Sunday, 2 February 2014

Restaurant Two - a perfect spot to end an era

Just over a week ago we were hit with the staggering news that our General Manager would be moving on after seven years on the job.  We all knew that this day would come, sure, but when it finally happens it's still a shock to the system.  Our last day together as a full leadership team was superb, we were able to sign off many of the strategic goals our team wanted to achieve and then finish off the day with a celebratory dinner.  When it comes to picking a location for dinner, obviously I've got a few ideas but was really happy to let MK get on and choose the spot for us to celebrate and commiserate before the start of a new era.

We needed to hit one of the special destination spots around the CBD and while there are a few that we all love going to, the one that was booked was Restaurant Two.  A lot has been said and written about David Pugh's award winning restaurant on the corner of Edward and Alice Streets down by the Botanical Gardens, and for good reason.  Restaurant Two has been around for well over a decade and producing food of the highest quality.  David is also well known around town as a campaigner for local businesses, in particular the changes to parking conditions in the CBD (but that's another story).  I've written about Restaurant Two before (see post here) and over the I've had some amazing meals there, and some so-so meals, so I wondered which I'd get this time.

The team had decided to stop into the Laneway Bar for a few drinks after work before heading over to Restaurant Two and I'd met the team there after running some gear back to work.  By the time I'd arrived at the bar, festivities were well under way and the team was engaging and reminiscing and generally having a great time.  I started to get a little nervous about our 7pm booking when half the team decided there was time for another bottle of bubbly - at 6:50pm!  Suspecting that we might not make the booking, a couple of us moved on from the Laneway Bar with assurances from our remaining team mates that they wouldn't be far behind. There was a second reason for the boys of the group to head over to the restaurant, we were pretty hungry and wanted get stuck into some bread while we waited.

Arriving at the restaurant and shown to our seats, we'd only just finished a side of bread when the rest of the team walked in and declared that they'd cancelled the bubbly with a view to ordering a bottle or two over dinner.  Within short order the next round of champers had been ordered and the long process of a large group of workmates ordering dinner commenced.  You know how it is, mostly chatting and laughing and just a little bit of looking at the menu, then back to chatting and laughing.  It did take a while but we finally got around to making our menu choices.

Restaurant Two is well known for regularly changing up it's menu and the 'January' version had a stack of really interesting and tasty looking options.  I both love it and hate it when there are a heap of items that have to be tried with the knowledge that you can only get one of each course.  As difficult as it was, I made my decision and while we waited for the starters to arrive, a little amuse bouche of quail egg with bacon bits was delivered.  The half quail egg was lovely with a slightly gooey yolk but what really set this alight was the tiny little flakes of bacon that came as part of the 'little bite'

There are were a lot of starter options to read through on the Restaurant Two menu and I almost skipped over my final selection of grilled ocean king prawns with chorizo and broccolini risotto with lemon.  I didn't particularly feel like prawns and it wasn't until my third read through that I noticed that it was actually a risotto as well.  The dish had three large and expertly cooked prawns sitting atop a bed of perfectly cooked and creamy risotto that had just a hint of lemon.  The chorizo bits were actually quite mild and sweet, which didn't overpower the prawns at all and in fact complimented them nicely.  This was a very accomplished risotto that had a perfect balance of flavours and textures and one that I enjoyed immensely!  

As much as it was a difficult choice for my starter, my main selection was much easier.  There were a stack of proteins that looked great but I only had eyes for the sous-vide duck breast with butter milk poached celeriac, fresh cherries, gremolata, broccolini served with a cherry sauce.  Sous-vide is a process where the duck is cooked in a water bath at a very low temperature over a long period of time and often results in tender and delicious food that's cooked in its own juices.  My duck was indeed incredibly tender and beautifully pink and full of gamey flavour but with a minor problem.  When it had been finished off in the pan afterwards to help render the duck fat, the fat had not fully rendered and was still a little 'white'.  It didn't impact the overall flavour and composition of the meal, but I'm sure it would have been even better had the duck fat rendered fully.  Another highlight was the butter milk poached celeriac, which was simply delicious, especially when combined with the slightly tart cherry sauce.

I found it really difficult to choose my dessert.  There were a couple of dishes I would normally order in a heartbeat, like the chocolate fondant or the creme brûlée, but I was intrigued by the passionfruit soup with mango, strawberry leather, lemon meringue and ginger beer jelly.  It sounded awesome on paper and looked amazing on the plate, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.  I guess I had visions of a dessert I picked up at Organic Char once (see picture) when I ordered it.  It also didn't help that the other desserts on the table were mind blowingly good - see below.  There was nothing really wrong with my dessert, it had good flavours but it was a bit one dimensional with too many soft fruits and jelly.

As you would expect at one of Brisbane's foundation fine dining restaurants, the service on the night was impeccable.  I'm sure it's not easy to serve a large table with different entrees and mains and by and large all of our meals came out without much delay.

I've always found Restaurant Two to be quite a refined dining spot and this tradition continued on for our meal, which by consensus was highly enjoyed by the table.  There were a couple of minor issues, in particular with my duck which needed just a little more time finishing off in the pan to fully render the fat and with the lamb, which also needed a few more minutes to have it's fat fully rendered.  The flavour combinations of my dishes, along with those that I managed to snaffle a bite or two were all wonderful.

We were all having a grand time with much bubbly flowing across the table, but it was time for those of us who weren't drinking on the night to head off home.  As it turned out it was the boys who were abstaining on the night and we all left together, leaving the remainder of the team to crack on.  It was a fitting end to an era in our business and while our beloved boss was leaving, it was not the end of our relationships, which will be cherished forever.  Happy and sad time!

My risotto was the dish of the night for me 
Sashimi market fish with hot mustard, rock sugar glaze, charred onions and avocado
New season asparagus with almond puree and crumbs with a 63 degree egg and shaved parmesan
Biggest chips ever!
Grilled Kilcoy eye fillet with smoked gruyere custard, crisp onions with red and yellow peppers
Goats cheese tortellini with roasted beetroots, artichoke, celeriac, pine nuts, beurre noisette and fresh lemon
Roast lamb rack with artichoke puree, heirloom carrot, puffed amaranth, charred onions, baby beetroot and a Shiraz jus
Best dessert of the night - sweet corn pannacotta with puffed barley, malted ice cream, corn rocks and coriander
Daintree vanilla creme brûlée with raspberry and peach salad, glass, thyme and peach sorbet
My dessert with the passionfruit soup poured into the bowl
It was quite busy in the dining room but it was raucous in the private dining area
I really loved this painting on the way out
A quite spot to read or have a drink before the meal starts

Restaurant Two on Urbanspoon

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