Saturday, 9 March 2013

Bacchus - decadent and indulgent

Towards the end of 2012, Brisbane was a hive of activity with a number of new restaurants opening.  I always get excited about new restaurants, but one in particular caught my eye.  It was something completely different from anything seen in Brisbane so far and opened with much fanfare with Matt Preston presiding over the official launch party.  Bacchus is the new Restaurant over at the Rydges in Southbank and is a something of a departure from the usual Hotel / Restaurant combination.

The name Bacchus gives a hint into the mindset and approach that has been taken with this establishment.  Bacchus is the Greek God of wine and indulgence and you only have to walk through the entrance to see that this has been the inspiration for the design of the restaurant.  Crafted by native Los Angeles designer Tracy Beckman, there is clear linkages to the glamorous aspects of 'Tinsel Town'.  Located on the podium level of the Rydges, Bacchus seamlessly integrates the poolside and restaurant to create a harmonious dining & nightlife experience.

While the styling of the restaurant is west coast glam, the approach to the food is very much fine dining Mediterranean, with both the head chef Dominic Rose and chef de cuisine Americo Fernandes specialising in the increasingly popular style of cooking.  In fact chef Dominic Rose spent some time in the US where he worked with celebrity chef Pascal Lorange (of Fig & Olive fame) where they designed the menu and culinary approach for Bacchus.

The first thing that I noticed when walking into the restaurant was the mirror studded concierge desk at the front of the restaurant and the warm smile of the maitre'd who effusively welcomed us to the restaurant in his loverly French accent.  SC and I really felt welcomed when we walked in and were seated at our table, then introduced to all of the wait staff and updated as to their countries of origin, with our waitress for the evening being a native Canadian.  The maitre'd also provided our menus outlining the choice of a degustation or a la carte.   He also highlighted the importance the restaurant placed on olive oil, with each dish having it's own unique olive oil as part of the cooking process.

Once we had ordered we were given an amuse bouche of grissini sticks along with the house olive oil to snack on while we waited for the entrees to arrive.  We were given a glimpse into the evening with the reverence in which the grissini sticks were placed on the table and the artfully way they were presented.  The grissini sticks were light and crunchy and in combination with the peppery olive oil were a nice start to the meal.

There were quite a few options that looked appealing on the menu but I really liked the look of the Seared Scallop with asparagus and lemon curd.  The scallops were cooked two ways, with traditional sautéed scallops, along with a scallop paste that was fried off for a slightly different texture.  Two of the scallops were cooked perfectly with a lovely caramelisation, with one of them ever so slightly under cooked.  The flavours of the asparagus puree and the lemon curd were delicious and worked really nicely with the sweetness of the scallops.  There was great texture from the candied lemon slice, which also added a bit of artistry to the plate.  My only minor criticism of the dish was the balance of the two main sauces, I would love to have seen just a little bit more lemon curd.

SC's choice of Chilli Red Claw Ravioli, leek compote, bisque foam and tempura claw was inspired.  This was a beautifully looking dish and was extremely well balanced.  The tempura claw was perfect with a light tempura covering over a sweet delicate crayfish claw, offset wonderfully by the seafood bisque.  The ravioli was simply delicious, with a lovely thin pasta covering more of the subtly sweet meat.  There was also a red pepper puree which added another level of complexity to the dish but did no overpower the other subtle flavours on the plate.  While it was lovely, it was a very small serving and probably could have had a bit more ravioli on the plate.

Main for me was the Pan Roasted Duck Breast, beets, shallots, sour cherries, heirloom carrots with a peppered mascarpone.  I had very high expectations of this dish after a couple of lovely entrees and on the whole I was not disappointed.  The flavour profile of the dish was superb, with the beets, shallot and carrots being a perfect match for the pan fried duck breast.  They were expertly cooked with the beets having a particularly lovely texture and a slightly translucent look.  Duck and sour cherries are a tired and tested combination and as I hoped they worked in perfect harmony.  The plate was not without fault, the duck was overcooked with only the barest hint of pink in the bottom half and the peppered mascarpone ran the risk of completely overpowering the dish.  I was able to control the amount of the mascarpone used and at the end of the meal most of it was left untouched.

There is no doubt that SC picked the dish of the night with her selection of Milly Hill Lamb Noisette, slow cooked shoulder, crispy potato, pumpkin mash and lemon polenta chips.  Not only did it look and smell amazing, it tasted incredible.  The lamb was cooked two ways, with the lamb strap pan fried and cooked to a perfect pink and was so tender and delicious.  The lamb shoulder was slow cooked over a 25 hour period and had an intensity of flavour that was hard to believe.  I only tasted part of this dish but SC was almost in rapture eating the lamb shoulder, it was so good.  The plate was well balanced with pumpkin puree and the polenta chips and had some additional texture by the way of thin crispy potato.  It was just lovely.

After the mains were taken away the maitre'd brought over the cheese plate for us to inspect.  I knew once SC had seen the cheeses that there wold be no dessert option for her and it would be cheese finishing off her meal.  There were six different selections of cheese ranging from brie to blue but SC settled on the gruyere.  It was a very generous serving of the gruyere which was presented with a pear jelly paste along with a selection of bread sticks and crackers.  The cheese was very sharp and worked well with the pear jelly and candied walnuts that accompanied the plate.

I felt like a light dessert and of the options on the menu the Raspberry & Tarragon Meringue with light cream, granita and lychee sorbet was the one that caught my eye.  The dessert was presented very simply in a large glass with layers of meringue and cream, then covered in granita and finished off with a lychee sorbet.  It was not quite what I expected based on the look of the entrees and mains, I think I was hoping for a deconstructed and artfully applied plate.  While it looked a little plain the flavours were amazing and it tasted great.  The lychee sorbet was a standout for me, it was so fresh and refreshing.  It was a fabulous way to finish off the meal.

Bacchus certainly tries to live up to its Greek God namesake, there is a real feeling of decadence from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave.  I found the service to be impeccable, perhaps bordering on the best I have experienced in Brisbane.  The wait staff seemed genuinely interested in making our evening special and it's fair to say it was memorable.  There were lots of little touches that really enhanced the experience, such as the meals coming out on trays held by one waitress and then being presented and explained by another.  I also really liked the cigar box that the bill was delivered in, just little things that set Bacchus aside from other fine dining restaurants.

While SC and I went to Bacchus on a wet and windy evening and the restaurant shut off from the pool area, you get a sense that there would be an amazing vibe with a DJ spinning a set out by the pool area while you enjoy a fine meal.  As it was, there was some kitch 70's music playing (Burt Bacharach et al) while we were there that worked perfectly with the lush and retro interior of the dining area.

My only slight quibble is with the pricing of the meals, in my mind they are about 15% over priced for the Brisbane market.  I guess as long as the service is as spectacular as it was for SC and I on the night, I can forgive them for this.  Bacchus will very quickly become a Brisbane institution and I am positive that a Chefs Hat or two will be hanging on the walls before too long.


The scallops came two ways and the candied lemon was amazing
Such a lush interior but unfortunately the pool area was not open on this wet night
Like shiny disco balls - there were lots of little quirky touches to the restaurant
The bill came out in a bacchus cigar box - really cool
The kitchen area with lots of shiny surfaces all over the place 

Bacchus on Urbanspoon Bacchus Bar Restaurant Pool

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