Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Foraging Quail - beautifully presented stunning food

What an amazing time of the year.  Not only have there been two long weekends in a row but the weather has been absolutely perfect, with sunny days and a perfect 28 degrees celsius.  When the weather is this perfect, I love nothing more than getting out of the CBD and going for a walk in Brisbane's surrounds. We'd done over Paddington, South Brisbane and West End the previous long weekend and thought that a walk along the river to check out how the new river walk was coming along was next.  It was such a beautiful day, we just kept walking and walking and before too long we were at the Powerhouse in New Farm.

We'd been out in the sun for quite a while and decided it was time to walk home and chose a much more direct route than the meandering Brisbane river.  As luck would have it, we started to wander down Merthyr Road and stumbled upon the very new The Foraging Quail.  I was pretty excited to find out exactly where this shiny-new restaurant was, mainly because we had a reservation for dinner that very same night.  I was left wondering if it was serendipity that we'd found the Foraging Quail or if subconsciously I'd taken us to New Farm for our walk in the hope that we would in fact find it?

The Foraging Quail is one of the newest restaurants in Brisbane and had only opened a few days before we'd booked in for a Friday night meal.  As we walked by and I had a sneak peak inside the dining room, we could see Minh Le and his team already hard at work doing the prep work for the very meal that we would be back to enjoy later on that evening.  The name Minh Le may strike a chord with those of you from the inner west and that would be because Minh was the head chef at Auchenflower favourite Deer Duck Bistro.  Responsible for some insanely creative food at Deer Duck, Minh had finally realised his dream of opening up his own place and after scouring Brisbane for just-the-right-spot, found an interesting space in New Farm.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The Flaming Olive - another gem at the M&A precinct

It's interesting where you can get inspiration to visit a new restaurant.  I'd been keeping an eye on the new developments in the McLachlan and Ann (M&A) laneway precinct and had seen that the newest addition had opened.  It wasn't until I was sitting, strangely, in a McDonalds grabbing a quick burger between meetings that it hit me that I needed to get in and check out The Flaming Olive.  You might ask what on earth inspired me inside a McDonalds and that would be a good question!  I was actually flicking through Tuesdays edition of the Courier Mail and stumbled across "Kitchen Confidential' by Fiona Donnelly, who'd written a couple of articles - one about the Flaming Olive (the other was for the Foraging Quail).

Needless to say that I didn't enjoy my first McDonalds burger in a few years but I'd jumped on the phone and made a reservation for the Flaming Olive for later on that night.  Then all I had to do was convince SC that we'd be dining out that night, a task which was pretty easy!

I still find it amazing and concerning, in equal parts, that there are so many new restaurants opening up in Brisbane.  Amazing because there food scene in our city is maturing before my very eyes and concerning because I fear that supply will outstrip demand and we will see more restaurant closures.  M&A lane is leading the charge at the moment with heaps of new dining options (see posts here) but the Valley in general is about to explode with new building developments and dining options.  The Flaming Olive is the latest in that neck of the woods and I was interested in seeing how different it would be from its neighbours.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Mario at the Dining Room - it just didn't do it for me

I have a goal to get along to all 45 of the Australian Good Food Guide hatted restaurants in Brisbane this year.  I've done pretty well so far, visiting practically all of them over the last twelve months, with only the hatted restaurants in the suburbs still yet to be visited from my list.  With only five left on the list, each time we head out for dinner, we seriously consider getting to one of these remaining restaurants.  Over the Easter long weekend, I decided it would be time to check another off my list.

We felt like Italian, so that left three restaurants that fit the bill, Bar Alto in New Farm, Viale Canover in Clayfield and Mario at the Dining Room in Hendra, which was the restaurant we decided to visit.  I'd had a buddy from work mention Mario's to me last year and I'd had it in my mind to visit ever since it was mentioned to me.

