Sunday, 28 April 2013

Crosstown Eating House - A classic at the Gabba

That little section of Logan road over at Woolloongabba keeps going from strength to strength, with new cafes, bars and restaurants cramming into about a hundred metres of real estate.  One of the mainstay restaurants over at the Gabba is The Crosstown Eating House, which is situated in a classic 1920s art deco building.  The building that houses Crosstown is fairly nondescript from the outside and by day is fairly hard to find, unless you know exactly where you are going.  At night, it's completely different with a bright blue neon sign advertising its presence for all the world to see.

The Crosstown Eating House (CtEH) is a very popular spot for breakfast and Sunday brunch, but we decided to come along and try out the dinner menu with some good mates, with the plan of heading across the road for a few cocktails afterwards.  SC and I arranged to meet CI and TB at the venu and as usual we were early and went in first to secure the best seats.  Entering CtEH is like entering a boisterous old pub of old, with lots people enjoying a drink at the bar and a mix of tables throughout the restaurant.  Being a 1920's style building, there is no big open spaces, but lots of pokey rooms throughout, including upstairs.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Fat Noodle - another Sydney Restaurant in Brisbane

Like a marauding army on the lookout for new land and territories, Brisbane has been invaded by southern restaurants and restauranteurs establishing extensions of their successful southern restaurants.  It says a lot about the maturity of the Brisbane food market but what it spells out most is 'opportunity' and these southern invaders know opportunity when they see it.  There have been many examples of our souther counterparts opening in Brisbane, almost too many to mention.  One of the most recent invaders is not only a successful restauranteur but also a celebrity chef to boot.  Luke Nguyen of Red Lantern fame and also well known for his cooking shows on SBS has opened up Fat Noodle at the Treasury Casino.

While you may think that the Treasury Casino is a strange spot for a celebrity chef to open up a restaurant, it's not the first time Luke Nguyen has taken this path.  Indeed there is a Fat Noodle in Sydney's The Star precinct which coincidentally is also a Casino, so there seems to be a little bit of a trend here.  There is no doubt that the Treasury building is a fabulous building and the restaurant that Fat Noodle replaced was looking a bit tired, so what better way to refresh the building than with a 'fresh' new restaurant.

Moda - Spanish excellence in Edward Street

Tucked away at the end of Edward Street in the 'Paris' end of Brisbane is one of Brisbane's most enigmatic restaurants, Moda.  There are so many elements of Moda that are just done differently to most other Restaurants in town.  To start off, almost the entire dining area is part of a courtyard that, while not open to the elements, gives off the feeling of being purely an outside dining experience.  When in Moda, you get the feeling that you are dining in the countryside somewhere, with a large hedgerow enclosing the restaurant.  This is perfect given Moda's proximity to the botanical gardens.

Another element that adds to Moda's mystery is how it became Moda.  Head Chef Javier Codina had one of the most successful and long standing business partnerships with Gianni Greghini in what was at the time one of Brisbane's most celebrated restaurants Gianni's.  Then at the hight of Gianni's popularity they decided to part ways and do their own thing.  In what turned out to be a blessing in disguise, this allowed the creation of Moda and unleashed the Catalonian within to unveil one of Brisbane's best Spanish restaurants, Moda.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Casual Dining - Alimentari on Adelaide

I am always on the search for a great lunch spot in the CBD.  There are many food courts in the CBD, but that's not the type of lunch spot I'm talking about.  There are quite a few cafes too, if you know where to look, but they're not what I am referring to either.  What I really look out for is a good mid priced restaurant that is both casual and accessible, with good food and a good atmosphere.  These are a little harder to find in hubbub of the CBD.  I can think of only a handful or two that fit into this category.

Thankfully, there is a place just around the corner from my work that meets my criteria for a relatively inexpensive restaurant with good food and a great atmosphere.  Alimentari on Adelaide has been around since May 2011 and opened to much fanfare which included the then State Treasurer Andrew Fraser and a couple of hundred Brisbanes corporate glitterati.  Alimentari looked a little different back then with a large part of the restaurant dedicated to a bit of a CBD deli, which was quite exciting for a CBD resident like me!

