Saturday, 19 October 2013

Prive249 - Brisbane's best kept dining secret

It had been a while since our last ultra fine dining experience and I kind of missed it.  I've been visiting lots of bistro style restaurants and breakfast joints of late (Esquire excluded of course) and while they are great, I really missed that experience you get with silver service.  There are a few restaurants around Brisbane that provide that ultra fine dining experience but I had been to most of them and really wanted to try something different.  I had a look through my trusty Entertainment Book and spied a restaurant that I've been meaning to check out and as a bonus met my need for a fine dining meal.

The website for Prive249 is very understated, in fact you could say that it's pretty bland and looks somewhat like a new website may have looked in 1997.  What did stand out on the website was a pretty bold claim that Prive249 was Brisbane's best kept dining secret.  This was a claim that I was keen to check out.... Would it live up to the brash statement and would I love it?

Well to start, Prive249 has some great pedigree, it's part of the Sofitel Group which runs some of the best restaurants in the world, many with coveted Michelin Stars.  Prive249 has also been awarded chefs hats from the Brisbane Times and the Australian Good Food Guide, the Australian equivalent of a Michelin Star.   The restaurant has experienced Chef de Cuisine Josh Okorn at the helm, who like so many chefs nowadays has spent time in Europe perfecting his craft.  Josh's approach in the kitchen is to provide tantalising French inspired Australian cuisine with a touch of flair.

Once we arrived at the Sofitel's grand lobby and made our way to the dining area, we were greeted warmly by the maitre d' and then led past the general dining space to Prive249.  We were immediately transported from the hustle and bustle of the Sofitel lobby to a quiet and refined dining area with spectacular night time views of the city through floor to ceiling windows.  Our table for the night was right next to the window, so we had uninterrupted views of the cityscape, which was quite distracting  (in a good way) while we started peruse our menus.

The menu at Prive249 is in French with English translations underneath and is spectacular.  It starts off offering two amazing looking degustation journeys, six courses for $115 or eight for $140 and then finishes off with a very comprehensive a la carte offering.  We were extremely tempted by the eight course degustation offering but with so many wonderful looking menu items not included in the degustation, we chose to order from the a la carte menu.  Shortly after we had placed our orders, in typically fine dining fashion, some wonderfully soft and fresh bread rolls were delivered wrapped in a napkin to help them retain their warmth.

Shortly after we started on the tasty bread rolls we were presented with a lovely looking amuse bouche of cured salmon with Japanese chili dust as well as some gold dust sprinkled around the plate.  It was very refined looking little bite with clear and crisp flavours that complimented each other nicely.  The salmon was sliced thinly but still had substance to it and was set in a roll to enhance the appearance and give it extra body.  The chili was subtle and didn't overpower the taste of the sea that came from the salmon and was a great way to get the palate ready for the starters.

With so many wonderful options is was difficult to choose just one starter but the hard decisions were made and SC started off with the Lasagne au Crabe avec Mousse d'Agrumes et Salade en Ruban.  The English translation was spanner crab open lasagna with citrus foam and ribbon salad and was quite a surprise when presented.  It didn't look like any lasagna we have ever seen, it was full of colour and texture with a smell that was out of this world.  The crab was sweet and succulent with a deep flavour that was enhanced by the seafood bisque that the delicate flesh was floating in.  The vegetables were an interesting contrast to the crab lasagne and really shouldn't have worked together, but they did.  The whole dish was a masterpiece but the bisque and crab were the stars of this show.

I have a particular fondness for foie gras and was intrigued to see how the duck foie gras would work with scallops in the Coquille Saint Jacques, Foie Gras de Canard et Variations de Carotte.  Simply put I ordered the scallop and duck foie gras with carrot variations and it was truly a stunning dish which assaulted all of my senses at once.  It looked pretty on the plate but it smelled amazing and tasted even better.  The scallops had a deep caramelisation that gave the appearance of being over cooked but they were incredibly well cooked and the caramelisation added both texture and flavour to the dish.  The duck foie gras was smooth and buttery and when combined with the scallops and the carrot puree was a complete taste sensation.  I shared a little of the dish with SC and I could see the delight on my face mirrored on hers, it was a stunning dish and I didn't want it to finish.

Next up for SC was her main of Filet De Boeuf Wagyu, Sauce a la Truffe Noire, Gratin de Patate Douce et Texture de Petitis Pois, or 5+ score wagyu beef fillet with black truffle sauce with sweet potato gratin and pea textures.  Once SC saw that there was truffle included on the dish she was sold, however once the plate was delivered and the wait staff started to shave fresh black truffle over her beef she was in paradise.  SC simply loves truffles and will add them to pretty much any food if there is an option to.  Truffles go particularly well with beef and there was a decent amount of truffle shaved over the wagyu.  It's often hard to make a steak dish look refined but the kitchen did a pretty decent job here, with the shaved radish, peas and sweet potato gratin all working well together.  Not only did the plate look lovely but the perfectly medium rare wagyu was lovely and full of beefy flavour which was complemented by extremely fresh peas.  There was a lot of food on the plate and SC did very well to get through most of it.

