Sunday, 7 September 2014

Tukka Restaurant - Australian fare done fancy

Wow, it feels like ages since I've sat down at the computer to write about a foodie adventure!  I guess having shoulder surgery is just about the only thing that's stopped me from both eating out so much and then writing about it!  After about ten days of being in a shoulder sling, I've been able to cast it aside and can finally get cracking with some needed catch up posting!

Casting my mind back to the weekend before my surgery, we finally decided to hit up one of Brisbane's more unique food offerings.  Until recently, Tukka was pretty much the only restaurant in Brisbane and one of the few restaurants in the country that based their menu around traditional Australian produce.  I'd had some brilliant experiences with Australian cuisine at Josue Lopez's GOMA restaurant (see post here and here) and I was really keen to see what head chef Bryant Wells was doing at Tukka.

It seems like Tukka has been around for a very long time. SC and I had walked past Tukka hundreds of times over the years and wondered what it would be like.  It's also one of the few restaurants in the Australian Good Food Guide's list of hatted restaurants that we'd not been to. Head chef Bryant Wells has done an amazing job promoting native ingredients to the Brisbane dining scene and it was time for us to get on in and see for ourselves.

We timed our visit to Tukka with a couple of big events around Brisbane, a Broncos game and the Future Shorts Film Festival, so Tukka was pretty quiet when we arrived for our 6:30pm reservation. With a choice of seating that took in the whole restaurant dining area, we chose to sit outside the main dining room on the side deck, which was actually a little bit warmer.  Shortly after we were seated and given our menus by the restaurant manager, we noticed that he'd had to leave the restaurant in a hurry (we later learned that there was a family emergency), so it looked as if Tukka would be down one experienced hand for the night.

Quoting from the Tukka website, "the restaurant menu boasts ingredients from Australia's bountiful countryside, oceans and bays, and combines them with native herbs, spices and berries to produce a true taste of Australia".  What that actually meant was that there were exciting options to choose from on the menu, such as crocodile and emu as well as some old favourites like kangaroo and Tasmanian salmon.  It looked as if were were going to experience some new flavours and textures, which kind of excited me.

When it came time to order, I resisted the urge to get some of the less exciting offerings and went full bore for the more interesting sounding dishes.  Before we kicked off with our starters, our waitress brought over a little amuse-bouche of pork rillette with beetroot on brioche toast.  My immediate thought when it was presented was why the paper doily, which is usually my first thought when I see paper doilies under food!  It was only a minor distraction tough, the little bite was full of porky goodness with a lovely earthy contrast from the beetroot.  My taste buds were fired up for the meal to come!

I was not at all sure what to expect with my starter of vanilla cured Cairns crocodile with braised fennel, witlof leaves and a mandarin emulsion.  Whenever you speak to someone about crocodile, the general response is it tastes like chicken (right, doesn't everything?) and that it can be pretty tough if cooked poorly.  My immediate thought when I first laid eyes on the dish was that it looked a lot like turkey, which was enhanced by the presentation.  My crocodile was served cold, much like a salad and was really interesting, the best way I could describe it would be a cross between turkey and white fish, with the texture and look of turkey but a with a fishy flavour.  I loved the mandarin emulsion, which provided a lovely hit of acidity and was probably the predominant flavour on the dish.

We thought that SC's starter of aniseed myrtle prawn tortellini with pickled vegetables with a lemon grass tomato broth looked beautiful.  The tortellini were presented as a quartet surrounding the pickled vegetables and bathed in the broth.  This was a dish that was packed with flavour and while my crocodile was very subtle, the prawn tortellini stepped up and screamed 'look at me'.  Each of the tortellini were perfectly cooked as was the prawn filling, there was just the right combination of pasta to prawn to provide a well balanced dish.  The lemon grass and tomato broth was extremely refreshing and you could clearly pick out the tomato and lemon notes on the palate.  

Of the two starters, I think that SC's was the clear standout.  While there was noting wrong with the crocodile, it was perhaps just a bit too subtle with its flavours, where the tortellini just stood out.  We were surprised and delighted when a little palate cleanser was presented and the lilli pilli and mandarin sorbet was a beautiful way to prepare our palates for the mains to come.

