Sunday, 22 December 2013

Reserve Restaurant Milton - Fine dining on the city fringe

It's becoming increasingly difficult for me to try new restaurants in the Brisbane CBD, especially restaurants that are fine dining.  In fact, in the last few years there has been a move away from fine dining into more casually focussed dining.  While there is nothing wrong with high end casual dining, there is a lot to be said about the unique experience that you get from a great fine diner.

It's interesting though, sometimes there are things that literally just 'stare you in the face' and you don't notice.  Reserve at Milton is just such a place.  I've driven down Coronation Drive hundreds of times and said to myself that I must check out Reserve, it looks great.  Time and time again I've sat in my unit struggling to think of somewhere I can go to get a great meal that I have not visited before. Well, this time when it was SC who was in the drivers seat while we were driving past, I bit the bullet and got straight onto my iPad and made a reservation.  Thought into action!

I find it hard to believe it but Reserve at Milton has inhabited the space at the heritage listed Cook Terrace for almost two years.  It really doesn't seem that long ago that Joseph Alexander was the restaurant that I drove past and regularly ignored.  There has been high end restaurants occupying the space on Coronation Drive since 1984 after having a somewhat mixed history since being built in 1888.  Originally a set of Terrace houses, I can only imagine what it would have been like living on the Brisbane river in one of those majestic and massive terrace houses during the 1800's.  If you could have afforded it, I'm sure it would have been quite special.

While the Reserve at Milton is only a few years old, co-owners Stephen Heffernan and head chef Kieran Reekie have looked to replicate their success from their award winning restaurant Reserve at Maleny on the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  So far it looks as if they have captured the essence of their successful Sunshine Coast diner with both restaurants now holding a chefs hat from the Australian Good Food Guide.

I'd arranged an early sitting for our reservation thinking that if we were early enough we would be able to score one of the few car parks available next to the restaurant.  Reserve is on the corner of Park Road and Coronation Drive, which is one of Brisbane's original dining precincts and notoriously hard to find a park on a Saturday night.  I was pretty stoked when the gamble paid off and we scored a park right next to the restaurant.  We ended up spending the rest of the night watching people look for parks and were thankful that we didn't have to park miles away.

I was really interested to see the inside of the heritage listed Cook Terrace, it's a beautiful building and one that I'd actually been in before, albeit about fourteen years earlier in a restaurant who's name is lost to history (well, I can't remember the name anyway).  I remember it being stunning inside and was not disappointed when we entered the Terrace and were taken to our seats.  The building has been recreated to showcase it's former glory, with one notable exception.  The veranda that would have once been open was enclosed with super thick glass that allowed great views of the river but also had the effect of killing off any traffic noise from busy Coronation Drive.

Our waiter for the evening brought over our menus and explained the number of options we had for the evening.  There was a six course degustation option that quite tempted us; an indulgence for two, which was a set menu that included a glass of NV Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne each and the standard a la carte.  In the end though we opted for the a la carte, which had some sensational looking options that were way too tempting.  While I was never tempted with the Champagne, SC did want a drink and started off with a glass of sauvignon blanc while we waited for our meal to arrive.

Before we kicked off with our entrees, we decided that an appetiser would be in order and in particular the lemon herb Arancini with romesco sauce.  Up until recently I've not really liked arancini balls, generally finding them to be dry and tasteless but I've had some lovely ones recently and wanted to see what Reserve would do with the Italian treat.  Our three arancini balls were presented beautifully with a quenelle of romesco sauce that had quite an intense flavour.  The arancini themselves were light and very moist with a golden crust that helped enhance the subtle lemon herb flavour of the rice.  Our primary issue here was that there were only three and we had to split the last one in half, they were really quite spectacular.

We were off to a great start and with the flavours from the arancini still lingering on the palate, our entrees were ceremoniously placed in front of us.  There were many lovely looking entree options but SC thought the Mooloolaba Prawns with Gnocchi Parisienne, Wood Ears and Fresh Herbs would be a perfect way to continue the meal.  I could tell by looking at the expression on her face that SC had picked a winner and I knew for certain once she provided me a sample of her entree.  Quite simply, the flavours were stunning.  The French version of gnocchi is quite a bit smaller than it's Italian counterpart and lends itself particularly well being served with prawns.  There was a delicate balance of flavours from the sauce that was quite salty, but it worked wonderfully with the prawn.  While the flavours were wonderful and the gnocchi perfect, the prawn was slightly over cooked, which didn't detract from the dish but you could only wonder how amazing it could have been with total perfection on the plate.

The minute I saw the Seared Clearwater Scallops with Boudin Noir, Sweetcorn Puree and Parsley dressing, I knew that there was no way that I could pass it up.  Clearwater scallops originate from Canada and are massive.  I knew I was taking a bit of a risk with the Clearwater scallops as they normally come frozen and have a propensity to be a little bland but these were wonderful, with the perfect sear and the right amount of seasoning.  Scallops with blood sausage (the boudin nior) is a classic combination and when you add sweetcorn puree, you are hitting all the right notes for a perfect dish.  Unusually, the sweet corn had a slightly bitter edge to it, which worked nicely with the sweetness from the scallops and blood sausage.  The parsley dressing added some extra bite to the scallops and overall this was a near perfect entree.  It was not quite perfect though, the scallops were so big that they didn't cook all the way through, which was not a problem for me as I don't mind scallop sashimi, but may have been a problem for others.