Unfortunately the deli part of Alimentari didn't last too long and soon gave way to extra seats, the restaurant was just getting too popular with the breakfast and lunch time crowd in the CBD.  I must say that I walk past Alimentari every single morning on the way to work and have most of my informal work meetings there, so I am very well acquainted with the venue as a casual coffee and breakfast spot, but I was keen to try it out as a lunch spot, so I bit the bullet and arranged a lunch catch up with a work buddy MJ.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Alfred & Constance - Late Night Dessert Cafe

In a very short period of time Alfred & Constance has become a place to see and be seen.  It's no surprise really, a lot of planning went into A&C by owner Damien Griffith and he has done so to perfection.  One of the best things about A&C is that it is many things to many people;  It has The Vanguard, which is a beer garden and restaurant (which I checked out on opening night, you can see the post here); White Lightening Tiki Bar, the obligorary cocktail bar; Alfred's Cafe for those who want a simple bite at lunchtime and finally the Late-night Dessert Cafe which is self explanatory!

It was the Late-night Desert Cafe that had me out on a weeknight to check out the latest offerings and sample some of the lovely desserts.  It was an interesting mix of people I would be hanging with on the night, included a fashion photographer, a well known local book retailer and business owner, a stylist from a well known magazine, a hair dresser and a public relations specialist!

I was the first to arrive at A&C which gave me the opportunity to wander around and take some photos of Alfred's Cafe, which doubles as the Dessert Cafe after hours.  There was a really comfortable feel with dimmed lighting and heaps of comfy looking chairs and couches spread out over the floor.   I also noticed a mishmash of retro chick items placed around the walls with one of the walls essentially being a stack of old stereo speakers....

Casual Dining - The Three Monkeys

There is a lot to love about Brisbane at the moment, sure there is a burgeoning food scene, but there is also a genuine desire of the Brisbane City Council to make Brisbane a more attractive place for visitors and residents alike.  Things like the Ideas Fiesta and the laneway projects around the city streets and laneways are a great initiative.  One of the things I love most about Brisbane is the Gallery of Modern Art, or GoMA, and a really cool exhibit at GoMA at the moment is the Monsters Exhibition.

SC and I have had our eye on the Monsters Exhibition for quite some time and in particular the screening of the original horror film, Nosferatu.  Nosferatu is one of the earliest examples of silent horror films and was made in 1922.  What particularly excited SC and I was the fact that on the morning we had booked to see Nosferatu, the film was accompanied by a live band.  Awesome!

Once the movie finished we decided that since we were in South Brisbane we would go over and check out The Three Monkeys for lunch.  Incredibly, in all my years living and eating in the CBD and its surrounds, I had never been to The Three Monkeys.  Contrasting my lack of visits, SC has eaten there a million times (maybe a slight exaggeration) as it's one of the closest places to eat from her work.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Casual Dining - Kettle and Tin

It's Saturday morning and your plans for the weekend have been thrown into disarray due to a late change with your mate, what do you do?

Our regular dinner and movie night needed to move from Sunday so CI could attend Supernova on the Gold Coast.  There are a heap of great places around Brisbane where you can get a booking at the last moment and some that are a little more difficult.  I decided to try my luck to get into Kettle and Tin for a 7pm sitting, what I didn't know was that there was a Reds game on at Suncorp Stadium on the very night we wanted to go to Paddington!  Unbelievably I was able to get a table for three within a few hours notice, score!

I've been wanting to check out Kettle and Tin for ages and have tried to arrange things on more than one occasion to get there, but have always been foiled a the last second.  Kettle and Tin is fairly new in Paddington and is in a beautiful old Queenslander that used to be Pandemonium.  It was established by the crew that run the The Ponycat Cafe in Newfarm and adds to the list of great and affordable cafes and restaurants in Paddington.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Breakfast Series - Shucked Coffee House

It seems like after every heavy rain a new cafe or breakfast spot is opening up around Brisbane and given the amount of rain we have had over the last two years, that's a lot of cafes!  You have to be really careful if you are keeping track of these things otherwise it's easy for a couple of great new spots to open up and you miss them!  What's more interesting is some of the crazy locations that these cafes are opening up in, taking any nook or cranny around town.  Shucked Coffee House is just such a place, it has opened up a little bit out of the way and is squeezed into a semi industrial area in Newstead.

