that had not been drinking on the night, I did have a little room left for dessert.  My suggestion was met with groans around the table, but I pressed on anyway and ordered the Vanilla Pannacotta with Sour Cherry.  I was completely thrown out when a jam jar was placed in front of me, which looked nothing like a traditional dessert.  This was brilliant really, with a huge piece of cherry flavoured toffee sticking out the top of the jar along with some sour cherry jelly and about twenty dehydrated cherry balls, all sitting on top of creamy vanilla pannacotta.  The flavour combination was genius, with the really sour cherries a marriage made in heaven with the sweet pannacotta.  The only minor issue I had with this was that the pannacotta had not set properly and was a bit runny, more like a custard, but I can understand this happening with the way it was presented.  While not super pretty, it was one of the more delicious desserts I have had for a while.

This was the third time I have been to Public and I think it's the best time yet.  In previous visits I have had some of the Public classics, such as the Kentucky Fried Duck (sadly now off the menu) and the Texas Brisket, Flour Tortillas with Chilli Sauce.  However, each of the previous times we had been, there were some lowlights as well as highlights and lack of consistency had me worried about the long term future of Public.  Not so tonight, the dishes were amazing and in my opinion there has been an huge improvement in the quality and consistency of the food being produced.  It doesn't hurt that all of the dishes also look fantastic, something that was missing in previous visits.

Public is not only going to thrive down the George Street end of the city, it's going to become one of Brisbane's best and no doubt become another Brisbane Institution.


The smoke escaping from the lamb dish smelled
incredible and tasted amazing

We arrived early but within 30 minutes of the photo the place was completely full
Love Public

Public on Urbanspoon


  1. Looks like a place I should visit. Adding to my wish list :)

  2. Nice, its definitely worth a visit :)

  3. I wasn't that enthralled with our visit here, but I do want to go back to give it another go, particularly now the menu has changed and they've gotten rid of the overhyped KFD.

  4. Its much better than the first two visits I had, some really tasty bites :)

  5. Love the entire inner set up of the restaurant with the perfect set of equipments and the serving tables. Stainless kitchen equipment

  6. Its a fabulous layout and a great place to hang out!!


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