Saturday, 7 December 2013

Cloudland - A nightclub that serves food or a restaurant with a nightclub?

Italian is the new black.  I know it's a pretty unusual thing to say, but I have noticed over the last few years that Italian cuisine is starting to dominate, with a myriad of restaurants having an Italian bent to their menus.  I have to say I'm quite happy about this development, I grew up in one of the southern states where Italian cuisine was very much the norm, it was everywhere and I loved it.

I was recently invited along to check out the new summer menu at Cloudland, which is surprising, mainly because I thought Cloudland was just a super club, a place to get your groove on over the weekend.  It was ever more surprising when I had a look over the menu,  and saw that this was a menu designed by a world class chef in the spirit of true Italian culture, that is a menu that's exclusively designed to be shared in the traditional family style.  If you've ever peen part of or seen a true Italian family style meal, it lots of big plates of food (and I mean lots) on big share plates with everyone digging in.

I'd never been to Cloudland before, my partying days were well behind me before Cloudland opened, but I was extremely intrigued by the idea of a super club in Brisbane.  When I was in my 20's and early 30's, there were no super clubs around, they were generally underground warehouse parties or medium sized venues.  Those were the days before the explosion of electronica across the globe but as I settled into party retirement, I gradually saw the rise to prominence of the style of music so dear to my heart.  This in turn saw the rise of the super club.  So, I'd always been intrigued by Cloudland but no so much that I went a long for a visit.

We had arranged to get along and check out the new summer Italian menu on a Wednesday night, so we figured it would be a pretty quiet in Cloudland. We arrived for our 6:30 booking time and with just a little bit of trepidation of the unknown, stepped through the doors to wonderland.  The first thing I noticed was the incredible and diverse main area, which had pockets of intricately designed dining spaces that looked both welcoming and private at the same time.  Of course there was a massive bar along one side of the space, Cloudland is after all a night club, but there was also a huge kitchen at the back, which was mostly hidden, but I could see glimpses of the chefs prepping for the nights work.

We were shown to our seats around the back of the main area, which was really cool and private at the same time.  We were given our menus and a rundown of what Cloudland dining was about.  Executive chef Ashley Reed is a former protege of the original celebrity chefs John Burton Race and Marco Pierre-White and has used his time in Europe to put together a menu that comprises of hand crafted Italian delicacies. Ashley's philosophy is to use fresh local seasonal produce and let the ingredients speak for themselves.

The manager explained that the menu was all about engaging, with each dish designed to be placed in the middle of the table and shared.  We left the choice of options up to the kitchen and settled back to wait to see what delicacies would be brought to our table.  While we were waiting, we decided that we'd try out some of the cocktails on the very extensive list of drinks (hey, it's a bar after all).  There were lots of interesting looking cocktails but in the end I went for a blueberry martini and SC opted for some lychee concoction, I think SC got the better end of the deal...

As we had left the menu choices up to the kitchen, we had no idea what our food journey would look like for the evening, so we were intrigued as to what would be brought out from the pretty extensive menu.  Our first taste of the Cloudland menu ended up being the arancini balls, crumbed spinach and ricotta balls with lemon and aioli.  I have mixed views about arancini balls in general, they have a propensity to be a little tasteless.  After receiving some instruction that the best way to eat the arancini balls was to cut them in half, then squeeze some lemon on before dipping in the aioli, we set about our first taste.  Carefully following our instructions, I was taken aback by how delicious the arancini balls were, they were fresh and moist with a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness.  The spinach and ricotta flavours came through clearly and the squeeze of lemon really helped the flavours pop.

We were off to a good start and were excited to see what would come out of the kitchen next.  We didn't have too long to wait before the prosciutto e pesche San Daniele came out, which was a prosciutto, rocked, fresh peach, pecorino and honey comb salad.  The salad was presented in a large bowl that was stacked high with ingredients and a muslin bag of locally produced fresh honey comb.  The idea with the honey comb was to use your fingers to mix it through the salad for some extra sweetness, which we did but ended up with very sticky fingers!  The salad was well balanced with a good ratio of ingredients, which were really fresh and delicious.  The peach was a lovely inclusion and worked surprisingly well with the prosciutto and pecorino cheese.  The real star of this show was the fresh and gooey honey comb and when you got a mouthful of the sweet honey, really made the salad shine.

I'd been secretly hoping that we would get the pork belly as our main and was stoked to see that our main course was in fact pork belly.  It was a little different from the pork belly on the menu but this one came with tiny little apples and a really sticky jus.  The pork had been marinated before the cooking process, then sliced into pieces with an incredibly crispy skin and a deep rich pork flavour from the marinating.  The jus was presented in a little pan and you could pour as much as you wanted, and I poured a lot!  The pork belly was beautiful, it was moist in the right places and crunch and sticky everywhere else.  There didn't seem to be a lot on the plate when it came out, but we really struggled to eat it all, I contemplated eating SC's second piece but wanted to leave room for dessert and ended up leaving it.

So far we had been pretty impressed with our meal, and if I am being honest more than a little bit surprised. That surprise turned into delight when the wild strawberry cheese cake with red currants and clotted cream was presented, it was stunning.  There was clearly some skill on display here and after the rustic dishes presented so far, the dessert was refined with intricate sugar work and a real finesse from the chef.  As good as it looked, it tasted better.  The flavour of the cheese came through, which was balanced nicely with the strawberry gel sitting atop and the thin crumble underneath.  The red currants were bitter sweet and provided little explosions of flavour on the palate and the whole dessert came together with the clotted cream.  It was wonderful and reminded me of some of the great cheese cakes I had in New York

Never in a hundred years would I have expected such a lovely meal coming from what amounts to a massive night club.  Cloudland is part of a conglomerate of nightclubs run by the Bickle Family, otherwise known as the Katazyna Group, who also run Family and the Press Club, to name a few.  It's clear that they want to dominate the Valley nightclub scene and pretty much do so, but after my meal at Cloudland, I think they could have a future in the restaurant scene too.

It's hard for me to comment on how service would be on a normal night, we were guests of the restaurant for the night and were taken care of really nicely by our host.  However, we found the entire staff to be really friendly and helpful and they clearly knew their stuff when it came to describing the food to us as it was delivered.  It was funny though, with each course that came out it was delivered with the line 'this is our famous...... "

It was not super busy on the night, but I was actually impressed with the number of people that were there to dine and everyone seemed to be having a good time.  Given that the restaurant is in a nightclub, we were really happy with the vibe that came along with the funky house playing in the background.  With the plush environment, funky music and surprisingly good food, I left the restaurant on a real high.  Cloudland turned out to be one of the bigger food surprises I've had this year and one that I'm sure I will experience again soon.


**We were a guest of Cloudland for this meal

Its a fantastical wonderland with lots going on
Lots of secluded tables for diners 
Room for bigger groups
A side of rosemary and lemon infused potato wedges
When the lights go down, you can see Cloudland for the nightclub it is, albeit a very fancy one

Cloudland on UrbanspoonCloudland Restaurant


  1. I have to say that the information here was the most complete that I found anywhere. I am definitely bookmarking this to come back and read later.

    1. thanks Boulvardsg, hope to see you back soon :)


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