Saturday, 5 July 2014

127 Bar and Bistro - another CBD restaurant that just made my favourites list

I've mentioned many times in my blog that I'm a 'city-slicker', which is a term I don't really like but describes me pretty well.  I live and work in the CBD and love every minute of it.  Working in the CBD with offices in a couple of different locations means that I often walk from one end of the city to the other for meetings.  This has two impacts, it helps keep me fit and slim :) and it means that I often walk the city streets and get to see the subtle and not so subtle changes that happen in Brisbane every day.  My most common route takes me up Charlotte Street, which leads me to the point of this blog.

I'd been watching with interest over the last few years as a new apartment block called the Midtown slowly take shape.  I always pay attention to new apartments, you never know when a beautiful new home becomes available, but also because most buildings going up nowadays have some sort of cafe or restaurant attached.  I walked by 127 Charlotte Street hundreds of times watching and waiting, waiting and watching before something started to take shape.  The space in 127 Charlotte didn't look too big, so I naturally thought that it would be a small cafe, servicing the apartments above.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I received an email inviting me along to the opening of an exciting new bistro in the city and was delighted to see that it was the little spot in Charlotte Street, now called 127 Bar and Bistro.  This post is not about the opening part for 127 Bar and Bistro, although I went along with over a hundred guests to welcome in the opening of Brisbane's latest inner city dining spot and had much fun and frivolity.  MC Sofie Formica did a wonderful job keeping us all entertained, while head chef Travis Crane impressed the crowd with an experimental dessert buffet.  It was a sight to behold and I will sneak in a couple of photos from the party at the end.

We decided that a mid week excursion to check out the full menu would be a much better way of road testing the menu than the finger foods and canapés that flying past at the opening party. 127 Bar and Bistro was just a hop, skip and jump away from our apartment and we arrived at the little bistro a few minutes after heading off - super convenient.  It was fairly quiet when we arrived and we were shown to our seats by an affable waiter who seemed to be having a great day, based on the huge smile as we entered.  He handed out our menus and explained the specials, poured our water, then was off to do other stuff around the restaurant.  It gave us an opportunity to look over the 127 menu.

127 Bar and Bistro is a vehicle for head chef Travis Crane to show off all he has learned in his culinary journey, including time spent as a sous chef with one of my favourite chefs around town, Brent Farrell from 85 Miskin Street (Brent's at the time).  From Brent's, Travis went on to run his own kitchen as head chef of French bistro Boucher at Graceville.  Looking over the menu, I could see influences from his time at Brents and a distinctive French bent to the amazing looking Modern Australian menu.  The only issue I could see with the menu was that it differed from the online menu by one item....  You guessed it, the item that I'd had my eye on.  I was disappointed but that disappointment would not last!

Sectioned off in to small plates and large plates, 127 Bar and Bistro has adopted the now common share plate approach to dining.  We started off with some small plates, with no intention of sharing and the intent to run with a typical entree and main approach.  

SC kicked off her meal with a serve of the duck liver parfait with fig and brioche, which was presented in a unique way with a fresh brioche roll accompanying a tear shaped bowl of soft duck liver parfait.  The plate looked incredible and was clearly designed for sharing, with the idea of breaking up the brioche and dipping it in the parfait.  The rich, sweet and intense flavour of the parfait was wonderful (at least initially) and every mouthful was a delight.  After a while though, the sweetness of the parfait and brioche became a little overwhelming and the sticky sweetness from the fig only accentuated the feeling.  We could see why this one was best for sharing and would definitely recommend getting this dish between two.

I was always going to be ordering the octopus with almond gazpacho, chorizo and grapes, with so many of my favourite foods on one pate, how could I not?  I'd also sampled this a few times with the teaser canapé at the opening party.  I knew what flavours I was in for, but what surprised me was the absolutely beautiful slate of food that would be presented.  It was truly art on a plate with the perfectly cooked octopus tentacles delicately placed around the chorizo and grapes.  The combination of the slightly charred octopus with the sweet chorizo was stunning, but the acidity from the grapes and the alternating sweetness from the almond gazpacho took the dish to a whole new level of greatness.  It was delicious and a dish that I will be back for many times...

