Saturday, 14 September 2013

Alfred and Constance - Summer's on the way

There is no better time in Brisbane than spring.  The cold winds that signify the end of the Ekka and therefore the end of winter have been and gone.  It's a time of renewal, of fine weather and of endless possibilities of things to come.  As spring starts and summer approaches it's also a time of renewal for restaurants as they update their winter menus with the spring and summer offerings.  It's my favourite time of the year, with perfect cloudless days and the end of the heavy winter menus that are comforting, but all so bad for the waistline.

The first week of spring has heralded some changes at Alfred and Constance with the early introduction of the new summer menu and I was invited along to the launch party, with a few dozen of my blogger buddies, to check it out.  Owner Damian Griffiths, along with patron Chef Jocelyn Hancock decided to introduce the summer menu earlier this year so they could take advantage of the amazing and fresh produce that is produced at this time of year.

For those of you that have never been to or heard of Alfred and Constance, its the creation of Damian Griffiths and is one of the stable of great dining spots that Damian has in the Valley dining precinct. A&C is located (unsurprisingly) on the corner of Alfred and Constance streets in the Valley and is the epitome of the Gastro Pub.  A&C opened in November '12 and I checked out the menu then (see post here), so I was pretty keen to see the direction that the new menu had taken.

Sitting down and looking over the menu, I could see that many of my favourite dishes from last time were still available.  Classics like the chorizo scotch egg and pig 'carved from the whole  hog' were still on prominent on the menu, but the new items jumped out easily at first glance.  New dishes like the tiger prawns and duck breast immediately caught my eye.  

Sitting at a table with a group of other bloggers always ends up being a fun night (unless you are a long suffering partner of a blogger). We know that once the food is delivered, it will go a little cold while we take photos and go into detail of discussing the food.  At my table for the night were Kerry from Eat Drink and be Kerry, Melissa from Melissa Loh, Mel from The Cooks Notebook and Lani from Yelp Brisbane and collectively we decided to order a heap of food and generally share across the table.

The house cured salmon with Chester Street organic rye bread was a fabulous way to start.  The salmon was incredibly thinly sliced and ever so slightly cured that it still maintained much of the freshness of the fish.  The micro-herbs and salmon roe were for more than decoration and added some texture and extra saltiness that worked well with the salmon.

I loved the crispy calamari with sweet paprika mayonnaise, the calamari was just right with a slight chewiness that gave it texture, but was not rubbery.  The crispy batter was light and golden with a great crunch in the mouth.  Most of all I loved the paprika mayonnaise, which added a little heat and contrasting flavour.

One of the new dishes was next and the Josper grilled local tiger prawns with quinoa, coriander and preserved lemon was a beauty.  The large tiger prawns were grilled to perfection, with a the lovely flavour from the new Josper grill providing some depth to the prawns but maintaining the moisture of the delicate flesh.  I've never been a fan of quinoa, so I pretty much avoided the all too healthy grain.

I was pleased to see the classic chorizo scotch egg with paprika was still on the menu and we ordered a couple of these for the table.  I remember from my last visit to A&C that the chorizo in the scotch egg was very spicy, which is just the way I like my chorizo.  This time the chorizo was much milder and probably suited for tamer palates.  It's possible that this helped with the balance of flavours and did ensure the egg was not overpowered.  It was nice, but I think I prefer the extra heat from the spicy variety of chorizo.  Perhaps there could be a 'hot' and 'mild' offering on the menu.

It was time for mains and we more naturally stuck to our own choices for this course, so I didn't get the opportunity to try all of the mains.  I did however get a little greedy and ordered two mains!  First up I decided it would be inappropriate for me to not try the new duck dish.  I love duck breast and this one came accompanied with watermelon, Persian feta and toasted cashews and sounded really interesting. The dish itself looked nice, if not a little rushed onto the plate, and was a generous serving size.  I also noticed that there was an addition of balsamic vinegar to the base of the plate, which was a stroke of genius.  I really love the combination of watermelon, feta and balsamic, the sweetness of the melon contrasts so wonderfully with the balsamic and the feta cools it all down.  My duck was very tasty with great flavour and  crispy skin, but was a tad overcooked as I prefer my duck to be pink all the way through.  

I also ordered the more traditional gastro pub main, a steak sanga!  The steak sandwich on ciabatta, rib fillet, haloumi, caramelised onions tomato and gem lettuce served with hot chips  was a winner.  The steak was so tender and soft, it yielded to every bite.  The steak sanga was well put together and very easy to eat and I really enjoyed it.  While the sandwich was good, the chips were amazing, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle and just the right amount of seasoning.

After going solo with the mains, it was back to share dining with the desserts.  Alfred and Constance is well known for its late night dessert cafe (see post here), so I knew that we were in for a treat.  The pecan pie with chocolate sauce with maple ice cream was first sampled and was a great example of pecan pie.  The pastry crust was short and sweet which helped balance out the slightly savoury flavour from the pecan pie and the bitterness from the chocolate sauce.  It was nice, but not my favourite dessert of the night.

That honor went to the banoffee pie with caramel, banana and whipped cream, which looked great and tasted even better.  The caramel was sticky and sweet with fresh banana sitting atop, with a layer of fresh cream and shavings of milk chocolate.  This dessert was sweet and indulgent and perfect, my only complaint is that we had decided to share, I could have eaten a whole pie!

After sampling many of the new and some of the existing items on the menu, I had finally reached a point where I could eat no more.  Alfred and Constance is every inch the gastro pub, with great quality food that is not going to leave you hungry when you finish up.  It's still the only place in town (that I know of) where you can buy pork by the gram!

The summer menu and its new items continues down the gastro pub tradition, but it also adds a little more refinement as well.  The use of fresh seasonal produce sets it apart from some gastropubs and gives the menu a more complete look and feel.  

As always, you could feel vibe at Alfred and Constance, which is just a little bit edgy and well suited to Fortitude Valley.  It remains a great place to have a quiet meal mid week or a place to see and be seen on the weekend, maybe I'll see you there sometime!


**I was a guest of Lucid Media and Alfred & Constance for the launch of their summer menu

A little bizarrely, there was a huge elephant watching us eat dinner
Slow roasted pork belly with wilted spinach, crushed potatoes and green olives
The A&C pie - duck and field mushrooms, pear chutney, asparagus and spring leaves 
Seared Tasmanian salmon, capers, lemon and a dill dressing
Josper gilled lamb rack, oregano salt, green beans, black olive and caper salsa
Marshmallow and chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream 
If you want a quiet dinner, mid week is the time to come and visit.  The old Queenslander is the perfect spot for dinner
Alfred and Constance on UrbanspoonAlfred & Constance

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