Sunday, 2 February 2014

GOMA Restaurant - Refined food in the perfect setting

When I think about the transformation of Brisbane from the little sleepy town it was when I moved here in 1992, I feel immensely proud.  Admittedly I moved from Adelaide, but at the time I thought I'd moved from a relatively cosmopolitan city to a very big country town.  In 2014, Brisbane was called by some the 'New World City' and while that might be a little bit of a stretch, it's certainly one of the best cities around and one I'm proud to call home.  The last five years or so have seen a complete transformation in the food scene but it's other areas that have really helped Brisbane's transformation.  One of the most significant in my opinion was the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art, GOMA, which rivals many of the great Modern Art Buildings in the world including the Tate Modern and MoMA.

One of the most dramatic exhibitions held at GOMA in recent times was the 'Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth' piece, which we'd recently seen many Instagram photos being posted.  We often talk about getting over to see the exhibitions at GOMA and then realise that we've missed them by the time we get around to wandering over, but we really didn't want to miss this one.  To help incentivise and motivate us to get across, I thought we would make a day of it and book into the GOMA restaurant, which had recently picked up it's first chef's hat in the Australian Good Food Guide.

I'd known that GOMA had a restaurant, but not much more than that, so when the 2014 AGFG list of Brisbane's best restaurants came out and the GOMA restaurant had made the list, it was inevitable that I would visit. The Executive Chef at GOMA is Josue Lopez, who has worked at some pretty impressive restaurants.  While Josue has spent time in well regarded restaurants like Moda and Two Small Rooms, it's his time in some of the best restaurants in the world that are eye catching.  Josue spent time in Gordon Ramsay's London restaurant Maze but he lists is time at Rene Redzepi's Noma in Denmark as his most influential.

After spending some time marvelling at the 'Falling Back to Earth' exhibition, we made our way to the GOMA restaurant, which I have to say was one of the more elegant and refined settings you could hope to experience.  With the incredible Karulpa Bridge, Brisbane river and CBD as the backdrop, the lovely clean lines of the restaurant were offset by the soft jazz music playing in the background.  We were seated right at the front by the impeccably presented maitre d' to a prime spot right next to the expansive views of the river and presented with our menus.

Josue's penchant for using native ingredients were on show when we looked over the very interesting menu, which offered several options including a la carte, set courses and a seven course degustation.  All of the items on the menu looked gorgeous but the degustation really stood out with its broad range of incredible looking dishes as well as its ridiculously great value.  A seven course degustation for only $75 dollars, yes please.

Very shortly after confirming our meal would be the degustation, the first course of wagyu bresaola with egg yolk pearls and mustard was served.  Incredibly thin bresaola, which is aged, salted and air dried beef, was wrapped around a dollop of aerated mustard and stood to attention on the plate.  I was surrounded by egg yolk pearls that gave a splash of colour, in fact the whole dish provided stark contrast to the black earthen plate that it was delivered on.  The the texture on the plate came from the aged beef and it's saltiness contrasted wonderfully with the sharp, yet tantalisingly light mustard.  The egg yolk pearls gave just a hint of sweetness and helped balanced out a wonderfully thought out first course.

Simple yet elegant presentation would be a constant throughout the meal with the equally beautiful and colourful second course.  The shelled broad beans with walnut soil, heirloom beetroots, and Toowoomba mustard greens was simplicity on a plate and looked all so appetising.  Often when you read 'soil' on a menu it ends up being a superfluous addition to the plate but not so with this dish.  Crushed walnuts had been cleverly disguised to be the bed for the very earthy beetroot, which came natural, candied and pickled to give contrasting flavours and textures.  There was some pureed broad bean infused with mustard underneath the soil that was both a bonding agent and delicious link between the soil and the beetroot.  The flavours were incredible and had nicely built on the first course and left us wanting more. 

The very earthy flavours of the first two courses made way for the indulgent brûlée of foie gras with aerated quince, cape gooseberries and brioche crumble.  This was a very similar dish to one we had at one of the worlds best restaurants in New York (see post here).  The Eleven Madison Park brûlée of foie gras probably looked a little more refined than the GOMA version, but flavour combination of the foie gras and the aerated quince was equal, if not better than the NYC equivalent.  The sweetness of the quince was just perfect with the smooth and creamy foie gras.  The flavours were wonderful and I really enjoyed this dish, but there was just a little too much brioche crumble and the balance of the plate was slightly off.  I noted that a table next to us had ordered this dish a la carte and there was much more of the quince to balance the plate out, so perhaps it suffered just a bit by being on the degustation menu.

