Saturday, 24 August 2013

E'cco - 18th Birthday Celebrations

Philip Johnson's E'cco is one of Brisbane's most enduring and iconic restaurants.  A special occasion restaurant that made you want to make any occasion special, just so you'd have an excuse to go for your next visit.  More than a special occasion restaurant for the many regulars that love E'cco's approach to dining, relaxed and with amazing combinations of flavours.

I was excited and honoured to be invited along as a guest of Lucid Media and Philip Johnson to be part of the E'cco 18th Birthday celebrations.  I was joined by ABC news lead Karina Carvalho and her plus 1 and Jessalyn from Lucid Media to share in the celebration and work through some of the classic E'cco dishes of the last 18 years.

Well before I started blogging about food, E'cco was one of my favourite restaurants and I have had some exquisite meals over the journey.  Since blogging, I have been back often and I have written much about the restaurant (see posts here and here), so I was looking forward to sitting back and checking out the menu filled with Philip's favourite dishes.  I had only just landed from my New York visit, so I was a little jet-lagged for the visit and also had fresh memories of some amazing meals from Manhattan.

With so many classic E'cco items on the menu, it was hard to decide on what to order and after much anguish I finally decided to stick with my all time favourite foods.  For entree that meant I had to stick to scallops and the salad of scallops, avocado salsa and a hot gazpacho seemed the only logical way to go.  The simple yet elegantly presented scallops sat atop the salsa and was surrounded by a moat of brightly contrasting gazpacho.  There was a real heat to the gazpacho, which was cooled down by the salsa and balanced well with the lightly cooked scallops.  A perfect way to start a meal, light and ever so tasty.

I was super happy to see one of my all time favourites on the menu and had absolutely no hesitation in selecting the seared salmon, risotto of spinach, peas and crisp prosciutto.  When E'cco gets a risotto right, it's a beautiful thing and they absolutely nailed and this one, it was perfect.  The right balance of spinach and peas sat amongst expertly cooked rice that had that lovely creamy flavour that comes from a great risotto.  The dish was set alight by a fillet of crispy skinned salmon and even crispier prosciutto that blended amazingly with the risotto, but was delightful in its own right.

Amazingly, I had never had any of the desserts on the 18th Birthday menu before, so it was an open selection for me and I decided to go for something that was not super sweet.  The citrus tart with mascarpone fit the bill nicely and I was intrigued by the very simple presentation of the tart on the plate. It was bold statement, 'I am tart, hear me roar' was all I could think when I saw the simple presentation. There was a very light brulee effect on the top of the tart, which provided the thinnest crust on a dessert I have ever come across, it was in fact a masterful piece of work by the patisserie chef.  Looking great and simple on a plate is one thing, but the sharp flavours of the citrus tart were perfect.  The pastry was thin, short and crumbly and in combination with the sharp tart and sweet mascarpone was a delight.

Usually when out on a night like this where other food bloggers are involved there is not only photos taken of all the food, there are forks flying all over the place to get some samples and tastes of the other plates.  On this occasion though, having dinner with Karina and her  guest, I was on my absolute best behaviour so I didn't spear my fork on their plates.  So I'll just have to describe their choices based on look and quizzing them about the flavours!

The potato gnocchi with gorgonzola, spinach and pine nuts was a very popular dish at the table and was both an entree and main around the table.  Gnocchi is special at E'cco and this one was no exception.  It looked really pleasing to the eye and smelt great.  The silence at the table said it all when the gnocchi was being devoured, with the only noise being sighs of appreciation.  Comments ranged from 'amazing' to the 'best gnocchi ever', so it definitely made an impression.

Also popular was the field mushrooms with olive toast, rocket parmesan, truffle oil and lemon.  Truffle oil has a unique and amazing smell that immediately gets the saliva flowing when you catch a whiff. The presentation was simple as were the flavour combinations, but once again there was nothing but praise from those around the table that ordered this starter.

Each night of the 18th birthday celebrations there was a different soup and Jessalyn decided that the celeriac soup would be a nice light start to the meal.  I have had many a soup starter from E'cco and they are always rich and full of flavour and Jessalyn seemed to love this one, so I can only assume she thought as much.  If Jessalyn was sitting next to me, I would have certainly sneaked a taste of this one, so I feel like I missed out a bit :)

The only different main that hit the table on the night was Karina's slow-cooked duck, red cabbage, bacon and hazelnuts.  The duck was confit with the meat simply falling off the bone at the slightest touch.  The aroma from the duck was also mouth watering.  Karina certainly seemed to be enjoying devouring this, in a very delicate way it must be said, and confirmed as much once it was finished. 

It was a wonderful night with great company and it was certainly interesting to meet Karina, someone whom I see on TV regularly.  At one point Philip made his way from the kitchen to say hello and talk lovingly about his journey over the last (almost) twenty years of his life.

E'cco has been an amazing and durable restaurant that maintained a quality that is rare and hard to find, and even harder to put your finger on exactly what it is.  There have been many support acts to Philip over the years, with a number of Brisbane's best chefs spending time in the E'cco kitchen, but the one constant is the creative talent of Philip Johnson.

I don't know if there are too many restaurants that remain relevant after 18 years of existence, those that do are a rare breed, but if I was a betting man, I would put my money on seeing E'cco celebrating its 35th year.  I would love to be around to see that birthday party.

And finally, after spending a month in New York eating some of the best food in the world, it was great to come back and have equally amazing food in Brisbane!


**I was a guest of Lucid Media and E'cco Bistro for this meal

 Cake and pistachio ice cream looked lovely
The E'cco version of tiramisu freddo, more like the Salvador Dali tiramisu freddo
Affogato al caffe, frangellico and biscotti.  This one kept Jessalyn awake for a while.
A familiar sight at on the city fringe
Such a beautiful building at the fringe of the city

Up the red steps to a meal you won't soon forget

E'cco Bistro on UrbanspoonEcco Bistro


  1. I'm looking for ideas that will bring big smiles to the guests' faces at a party, and leave lasting impressions in their memories -- instead of on my bank account.

    1. Great, there are some awesome places that fit the bill. I really like 85 Miskin Street as a restaurant that always impresses and is reasonably priced. It really depends on how many people etc, email me on


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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...