Hendra is not a part of Brisbane that we spend a whole lot of time but driving down Sandgate Road on the trip out was a little nostalgic for both of us, for different reasons.  SC had spent time out that way to visit her Grandmother when she was still around and I'd spent time in the area well before we'd met, when I first moved to Queensland.  So, with our rudimentary knowledge of the area, we didn't need to use our SatNav to find Mario's and after a relatively short drive, found a park in what seemed just like an ordinary suburban street.

Breakfast Series - Buzz Bistro and Bar Gasworks

I love the Easter long weekend.  It's a way to get a nice little mini break from work and have a lovely relaxing weekend and Easter 2014 has been superb with blue skies and sunny warm weather.  The Easter weekend does present a little bit of a problem for foodies, with many restaurants and cafes closed for the duration.  While there were not the usual assortment of places to dine out, there were still plenty of dining options open with just a little investigation and searching on the web.

We'd planned on going to breakfast and the first couple of options we looked at were all closed for the break but eventually I came across Buzz and thought we'd give it a go.  Buzz had recently opened up at the Gasworks, which is fast becoming one of the 'go-to' dining precincts in Brisbane.  Buzz Bistro and Bar is actually a burgeoning chain of cafes that numbers four in Brisbane with the other locations including Emporium, Tennyson and the Rocklea markets.

We arrived at Buzz nice and early and were easily able to find a seat in the very bright and accommodating space.  There is a pristine feeling in the dining area at Buzz, with stark white tiles offset by a calming leaf green trim.  The clean lines continue with wood tables and bench tops that accommodate large and small groups as well as communal seating.  There is a large bar area that would get some heavy use on a Friday and Saturday night and the kitchen is off to the side with glimpses of the team of chefs in action.  I also loved the exposed pizza oven, with a glass backing, you could see the flames that would ultimately cook the pizzas on the dinner menu.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Champ Kitchen & Bar - dining on a public holiday

I'd been pretty concerned when I found out that one of the great open spaces at South Bank was going to be torn up and developed into the new ABC studios.  I love to see Brisbane develop, but I'd wondered at the logic of tearing up one of the nicest areas of the precincts for another building.  As it turned out, the development went ahead and the space was transformed into a pretty decent looking building that felt as if it's always belonged there.

In that new building was a lovely looking restaurant created by Justine Whelan of very popular Paddington cafe, Anouk, which is one of my favourite breakfast spots around town (see post here).  Champ Kitchen and Bar has been designed to be in perfect harmony with its surrounds in South Bank, with a very open and modern feel that lets the outside in. It's located right outside the Brisbane Wheel and the forecourt of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, which makes it a perfect location for a quick meal before a show or a lingering meal if you have the time.

It was the Easter long weekend and we'd been for a meandering walk over the Story Bridge, then along the Kangaroo Point cliffs and finally to Southbank, where we spotted that Champ Kitchen was actually open for the weekend.  We wandered into the dining area to check if the dining room would be open for dinner and decided to make a booking on the spot.  Unsure what else would be open for the public holiday, we thought that it would be better to be locked in for dinner early to avoid disappointment.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Fish Lane Bistro - An orange and caramel sauce to die fo

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" is a quote that's attributed to William Edward Hickson and is fairly self explanatory.  The Fox Hotel certainly lives by these words after recently 'retiring' its dedicated meatball venture (see post here) and establishing a more traditional bistro style restaurant in the space formerly occupied by the Meatball Company.  The Meatball Co had a very short and unremarkable stay in the Brisbane dining scene, which was a shame as I'd personally had high hopes for the concept after enjoying a number of meatball style restaurants in New York (see post here).

The Fox Hotel has named their new venture the Fish Lane Bistro, aptly if not a little unimaginatively named after the lane that runs right next to the little bistro.  To help ensure that Fish Lane Bistro got off to the right start, the Fox acquired the services of well known Brisbane chef Jonno Bryant who most recently had moved from Peasant and Cabria at the Petrie Barracks.  Using his experiences at the Barracks restaurants as well as a stint at Montrachet and time in charge at Anise in Newfarm, the Fox is hoping that Jonno can use his experience to create a new and iconic bistro. 

