Thursday, 5 December 2013

Hatch & Co - Some amazing food in a Brisbane hot spot

Gee, how good is it over at the Gasworks now?  In a very short space of time, the area has exploded with a range of contemporary and exciting restaurant offerings.  It seems like every time I head over, there is a new dining spot to add to my ever increasing list of places to check out.  It's hard to believe that twelve months ago it was still just a construction site and now it's rapidly becoming the first place that many Brisbane dwellers are looking to for a great meal.

With a rash of new openings, I thought it was timely to check out an 'old hand' under the Gasometer, Hatch & Co.  I say 'old hand' with tongue firmly in cheek as it's a relative 'babe in the woods' itself.  I've been keeping an eye on Hatch & Co ever since it first opened a few months back and I was particularly keen to see how the Moubarak clan would handle casual dining.  The Moubarak's are better known for their One Hat restaurant Gerard's Bistro just around the corner in James Street, which has been a favourite of mine for some time (see post here).

The first time I saw Hatch & Co, it seemed a little out of place, it was pretty much the only restaurant open at the Gasworks.  It was weird walking by and seeing a sea of people checking out the diner, with no one else around.  On our visit to Hatch & Co, there was quite a bit more competition around for the dining dollar and when we arrived for our 6:30 reservation, it was still fairly quiet.  I thought to myself that perhaps the addition of half a dozen new eating spots would have a negative impact?  It was a Tuesday night, which can be quite busy for Brisbane diners.

Upon arrival, we were shown to our seat in the 'outdoor' section of Hatch & Co and we soon realised that our maitre'd was in fact the usual manager over at Gerard's Bistro, so it looked as if there was a very close relationship between the two diners.  Shortly after being seated our waitress for the night brought over the menus for us to have a look over and took SC's drinks order. The Hatch & Co menu is quite a bit more relaxed than Gerard's, but I could see some of the same influences in the share style dining approach.  Hatch & Co has the usual assortment of small plates and share plates, but has the added benefit of having a pizza menu as well.

The Moubarak clan seem to be pretty good at putting a team together, they have an absolute star in the kitchen at Gerard's in Ben Williamson and seem to have picked up another rising star with Braden White looking after Hatch & Co.  Braden was formerly the sous chef at Two Hat stunner the Stokehouse over at South Bank and was recently a national finalist of the 2103 Electrolux Young Chef awards.  Like many great chefs, Braden's approach to food is quite uncomplicated, get the best quality ingredients from local producers and keep it simple on the plate.

I both love and hate it when you look at a menu and discover there is a heap of options for you to try, I love it because I know I'm in for a treat but I hate it because I can't order everything.  There were a couple of lovely looking mains that SC and I both gravitated towards.  SC found it particularly difficult as she really wanted pizza, but some of the other options just looked too good to pass up.  Tough decisions made, we settled down to wait for our meal and marvelled again at the light show on display on the Gasometer.  

To start off with we'd ordered a side of crusty sourdough, whipped brown butter smoked salt, which we would have thought would be delivered before the starters arrived.  Unfortunately, the starters arrived first and the crusty bread came a short while later.  The bread itself was toasty warm and was super crusty.  It was good bread, but what set this apart was the incredible smokey, salty butter, which was so soft it was presented in a bowl and could almost have been poured on the bread.  It was pretty special really.

SC started her meal with the Local sand crab salad with sweet corn, cucumber and creme fraiche, which was quite a pretty dish with the green and white of the salad contrasting beautifully against the stark black plate. I really liked the blood red that came through with some of the leaves of the salad, they added some interesting colour.  The sand crab was lovely and light, with a subtle fresh flavour that was enhanced with the addition of the creme fraiche.  There was a minor problem with the balance of the dish, with the cucumber slightly over powering the subtle crab, but this was easily rectified by portion control of the cucumber.

I love the quail dishes I have devoured at Gerard's so it was hard for me to look past the grilled quail, with salted grapes, kale, cappacolla and rye crumble.  My first impression when the plate was delivered was that there was a lot of kale on the plate, which hid the rest of the ingredients.  The kale was crispy and quite fragile to touch, so I moved it aside so I could get to the quail, which was immaculately presented and cooked to perfection.  The quail had a lovely gamey flavour that was just strong enough to dance on the tongue, but not too powerful to over power the cappacolla ham hidden underneath.  The delicate balance of the ham and quail was handled really well and the whole dish was pulled together with was tasted like a yoghurt.  What was brilliant were the salted grapes, which were hidden in the yoghurt and packed a punch when eaten.  The only issue I had with the dish was that there was just too much kale, which I ended up leaving on the plate.

