Sunday, 15 September 2013

Peel Street Kitchen - an instant favourite

It's not too often that I go to a new restaurant and walk away gobsmacked and with a new top five favourite restaurant, not to mention a top two new favourite dish (Beccofino's duck ragout is still number one, only just).  But that's exactly what happened this weekend when I visited the Peel Street Kitchen.  If the name is unfamiliar to you, its because the Peel Street Kitchen is very new and has only been open for about two weeks (at the time of writing).

The Peel Street Kitchen is just a little bit 'off the beaten track' but in a rapidly developing part of the extended CBD over at South Brisbane.  As the name suggests, its located on Peel Street, just around the corner from Merivale Street and in underneath one of the new apartment blocks that seem to spring up like mushrooms after a good downpour.  SC and I had driven past Peel Street Kitchen a few times and almost went there for breakfast on a previous weekend only to detour to Lock n Load at the last moment.

We were heading out with our regular dining buddies for a Saturday night of eating and drinking and wanted to go somewhere new.  Between the four of us, we have hit almost every restaurant in town and finding a new place to eat is getting harder and harder, but TB reminded us all of the Peel Street Kitchen and it was a 'lock'.  I was initially out and about when we decided to hit Peel Street and I tried to find the number to make dinner reservations and struggled to find a contact number, even Google let me down.  After some dogged digging around I found a functions number on the website and finally was able to make the reservation.  This is something for Peel Street to definitely look into and get the phone number up on Urbanspoon and Google, it's bound to make getting a seat easier.

We had a set plan for the night, meet CI & TB over at Peel Street Kitchen at 7pm, have some dinner and then hit the Brisbane Festivals Santos Light Show at 9pm.  SC and I had given ourselves 45 minutes to walk over from the CBD, but had judged our timing wrong and arrived 15 minutes early. This was OK as it gave us the opportunity to be taken to our table and pick the best seats, after all, when you arrive first you get 'shotgun' on the seats!  We also took the opportunity to look through the  really cool drinks menu and get cocktails underway.  While I was waiting for my 'Mail Order Bride' cocktail to arrive, I spent a little while looking around the restaurant.

Angela and Angelo at the pass 
The Peel Street Kitchen takes up quite a large space under the 'Capitol Apartment' and has a very modern and fresh feel to it.  I say fresh as it's predominantly decorated in green with lots of jungle and flower print around the walls.  While that sounds like a big risk, it actually works well and reflects the background of owners Angelo and Angela Valente, Ang and Ang as they prefer to be known.  Ang and Ang have a unique blend of cultures in their background with Angelo's Filipino and Angela's Polynesian heritage really shining through.

While their heritage gives a unique approach to their food philosophy and is clearly reflected in the Peel Street Kitchen menu, it's their professional heritage that is most impressive.  Both are classically trained in French cuisine and both have worked with some of the best chefs of the last twenty years. When they left Brisbane fifteen years ago to go and work with Marco Pierre White, they got a little sidetracked and ended up working with a very young Gordon Ramsay.  This was just as  the multi million dollar Ramsay empire was getting under way and Ang and Ang were a large part of that growth in the early days.  The Ang's helped establish four of Ramsay's better known restaurants including the Savoy Grill, Claridges and Maze.  The Ang's have also worked with culinary superstars Marcus Wareing and Richard Corrigan.

After CI and TB arrived and ordered some cocktails, we were provided menus to look over.  The menu, which is clearly influenced by the Ang's Filipino and Samoan heritage, but very much Modern Australian is broken down into nibbles, starters, large plates and the Lava Stone Grill.  Perhaps the only divergence on the list of delicious looking foods are the list of gourmet pizzas that seems a little out of place with the rest of the menu.  We struggled a little bit with the menu, there were so many great options that we didn't want to limit ourselves and in the end we ordered way too much food!

Before any of our food came out, owner and head chef Angelo brought over an amuse bouche of sticky pork with tamarind, peanut and relish for the table.  The little bites of goodness were wrapped in betel leaf and were designed to be fresh and excite the palate for what was to come.  The sweet little parcel of pork was perfectly balanced with the peppery betel leaf and were a simple delight to eat.  We all agreed that a bucket of these tasty morsels would not go astray.