I had been oscillating between the crayfish and the chicken for my main but eventually went with the Ballottine de Poulet et Morilles, Asperges et Graines de Tournesol.  I was surprised and delighted with the artfully presented ballotine of chicken and morels with asparagus and sunflower seeds.  I've never seen chicken presented this way and it very much looked like London's Gherkin building rising from the vegetables on the plate.  The chicken was expertly cooked and tasted superb, it was stuffed with flavoursome morel mushrooms which were also well cooked and added a rich complexity to the flavour of the chicken.  Some people think of chicken as a boring dish but I always select chicken in a fine dining establishment as a quality chef can do amazing things with the humble bird and this was no exception.  There were so many things working on the dish but a couple of standouts (apart from the chicken) were the crispy chicken skin that had heaps of flavour and the incredibly smooth mashed potato, which was clearly cooked with double cream.  Yum!

Our starters and mains had been very generous sized meals but we were determined to try out the lovely looking desserts.  SC decided that the Brioche Flambee avec sa Glace au Miel de Lychee - burning bread pudding with lychee honey ice cream was too good to pass on.  Normally when you think of bread pudding you think of stodgy and and rustic looking dessert.  This was as far removed from the bread pudding you had as a kid as you can get.  The pudding looked more like a creme brulee and had a really fine texture.  The pudding was set alight at the table with a little bit of theatre and unfortunately went out before I could get my camera ready.  The lychee honey ice cream was a wonderful combination and worked well with the pudding and there were nuts and a well crafted circular tuile that provided some additional texture.

I went for a slightly lighter but no less stunning looking dessert of Bavarois a la Lavande, Fruits des Bois et Consomme.  Translated into English is simply lavender panna cotta with fresh berries and berry consomme. There was some theatre to this dessert as well with the wait staff pouring the berry consomme into a frozen cup that sat atop of the panna cotta which then bled onto the plate, bathing the sweet dessert and berries in a 'berry bath'.  The ice cup was genius and gently broke apart as it reached room temperature and then added some extra icy texture to the dessert.  Lavender can be quite overwhelming and provide a soapy flavour if not handled carefully but the panna cotta was sweet and delicious with only a hint of lavender.  The mixed berries added a freshness to the dish that was appreciated and the berry consomme helped balance out the sweetness of the panna cotta.  I really enjoyed this dessert which was not overly sweet.

By the time we had finished all three courses were were incredibly full.  The serving sizes were all generous and the flavours rich and delicious.  Throughout the night we had been served by a couple of professional wait staff who knew exactly how fine dining should be presented and delivered.  They were came over to ensure each course was exactly how we wanted and were there when we needed something but would vanish into thin air when we no longer required assistance.  The service on the night was as good as any fine dining restaurant in Europe or New York, which is what you would expect from a Sofitel restaurant.

The dining room was very plush, with the seats all extremely comfortable and the table settings set up in the traditional silver service format.  In what was an unusual touch there were actually golden spoons used for the dessert service, which stepped up the feeling of extravagance a notch or two!  It was fairly quiet in the restaurant on the night we visited and by the time we left there were only a couple of other groups in the restaurant, so this also added to the feeling of extravagance with our own fine dining restaurant to ourselves.

Prive249 makes a bold statement on their very simple website that they are Brisbane's best kept dining secret and I have to concur.  It's not a very well known dining spot in Brisbane (foodies and bloggers excepted) but it sure should be.  If you love fine dining with incredibly well thought out and flavoursome food the Prive249 must be on you list of places to visit.  It's a little on the expensive side but you never question the value of the food or the dining experience but if you get yourself an Entertainment Card, then you can get a decent discount for your visit.  Enough to think about going again...... and soon!

The dining area at Prive249 is plush with a feeling of opulence and a menu to match
What is a step up from silver service?  Gold service of course!
A lovely little chai tea marshmallow and white chocolate plate to finish off the meal
Prive249 is tucked away at the back of the lobby area in the Sofitel Hotel
Privé249 on UrbanspoonPrive 249


  1. Looks amazing and your writeup does it justice. Looking forward to dining there.

    1. Thanks Marj, it was really good. In fact, it was great, well worth the visit and a return visit :)

  2. Thank you for the excellent review! I hope I can create an even better dining experience next time you come!
    Great to see someone focusing and highlighting brisbane as a culinary destination. I'll be checking your blog for advice next time I head out for dinner!!
    Josh Okorn

  3. Thanks for the kind words Josh, yeah, I think we have some of the best food around up here in Brisbane and I really enjoyed dining at Prive249 and your food rocked :)



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