Sunday, 9 February 2014

Alfred & Constance - A change of seasons and a change of menu!

Not just satisfied with changing the Valley forever by introducing some of the coolest spots to eat in Brisbane, the team behind Alfred and Constance continue to evolve and stay fresh. Damian Griffiths and his team know they are onto a winner with the very funky Gastro Pub on the corner of Constance and Alfred Streets in the Valley, but never rest on their laurels.  

For those of you who haven't checked out Alfred and Constance, it's probably about time you thought about it.  A&C is known as a Gastro Pub serving tasty and down to earth food, but it's also so much more.  After lovingly restoring two old Queenslanders, Damien and his team set about creating a series of spaces that so completely fit into the vibe of Fortitude Valley, you would be surprised to know the place has only been open since November 2012.  Since opening, A&C has become a favourite drinking spot in its Tiki bar and a favourite local to hit your sweet tooth with its late night dessert cafe. 

Knowing that you need to evolve to stay ahead in Brisbane's ultra competitive casual dining scene, Damien, along with Patron Chef Jocelyn Hancock have again made some tweaks to the A&C menu.  As we move away from Summer (Noooooooo) and head into Autumn, its no surprise that the new Autumn A&C menu takes on a more earthy feel, yet still adhering to their basic principles of honest, full flavoured food.

Along with a couple of dozen other Brisbane foodies, I'd been invited along to check out the new menu but this time I was able to bring SC along as my plus one.  It had been quite a while since SC and I had been to A&C together, so we were pretty excited to be testing some of the new menu options together instead of SC just looking at the photos afterwards!  The A&C menu tasting nights are always a fun event and I was happy that I'd be able to share it this time.

While we were waiting for our entrees to arrive, the table set about testing out some of the cocktails that A&C are so well known for.  While I didn't get into any of the cocktails, I watched on in amusement as SC cracked on with a couple, with the lychee martini and the 'bramble' being the two she enjoyed the most!  It wasn't too long before each of the new entrees on the menu magically appeared on our table!

First up was the flame grilled lamb cutlets with honey, rosemary and a mustard marinade.  There are pretty much always lamb cutlets on the A&C menu but I think this version of them was my all time favourite, and definitely a favourite at out table.  The lamb was beautifully grilled and was nice and pink with a strong meaty flavour that was offset by the sweet marinade.  I really thought I loved lamb, and I do, but a couple of the other guests at my table really loved the lamb, with the bone picked clean on a couple of plates.

My favourite starter was the Josper grilled scallops with a lemon and thyme butter.  I've always had a weakness for scallops and these Harvey Bay scallops cooked in their shells were delicious.  There was the natural sweetness from the scallops and then that wonderful burnt butter flavour that comes when cooking under a grill, with the thyme really accentuating the lemon.  There were heaps of scallops delivered to the table for us to munch on and I have to admit to sneaking a couple of extra ones onto my plate.

Last of the starters for us to sample was the blue swimmer crab cakes with lime and hot pink mayo.  This was another favourite around the table, mainly because of the lime and hot pink mayo, which had a little bit of a kick.  The crab cakes were lovely and golden brown and had big chunks of the delicate blue swimmer crab throughout.  I detected a little bit of heat coming from the crab cakes as well, so I'm thinking that there was some chilli added to the mix as well, not too much to overpower the crab, but enough to stand up and say 'hi'.

The dish that excited me the most and was most certainly my favourite of the whole night was the Josper gilled lamb backstrap with freekah, sautéed brussel sprouts and silverbeet.  I love seeing that rose pink through the middle of a lamb backstrap that signifies cooking perfection and the A&C lamb was right there. There was a lovely sticky jus that was mixed in with the freekah (like a middle eastern cereal made from wheat) that accompanied the lamb that simply enhanced the flavour of Australia's favourite protein (well, Australia Day is not far gone).  What I really loved about the lamb was the thin crust of caramelisation that surrounded the soft, pink and delicious flesh.

When I saw what our mains were to be for the night, I really thought that I would prefer the slow roasted pork belly with star anise, sauteed apples and fennel.  There is no doubt that the pork belly was good, it had wonderfully rendered fat and the pork was soft and juicy, but it fell just short of that amazing lamb.  The consensus was the same around the table.....  Pork belly = good, but lamb = amazing.  I know of some pork fiends that might have a different opinion though!

Where the starters and mains were placed on share plates on the table and it was 'every man for themselves', or woman, as the case was at our table (I was the only boy), we each ordered our own dessert.  There were three desserts including a chocolate panna cotta, a nutella cheese cake and the A&C favourite, the banoffee pie.  I'd had the pie before but really couldn't pass up the opportunity to try this incredibly decadent dessert again.  The mix of banana, caramel, chocolate and whipped cream was just to potent for me to miss.  A few spoons into my dessert and I knew I'd made the right choice, it was beautiful and a wonderful way to finish up any meal.

Damian Griffiths and the Alfred and Constance team are extremely committed to making sure that the food on offer is just right.  I can't think of too many establishments around town that will do full dry runs with a packed dining room and a kitchen under pressure before opening it up to the public, just to make sure your experience is a good one.  I think it's a great strategy and ensures that any feedback given can be adopted and helps make the dining experience much more enjoyable.

The thing I love about Alfred and Constance is that it's great at what it does, and that's provide quality gastro pub food in an environment that is just a lot of fun.  The music is funky house, which I have to admit to being my favourite genre and it makes it all the easier to sit back and enjoy the vibe of the place while eating some great food, then crack on with some excellent cocktails (if that's your thing).

** I was a guest of Lucid Media and Alfred and Constance for this event

The Lychee Martini was a top way for SC to kick off the night
A side of wild rice with fennel, orange, cucumber, sautéed spanish onion, toasted pecans and apple cider dressing.  I loved the splash of citrus with the rice
A side of cauliflower with lentil sprouts, ruby chard, pine nuts, fresh dill, caper and a mustard dressing was my favourite salad of the night.  The cauliflower was pretty yummy
The very rich chocolate panna cotta and caramel pot with orange sable
The even richer nutella cheesecake with cream and chocolate cookie cream - you needed to be a serious dessert fiend to get through this bad boy
There are lots of kooky little rooms at Alfred and Constance - hope you don't mind a skeleton watching you eat! 
In between the two old Queenslanders at Alfred and Constance is the kitchen and the outdoor dining area
Where you can order a little bit of piggy!
In case you need directions!

Alfred and Constance on UrbanspoonAlfred & Constance

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