Fortunately, the amuse bouche was a sign of things to come as the first of the nibbles and starters began their journey to the table.  We had noticed that one of the Ang's would accompany a dish to a table and then describe the meal in detail, and this was the case with our starters.  

First to arrive, and one of my new favourite dishes around Brisbane, was the chorizo lonaganisa. The chorizo differed to my normal experience with the Spanish sausage in a couple of ways, firstly there was no skin, so it was just the meat and secondly it was much sweeter and milder than a normal chorizo.  The Filipino inspired dish was one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten!  The chorizo was cooked wonderfully and had an incredible sweetness that is unusual in a meat, but when combined with the simple vinegar and chili sauce....  Wow, it just has to be tasted to be understood, it was literally like a party was raging on my tastebuds.  It wasn't just me who thought this, CI was in raptures after every mouthful.  That dish could be seriously addictive!

The rest of our starters had all arrived around the same time and we were eating everything share style but the next 'nibble' that blew us away was the sweet soy glazed wings.  The chicken meat was succulent and very moist with just the right amount of sweetness from the soy.  Some sliced chilis provided some contrasting heat that was in perfect balance.  Best of all was the ease of eating, the flesh just fell off the bones, there were some serious cooking skills on display with this simple dish.

Last of the 'nibbles' was the steamed free-range pork buns, which were the equal to any pork bun I have eaten, here (The Bun Mobile) or overseas (Momofuku Noodle Bar).  The pork was delicious and the fresh vegetables, including carrot, lettuce and cucumber worked well with the sweet pork and even better with the Hoisin sauce.  There were only two of the delicious pork buns, so I shared them with SC, with CI and TB looking on forlornly. 

While there are tapas style 'nibbles' on offer, there are also more traditional starters on offer and we all opted to have a starter as well as the 'nibbles'  TB and I both ordered the Hervey Bay scallops with braised organic quinoa, adobo chicken wings and dill shards.  The scallops were large, plump and perfectly cooked with a wonderful caramelisation.  The sweet scallop meat was a treat but in a combination not often seen with scallop, the adobo chicken wings were even better.  They were cooked a little crispy and added some texture to the dish that just worked.  Normally I avoid quinoa like the plague, but the braised quinoa was really nice, I had not expected that.  Overall, this was a superb starter and it was quite a generous size.

The last of the starters and nibbles was SC's South Australian pepper squid with green papaya salad, which was simply put together with strips of calamari on a green salad.  Normally you get salt and pepper squid and I'm not a whole lot sure what the difference here was, but as with everything else we had tried so far, it was delicious.  Calamari is a simple flavour and Peel Street Kitchen were able to extract really strong, complementary flavours with the squid and the papaya salad.  The calamari strips were lightly battered and perfectly cooked and were another dish we could have had a bucket of.

We were feeling decidedly full after the starters had been consumed and wondered how we would get through the mains.  We were expecting quite small serving sizes based on the very reasonable prices of the dishes we had consumed so far, but were blown away with the generosity of the sizes.  We commented as much at the time and the Ang's explained to us that this was customary in their cultures to be generous with flavours and serving sizes and this was certainly shining through!

As the mains started to arrive, CI and SC lamented that they had ordered a pizza each and not shared, but the thought at the time was to try as many of the goodies on the menu as possible.  One of the highlights of the menu are the gluten free pizza bases, which is why CI went with a pizza for his main. The idea was to order two pizzas then SC and CI to divvy up the slices and have two types each.  They ordered the La Fiesta which had tender pulled pork marinated in the 'Peel St' spices w bacon, onions, capsicum & Tabasco spiked sour cream sauce and the This Little Piggy with pepperoni, longanisa, shredded ham, bacon topped w pork crackling.  Both pizzas looked and smelt delicious and the little taste I had of each was wonderful, especially considering the gluten free pizza base, with SC and CI raving about the pizzas for the rest of the night.