Up until recently, we'd not had emu before, but after sampling it at a recent visit to GOMA, SC had no hesitation in ordering the Marburg emu fillet with sweet potato and Tonka bean puree and cider braised nashi pear with an orange jus.  The emu was cooked rare and presented wonderfully on the plate, with a beautiful deep red colour that was offset by the orange of the sweet potato.  Emu is a very gamey flavoured meat, that is, it's a strong flavour that some people might not like.  Both SC and I love really strong flavoured meat and the emu was sensational, really tender and perfectly partnered with the orange jus.  There was a strong bent towards citrus throughout the whole meal and it worked well to bring all of our dishes together.

I'd been contemplating ordering the Tasmanian salmon for my main, but realising that I could get salmon in just about any restaurant, decided to try the seared Queensland kangaroo with a fondant potato, baked rhubarb and a native hibiscus jus.  I was really pleased that I went with the 'roo because it was a wonderful dish with a surprising level of complexity.  My kangaroo looked just a little bit over done, but was still extremely tender and flavoursome but the real highlight was combining the sharpness of the baked rhubarb to the sweetness of the hibiscus jus with the earthy flavour of the kangaroo.  It was delicious.

Dessert was never in doubt and SC kicked off her final course with the wattleseed tiramisu with a salted caramel macaron and roasted macadamia ice cream.  The dessert was presented on a flat plate that resembled slate and looked like three separate desserts placed together but needed something to draw them together, perhaps a caramel sauce.  While the dessert looked a little disconnected, each of the components were beautiful, with the very creamy roasted macadamia ice cream providing an interesting flavour.  As you would hope with such a dish, the tiramisu was the star of the dessert and was SC's favourite part of the dish.

I was again torn for dessert and had considered the chefs brûlée of the day, but again thought that I could get a brûlée anywhere, so ended up ordering the deconstructed finger lime tart served with toasted meringue, vanilla sabla and house made lemon myrtle sherbet.  I'd been hoping for a heap of lime curd and I wasn't disappointed!  There was a big glass of lime curd presented with a little S shaped line of toasted meringue, sherbert and biscuit.   All of the components of a great tart were on the plate and while the ingredients presented outside the glass were OK, it was the curd in the glass that got me really excited, it was that perfect blend of sweetness and tartness that is amazing when done well!

We were really impressed with our meal at Tukka, with owner and head chef Bryant Wells delivering a beautiful meal that was indeed composed from the best produce that Australia has to offer.  What really surprised us was how quite it was for a Saturday night.  It was heartening to see a number of walk-ins while we were there, but the restaurant remained two thirds empty for the whole night.  It looked as if some of the other activity around Brisbane had really impacted on the number of people eating out.

There was a moment during the meal when a jazz band set up across the street from Tukka and started blasting out some incredible tunes, so good we thought they had to have been from the Con out practicing in vibrant West End.  Shortly after the jazz kicked off, our waitress ran around and apologised for the racket!  We laughed it off and said that we were really enjoying the music and that it wasn't a problem for us at all.

We didn't notice any drop in service due to the manager having to leave for his family emergency.  It did give us an opportunity to have a chat to Bryant at the end of the meal as he had to come out and work the eftpos system for us to pay.  Bryant confirmed our suspicion that the footy had really eaten into their usual Saturday night and he also apologised for the jazz racket - with us again saying it was no problem and that it didn't go for long enough.  

Tukka is the type of restaurant where you are going to experience something a little different but do so in a beautiful environment taking you out of the craziness that is West End.  If you've not been before but like us had always wanted to check it out, stop procrastinating and get in there.  After all, how often can you turn the tables and be a 'man-eating-crocodile' :)

For once I was a man eating crocodile!
The tortellini was the best dish of the night
It was a quite night for the team at Tukka
Glasses lined up 
Inside there was lots of indigenous art and a very welcoming feel
I'll be back for a serve of the tortellini just for myself!

Tukka on UrbanspoonTukka Restaurant


  1. Thank you for dining with us and coming in to try something out of the ordinary. We were happy to hear that you enjoyed your evening with us especially under the unusual circumstances of the evening.

    Bryant and the Tukka team.

    1. Thanks Bryant, we had a great night and really enjoyed ourselves :)


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