By the time our entree plates had been cleared we knew that we were onto something special with Reserve at Milton.  When we had first arrived, the restaurant was practically empty but by the time of our mains arriving, the dining area had completely filled up.  We hadn't had to wait too long for our mains to arrive and before we knew it they were being presented.  Not wanting anything too heavy, SC had chosen the Crisp Skinned Snapper with steamed Kipflers, Sauce Gribiche and Chardonnay Vinaigrette.  Snapper is the king of fish and needs to be treated with respect and love and after the first mouthful of the delicious white flesh, it was apparent that it had been treated in kind.  Perfectly cooked with a lovely crispy skin, the snapper sat atop the creamy gribiche sauce and soft steamed kipfler potato.  The balance of flavours was wonderful but were taken to another level with just a squeeze of lemon for acidity.  The fish was divine.

My main of Crispy Crackle Pork Belly with Lentils du Puy, Baby Beetroot and Fromage Blanc and a Calvados Jus was equally beautiful both in appearance and flavour.  Pork belly is a wonderful thing when done right and this was done better than right, it was just spot on.  The fat was rendered perfectly and was full of that sweet porky flavour and the crispy crackle was one of the tastiest I have had, seasoned wonderfully and just yummy. With so much pork belly on the plate, there was a risk of it being too rich and fatty but the creamy fromage blanc really helped balance our the richness of the dish.  The sweet and sticky jus was a delight and worked surprisingly well with the fromage and the rich earthy beetroot.  I knew ordering this dish that I was not going to eat the lentils, I just don't eat lentils but SC persuaded me to try a few of them as they had a slight mint flavour to them, which of course is a classic flavour combination with pork.  I was completely besotted with this pork dish and think it the equal of the best pork belly I've had.

With such a lovely meal, there was never any doubt that we would be partaking in dessert, so when our waiter came offering the dessert menu, he was met with a resounding 'YES'.  Everything looked lovely on the menu but after such a rich meal SC thought she would go for a lighter option and chose the vanilla pannacotta with cinnamon beignets and a caramel sauce.  Many of the pannacotta's we have had lately have been in glasses, so we were really happy to see the dessert properly presented and with the right amount of wobble.  It was presented with some 'donut balls' artfully stacked on the plate.  Donut is a crude interpretation of the incredibly light and fluffy beignets that settled delicately on the palate.  The caramel sauce was slightly bitter and offset the sweetness from the wonderfully sweet pannacotta and cinnamon beignets.  It was a fabulous way to finish off the meal and was completely devoured in short order.

I was contemplating ordering the creme brûlée but was completely intrigued by one of the other desserts, which had beetroot as a main component.  After checking in with our waiter, I was convinced that the chocolate curd tart with beetroot and cherry sorbet with macerated cherries was the right decision.  I was staggered at the precision of the beautiful chocolate tart that was presented.  If I was staggered by the precision of the tart, I was almost overwhelmed with the richness of the chocolate and the sheer perfection of the tart.  It would have been totally overwhelming if not for the contrasting flavour of the beetroot and cherry sorbet.  It really helped with the richness of the chocolate tart and was a good replacement for the usual double cream that helps settle down rich chocolate.  This was one of the desserts of the year for me and while it lacked the pizazz of a Gerard's or Esquire dessert, it was none-the-less brilliant

Knowing that the Reserve at Milton had a AGFG chefs hat, I had expected a good meal, but not this good.  I've had meals at two hat restaurants and Michelin starred restaurants that were not as well put together or delicious as this meal.  Chef Kieran Reekie has put together a menu that belies belief and is bordering on complete perfection.  The Modern European menu has French overtones and for me is one of the most complete I have come across for some time (from this genre).

Quite often a great meal is let down by poor service delivery from the wait staff but our two waiters on the evening were perfect.  Very friendly and knowledgeable, our waiter was able to reel off the dessert wines when SC decided she wanted a sweet dessert wine with her pannacotta and the appropriate botrytis semillon that completely complimented her dessert.  We also heard them explaining the menu and some of the nuances to other diners in the room and just generally were great.

I love it when you leave a restaurant on a complete high from a fabulous meal and even better experience and this was how we finished up at Reserve.  Sure, there were a couple of minor issues with our entrees, but they didn't detract at all from the flavours and were very minor in the scheme of things.  I'd certainly go back to Reserve at Milton and definitely recommend it as a special occasion or date restaurant (especially now that Brent's at Toowong is going casual) and I will definitely will be back.  I'm even tempted to drive up to Maleny to check out their other restaurant.  Boy I was impressed...

It was the little touches like light whipped soft butter that spread easily on the bread rolls
The bread was complimentary with the meal, which is just as it should be
We were the second diners in the restaurant
But it soon filled up
The beautiful old Terrace house reminded us of our visit to Jacques Raymond in Melbourne
Beautiful chandeliers all over the restaurant and in the foyer 
The entry was just like a door to a house, only there was a stunning meal behind this door
Two stories of fine dining at its best

Reserve Restaurant Milton on UrbanspoonReserve Restaurant Milton

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