Saturday, 18 May 2013

Anise - Intimate perfection

In a suburb flush with great dining and restaurants sits a gem that defies the usual concept of a fine dining restaurant.  Anise has been an institution in New Farm for what seems like generations, but is probably more like a decade or so.  This little bistro has taken a different approach to dining and is all about intimacy.  Anise seats more like a traditional bar than a diner, with practically every seat at the wrap around bar that dominates the space.

Anise has been on my list of restaurants to visit for as long as I can remember and its reputation as a beautiful little french bistro only added to its allure.  A reputation that not only led to a loyal and regular following, but led to recognition by way of a Chefs Hat from the Australian Good Food Guide.

Recently however, the Anise that most people knew and loved received a makeover by new owners Dan Finn and Thames Delaforce.  Dan and Thames, who many know from their time at 1889 Enoteca, completed the fit-out themselves and while doing so uncovered some wonderful history of the building by way of a massive Shell petrol station sign, which now dominates the interior.

The changes didn't end with a new fit out either, with the styling of the restaurant moving away from its traditional Gallic to a more open European menu, which surely is the influence of newly elevated Head Chef David Grant.  While David was the sous Chef prior to the changes, his time at 1889 Enoteca and Era Bistro have allowed him to stamp his style all over the menu.  The menu also does away with concepts as antiquated as entree, main and dessert and just lists out the food is available and lets you decide on what to eat and when.  The menu also defies normal convention by listing out the short but incredibly diverse wine offering.

When SC and I first arrived at Anise, we were taken aback by how cozy the restaurant really is!  Sure, I had heard that it was intimate, but the space is barely wide enough for the bar and the seats that surround!  As usual, we were quite early and had our pick of seats and chose to sit as close to the kitchen as possible, so I could watch the chefs in action.  We were greeted warmly and given a quick rundown on the menu, which also included a degustation option with matching wines.  While there were some lovely looking options on the degustation, we decided that we would order a la carte.

With so many interesting items on the menu, it's always hard to make a choice but SC started off with one of her favourites, the beef tartare with tuna mayonnaise and a quail yolk.  The tartare was presented quite traditionally, with one notable exception, the colouring.  Normally when you get a tatare its quite a deep red colour reflecting the protein selected, but this one was more on the pink side.  While the colour was unexpected, the perfectly cooked yolk that oozed over the tartare when cracked open matched our expectations.  The flavour of the tartare was wonderful, with the combination of the mayonaise and yolk enhancing the subtle beef flavour.

While I was intrigued by the pig ears, caper and honey aioli, I decided to go for something a little more familiar on my first visit to Anise and stuck with the scallops with red cabbage coleslaw and sauce vierge.  I am really glad I did, the dish was spectacular!  The scallops were expertly cooked with a beautiful caramelisation and sat under the very tasty sauce vierge.  While the scallops and sauve vierge were nice, the whole plate came together because of the amazing flavour of the red cabbage coleslaw.  This was truly a dish where the the individual components were nice, but together were simply stunning.  The dish not only tasted great, but I loved the presentation, which was rustic yet stylish at the same time.  This was a winner for me.

SC's next course of risotto bianco with pesto and almond was quite intriguing to me, it looked and smelled like a risotto but when I tried a little sample it tasted like pizza!  You could really see head chef David Grant in this dish with the risotto itself cooked perfectly, with that consistency would would expect from a chef that worked in one of Brisbanes best Italian restaurants.   The risotto had wonderful depth of flavour and great texture with the addition of the toasted almond sprinkled over the dish.  SC loved the dish and finished it off in quick time, unfortunately for me as I was really hoping she would leave me more to finish off!

Dish of the night for me was my selection of roast lamb rump with potato galette and a rosemary jus.  I have never been a big fan of roast lamb, there is something about the roasting process that altered the flavour of the meat too much for my palate.  After trying this dish, I have to consider the fact that I have either just never had a good roast lamb (unlikely) or that this roast lamb was just done so well that it was game changing (likely).  It was a perfect pink and so tender yet had a crisp and caramelised outer that gave the lamb a beautiful texture in the mouth.  The rosemary jus was sticky and sweet and had just the right consistency to coat the lamb but not stick to the palate and had just the perfect hint of rosemary, not too over powering.  The lamb dish was so great, it was conversation starter (more on that later).

We both decided on something sweet to finish the meal and SC went for the custard french toast with cherries, banana and mascarpone.  Unfortunately SC was so into this dessert that she just about finished off the whole dessert by the time I had finished taking photos of my dessert!  As a consequence I didn't get to taste any, buy listening to SC rave about the texture and flavour of the toasted brioche and how it mixed with the caramelised banana and cream, I thought I might have had food envy!

That was until I had my first mouthful of the apple tarte tartin!  The tarte tatin was individually cooked and took around twenty minutes to prepare, but we were happy for the wait as we had struck up a conversation with some other diners next to us (more on that soon).  The tarte tartin was perfect, there is no other way to describe it.  The caramel had just the right amount of burnt flavour and balanced out the sweetness from the apple incredibly well.  The pasty was crisp and sweet and held together really well but still could be cut with a spoon without destroying the dessert.  There was a touch of apple liqueur in the bowl of calvados diplomat (cream!) that unbelievably added more depth of flavour to the dessert.  I love a good tarte tartin and this was easily in the top echelon desserts I have had over the years!

Anise is such a small an intimate space that it's hard not to watch and overhear others when you are eating and the diner next to me had also had the roast beef and apple tarte tartin.  It gave SC and I the opportunity to ask about the dishes as we were following by about ten minutes a course.  As usually happens when you open up to strangers, we had a wonderful converstation about food and the Brisbane food scene.  As it turned out, Craig was in the food industry and was dining with head chef Dave Grant who was having a well deserved night off from the kitchen.  We ended up having a very good talk about his background and food philosophy and inspiration and about what was transpiring at some of our favourite restaurants around Brisbane!

Because of its intimacy, we were also able to have many engaging conversations with co-owner Dan Finn, who was behind the bar working and engaging with the customers on the night.  We found the service to be impecable and engaging and really had a fantastic time interacting with the whole team.  What I also loved was the ambience of Anise which was substantially enhanced by funky music being played on a turntable with vinyl (I guess this is the hipster coming out in me).

When Dan and Thames took over Anise and made such significant changes to a Restaurant that was so dear to many in New Farm, they took a huge risk.  While I had never been to the old iteration of Anise, I find it difficult to believe that it could possibly have matched the current experience.  SC and I both found the food to be spectacular and the intimate nature of the restaurant to be really engaging.  Sure, they took a risk making the changes, but for me, they are onto a winner!


Such a cozy restaurant, barely wide enough to be a garage.  You can see the Shell sign that was such a part of this locations history!
So refreshing to see the turntable and box of vinyl that had many cool tunes
Its a tiny kitchen but the chefs are hard at work
SC had her favourite drink , the tempranillo which seems to be everywhere at the moment
Dan was extremely knowledgeable about the wines and so willing to spend the time talking about options
Funky music really hit the right notes for us
Anise on UrbanspoonAnise


  1. Looks fantastic, the wine bar is nice also

  2. Thanks, it really impressed me and we had a fantastic time :)


Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...