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...

While I was waiting for SC to arrive, I'd had the opportunity to see what, if anything had been done to the interior of the restaurant.  As it turned out, not a lot had changed and it looked pretty much the same as it had when it was the Meatball Company, even right down to the cool chalk drawings on the ceiling.  Once SC had joined me, she mentioned that she thought the interior was pretty cool but agreed that references to the Meatball Company should eventually be taken down (mostly on the ceiling drawings).

It was a Sunday night and it was pretty quiet inside the restaurant, with only a few tables filled.  The layout inside the bistro was a little weird for a quiet Sunday night, with most of the table configurations in very large groupings, so it really limited the number of tables (and good spots) for smaller groups.  We were given a couple of A3 printed sheets that worked as the Fish Lane menus and started to consider what we'd have for dinner.  The menu itself is fairly brief, with only a handful of entrees and mains, along with a couple of 'grill' options available but what was on the menu looked pretty nice.  We did our usual negotiating routine when there are not a lot of options available, then settled in to wait for the meal to start while SC sipped her white from a very non traditional wine glass.

It was seafood to begin with and SC's choice was the split roasted Mooloolaba king prawns with chilli, 
olive oil and lemon.  The four large prawns were delivered on little plate that made the prawns appear even larger but ended up being quite impractical to dine on.  The prawns were roasted perfectly, with the slightly sweet flesh contrasting wonderfully with the hint of chilli which was present but not overpowering.  There was a lovely taste of the sea that shone through and after a little squeeze of lemon for some extra acidity and balance, the prawns were completely devoured.

My starter of Hervey Bay scallops with crispy pancetta, green apple salad and fresh lime was also presented on the same little plate and while it was easier to eat my scallops on the plate, it was still quite impractical. I always find Hervey Bay scallops to be much smaller than the Canadian clearwater scallops that we get some times but there were five medium sized scallops squeezed onto the plate.  The scallops were cooked to perfection in their shells and then had a crunchy and sharp green apple salad with some crispy pancetta added for texture and a little saltiness.  The balance between the sweet scallops and the sharp apple was perfect and I found that I didn't need to add any of the lime.  

We were off to a great start and, apart from the unusually small plates, the entrees provided great hope for the mains to come.  SC stuck with the seafood theme for the night and ordered the Local sand crab spaghettini with chilli, lemon and fresh herbs.  The very large bowl of spaghettini, which is thinner than normal spaghetti but not as thin as angel hair pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente.  There was a generous amount of delicate sand crab flesh in the pasta, which amazingly shone through despite the little punch of chilli, which signified a well balanced dish.  Even though there was quite a large amount of pasta, SC managed to devour the whole lot, which was good going and told me a lot about how much she enjoyed the pasta.

Delicious would be the only way for me to describe my main of crispy skinned twice cooked duck, with steamed Asian greens and an orange caramel sauce.  I could tell the strong influences of Montrachet in this dish with a simply stunning sauce that perfectly matched the insanely well cooked duck.  With its crispy skin and flesh that just fell off the bone, I wanted nothing more than to mop up the strong flavoured duck in that delectable sauce.  It wasn't the prettiest looking duck dish I've had but by crikey, it was simply divine.  I even loved the asian greens, mainly because they were soaked through with the slightly sweet orange and caramel sauce.  I was actually quite sad when I realised that I'd finished the duck and didn't think it appropriate to 'drink' the sauce at the end.

With such great entrees and amazing mains, we thought that we would finish off the meal with some equally stunning desserts.  Unfortunately, the desserts didn't quite live up to the previously devoured food.  SC won out and managed to snaffle up the homemade donuts with passionfruit curd and vanilla bean ice-cream, which to be honest had the potential to be wondrous.  The donuts looked beautiful on the plate and the passionfruit curd was in fact perfect, but where the donuts fell down was the fact that they were undercooked and quite doughy.  The first donut was the best cooked and was light and fluffy with a good amount of cinnamon but the second and in particularly the third were quite heavy and were not right.  I could see the potential in the donut dessert, they just needed a little more cooking time.

The main issue I had with my salted caramel and hazelnut tart with double cream, was the balance between the caramel and the hazelnuts, there were just too many of them.  I'd also been hoping for an individual tart and something a little more petite, but instead was presented with a slice from a much larger tart.  I quite liked the salted caramel and the tart base, which was lovely and short and worked well with the caramel. What I didn't like was the overpowering and distracting number of hazelnuts through the dish, which I think was exacerbated because of it's large size.  It was so big and heavy that I had to give up halfway through, which was a shame as it sounded pretty good on the menu.

When I think back to my Meatball Co experience in this venue last year, I can't say that I miss it at all, especially after sampling the very good entrees and mains at the Fish Lane Bistro.  I think it was a very good idea to get a chef like Jonno Bryant to head up the new menu and concept.  The bulk of the meal was superb and very tasty with just a little bit of a let down at the end of the meal with the desserts that were just not quite up to the standard of the entrees and mains.  

Being such a quiet night, with only a few customers present, there were not a lot of wait staff on hand and for a while, it felt as if we'd been ignored.  It wasn't until a second waiter joined the floor before we'd had our orders taken and it felt as if we'd been sitting around for ages before he hit the floor.  Once we'd ordered though, it was all smooth sailing from that point, with the team hitting all the right service notes.

I see a lot of potential in the Fish Lane Bistro, the food was simple and very, very tasty and it's got the support of the much larger Fox Hotel behind it.  Any restaurant that can produce a sauce as good as the orange caramel sauce with my duck main is clearly run by a talented chef and is worth visiting.  There is a danger though and with so few menu options available, each of them really needs to hit the mark and the desserts fell just a little short on the night.

While I love the look and feel of the Fish Lane Bistro, there are too many reminders of the failed Meatball Company still around.  I'd love to see the natural charm of the dining area remain while removing the last remnants of it's meatball heritage, which would truly give the space the brand new start it deserves.  After all, WC Fields also coined a phrase 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  Then quit, no use being a damn fool about it'

Its quite quirky inside Fish Lane Bistro and you can also see inside the Long Bar of the Fox Hotel 
The bar area signifies that Fish Lane is still part of a Hotel complex
I love the exposed brick of the building
You could be fooled that the restaurant is still the Meatball Company with all the references to balls!
Lots of ale on tap - mmm, some hipster roots?
And the story of Fish Lane
Fish Lane Bistro on UrbanspoonFish Lane Bistro

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...