Our next course was so beautiful it could have been hung on the wall in GOMA as a piece of contemporary art. The Moreton Bay bug poached in GOMA churned butter with saffron broth, seaweed and broccolini was refined, spectacular and delicious.  There was a lightness to the dish that transcended cooking and became art.  The generous serving of poached bug was perfectly cooked, as were each of the components on the plate with balanced flavours that can only come from a chef at the top of his game.  I was initially worried about the seaweed, which on it's own was a bit harsh but when combined with the bug and broccolini made so much sense.  I loved this dish and only wish that a spoon was provided to mop up the saffron broth.

Josue's preference for local ingredients again shone with the seared wallaby loin with native spiced black pudding, smoked potato and Illawarra plum.  It was hard to believe that the bugs could have been topped but it happened.   The flavours on the plate were staggering in their complexity, which was only matched with the balance of flavours.  Simply put, every element on the plate needed the next to work.  The smokiness of the potato balanced the richness of the candied black pudding and the earthiness of the pan seared wallaby exploded when combined with the sweet and tart plum.  It didn't even matter to me that the wallaby was ever so slightly over cooked to medium rare (wallaby should be rare), the flavours were so mouth waveringly good and the other components so well balanced it was redundant.

I'm not normally a fan of the cheese course that seems to be a requirement for most degustations, but I will have to revise my view on cheese after my experience at GOMA restaurant.  The Byron Bay Tintenbah semi hard cheese with honeycomb and violets has redefined what a cheese course can be!  The cheese was artfully sliced into interconnecting strips and sprinkled with violet rocks, which then sat atop a smear of violet infused honey.  The combination of the cheese and honey was lovely, but the whole dish took on a new complexion once the crunchy violet pieces were consumed, with explosions of flavour on the palate.  Surprisingly for a cheese course, I ate the whole lot and was left wanting more.

We were initially very confused when our dessert was placed in front of us.  It looked for all intents and purposes that we had nineteen custard drops on a chocolate brown plate.  Our waitress, amused by the confused look on our faces filled in the gaps.  The wattle custard had been covered in Daintree chocolate paint and then decorated with Daintree vanilla curd, so the dessert was underneath and well hidden.  We loved the confusion that was caused by the juxtaposition of the earthy looking plate and the hidden custard.  The wattle custard had a very interesting flavour that was sweet yet bitter at the same time.  The chocolate paint and the very sweet vanilla curd spots helped balance out the bitter flavour and provide a very imaginative yet wonderful dessert.

I'm consistently amazed with the incredible chefs and restaurants that we have in Brisbane, I mean, we have some serious talent in our fair state.  It's even better when it's so unexpected.  Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't even realise that there was a fine dining restaurant at the GOMA, let along one that is so incredibly creative with its use of native ingredients.  Executive chef Josue Lopez has tapped into something here that is wonderful and to be lauded and clearly shows off his influences in working with the worlds best chefs.

Our whole meal was a dream, from the moment we were shown to our table to the minute we left for home. Each of the wait staff were impeccable and were clearly knowledgeable and incredibly proud of the meals that were coming from the kitchen.  I've had a number of near faultless degustations and some very memorable meals, and this one would sit right up at the tippy top of that list.  Best of all, it was only $75 dollars, which represents amazing value for the quality of the meal.

I can understand why the GOMA restaurant and Josue have picked up an AGFG chefs hat, with my only real question here being....  When will they get their second?  Get over and check this place out!

The beetroot dish was very pretty and so delicious.  To my vegetarian friends out there, this plate definitely did not need meat
Beautiful and delicious - the poached Moreton Bay bugs 
Redefining my idea about cheese courses - hard cheese, violet and honeycomb 
A little bit of trickery to finish off.  The chocolate painted dish hid the Wattle custard below
The CBD and Karulpa Bridge in the background
Interestingly, all of our cutlery was placed on the table before the meal....
White linen, polished glasses and silver service - amazing feel to the dining area
It was relatively busy in the dining area - but it's quite big
There was a balcony for alfresco dining too
Just the prefect lunch - I will be back

GOMA Restaurant on UrbanspoonGOMA Restaurant


  1. I dine at the GOMA restaurant at least once a month, sometimes more. It has been wonderful to see Josue's vision in the kitchen develop. Why it isn't on everyone's must visit list is beyond me, not least because it is so reasonably priced

    1. I Agree Thea, it's definitely on my list of top 10 restaurants in Brisbane, probably in my top 5! I love the place and am a little envious that you eat there monthly! I would too if it wasn't on the other side of the city from me :)


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