It was a night of duck for SC, who decided to double up and order the confit duck with pumpkin puree, roast beets and goats cheese.  We were again amazed with the immaculate presentation of the dish, which was presented on a custom made black slate.  Each component on the slate had its place and worked in complete harmony.  Looking good is only part of the story, which was completed (with a happy ending) once the dish was consumed.  The duck had been confit to perfection and was falling off the bone, the wintery and earthy flavours set the taste buds alight and the goats cheese added some lightness and sweetness to the dish. It was a masterpiece and quickly devoured.

I'd initially wanted the slow roasted sirloin with duck fat potato, horseradish cream and watercress that was on the internet menu and had disappointed when it was not available.  Luckily, in its place was a special of wagyu rump with potato rosti, spinach and parmesan puree with mushroom, which I of course ordered.  When placing the order, our waiter guaranteed that it would be the best steak I'd ever eaten.  Having eaten a few steaks in my time, I advised William that that was a big call.  



I don't know if it was the best steak I'd had in my life but it was pretty damn close.  The first thing I noted when the perfectly cooked steak was presented (again on a slate) was how pretty the dish looked, not always easy when presenting steak.  My first mouthful was a revelation, it was simply divine.  I'd forgotten that steak could taste that good!  After a few mouthfuls, I decided that it was partially the steak but partially the incredible silky smooth parmesan and spinach puree that added to the flavour, then shortly after that, I decided that it was the wonderful earthy mushrooms that added to the dish. In fact, almost the whole dish was a triumph of flavour and texture.  The only component that didn't do it for me was the potato rosti.  I'd have this dish again and I think it should make its way onto the menu.

After the superb entrees and mains, we had high expectations for dessert.  There were a number of interesting looking dishes and asking William what he recommended yielded no respite, his recommendation included liquorice, which I don't like at all.  I decided on the coconut parfait, with pineapple, mint and lime, mainly because it sounded refreshing after such a delicious main.  In keeping with the sensationally presented meal so far, the dessert looked incredible and very arty.  There were sponge bits, different textures of sorbet and parfait, pistachio crumb and a biscuit textured tuile.  Together it was completely refreshing, quite tasty and without doubt one of the better desserts I've had around town (in the vein of Gerard's desserts).

My dessert was beautiful but SC's was a work of art.  The white chocolate cheesecake with strawberry, balsamic and pistachio was a deconstruction marvel.  With its lovely visual appeal, striking pink hues and contrasting textures, it was a visual delight.  But what about the tasting?  It went down beautifully, with intense flavours and interesting textures that kept you intrigued the whole way through the dessert.  It was a triumph and well worth getting into 127 Bar and Bistro to check out on its own.

I'd had a feeling that 127 Bar and Bistro was going to be nice, especially after the launch party and the wonderful canapés but was completely blown away with the meal.  Chef Travis Crane has put together a menu that is 'right now' and has hit the type of highs I'd expect from a much more experienced chef.  The look, the taste, the experience were all fantastic and well above my expectations, especially considering the very reasonably priced entrees and mains (see menu prices here)

We found the service on the night to be fairly good, but there was a lull between our entree and mains that was uncomfortably long.  We suspected that the mains might not have been up to the exacting standards that Travis clearly wants for his restaurant and may have been re-fired.  Or, it could have been just a bit slow but the end result was spectacular.  Our waiter for the night was friendly but just a little aloof but regularly came to check how our meals were progressing and was particularly pleased when I concurred that the steak was something special.  

It's a pretty small space with room for about 40 diners but beyond the glossy facade on Charlotte Street, there is a modern and contemporary restaurant lurking.  It would be easy to walk past 127 Bar and Bistro and not know what you'd missed out on, so I strongly recommend stopping by and checking  it out.  You might just find your next 'new favourite restaurant'.  I know that I did - 127 Bar and Bistro, you will be seeing more of me.

There is a casual feel at the table which leaves you unprepared for the feast to come

Wines come in two sizes - large and extra large!
We loved the odd shaped share plates
This steak was seriously good.  Seriously!
Room for share dining on this big table which runs down the middle of the restaurant
127 Bar and Bistro is a bar too with one of SC's favourite beers on tap
Launch party before it got crazy
Chorizo and octopus - gave me an insight as to what was coming
Packed to the rafters Travis talking about the menu
A weird looking cocktail
A showpiece dessert on the table

127 Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon127 Bar & Bistro


  1. Nice One AC, looks terrific
    I think the menu price link is attempting to your local download on your macbookair though ;-(


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