Once we became aware of Shucked, we started to notice the buzz surrounding it and decided that we would venture out to Newstead and see what all the fuss was about.  I had a rough idea where Shucked was but the human GPS unit that is SC directed us there within minutes.  We had heard that Shucked can get super busy and as we hate waiting in queues for breakfast, we made sure that we got there right on opening time at 7:30am.  We actually had a minute or so to spare, so had a look down the laneway next to Shucked to take in the street art that makes up part of the cafe.  It was pretty cool.

Cheap Eats - Burger Urge Fortitude Valley

Brisbane is fast becoming an amazing food destination, not only in the fine dining arena, but also for casual dining and cheap eats.  There are so many new and exciting places to check out it's sometimes easy to forget about the food joints that have been around for a while.  The places that you really enjoyed going to but for some reason just faded into the background, I'm sure you're thinking about just such a restaurant or cafe that fits into this category right now!  Burger Urge in the Valley is one of those joints for me, a place where I used to go so regularly we were part of the furniture.

One of the great things about being a food blogger is that it's just such places that you want to go back to.....  To check out if it still holds a place in your heart or if you've moved on for a reason.  I had been invited back by co-owners Sean and Colby Carthew to check our their new menu, so SC and I 'saddled up' during the week and went in for a return visit.

The Valley Burger Urge was the first and original burger joint of what has now become a successful chain of Burger Urges'.  The Carthew boys have expanded their original concept and there are now five Burger Urges' dotted around town, the other locations being West End, UQ St Lucia, Kelvin Grove and the newest addition at QUT Gardens Point.  This is no mean feat in a market that is dominated by Melbourne burger franchise Grill'd.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Cheap Eats - PJ's Steaks

There has been a real move towards casual American dining lately in Brisbane most notably around Hot Dogs and Ribs.  You can always count on American cuisine to be simple yet really tasty and more often than not, a little unhealthy!  Recently West End saw the opening of an American style food that is a little different but none the less simple and delicious.  PJ's Steak specialises in the traditional Philadelphia cheese steak and they are sensational!

The concept of a Philly cheese steak is quite simple, close shaved ribeye fillet cooked up on a grill with different ingredients, including generous helpings of cheese, then into a fresh bread roll and served.  It's kind of like an Aussie steak sandwich but without the salad.  The subs come in different flavours and styles, including mushroom cheese steak and pepper cheese steak, as well as my favourite the original cheese steak.  You also have the option of different cheeses, but unfortunately PJ's no longer has the American Cheese that SC and I love.

We first stumbled across PJ's shortly after it opened last year and have been going on and off ever since.  SC works in South Brisbane and often walks off to PJ's for a quick bite to eat for lunch, it's that type of place.  Often packed and over flowing with customers, PJ's is quickly becoming a go to restaurant in West End.  We have had a hankering for a cheesesteak for the last couple of weeks but for various reasons kept forgetting, so this week we added a diary entry into our iPhones with lots of alerts!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Casual Dining - Pane e Vino

There are a handful of restaurants around town that feel like second homes to me.  It's probably no secret that I don't eat too much at home and as such some of the restaurants around town have provided me with a de facto kitchen and dining room.  There are also restaurants around Brisbane that have that one dish that you keep going back for, sometimes it's Pizza, sometimes it's a great burger and more often than not it's dumplings!  For a long time, there was only one place that I would go to for Sunday risotto and that place was Pane e Vino.