I'd been hanging out with some blogger friends for some Eat Drink Blog planning over at the State Library, which had taken up much of the afternoon, so I'd arranged to meet SC over at Fish Lane.  It was a short walk from the state library to the restaurant and even through it was a wet and miserable evening, I managed to get over without being soaked.  I ended up arriving right on time and was shown directly to my seat to wait for SC, who was struggling to find a park near the restaurant.  Eventually SC trudged through the door looking a bit miffed that she'd had to park so far away.  Note to self, parking in South Brisbane can suck...

Friday, 18 April 2014

Breakfast Series - Scout Cafe

I quite often go through 'eating-out' phases, with breakfast being one of my favourite.  It had been quite some time since we had been out for breakfast and I was feeling a bit scratchy about it. There was a period late last year when we would go out for breakfast religiously but strangely we'd stopped. It took a late night text from our buddy DruBoy to see what we were doing for breakfast the next morning and seeing if we wanted to come along to check out Scout Cafe.  It's always fun catching up with DruBoy, so we quickly agreed to breakfast and arranged an 8:00am start.

I'd been hearing great things about Scout Cafe but had only a vague understanding of where it was located, but oriented myself as soon as we parked our car across the street on Petrie Terrace.  We'd walked along Petrie Terrace a thousand times over the years and I'd not really noticed the little shopfront on the corner of Petrie Terrace and Princess Street before.  Petrie Terrance had always been a bit of 'no-mans-land' and the quaint little shopfront had been an empty shell for a long, long time before owners Suse Whitehouse and Candy Smith took carriage of the spot and turned their long held dream into a reality.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Casual Dining - Fiesta Ole Mexican Cuisine

Given it was a Thursday night, we'd initially planned to have a quite night at home and SC had actually planned to have one of her two fasting days for the week.  That all changed pretty quickly when we received a text around lunch time from our mate DruBoy asking if we wanted to check out a new Mexican restaurant in the Valley.  It's not unusual to get a late request from DruBoy, the last of which was a free ticket to see Jamie Oliver and his crew, an offer in which I would have jumped at if the offer wasn't the next day and in Sydney!  Anyway, this offer was a little less dramatic and always keen to check out new restaurants, we agreed to catch up.

There's been so many high profile restaurants opening in the last few months, it's pretty easy to miss out on the smaller openings and Fiesta Ole was just such a restaurant.  Located on Turbot Street just around the corner from the Valley Woolworths complex, it would be pretty easy to miss the little Mexican diner unless you knew it was there.  Fiesta Ole is actually in a little shop that we used to walk past all the time when doing our shopping in the Valley Woolies which never seemed to have tenants for very long.  It had been ages since we walked past that little shop so we had absolutely no idea that it had changed yet again.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Casual Dining - The George Bar & Bistro

I'd been holding off on checking out the new dining spot in 111 Eagle Street in the CBD, it had been just too painful to see one of my favourite little bistros closing down after only a year. Philip Johnson's One Eleven had been one of my first blog posts and a spot that I'd regularly dined at and I took it's closure hard.

Generally speaking though, time heals all wounds and I'd decided to check out The George Bar about a month ago for a lunch catch up with a colleague.  We'd had a fairly basic lunch and a fairly average experience at the time but since I was not in blogger mode, didn't post about my experience.  Fast forward a bit and I was looking for a nice casual spot to have some dinner with SC after she'd had a pretty late night at work.  In the past Bistro One Eleven would have fit the bill perfectly, so we decided it was time to get across together and see what The George Bar & Bistro had to offer for dinner.

The George Bar and Bistro is actually the latest offering of former Wallabies halfback George Gregan and his wife Erica, who have been slowly building a commercial empire in the dining industry.  While The George is Gregan's first foray into the Brisbane market, you may be surprised to know that he's already launched more than 17 venues in laneways and office buildings around Sydney and Canberra.  

Friday, 11 April 2014

Urbane - there's a reason why it's so good

There are very few restaurants in a city that have the ability to completely challenge the way you think about food. I feel very fortunate to live in a city where there are two restaurants that have proven themselves capable of standing on the world stage and saying 'look-at-me'.  I've been giving a lot of love to Esquire over the last twelve months (see posts here), so I thought it was time to give Brisbane's other degustation-only restaurant a return visit.

