Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Depo - where design and food collide

I knew I was in for something special when I approached new restaurant Depo just as dusk was falling.  It had been a bit of a journey for me, I had decided it was a nice enough evening to walk from the CBD over to West End.  I figured a 30 minute walk would be a fantastic way to begin an evening with about a dozen other Food Bloggers, Lifestyle Bloggers and Food Journalists to check out West End's latest offering, Depo.

I wasn't too sure what to expect when I wandered up Horan Street, which is just a little bit 'off the beaten path' at West End, but I was amazed as I walked to the entrance of the restaurant.  I use the term restaurant loosely here as Deop is so much more.  Horan Street is pretty much just a normal suburban street, all-be-it a pretty nice street near the CBD, but Depo is both out of place and perfectly aligned with the street.

I was one of the first to arrive so had the opportunity to marvel at the layout and interior of Depo, which has been put together by design maestro Alexander Lotersztain, who was also responsible for designing the iconic Limes Hotel and super gastro pub Alfred & Constance.  It's instantly a comforting space, with a semi industrial feel but with a layer of plushness that makes you feel welcome, especially if you seat yourself in one of the many comfy looking couches that are a feature.

It's also a deceptively large space, and Alex has done an amazing job integrating the lounge area with the dining area, which all flows through from inside to out.  Our table for the evening was a massive wooden affair that could easily seat twenty people, but was set out for about 15 for our adventure.  Depo is instantly recognisable as a lounge, or a bar, or a restaurant, depending on where you are standing at the time, and if you stand in just the right spot, it all comes together as one perfect domain.

Alex is not only the designer of the space but co-owner with Dutch chef Erik van Genderen, who at one time had his own restaurant in the red light district in Amsterdam.  After deciding that it was time to move on Erik eventually found his way to Brisbane where he opened up a bike shop, of all things, where he bumped into kindred spirit Alex and the rest, as they say is history.

Depo has taken a very 21st century approach to its menu, which will change daily depending on the local produce that the team are able to secure that day.  What I loved about the menu approach is that each menu has a Q-scan code in the corner and when you use your smartphone to scan, brings up details about the menu and the restaurant.  This is really starting to immerse the diner and the kitchen into our new modern world and I love it, and it's not surprising from such a creative team.

Being a daily changing menu, there are fairly limited options available, but with such diverse options it never becomes a problem.  There is also bar food available, which ranges from charcuterie, cheese platters and oysters and is sure to please those that want to snack when drinking.  While there was an option to sample a little from the entire menu, I chose a more traditional route and ordered an entree main and dessert, but also managed a little taste from the entire menu.

There was only one choice when it came to entree for me, and I opted for the tomato, cauliflower and goats curd risotto.  The risotto actually came in an entree size and main, which extended the range of the menu somewhat.  Risottos can be hit and miss and this was definitely in the hit category, with expertly cooked rice that was perfectly all'onda.  The tomato flavour was quite intense and was bordering on being too acidic, but the soft and gooey goats curd helped balance out the flavour - in fact I would say the risotto was perfectly balanced.  Risotto can be quite boring looking but there was a wonderful symmetry with the goats curd that created a square in the circular bowl.

I was completely torn for the main choices as both looked amazing, and it was not until the final moment that I decided on the sea bass instead of the duck.  The sea bass came accompanied with lentils and pancetta with a red wine dressing.  This was simplicity on a plate, with a perfectly cooked piece of sea bass with incredibly salty and crispy skin sitting atop a pile of lentils.  There is nowhere to hide with a dish this simple, one element wrong and it's ruined.  The sea bass was wonderful, with the flesh a brilliant white that was firm yet flaky at the same time.  The best part of the fish was that incredibly salty and crispy skin, which gave both texture and balance of flavour.  I was a bit nonplussed by the lentils on the plate, as I have never really been a fan.  However, as much as I loved the fish, I had food envy for the duck, I think I missed a classic by not ordering that one!

