Saturday, 17 August 2013

Kingfisher Cafe - Michelin Star at Toowoomba?

A little while before I started writing this food blog, on the behest of my in-laws I visited a restaurant that had quite enamoured them.  Knowing that I was a foodie and that I loved the idea of great chefs producing amazing food, they thought they could surprise me with a local restaurant.  I might add that they live in Toowoomba and I was pretty certain that I would not be impressed by what I found.

The restaurant was the Kingfisher Cafe and a little investigation prior to our trek out to Toowoomba had me intrigued.  I found myself looking at the story of a young chef who grew up in Toowoomba but had dreams, big dreams.  A chef who spent some time in Canada before heading to London to spend two years working with Cheffing royalty.  The young chef's name was Rick Osborne and he somehow found himself learning from Albert Roux and Michel Roux Jnr in a little restaurant called Le Gavroche, one of the most prestigious two Michelin Starred restaurants in Europe.

As if that was not enough, a stint back in Australia at Vue De Monde with one of Australias finest chefs Shannon Bennett was next.  When working with some of the best chefs in the world and then coming back and working with arguably the best chef in Australia, it would seem that the next logical step would be to open a fine dining establishment in a major city....  

But home called for the young chef and Rick found himself the owner of the Kingfisher Cafe, which is a little cafe attached to the back of a gardening centre, and I was heading to Toowoomba to check it out.  At the time I was floored with an amazing and refined three course meal that could easily have come out of one of the best kitchens in Australia.  What surprised me most was that such a meal could come out of the tiny kitchen in what was essentially a garden centre!

Fast forward eighteen months and it was time for a repeat visit, but this time I would be bringing my camera and blogging about the experience.  We were out to help celebrate SC's parents wedding anniversary and her father's birthday and after my last meal at the Kingfisher Cafe, I was excited to be heading out again and getting a fantastic meal.  

It was weird pulling our car into the carpark of a garden centre, slightly dressed up, looking to have a highly refined meal.  It's even more bizarre as you walk past the piles of horse manure at the front of the centre, then through the outdoor furniture to the little cafe at the back of the shop.  Taking our seats, I could see that there were some changes from the last time we visited.  The chairs and tables were new and looked a little more like a restaurant.  The kitchen had also seen some serious work and was now much larger, open and was bustling with more chefs.  

Looking over the menu I could tell that it was a little different from my first visit.  There were still some interesting and refined looking items available, such as the confit duck leg with braised sweet cabbage, but there were also many other items that seemed more at home on a pub menu such as burger and chicken parmigiana.  I was a bit worried that there had been a 'dumbing down' of the menu to suit the area but I set that aside and we ordered our meals for the day.

For entree we decided to get a selection of the breads and ordered the grilled ciabatta with local cherry tomatoes, chives, crumbled fetta, chardonnay vinegar finished with a balsamic reduction and the trio of dips at the whim of the chef served with warm turkish bread.  The ciabatta looked fresh and appetising, a study in organised chaos and was served on a breadboard.  The flavours were nice with the balsamic reduction having a lovely bite that offset the acidity from the tomato nicely.  It was a very simple starter that we all enjoyed, even though there were four of us and only three pieces.

The dips were also quite nice, with my favourite being the blonde beetroot mix, with had an interesting flavour that was had hints of beetroot, but without the red.  The tomato chutney was also quite nice and had a great punch of flavour.

I had some trouble deciding between a few of the main options and asked our waiter for a recommendation between the duck and the lobster, with a firm recommendation that the duck was superb.  I took the recommendation and ordered the smoked duck breast with parsnip puree, warm potato salad, turned zucchini and a cherry jus.  The presentation of the duck was more rustic than refined but had a lovely smoky smell that was as a result of the smoking of the duck.  The duck itself was full of flavour, but had been clearly overpowered by the smoking process, just over the border of too well smoked.  The duck was also overcooked and a bit chewy and the lovely glaze that promised so much was also a bit disappointing, the duck skin was not crispy and the fat not quite rendered enough.  Given my last visit here I was bitterly disappointed with my main.