There was an old TV program on a few years ago, with the catchy theme song 'wouldn't you like to get away?  Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name', you know the one, Cheers.  Well, thats what it felt like for SC and I on Sunday evenings, greeted by the same wait staff, getting pretty much the same meal, week in and week out!  I really loved the comfort of being welcomed and having my Sunday risotto.  I'm not exactly sure when or why, but we stopped going to Pane e Vino on Sundays and started doing other things.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Casual Dining - Sage on Ann Street

It seems like every new building that opens up in Brisbane nowadays has a cafe established in the foyer, which I think has significantly added to the cafe culture in Brisbane.  This is a good thing but it has led to a glut of cafes that do great coffee and a decent meal, it's sometimes hard to know what you are going to get.  You know the story, you have an hour for lunch and don't have too much time to waste on waiting around for a meal to be delivered, only to have to rush through eating.  You also want to have something to eat that is creative, tasty but most of all, cheap!  There are not too many cafes in the CBD that meet all of these criteria.

One of the cafes that I stumbled upon a few years ago pretty much ticks all the boxes of an tasty and creative lunch, but does not hurt the hip pocket.  That cafe is Sage on Ann Street.  Like a lot of the CBD cafes, Sage is at the bottom of a relatively new commercial building and as a consequence is a funky looking place with great instillation art incorporated into the cafe.  There is the obligatory alfresco dining outside with a heap of tables arranged next to a long bench down the length of the cafe.  It's not a big space, but it fits quite a few people and can be a bit squishy during peak hour.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Spring Food & Wine - fresh and delicious

There are often locations where restaurants struggle to find a home.  The corner of Felix Street and Mary Street in the CBD is just such a spot.  It's a great little location right down in the thick of things between Urbane and the hub that is the Eagle Street precinct and is at the base of the Felix Apartments. The only problem is that restaurants that have used this location have not lasted too long.  My first memory of a restaurant at this location was Vroom, then came Mediterranean restaurant Barolo and then more recently Spring.

Indeed it even took Spring a little while to find its feet in this Felix Street location, with the original concept being a 'compact emporium' with a market table, bistro, cooking school and ever changing store.  Some of these initial concepts are no longer present but Spring has retained a lovely little bistro as well as the cooking school.  Then there was the much publicised move of 2012 young chef of the year Kym Machin's move from Urbane to Spring, which perhaps not surprisingly didn't last too long.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Breakfast Series - Leaf Espresso Bar

For me, Sunday mornings are usually about healthy eating and then visiting the gym for a workout....... perfect!  This Sunday morning was a little different, with me just coming off a cold and SC just starting one, so the gym was out.  Instead we decided that a nice relaxing breakfast would be the order of the day and there was no better morning to check out a new espresso cafe.

I had been informed about a new cafe that had opened up in my old stomping grounds, Tarragindi, and it had been generating a little bit of a buzz in the area.   SC and I lived in Tarragindi for a few years before we moved out of the 'burbs and into the city, so were really curious to see what was happening in our old post code.

Leaf espresso bar has been open for about six months now and is a collaboration between Tarragindi residents Malcolm and Danielle Watts and Australian Rugby Union Wallaby Scott Higginbotham.  I managed to meet Malcolm and have a bit of a chat to him about Leaf and the philosophy behind it.

Cinco Bistro - Rise of the Sub-Urbane Bistro

Over the last few years there has been a rise in the number of successful suburban bistros around Brisbane, in fact there seems to be a new suburban bistro opening every week.  There have been a few pioneering and creative chefs and restauranteurs that have paved the way for many of these bistros but one chef and one bistro in particular stands out.

Peter Stubbs created Cinco Bistro almost a decade ago and many people wondered at the audacity of opening a 'big city' bistro in suburban Brisbane.  When Peter set up Cinco, Camp Hill was not the cool inner city suburb it is today and he took a huge risk, but is seems as if Peter is not averse to taking risks.  Originally working with renowned Brisbane Chef Phillip Johnson (of E'cco fame), Peter took a huge chance to move from Brisbane to London.  After working with some of London's great chefs, Peter then took another huge risk by becoming a private chef to the 'rich and famous', including rock stars such as Mick Jagger and David Bowie and billionaires including Roman Abramovich.  Peter's final risky move was leaving behind that glamorous world to open up his own restaurant in suburbane Brisbane, Cinco.


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