When TB's duo of salt-bush lamb with slow-cooked lamb adobo and baked rump with lamb onion sauce arrived, Angelo explained that this dish took 10 hours to prepare, so it was the very first meat prepared each morning.  It explained why the lamb was so tender and full of flavour and why TB continued to eat the dish well after her stomach was telling her brain she was full.  The tender lamb was incredibly sweet, with the wonderful lamb flavour lingering on the palate for some time.

For my main, I went for what I thought would be a classic pork belly dish, but quickly had my preconceived idea about the dish turned on its head.  The free range organic Gooralie pork belly with crunchy salad and chilli caramel lecheon sauce was amazing.  The pork belly was cubed and dry roasted so that the pork was somehow dry but incredibly tender at the same time.  I'm a bit perplexed as to how this can happen, but shows the talent of the chef to pull it off.  The salad was lovely and had an incredible flavour from the lecheon sauce, which was made from pigs liver.  It was a big bowl of food, but I was left wanting more pork belly, even though I was well past full.

When it came time for dessert we looked at each other and commented that we couldn't possibly fit another bite in.  Fortunately sanity prevailed and we decided to go for the highly recommended dessert tasting menu, which was a chef's selection of four of the listed desserts.  We thought this would be a great option so we could taste the desserts, but not explode at the seams.  The four desserts were the egg custard with caramel topping and macerated bourbon raisons; cassava cake with coconut cream, lime sorbet and puffed rice; a coconut sorbet with crunchy biscuit and my personal favourite the sticky rice pudding with white chocolate laced with roasted pineapple and caramelized milk ice-cream.  Each of the desserts were great, but the sticky rice pudding was something special and transported me back to my childhood when my dad used to make a wonderful sticky rice pudding.

Throughout the night we were also ordering the deliciously moreish cocktails that had very cheeky names like 'mail order bride' and 'lady-boys adams apple'.  Each of the cocktails came in plastic cups that were heat sealed and pointy straws that you had to pierce the plastic covering.  This was pretty kitsch and a great novelty but we did have one malfunction with a cocktail that cracked the plastic and drenched the table with sticky cocktail juices!  

I can't remember having as much fun at a restaurant in a very long time.  We were all on a high from the incredibly flavoursome food and all had that glazed look that says 'food coma'.  What was really brilliant was the hosting skills of Ang and Ang, they were everywhere.  They were at the pass making sure that every bite that left the kitchen was just right, they were at tables explaining the dishes and making patrons feel welcome.  It was incredible watching them at work.

After we had fixed up our bill and were leaving, we stopped to chat to the Ang's, who were also saying goodbye to all and sundry.  They were really open about their background and history at some of the best fine dining restaurants in the world and their time with some of the greatest chefs of our era.  What struck me most about them was their down to earth approach to food, which is very much based on their heritage as much as their classic training.  After 15 years of travelling and working for others, it was their time to make their personal dream a reality.

All I can say is, I have been thinking about last nights meal all day and I have been telling anyone who will listen that we had one of the best dining experiences of our lives.  More specifically, I have been thinking about that chorizo lonaganisa and how I could easily get addicted to eating it.....  Mmmm, maybe I should head over their now....

Oh, we never did get to the Santos Light show that night, we just didn't want to leave!

Peel Street Kitchen is a modern looking restaurant but very focussed on a natural feel
The Ang's pay homage to their roots with wall murals of their inspiration, their Mothers!
The gluten free pizza bases did not taste or look gluten free
The ingredients on all of the gourmet pizzas are really interesting.  They are dine in and take away
I really loved my pork belly
Every table had a beautiful flower setting
The sticky rice pudding was something special - all of the desserts were rustic and homely
CI particularly loved the cassava cake and continued to eat when the rest of us could not!
Peel Street Kitchen has a very relaxed feel, just like owners Ang and Ang
Right now I wish I lived in the Capitol building!
The Amuse Bouche was the start of a wonderful food journey

Peel Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon


  1. Oh wow, what a great review! I'm happy to hear that since I'll be going there to celebrate my 27th and didn't know what to expect.

    1. Hey there, it was really good and I've had a few great meal there. I have heard some mixed reviews of late that its hit and miss. I'm hoping that its a hit night for your birthday :)


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