Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Summit Restaurant - with views to die for

I remember a time, a very long time ago, when I was just a young lad trying to impress my flatmate and soon to be girlfriend (and much later wife).  How does a lad impress a young lady, well, back in the day it was hop in the car and drive up a hill really really fast. Not that I condone that type of behaviour now, but it sure did set a young girl's heart aflutter at the time. Fast forward over twenty years and a drive up that same hill was at a much more sedate pace, even though the car was much nicer and the temptation was to let it 'off the leash' for a bit.

The drive on that fateful day was up to the Mt Cootha lookout, one of the most recognisable couple's spots in Brisbane and definitely a place to take a girl for a romantic view of the city.  While we'd been back to the Mt Cootha look out a few times over the years, there was one thing we'd never done, and that was eat at the Summit Restaurant.

It's a strange occurrence that the last few times I've driven up to Mt Cootha it's been raining, which was again the case when we drove up to visit the Summit Restaurant.  One thing that amazed me was how quickly we got to the Brisbane lookout, home of the Summit Restaurant, it really isn't that far from the Brisbane CBD. When we arrived, I was quickly reminded that the Mt Cootha lookout is one of the most popular spots in Brisbane, even on a slightly cool and wet(ish) night.  So busy in fact that we had to loop around the mountain once after failing to find a park.

After finally finding a park and walking up to the restaurant, we took some time to look over the lovely night time city scape that is Brisbane, made all the more lovely due to the rain that was about (it was the tinkling lights).  It was hard, but we tore ourselves away from the spectacular view and made our way into the restaurant, which was quite busy given it was a Sunday evening.  We were shown to our table, which had lovely views of the CBD and I noticed how many tables were set out for couples, there were dozens and as we sat there looking over our menus, there was a procession of couples arriving for dinner.

The menu at the Summit Restaurant is put together by Executive Chef Sam McCrystal with a contemporary Modern Australian fine dining feel.  The menu seemed to fit right in with the restaurant, which was in a grand old (and massive) Queenslander and tables all had a silver service set up (although linen tablecloths were absent).  Adding to the feeling of silver service were leather bound menus and immaculately presented and very professional wait staff who handed them over with a flourish.

Almost every entree on the Summit's menu looked quite delicious and it was hard to make a decision on which way to go.  Interestingly, SC ended up choosing the mushroom and pulled pork risotto with green apple and sticky merlot onions with shaved manchego cheese.  I say interesting because SC almost never orders risotto, especially when there are other goodies like pumpkin gnocchi and sticky orange quail.  It's often hard to make a risotto look pretty on the plate but the Summit manage to do so, it was fairly petite and smelled as amazing as it looked.  This was a superb risotto with a rich and earthy mushroom flavour that was enhanced wonderfully by the sweet pulled pork and slightly sharp green apple.  It was so good that SC gobbled it all up and I was only able to sample a couple of small mouthfuls.

My starter of seared scallops with carrot puree, pickled vegetables, green pea and prosciutto crumbs also looked beautiful on the plate and I loved the pickled carrot proudly displayed on it's end.  The Canadian clear water scallops were expertly cooked and had a wonderful caramelisation and the three huge scallops looked amazing.  Unfortunately, as is the case with the Canadian scallops, they were under-seasoned and lacked flavour, something some extra salt would have resolved.  I'm sure the prosciutto crumbs were there to provide some extra saltiness, but there was not enough to compensate for the lack of seasoning.  I did love the sweet carrot puree that contrasted with the sharpness from the pickled vegetables and the only thing that stopped this from being an amazing dish was a pinch of salt.

Where our starters looked amazing and had a real 'fine dining' feel about them, the mains reminded us more of home cooking.  SC opted for the grilled free range chicken with roast pumpkin and spinach lasagna with a corn veloute and broccolini.  Admittedly this was the better of our mains with lovely crispy skin on the slightly over cooked chicken sitting atop a lovely sweet corn veloute that had bags of flavour.  My issue with paying fine dining prices for chicken is that it has to be perfect and while the drumstick part of the chicken was nice and moist, the breast was a little dry.  I would have thought just a little less time on the heat and it would have been nice and moist.

A little less time on the heat was definitely what was required for my crisp skin atlantic salmon with twice whipped butter mash, wilted baby spinach, lime and palm sugar glaze and a chilli jam.  The menu was very specific that the salmon would come medium, which my tail piece was most certainly not.  Not only was my salmon well done and a little dry, I found that by putting the chilli jam on top of the crisp skin, it became soggy very quickly and I had to peel it off and set it aside.  I'm actually comfortable eating well cooked salmon, although I have a preference for a nice hue of pink through the middle but the overall dish was a little clumsy and I've definitely done better at home and I'm not a great cook.  Looking around at the other tables who'd ordered the Salmon, I think that they all had the thicker fillet section and by getting the flatter tail section, it just over cooked.

It was time for desserts and the disappointment reached a crescendo when SC's vanilla bean brûlée with caramelised brioche, burnished meringue and chocolate gelato was presented.  The creme brûlée didn't look right straight away and a simple crack of the sugar glazing on top opened up a brûlée that had clearly not been set, in fact it was a soup.  The entire dessert looked a little messy with the chocolate gelato already mostly melted on what seemed to be a warm plate and the brioche didn't really look that appetising.  On a plus, we mentioned to our waiter that the brûlée was not right and they apologised profusely and took the dessert off the bill.

There couldn't have been a bigger difference between our desserts with my chocolate fondant with white chocolate ice cream, strawberry soil and sugar tuille looking and tasting amazing.  The fondant was quite small but it was supremely cooked with warm chocolate sauce exploding out of the dessert once I cut into it with my spoon.  The syrupy centre was intensely chocolaty that was taken to another level when I added the smooth and creamy white chocolate ice cream.  This dessert was a triumph and an amazing way to finish the meal, especially given the disappointment of my salmon main.

Throughout the night our wait staff were incredibly professional and helpful and even though the Summit Restaurant became quite busy, they were there when we needed them, especially when we commented on the brûlée.

It was fascinating watching couple after couple arrive for a romantic Sunday evening dinner and we speculated on each of the couple as they arrived;  were they on dates, or anniversaries, or just out for a Sunday meal - just because.  Our bet was that there were a lot of dates and young couples out celebrating their anniversaries but we could have been way off base, but it was fun speculating.

The Summit Restaurant is most certainly a great spot for couples to come for a lovely and romantic dinner, and it is clearly a spot for weddings and receptions.  I thought the menu was interesting but a bit pricy, especially the mains that were in the high $30 and low $40 dollar range.  I'm not averse to paying that type of money for a main, but they have to be perfect and the Summit just fell down a bit here.  I really loved the entrees and my dessert was something special.  The Summit is a destination spot and in some ways it's more than just about the food (although, the food must be great) and has been a popular spot for many, many years.  I just hope that our mains were an unusual error on the night.

Its also worth noting that I'd posted a short 'Dimmi' review and commented about the salmon.  The Summit Restaurant had obviously looked at this and then called me during the week and apologised that the Salmon wasn't right and that they has spoken to the kitchen.  They'd also offered to send me a $40 dollar voucher to cover the cost of the Salmon for a return visit, which I though was fabulous customer service.


SC started off with a nice glass of Vino
The view from our table
The Summit Restaurant is quite large and surprisingly busy on the Sunday night we visited
With views like this, it was no wonder that the lookout was packed with people
And with a classic look, its no wonder that the Summit is a popular spot for weddings

Summit Restaurant & Bar on UrbanspoonSummit Restaurant and Bar

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