Again, keeping with the simplicity of the menu, there were two options available for dessert and both were placed along the table for everyone to share.  I was really impressed with our waitress for the night who had noticed that I wasn't drinking and kindly advised me that that baba au rhum with honey and pineapple was soaked in rum.  As a non drinker, I really appreciated the small touch.  Others around the table seemed to love the boozy dessert, but I could tell that a few of the younger bloggers thought it was a bit too boozy!

The dessert that most captured my attention was the panna cotta with tutti frutti and port syrup.  I was conflicted about this dessert.  I really liked the vanilla panna cotta, which was set with that wonderful wobble that you like to see, but it was drizzled in the port syrup, which was a bit intense for my palate.  I also didn't really care for the tutti frutti, which when combined with the rum reminded me too much of Christmas fruit cake, which I really don't like.  The idea would have been to balance out the sweetness of the panna cotta with the rum, but I didn't think the panna cotta was overly sweet, so it was a little out of balance.

I really love nights where there is the opportunity to check out a new restaurant with a bunch of other Foodies, some I know quite well and others I know only on the social networks.  It becomes a great opportunity to share something new and get another view through shared experiences.  Looking around during the meal and listening to the chatter, it was clear that everyone was enjoying both the meal and the ambiance.

The thing I loved most about Depo was the complete synergy that was derived from a perfectly designed space that rolled onto the food coming out of the kitchen.  Depo has a completely relaxed feel to it that invites you to linger and enjoy your time in the space.  This same relaxed feel comes through in the menu and the food, which signifies harmony between kitchen and dining area.  From this synergy it's easy to deduce that the partnership between Eric and Alex will bear fruit.

Depo is my kind of spot, it had super relaxed and comfortable feel to it and is quirky and interesting at the same time.  You could easily sit and while away an afternoon here or spend time inspecting the interesting artifacts placed all around.  It easily caters to intimate gatherings or large groups like ours and even though it got really busy, the noise didn't intrude on our evening (perhaps we were the loudest group though!).  While I didn't love everything on the menu, that was more due to personal taste and everything was perfectly cooked.  If you love checking out new dining spots around town, this should definitely be on your 'must do' list.


**I was a guest of Lucid Media and Depo for this event

We started off with an amuse bouche of tomato and cucumber gazpacho.  An interesting juxtaposition between the red colour and the strong cucumber flavour, it was a little spicy too, just like gazpacho should be
The cheese plate consisted of comte gruyere, fourme d'ambert, pont l'eveque, brillat savarin and fromage fort, all served with rye bread, crackers and fig paste
We had lonza, bresoaia, NDuja, cacciatorini, green olives, cashew nuts and grissini as part of the chartreuse
One of the entrees was cured salmon with cucumber salad and crispy oysters.  The salmon was incredibly fresh and the oysters fresh and crispy.  I personally prefer my oysters fresh, but they were still nice
I also loved the poultry mousse with mesclun and pain de champaign but really loved tipping the gherkins in the mousse
The French onion soup was not quite what I was expecting.  Normally it's thick and viscous but this was watery and more like a broth.  It had nice flavours but wasn't a real French onion for me
The clear dish of the night and one that I only sampled a little was the confit duck leg with pan fried duck breast with apple, red cabbage and a boudin noir.  Amazing combination of flavours and perfectly confit leg.  I think the breast was slightly under and a little too pink.  I would prefer this to over cooked duck though
The boys hard at work in the kitchen, which is surprisingly small.
This massive buffalo head was staring at me the entire meal!
'Welcome to Depo' said the antelope :)
Are we in the 1930?  A little bit of classic film posters added to the mix.
Quack said the ducks guarding the lounge area
This little fellow was everywhere on the night
Depo is also a bar with quite a few options available
Everyone loves sitting on a chesterfield, the most comfortable couch in the world.

Depo on Urbanspoon depo

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