Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Flaming Olive - New winter wonderland of a Menu

April this year saw the introduction of a new restaurant to the Brisbane dining scene, one that went largely unnoticed by many, but one that caught my eye. There was a bit of a tale about how I first came across the Flaming Olive, which involves the Courier Mail and McDonalds, two brands that I don't often mix with (see post here).  Always on the lookout for new dining experiences, I booked in and went along to check it out.  Not having super high expectations, I was a little gobsmacked at the quality of the meal and the amazing job Head Chef Wayne Brown had done with the menu.

I was super excited to learn about the Flaming Olive's first major menu change and could hardly refuse Wayne's kind offer to come in and check out the new Winter menu.  Changes of season often mean changes of menu and I was keen to see what it would mean for the Flaming Olive and what wonderful tweaks Wayne would make to the menu.  I'm usually not enamoured with winter menus, which are heavy on the slow cooked meats and root vegetables, so I went in half fearing that I'd not love the changes.

We arrived a little before our 7pm reservation and took a risk on McLachlan street by securing a park 15 minutes before the street opened up for parking.  It was a calculated risk because pretty much every street park was taken and I could hardly resist the vacant spot 'calling my name' right out the front of the M&A Lane, the home of the Flaming Olive (and half a dozen new Valley dining spots).  It was a score!

We were shown to our table, right up the back of the restaurant and next to the kitchen and after a few minutes of perusing the new menu had Wayne come over to say hi and explain a little bit about the menu. Suffering the effects of a lost voice, the ordinarily quietly spoken head chef struggled through letting us know that it was a little different from normal winter menus and he hoped we'd enjoy it.  We had the option of picking some items on the menu that caught our eye or letting Wayne send out a selection of courses in a mini tasting menu (turned out to be more than SC could eat).

Our first trip to the Flaming Olive provided some extraordinary and beautifully presented food from a Mediterranean come Modern Australian menu.  We'd noticed that there was a slight deviation from the previous menu, with courses listed as modest, substantial and delicate and I thought is was a wonderful way to present a menu.  The modest and substantial sections held courses that would work well as traditional entree and main, or equally as share dining.  Our meal for the night would take on a little bit of each.

While we were waiting for the meal to commence, we found out a little more about head chef Wayne, who was a Queensland boy through and through but had spent some time in Japan learning his trade.  Wayne told us he just fell into cooking without a clear plan until he found out he loved it and had quite the aptitude and an eye for detail with food.  Having spent some time at some of Queensland's best restaurants, including two hat the Stokehouse, the Flaming Olive was Wayne's first gig as a head chef and all of the extra business activities that came along with it!

Our first course was very much share dining fare and included slow cooked beef brisket and blue cheese croquettes with charred onion relish as well as a vegetarian dish of socca on a chickpea crepe with puffed quinoa, confit garlic, sautéed kale, crisps and chèvre.  

It's interesting letting a chef pick your courses as both of these selections would not have featured if I'd picked myself.  We really loved the croquettes, which blended the brisket and blue cheese together nicely.  Blue cheese can be really overpowering, but the balance was superb with neither flavour dominating.  The onion relish was an interesting rich and strong flavour and had to be lightly applied but helped bring out the flavour of the beef.  The second share dish was never going to be a favourite for me, with quinoa and kale but SC absolutely loved them, even more than the croquettes.  

Our next dish was again something that I'd normally not have ordered, but chef Wayne had struck gold with the wagyu beef cheek ragu with caramelised gnocchi, spanish onion parsley and aged parmesan.  The incredibly tender wagyu beef cheek had a rich meaty flavour that didn't overpower the subtle flavour of the caramelised gnocchi.  The dish ran a risk of being overly rich, but the addition of Spanish onion added some freshness and balance to the ragu.  For a dish that I'd normally avoid, it sure did disappear quickly but when I'd looked over to SC, her plate was long gone and she was eying off my gnocchi.