SC fared little better with her sauteed mushroom, truffle and parmesan risotto with garlic cream being poorly cooked and gluggy.  On the plus side, there was a lovely truffle flavour emanating from the risotto, but it was not enough to make this a good risotto.  Great flavours, poor execution. 

SC's mum (LP) fared much better with her choice of filo parcel with silverbeet, braised rice, shiitake, roast pine nuts, garden salad and a cepe sauce.  The dish looked fresh and was presented in a very appetising way.  The pastry was extremely light and was that wonderful golden brown that signifies a perfectly cooked pastry.  The flavours of the filo pastry were also crisp and fresh, with each of the flavours working well on their own, but beautifully when combined.  LP really enjoyed the filo parcel and was completely satisfied with her selection.

SC's dad (MP) was also really happy with his selection of one of the specials, the veal parmigiana with chips and salad.  This dish was a bit of a departure from the the menu last time we were here and was a key dish that signified the palpable change to the menu, which still has many fine dining options, but also includes many pub options.  MP loved the size of the dish, it was huge, and loved the flavours from the parmy, which was certainly a little more refined that your typical pub parmy.  The crust was thick and crunchy, with lovely melted cheese and a large rasher of bacon.  

We decided that we would partake in dessert, of course being a wedding anniversary/birthday celebration, dessert was a required course.  The desserts at Kingfisher Cafe are mostly pre-made and on display at the dessert counter near the kitchen.  I opted for a raspberry mousse with fresh cream that looked lovely on the plate.  The dessert was quite nice, with interesting texture from the soft mousse contrasting with the firm jelly on top with the tempered white chocolate.  It was slightly tart from the raspberry flavour, but the whipped cream added some sweetness that blended well.

SC opted for a passionfruit cheesecake which was pretty nice, but after spending a month in New York eating NY cheesecake was always going to be a step down.  The pastry was lovely and short, with a lovely creamy filling and had just the right amount of tartness from the fresh passion fruit seeds.

MP went for a warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream, which was a very rustic looking dessert.  The apple pie was one of the only desserts that was not on display in the dessert bay, but was a bit of a mess on the plate.  It looked as if the pie had been destroyed as it was put on the plate, which didn't impact the flavours but really didn't look good.  MP was not at all concerned by its appearance and devoured the pie and looked like he might want some more!

I'm not sure if I had built up too many expectations of our lunch based on our last visit and the amazing pedigree of Chef Rick Osborne but I was a little disappointed with our return visit to Kingfisher Cafe.  The last time we had been there was so much more care taken with the meals, including the little details like perfectly turned vegetables and wonderfully refined looking mains and entrees.

The service at the Cafe started off really promising, with our waiter helpful and quite engaging to begin with, but as the meal went on became a ghost, barely seen but in the background.  We spent such a long time between mains and ordering our desserts we had to actively go looking for the waiter and drag him back to the table.

Kingfisher Cafe is certainly one of the most popular dining spots in Toowoomba, and is open for breakfast and lunch daily.  However, it's weekend lunches that the place is best known for.  There is a fabulous looking outdoor dining area that would be the most desired spot in Toowoomba on sunny Sunday afternoons!  I found this trip to be quite disappointing, but I was being perhaps a little unfair, comparing it to my previous visit and to other 'fine dining' options in Brisbane.  Rick Osborne is obviously onto a winner of an idea in the area and has likely settled his menu with a mix between his love of fine dining and the reality of a restaurant in Toowoomba.  I know MP and LP love the place and will be back many times into the future.


LP had the berry cheesecake and loved it
The kitchen had seen a major renovation since my last visit and was much larger and filled with an assortment of supporting chefs
A cafe at the back of a garden centre that has a michelin starred background
To get to the cafe you need to walk through the garden centre
A very casual feel to the cafe, a far cry from Vue De Monde or Le Garvoche
A beautiful day outside and many patrons enjoying the food and sunshine

Kingfishers Cafe on Urbanspoon

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