I have a semi regular dinner with some work buddies (past and present) who love to come along and share in my food adventures from time to time, and when asked where we should go for our next restaurant, I had no hesitation in choosing Urbane.  One of our recent excursions for a degustation fell a little short of expectations (see post here) and I wanted to ensure that we didn't get a repeat experience.  It was a risky gamble given my last experience at Urbane with the usually impeccable menu having a couple of items that didn't quite hit the heights that I've come to expect (see post here).

Urbane is one of a handful of Two Hat and Two Star restaurants in the country and officially listed as our top ranking restaurant in the Gourmet Travellers top 100 restaurants, currently sitting at #12.  Urbane has always had a reputation for securing the freshest young talent around which stretches all the way back to Ryan Squires (of Esquire fame) and 2012 Good Food Guide chef of the year Kym Machin.  That trend has continued as the fine diner secured the services of Argentinian wonder chef Alejandro Cancino, who has worked in the world's 4th best restaurant, Mugaritz in Spain, and before hitting our shores Alejandro had picked up the UK's Young Chef of the Year in 2008.  Committing to a life in Australia, Alejandro had bought into Urbane and as new co-owner was able to pick up the 2013 Qld GFG chef of the year and Gourmet Travellers best new talent - phew, all before the age of 29.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

85 Miskin Street - the best thing I've ever eaten

I was terribly sad when I found out that one of my favourite restaurants was going to shut down and re-open under a new identity.  For a very long time, Brent's at Toowong was one of my favourite special occasion restaurants, a dining spot where I had spent many an anniversary, birthday or general special occasion (see post here).  Brent's had been open for such a long time and had been producing such amazing fine dining French cuisine, I just assumed that it would always be there.

I needn't have worried too much, owner and head chef Brent Farrell was still at the helm and had just decided to freshen up the fine diner and give it a more contemporary look and feel and with a more relaxed and accessible menu.  Where Brent's was white linen and silver service, the reborn 85 Miskin Street would run with a more modern and edgier feel, which included ripping up the carpets exposing the floor boards in the wonderful old Queenslander.

After we'd parked our car in the valley of Miskin Street and made our way to number 85, we noticed that there the wild bushes that had been outside the diner had been cleared away and there was a feeling of space on the deck outside the restaurant.  It was the first of the 'same-same but different' moments that we'd have over the next few minutes as we made our way inside.  The next was the much improved and sleeker entry to the dining room, which included a lovely new door that led us into the restaurant.  Our last surprise was the feeling of deja vu that I experienced as we were led to our table, the feeling that I'd been there and experienced that very same moment.

Aqua Linea - Riverside dining at Teneriffe

With so many restaurants in Brisbane to check out, it can be quite a daunting experience to find a dining spot that I've not visited.  Sometimes, it's pretty easy. The bright and shiny new restaurant opens and you just have to check it out - often leading to an amazing experience (see post about Black Bird here).  But as strange as it seems sometimes, there is not a new restaurant opening every week of the year in Brisbane, so at times I need to look for established restaurants that I've missed out on visiting.  My favourite way of picking such a restaurant looking through the latest edition of the Entertainment Book.

The thing I love about the Entertainment Book, and the reason why I spend the $65 dollars on purchasing it each year, is that it's a great way to save money.  All of the restaurants included give some sort of discount, be it a main meal for free or a discount on the entire meal.  That's a pretty sweet deal when you eat out quite a bit!  

We listed out a few restaurants that looked pretty good and then after checking out the restaurant websites, decided upon Aqua Linea, which had a pretty awesome looking menu and some spectacular looking food photos on the site. The first time we'd noticed Aqua Linea was during the first ever Teneriffe Festival when the streets around Teneriffe were closed off and we could walk around and explore the area.  It was also a restaurant that came to my attention when a buddy at work asked for a list of restaurant recommendations, then decided to ignore the list and head over to Aqua Linea instead. 


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