A dish that I did have my eye on was next and what a dish!  The fragrant duck breast with aromatic quince, toasted almond, duck liver parfait, tendrils and jus gras was spectacular.  It looked incredible but the aroma that was emanating from the dish immediately had me salivating and I couldn't get through my photos fast enough.  The duck breast was expertly cooked with the fat rendered perfectly and the flesh just the right colour of pink.  What I found intriguing about the dish was the inclusion of the duck liver parfait, which was full of gamey flavour and very, very creamy.  Mixing the sweet quince, creamy parfait and duck into one mouthful was an exercise in sensory overload.  Hanging the dish together was the lovely jus and some texture was added with the toasted almonds, it was a triumph of cooking.

Our last main was a dish that SC had been eying off.  The bouillabaisse with with local reef fish, king prawns, langoustine, calamari and mussels was topped off theatrically at the table with a scrumptious saffron broth. Each of the components of the bouillabaisse was cooked to perfection and it was hard to comment on what was better, the fresh seafood or the punchy saffron broth, which included some interesting fergola in the bowl for texture.  There was a sweetness from the broth that was offset by a slight tingling on the lips after devouring.  The toasted bread was much appreciated and was quickly dunked into the broth and munched.  It was an interesting twist on a French classic.

Everything we'd consumed had been superbly cooked so far and even though I didn't love the vegetarian dish, that was because I generally don't love vegetarian food.  But the best was still to come, with some share desserts that were nothing short of spectacular...  One visually and one amazing through it's absolute uniqueness.

The snowball was one of the best looking desserts I have seen.  It was actually a fluffy cheese cake with citrus curd, white chocolate aero and fresh powdered snow, but looked just like snowball on a cold winters day (hence being on the winter menu).  Our first mouthful told us we were onto something special but once all of the elements were combined, it was just delicious.  It did run the risk of being overly sweet, but the tart orange curd helped cut through the sweetness to make it just a complete and sweet end to the meal.

While our final dessert didn't have the same 'wow' presentation, the wow came from its construction, which was a souffle inside a tart!  The winter banana tart souffle came with caramelised banana, cocoa nibs, toasted almonds and Caribbean rum ice cream and was mind blowing.  Seriously, who thinks to put a souffle in a tart, which had risen nicely and was sitting in a perfectly cooked tart.  That is serious cooking and skill to get that right.  Did it taste great?  It tasted like a warm hug on a cold winters day, and we stuffed it in our mouths as quickly as we could.

Throughout the meal we chatted to Wayne and Flaming Olive owner Gordon about the concept and their approach to dining.  Gordon, who is also a graphic designer, has created some interesting spaces in the restaurant, including a small function area, bar area, dining room and casual sitting area.  It feels really comfortable with so many different spaces in what amounts to a massive floor space.  

The Flaming Olive has not been open for long and is slowly building a loyal client base.  I was interested to hear that things were starting to pick up after a bit of a slow start.  With a number of other restaurants at the M&A lane, there is a lot of competition for customers.  The thing that sets the Flaming Olive apart is the incredibly tasty and beautifully presented food that is pushing the boundaries of fine dining but at much more reasonable prices.

I'm always keen to see exciting new restaurants do well and I try to get in and eat out as much as possible to support the industry.  The Flaming Olive hits all the right notes for me and I'd love to see Brisbane diners check it out to see if they agree.

**I was a guest of the Flaming Olive on this occasion

The vegetarian dish was probably really healthy too!
The share plate to start mixed up a very meaty dish with the direct oposite
Seriously good gnocchi but even better wagyu ragu
The new menu encapsulated warming and comforting winter fare with a stylish bent
The duck was my favourite of the night though - just stunning and delicious 
There is a huge and well stocked bar with a really impressive wine selection
Head Chef Wayne Brown does a wonderful job in the kitchen
And the man keeps it clean!

Flaming Olive on UrbanspoonFlaming Olive Restaurant & Bar


  1. I could devour all of the dishes described, but would have to have the bouillabaisse !! This would be a place I would love to take my husband, hopefully when we get back to Brisbane, thank you for the review!

    1. Andrea, the bouillabaisse was pretty special but so was the duck. Let me know what you think about it when you get along :)

  2. I was also looking at the duck! Absolutely will let you know, but I need a holiday!!!!! Soon, I hope, soon..


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