After changing her mind half a dozen times, SC finally opted for the spring Bay mussels with fregola, parsley, tomato served with charred bread.  We had watched some friends eat mussels a couple of weekends ago and it had clearly left a mark for SC.  The huge bowl of mussels was in a beautiful broth that had some fregola (a type of pasta) that soaked up the broth and turned it into a thick soup.  The mussels had been cooked expertly with the shells popped open and the delicious mussel flesh easily reached.  There were a lot of mussels and SC did her best to eat them, but struggled a little bit to get through them all....  Lucky for me, I got to finish off the last half dozen.  

Initially SC had wanted the spinach and truffle risotto with fresh pea and tendril, but I managed to convince her that I would be best placed to try the risotto.  I think we were both looking at the truffle included with the dish, which is one of our favourite ingredients.  As is the custom in restaurants nowadays, the risotto was simply too large for one person to eat.  I quite liked the presentation, which was mostly green but with some of those leaves that had the blood red stem running through the leaf like veins.  This was a wonderful example of risotto, with a lovely creamy texture and bags of well balanced flavour.  I could taste the spinach and pea clearly and each worked quite well together and even though I thought there may have been a risk of the dish being too sweet, the earthy risotto and perfect seasoning provided perfect balance to the dish.  It was a shame that the risotto was so large, I felt a little guilty leaving half of it behind.

After finishing our mains and waiting what seemed like an age to have our plates cleared, we wasted no time ordering dessert from our waitress when she cleared the plates.  We both knew what we wanted and we didn't want to take the risk of waiting too long for the menus to reappear.  We were intrigued buy the name of the chocolate nemesis with  raspberry and marscapone and wondered if it would be like our bucci dessert (see post here).  The dessert, which was a deconstructed take on a chocolate cake, looked stunning on the plate.  There was a lot going on here that was in complete contrast to the simple sounding name.  The chocolate pieces were infused with 'space candy' which popped on the tongue and left a massive smile on SC's face once she realised what it was.  The classic flavour combinations of raspberry and chocolate were well supported with the rich marscapone, this was a wonderful dessert in every sense.

I was really interested to see what curd would taste like in the passionfruit curd with ice cream, marshmallow and sherbet.  I was kind of hoping to see a beautiful plate of deconstructed dessert like the chocolate nemesis, and in a way it was.... it was just in a glass.  There were chunks of marshmallow and meringue sitting atop of some passionfruit ice cream and a heap of sweet and creamy curd.  The whole mess was topped off with a passionfruit macaron and a couple of edible flowers for colour.  I really liked this dessert, the flavours were a wonderful mix of sweetness and tartness that comes with passionfruit.  The curd was particularly sweet but worked really well with the neutral marshmallow and cold ice cream.  I think the idea of the macaron was to give the dessert some extra texture, but since I ate that first, I think the dish could have used some additional texture, just to crunch on.  Otherwise, it was a winner.

There have been some interesting comments made about Hatch & Co online and over social media, most notably about the service.  On the night we visited we found that the wait staff were incredibly friendly, but also found that we were sitting around at times a little longer that we felt comfortable.  At one point while I was tweeting some photos of the meal, one of my followers came back with a comment  "you actually found a staff member who would serve you #miraclesdohappen", which I thought was a bit harsh.

Given it was a Tuesday night, Hatch & Co packed out and by the time we had finished our meal, it was pretty much all tables taken.  I think this may have something to do with the perception that service is slow, but really, with 150 covers on a night, it's no wonder it can take a while between courses.  I was amazed with the really diverse mix of people dining at Hatch & Co, with plenty of people on dates,  and groups of friends dining both young and old.  It's a bit dark at night in the outside area and when an older couple seated next to us couldn't read their menus, SC handed over her phone in torch mode to help them out.  It was quite funny.

I loved the feel of Hatch & Co, it was pretty casual and very relaxed.  The dining area is set out with cool wooden tables and chairs and the inside blends with the outside seamlessly.  There is a good view of the open kitchen from most parts of the restaurant and I discovered a bar section down the side of the dining area when taking some photos.  Best of all is the great view of the Gasometer and the purple and blue light show that's put on after dark.  With a cool spot and great food on offer, it's no wonder Hatch & Co is packing it out most nights.  I'll certainly be back, maybe for pizza next time.

It was pretty quiet when we first arrived.
A casual feel with beech wood chars and tables
This would be filled up soon enough
The Gasometre looks great
But is spectacular once the sun goes down
Picked stuff is used to decorate 
The bar area was quiet on a Tuesday night but would pump on the weekends
By the time we left it was madness
Hatch & Co on UrbanspoonHatch & Co

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