Sunday, 5 January 2014

Era Bistro - New Years Eve dinner

We were always going to go out for dinner on New Years Eve, it was just a matter of deciding where to go and how best to see out the year that was 2013.  Of the restaurants open for NYE 2013, there were six or seven that looked really great and we had to decide on how much we wanted to spend and what we were going to do after eating.  Some of the options were at the premium end of the spectrum, such as the $185 per person Stokehouse package that included dinner and drinks as well as partying afterwards.  Some had set menus with little option but to eat the entree, main and dessert that was prescribed as part of that menu. Others were just about the food with a complimentary glass of bubbly included in the price.

We ended up choosing one of our favourite restaurants, one that we hadn't been to for a little while and one where there were multiple options for each of the courses.  Era Bistro is a restaurant that SC has been to a heap of times, way more than me, so I was keen to get along and see what they would be doing for NYE.  The last time we had been to Era together, I'd missed out on one of the most spectacular entrees that I'd ever seen (see post here) and I was hoping to get something that was just as good this time (and hopefully not miss out to SC again).

The guys behind Era Bistro have been in the Brisbane restaurant scene for a long time and those of you that have long memories might remember their uber cool restaurant, Circa.  Bob and Brad Hamilton have partnered up with Bob's daughter Melinda Wright and long time Circa manager Paul Morris.  Head chef Marcus Turner has been at the helm of Era Bistro for quite some time now and has really stamped his style on the fine casual diner (not quite fine dining but not casual either), which produced amazing quality food in a very relaxed setting.  Era has again been rewarded with awards for it's take on dining with the Australian Good Food Guide rating it as one of the top five restaurants in Brisbane for 2014 and awarding it two hats, a great achievement.

Most of the restaurants open for New Years Eve had two time slots available for dinner, you could either do a 6:30pm sitting and be out by 8:30pm or you could have an 8:30pm sitting and party on for the rest of the evening.  A 6:30 sitting on NYE was just a bit too early for dinner, even for early diners like us so the open booking system for Era was perfect for us and we arranged for a 7pm which had no limit on how long we stayed.  When we arrived, the place was packed, with almost every table filled with early revellers.  As we sat down and looked around the dining area, we noticed that most had already eaten their meals and were onto dessert, upon further inspection we could tell that the average age of diners so early was around sixty!!  Of all the tables there were perhaps three others with diners under 40.

Shortly after sitting down, our waiter came over with a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier and poured SC and I a couple of glasses.  As a non drinker, this was in fact a bonus for SC as she was able to score both glasses of bubbly as her own.  She would take a few sips from the glass in front of her, then swap them over, so it looked like we were both drinking, quite unnecessary but a little amusing for the two of us.  We looked over the menu to decide on what we would be eating for our final meal of 2013, which had four options each for entree, main and dessert, with the waiter asking us to make our decision on all three courses to make it a little easier for the kitchen and wait staff on such a busy night.

With the memories of the last scallop dish from Era we both could not go past the seared scallops with Murray cod, prosciutto, leak fondu and watercress veloute.  The dish presented was quite pretty in a rustic kind of way and was really colourful with the bright green watercress veloute underpinning the dish.  The scallops were huge and wonderfully cooked with the right amount of caramelisation and colour.  Instead of the usual three scallops, there was a piece of crispy skinned Murray cod, which was also cooked expertly and added some different fishy texture to the dish.  The combination of flavours was lovely, with the saltiness from the prosciutto and the leaks combining well with the sweetness of the scallops.  The watercress veloute was delicious and brought the dish together perfectly, with my only complaint being there was no spoon to finish off the veloute and the bowl was the wrong shape to pick up and lick the bottom!

With only four options to chose from, it was actually more difficult to choose a main than you would have thought and after much deliberation SC opted for the potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms, parmesan, roquefort mouse and sage beurre noisette.    The arrangement on the dish was quite interesting with a parmesan basket used to contain the creamy roquefort mouse.  The double hit of cheese had the risk of being over powering but it worked really well with the earthy mushrooms and the large, well cooked gnocchi pieces. There was an interesting flavour permeating  through the dish from the sage, which gave a very fresh flavour and extra depth to the dish.  It was lovely.

My question related to my desire to have duck, salmon or beef as my main course and after looking at some of the accompaniments that came with each dish chose the Angus beef fillet with cream spinach, lyonnaise onion, dauphinoise potato and truffle jus.  I'd asked for my beef to be cooked medium rare and was very happy to see a perfect match when I made my first cut.  The beef was very high quality and extremely tender and easy to cut, with a lovely truffle jus to mix with the tender beef.  I really love the combination of truffle and beef, so this was a match made in heaven.  The dauphinoise potato was lovely and buttery and tasted great with the truffle jus but I didn't really love the creamed spinach, which didn't work as well with the jus.

None of the desserts really excited me, although they looked interesting enough.  SC's choice of banana parfait with palm sugar meringues, candied hazelnuts and a Nutella spring roll probably looked the most interesting. It reminded me of one of the best desserts around from Aria, the banana banoffe, which sadly no longer exists.  The banana parfait had some great banana flavour but tasted a little grainy for me, not nice and smooth as it should have been.  The mix of the candied hazelnuts and brûlée'd banana added some contrasting textures and temperatures to the dish which were great.  I thought the palm sugar meringues were also interesting, with some nice chewy texture.  SC left the Nutella spring roll until last and I could tell she really enjoyed it by the way it was savoured and I'm glad she didn't leave any for me as I'm not a fan of Nutella (I know, shocking, right?)

I had ordered the valrhona chocolate and cheesecake brownie with choc honey sauce and caramelised white chocolate ice cream.  I was expecting something rich and decadent and was not disappointed in that regard, although the presentation was a little disappointing.  The chocolate and cheesecake brownie was unusual in its composition and looked a little strange but boy it tasted great, especially when I scooped up the choc honey sauce with each spoonful.  It got even better when I started to mix in the warm chocolate sauce with the cold ice cream, which was sweet at delicious.  There were some contrasting textures on the plate from some chocolate 'soil' which helped bind all the sticky sweet gooeyness together.

We weren't in any rush to get through dinner but each of the dishes came out at regular intervals and before we knew it we were in a race to finish off dessert with enough time to get out and see the 8:30pm fireworks. In the end we decided that we've seen plenty of fireworks from our apartment over the years and we were enjoying dinner too much to rush through, so we missed the fireworks, but no biggie.

About midway through out dinner a transition had occurred, with all of the tables filled with the baby boomers finishing up their meals and being replaced by a much younger crowd, many of whom looked to be settling in for the long haul.

We had really enjoyed our final meal of 2013 at Era and while it was not the best meal of the year it was certainly a worthy finish to the year.  Given it was a super busy night, we were really impressed with the service and in particular our waiter, who was funny, helpful and clearly enjoying being there for NYE service (and lets be honest, who wants to work NYE?).

New Years Eve is normally a time for reflection and setting new goals for the next year, but SC and I are pretty content at the moment and have had an amazing year in 2013.  All we can ask is to have another year like 2013 and to remain happy and healthy.  I guess only time will tell if this is the case, but I've no reason to think otherwise.

***  On a side note, I think we missed out big time.  Our second choice for dinner was to be the Stokehouse and we found out that Roger Federer was on premises to see out the year.  Damn, it would have been awesome to meet the great man.  Oh well.


The menu for the night
Big score for SC, she got to have both glasses of bubbly
Our mains came with a simple salad that was lovely after the rich mains
Our desserts
There was a change over where the oldies left and the kids arrived around 8pm

Era Bistro on UrbanspoonEra Bistro

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