Saturday, 5 October 2013

Casual Dining - Reef Seafood + Sushi

One of the coolest and most anticipated precincts in memory opened up with little fanfare recently but in a very short period of time has become one of my favourite spots around Brisbane.  Gasworks is located over on the river at Newstead that was for many years a mozzie infested eyesore, but always had so much potential being so close to the CBD.  One of the new breeds of 'master-planned' communities that are springing up all around South East Queensland, the precinct is centered around the historic Gasworks site.  

The beautiful and ornate framework of the original Gasometer frame, which has been carefully restored, is the highlight and centrepiece of the whole site.  Most nights you can pull up a bean bag, grab yourself a beer and sit under and around the Gasometer frame and listen to local bands, while the framework is lit up in a beautiful purple haze.  It's a top spot and it's only going to get better over time as more residential and commercial opportunities are realised.

We had tickets to see John Birmingham's 'He died with a felafel in his hand' and wanted somewhere quick and easy for dinner.  While the Gasworks is not on the way to the Powerhouse when walking, it's not too much of a detour, so we put on our walking shoes and headed out shortly after work.  Our plan was to hit the new fish and chip shop, Reef Seafood + Sushi and then continue on to see the play.  As we walked past the lovely Gasometer structure to the main dining area, we noticed a huge crowd milling around.  As we got closer, it was clear that we were not the only ones who thought a quick bit of fish and chips would be a great idea on a Friday night.

Reef Seafood + Sushi is new to Brisbane but has been around for a while, with a restaurant down at Southport. The Gasworks version has a very modern fit out, with lots of plasma screens placed around the interior displaying the offerings and quite a few display tanks with seafood on show, in particular crabs.  The most amazing effect in the restaurant is a projector displaying an underwater scene on the ground, which interacts with you when you walk on or near the projection. It's pretty cool. There are no tables and chairs in the restaurant but outside is alfresco dining for about eighty people. On one side of the restaurant is an oyster bar and the other a sushi bar and when we walked in both areas were crowded with people looking to order.  

The menu is as comprehensive as it is broad, with many traditional fish and chip shop options available, but also a large number of options that have a very Oriental feel. There is also quite a good range of drinks available, including some interesting looking beers on tap.  We were in a bit of a hurry and we wanted to get something simple, so ordered fish and chips and once I spotted a seafood chowder on the menu, I snuck that in as well. While I was in queueing to make the orders, SC had done the super smart thing and scored us one of the last remaining tables.

Reef Seafood + Sushi is pretty new, so there are always going to be teething problems, especially when they are smashed as much as they were on the night we visited, but after 30 minutes with no food, we were starting to worry about our play.  As we were planning an exit strategy so we could get to the play on time, one of the waitresses came over to advise that our meal was not far away, she also advised me that they were all out of the seafood chowder, which I was a little bummed about, but also relieved since we were running out of time.

There are only a few different options for fish and chips and SC chose the grilled snapper and lemon butter with chips and a salad.  The snapper was a lovely large filet that was clearly grilled to perfection, and was moist and full of flavour.  The snapper also worked really well with the lemon butter, which complimented the flavour of the fish beautifully.  The only problem with the fish was that there were quite a few bones and as the meal went on, SC lost confidence in being able to take big bites of the fish.

I also went for the simple fish and chips but went for the grilled salmon instead.  I had noticed that most of the grilled salmon filets going out to other diners were lovely big fillets but my piece was a much smaller tail filet.  As a consequence of having a thinner tail piece, my salmon was quite over cooked, I like my salmon cooked medium and this was well done (at least).  The flavour of the salmon was nice, it was clearly a good quality, fresh piece of fish, just a bit overdone.  Both SC and I loved the chips, which were great soaked up in the lemon butter, but for the price both agreed there should have been more.  The salad that accompanied the fish was not really up to standard and amounted to some dry lettuce, a couple of carrot shavings and a cherry tomato cut in half.  Even adding some dressing would have helped.

As we were eating our meals, the place just kept getting busier and busier, there were people queuing to order and there were people just hanging around waiting to jump on any table that became available. It's a lovely spot to have dinner, with the alfresco dining area and the music drifting over from the Gasometre frame lending a real festive feel to the environment.

As far as fish and chips go, Reef Seafood + Sushi did an alright job but we were not blown away by the meals we ordered.  There are some pretty special fish and chip shops around Brisbane, in particular the Fishmonger's Wife and Swampdog (see post here).  To be fair, it was incredibly busy and the place has only been open for a short while, so I hope they can work out some of the kinks we noticed on the night.

One of the charms of Reef Seafood + Sushi is it's fantastic location over at the Gasworks but as the area develops more and there is more competition for the dining dollar, I think they will just need to up their game a little.  I hope they do, I love a good serve of fish and chips.

And for the record, we did make 'He died with a felafel in his hand' on time and it was hilarious!

There was a little bit of pandemonium when ordering our meals
The interactive fish pond is so cool.
The sashimi looked incredibly fresh and if I had more time I would have had some too
You know the crabs are fresh when you see them swimming around in their tanks
There is an outside window for ordering take away
A few spare seats when we first got there but these were gone pretty quickly.  The cool frame of the Gasometre in the background 
There is a distinct Asian feel to the restaurant
It was a lovely night for a walk.  Purple must be the in colour for lighting up Brisbane's landmarks

Reef Seafood and Sushi on UrbanspoonReef Seafood & Sushi

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