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.

Over the years, we'd sat in every conceivable location in the dining room, including the upstairs dining room.  We were shown to our table at the back of the restaurant that could quite possibly have been the same spot as our very first visit to the fine diner.  It was interesting looking back through the prism of my mind to overlay the past and the present but I was soon broken from my reflection of times past by our waitress placing the sleek black leather clad menu in front of us.

There were a couple of options on the menu for us to consider, an a la carte option or the possibility of a share tasting menu, which looked quite appealing apart from the included bottle of wine (wasted on me!). We quickly decided that it would be a la carte and easily decided on our entrees but entered a short lived battle of wills about the venison main, a battle that I won considering SC had the venison at our recent visit to Black Bird (see post here).  We weren't sure about the sizing of the meals at 85 Miskin Street, so we started off with a home made garlic and chive fromage blanc with toasted brioche, which was presented on a little half log and was a great little starter to the meal.

There were some fantastic and really interesting sounding starters on the menu but once SC sees truffle, it's all over and ordered the taleggio, pecorino and preserved black truffle frittata.  The frittata was simply presented on a wood block and looked every bit the cheese omelette with the fancy name that it was.  It wasn't until SC's first mouthful that the realisation dawned that this was anything but a simple cheese omelette, it was delightful.   The blending of the taleggio and pecorino cheese was a stroke of genius and provided an overall more complex flavour than just using one cheese or the other.  The rich and earthy flavour of the truffle added an extra dimension to the flavour and helped deliver a simply amazing frittata.

As amazing as the frittata was, it paled in comparison to my scallop dish.  I had been curious about the sautéed scallop and broth with a jerusalem artichoke and lemon oil puree, simply because it was listed as scallop - singular.  The scallop and broth were presented on a specially made block of wood with the scallop presented in its shell on a bed of stark white pebbles.  The scallop itself was cooked supremely, with a beautiful caramelisation and tasted wonderful, especially with the silky smooth puree.  It was after devouring the scallop and puree that things got interesting.  I've had some amazing food in my life and some spectacular bisques and soups but once I had a little sip of the scallop broth, my senses almost shut down.  A second sip confirmed that I was onto something unique and a third affirmed my belief that I had just consumed the single best food substance in my life.  It was at this point that I handed the glass of scallop broth over to SC for a little sample and after seeing the look of pure pleasure on her face, I had confirmed that she agreed.  It's actually hard to describe this dish, it had the sweetness of scallop but times a thousand - you really have to get into 85 Miskin Street to see for yourself.

As our waitress took the empty entree blocks away, I asked her if there was anything addictive in the broth and if I could just have a bucket of that for the rest of my meal.  Laughing, she confirmed that my reaction was similar to a lot of others and her own experiences with the broth.  I was seriously going to consider another scallop dish for dessert!

Shortly after, our main courses arrived and SC's grilled mackerel with a potato and pickled fennel salad looked very simply presented and quite different to the intricate dishes that we'd experienced at Brent's previously. The mackerel was expertly cooked with the crispy skin providing a lovely hit of saltiness that worked well with the aromatic pickled fennel.  Mackerel is an oily fish and the fennel and potato salad combined nicely to balance out the dish but there was no doubting that the grilled fish was the star of the dish.

There was a fair amount of food envy from the other side of the table when my slow cooked venison with danish feta, jamon and roasted baby beets was presented.  It was a spectacular looking dish with vibrant colours that contrasted well with the inky black plate that it was presented on.  The venison was supremely cooked and seasoned to perfection.  What was brilliant about the venison was the rich meaty flavour and the deep red colour, but what lifted it from amazing to incredible was the addition of the salty jamon.  Each mouthful of my main was an absolute pleasure and while it didn't quite hit the heights of the scallop broth (and to be honest, nothing could possibly beat it), it was a very memorable dish.

We were both feeling very content at the end of our first couple of courses, and I was feeling particularly sated after my scallop and venison combination.  We wondered if dessert could possibly match the food that we'd consumed so far.  As it turned out the answer was a resounding yes!  SC kicked off dessert with the simply named chocolate with honeycomb and caramelised banana, which was a stunning looking dessert.  A thin banana crisp was balanced atop a chocolate mousse with some brûlée banana pieces and finished off with a nitrogen bombed piece of honeycomb.  The was a complexity to the dessert which was expressed visually but with simple and stunning flavours.  The textures were complimentary to the visual appeal and the flavour combinations with the brittle honeycomb a standout. 

With so much goodness preceding, I didn't think there was any room left for surprises but the biggest surprise of the night was left to last.  I'd ordered the simply named fresh berries with madagascan vanilla and garden flowers but was left open mouthed and stunned when a pot plant was brought out and placed in front of me.  I kid you not, this looked exactly like a potted flower and in no way consumable.  After pulling myself together, I finally managed to dig into the 'dirt' to realise that it was in fact (and unsuprisingly) chocolate rocks sitting atop the delicious madagascan cream.  There were fresh berries aplenty, along with some meringue and cake underneath the 'dirt' and cream.  The whole dessert was delightful and supremely balanced between the sweetness of the cream and chocolate and the slightly tart berries.  Oh, for the record, the flower was edible too and had a slightly bitter taste that also worked wonderfully with the chocolate.

We sat in stunned silence at the end of our meal.  We had just had an experience that had surpassed our wildest expectations.  

Brent's had been one of our favourite restaurants and at the start of our meal we'd been sad and nostalgic but by the time we'd finished our meal, it was replaced with joy that a 'phoenix had risen from the ashes'.  Head chef Brent Farrell had rolled the dice on changing a well established and well loved Brisbane icon and turned it into a fresh and exciting replacement.

The menu and food at 85 Miskin Street was distinctly different from it's predecessor but was still a cut above your average fine dining restaurant.  In retrospect, the interior and decorations at Brent's had become a little stuffy and the new fit-out reflected the more casual approach to dining that is becoming (or has become) very popular.  Well played Brent Farrell, well played.

There was one dish that people remember most from their visits to Brent's and that was the mushroom cappuccino which I thought for sure would transend the move from Brent's to 85 Miskin Street, but in a complete break from the old is no longer available.  I thought that I would miss this the most, but you know what?  I'd just consumed perhaps the nicest substance of my life in that scallop broth.  I think that that's a pretty good substitute!

You have no idea what bliss is until you try the Scallop Broth - get in and gobble it down
Beautifully presented and simply delicious - the fries were not too bad either!
The fresh berries dessert was visually mind blowing - I did not expect a pot plant! 
Same same but different - the large windows are still about at 85 Miskin Street
but there is some different art and a very different feel inside 
Much more modern
A fresh coat of paint and a complete remodelling inside has helped transform 85 Miskin Street

85 Miskin St on Urbanspoon85 Miskin Street

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