Sunday, 13 October 2013

Watt Restaurant and Bar - the restaurant at the Powerhouse

It's a lovely time of the year.  The warm dry sunny days of Spring are here but the heavy hot rainy days of Summer have not yet arrived.  It's at this time of year that I love getting out and about, checking out all that Brisbane has to offer.  Last month was the annual Brisbane Festival and there were great times to be had, but the great times don't need to end just because the festival has finished.  The Brisbane Powerhouse continues to be a source of endless entertainment and again saw SC and I head over to check out one of the events, this time Grindr - a love story.

The Powerhouse is one of Brisbane's greatest achievements for me, and the conversion of the old electricity powerhouse from a run down and decrepit former glory to a modern and funky performing arts centre was genius.  The powerhouse was originally built in the early 1900's to generate electricity for Brisbane's tramway system and at its peak supplied electricity for the largest tram network in the Southern hemisphere.  Eventually trams were replaced by buses (pretty shortsighted) and the building fell into disrepute after being decommissioned in 1971.

Fast forward to now and the Brisbane Powerhouse is many things to many people, not only is it an amazing performing arts centre with three areas that seat up to 800 people, it's so much more.  The Jan Power markets call the area home and it has to be the most popular spot in Brisbane for wedding photos, you can even learn to be a circus performer there.  It's also the home of a couple of bars and restaurants, which are very popular spots on any given weekend, especially when the sun is shining on a beautiful spring day. 

It had been a very long time since we had visited Watt Restaurant and Bar, in fact the last time we had visited it was still called Watt Modern Dining.  I'm not sure when it changed over but Watt Restaurant and Bar is now part of the trippaswhitegroup, which owns restaurants up and down the eastern seaboard.  We had learnt from our last pre show dining experience last week (see post here) and wanted somewhere very close to the show so we wouldn't feel rushed and there is no closer restaurant than Watt.  While we love walking around Brisbane, we also drove over this time, there was no way we were going to be rushed this week.

We were the first be seated when we arrived for our 5:30pm sitting, which gave us about an hour and a half to get through dinner and still make our show on time.  Looking at the Watt menu online, I had been a little worried when I saw the recommendation to leave two hours for dinner when attending a show.  Given some shows start at 7pm and the restaurant doesn't open until 5:30, this was a bit of a confusing message, which should be updated on the site.

As the waitress brought over our menus, we confirmed that we did indeed have a show to go to at 7pm, just so they were aware we were on a time limit.  After being assured we would make our show, we had a look over the menu, which must have been recently changed as it was very different from the version on the Watt website.  The menu is split into small share plates, large share plates and mains and had quite a number of options that we were both excited about.  It was actually hard for us to limit our choices, but we eventually decided on some share plates to start and a main each.  We didn't think we would have time for dessert, but left the option open if we could get through our meal quickly.

The first of our small plates to arrive was the five spiced salt and pepper squid with sweet and sour sauce.  The thick calamari pieces were lightly dusted with the spices and then cooked to perfection, the calamari was incredibly tender with just the right texture.  The five spices were pretty subtle and I couldn't really tell what they were and the sweet and sour sauce was much sweeter than it was sour, but I didn't mind this because of how well the calamari was cooked.  

Next up was the BBQ pork sliders with chips.  The pork sliders were actually more like mini burgers than sliders, they were pretty big.  The presentation of the sliders and the chips was nice, with the chips coming out in a mini wire basket and the whole lot on a wooden bread board.  The chips were great, golden in colour and crunchy on the outside with a lovely soft centre.  While the BBQ pork in the sliders was very tasty, the sliders themselves were just a little bit dry and some extra BBQ sauce would have really lifted them up.  

We were intrigued to see what the deconstructed prawn cocktails would look like and were happy to see an incredibly fresh looking prawn cocktail presented to us.  The chopped prawns were mixed in with some cocktail sauce and presented simply in lettuce cups that you picked up and ate by hand.  There were chopped up pieces of grapefruit mixed in with the prawn cocktails which was touch of genius as it added some tartness flavour to the sweet prawns and cocktail sauce.  The only problem here was that there were three servings for the two of us and I negotiated with SC to get the extra one.  Yum!

Last of our share plates were the duck spring rolls with plum sauce.  We were a bit hesitant with the duck spring rolls as our last experience with duck spring rolls was a disaster (see post here).  When you get great duck spring rolls, they are simply amazing and totally memorable.  The duck spring rolls from Watt were good, but not great.  There was plenty of duck inside and the right amount of pastry was light and golden brown, but they were just a little dry inside.  The flavours were good and you could certainly taste the duck flavour and the plum sauce helped overcome some of the dryness.  I think I made the right choice negotiating the extra deconstructed prawn cocktail as part of the negotiation was for SC to have the extra duck spring roll.  Score!

We were doing pretty well for time, so the prospect of dessert was looming large, we just needed to get through our mains with enough time.  A short time after our starter plates were cleared our mains arrived, which was good due to time constraints but bad because we hadn't had much time for our starters to settle.  There was a good and diverse range of mains on offer and SC decided the Moreton Bay bug linguini, garlic, chili oil and gremolata would be the right choice.  The large plate of linguine was simply presented with a half a bug sitting atop.  The bug meat proved surprisingly easy to pull out which signified how well it was prepared and the flesh was sweet and wonderful.  The linguini was cooked to al dente and was lovely, especially when combined with the bug flesh.  There was just the right amount of heat in the dish to bring all the flavours together but overall it was just a little dry and could have used a bit more sauce to bring it all together.

In what turned out to be a very 'Italian' round of main courses I chose the risotto with sorrel, courgette and crumbled goats cheese.  I was a little concerned when the risotto was placed in front of me, it actually looked quite dry but after digging into the rice dish and mixing in the goats cheese it was actually quite moist.  The rice was also nice and al dente but the flavour was a little bland and safe, that was until the goats cheese melted throughout the dish and then the flavours really popped.  As usual when ordering a risotto in a restaurant, there was way too much food and I couldn't eat it all.  I'm not actually sure it's possible to eat that much rice in one sitting!

It was now a race against time, we had surged through starters and mains but we were cutting it tight for the show but I really felt like something sweet to finish off the night.  After checking with our waitress and confirming we could get dessert out straight away we ordered the vanilla bean panna cotta with raspberry jelly.  True to her word the waitress had the panna cotta served within a few minutes.  It was presented quite simply in a glass, which I think is a bit lazy when it comes to panna cotta, but was thankful for on this occasion.  There was an even mix of sweet and wonderful panna cotta and the slightly tart raspberry jelly but the mix was perfect.  The balance of the sweetness and the tartness was in tune and the balance of flavours was superb.  Even though I would have preferred it 'wobbly' on a plate we really enjoyed this dessert.

I had been a little nervous about booking into Watt Restaurant and Bar.  I've heard very mixed reports on the riverside diner and looking over Urbanspoon only added to my apprehension.  My only previous experiences at Watt had been such a long time ago that I couldn't rely on those memories, even though they were all good visits.  As it turns out I needn't have worried, it was a very decent meal.  Sure, there were a couple of minor faults with some of the dishes, but on the whole the food was really nice.

What I was very surprised about was how quiet it was on a Saturday night at the restaurant.  Sure, we were early to make sure we had time for dinner and the show but by the time we left the restaurant to queue up for Grindr it was still pretty quiet.  That it was so quiet may have contributed to the excellent service we received on the night but we found that the meals were of a reasonably high quality and they were delivered to us quickly.  Our waitress for the night was attentive and there when we needed her, we never once felt like we would miss our show.

The best thing was that once we had finished dinner it was only a few meters to the theatre where Grindr was showing, so we even had time to look at the historical photos of the Powerhouse.  I think we are very fortunate in Brisbane to have such a fantastic venue in such a brilliant location.  Our meal at Watt was a great start to the evening, which was topped off by a hilarious show.  If you get the opportunity to see Grindr, then get in an see it, oh and stop off at Watt before the show, you might just have a great night.


It was so quiet when we first arrived, we were the first
The calamari was probably the dish of the night, it was cooked that well.
The kitchen in action
There is a private dining area for larger parties
The kitchen again and a restaurant and catering award.  Watt Modern Dining had a AGFG Chefs hat in its prime!
The Powerhouse in its heyday 
Watt Restaurant and Bar on UrbanspoonWatt Restaurant + Bar


  1. I hav'nt been there for ages, a long time ago they had wonderful kangaroo spring rolls with an amazing dipping sauce. sadly long gone from the menu

    1. yeah, I hadn't been for such a long time too. It was a pretty good and consistent meal without any real 'blow away' dishes but still good


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