Saturday, 22 November 2014

G20 Global Flavours - Il Centro

Well, the G20 has been and gone and it went of without a hitch, pretty much.

It was interesting living in the CBD and watching the city clear out and on the Friday and Saturday of the event, Brisbane was indeed much like a ghost town....  During the day. At night, the city came alive with all of the dignitaries and city dwellers out and about seeing what was going on.

However, there was more to the G20 event than the leaders of the world coming to our fair city to discuss, well I'm not really that interested in what they discussed, but there was more going on than met the eye.  Given that the eyes of the world were on Brisbane, it's was (and still is) a huge opportunity for us to showcase our fair city and all that it has to offer.

In conjunction with Brisbane Marketing, many of Brisbane's best restaurants have joined the party by participating in a month of foodie celebrations.  Global Flavours is the culinary celebration of Brisbane's international-standard cuisine and local produce.  I'd been asked to help promote this once in a lifetime event by doing the tough job of visiting some of the restaurants that are involved - yeah, I know, but someone's gotta do it.  You can also get involved by visiting one of the city's participating restaurants and enjoying the best that Brisbane has to offer during the month of November.  See the complete list here.

My next stop on the G20 express was Il Centro, over at Eagle Street Pier.  Over the years, I've been to Il Centro a few times but it hasn't been a restaurant that comes to mind when thinking Italian (see post here I called the 'forgotten fine diner').  It's probably because I'm not a fan of Il Centro's sand crab lasagne, which has made just about every Brisbane 'top dish' list that's ever been printed.  I did dry the dish once, but couldn't reconcile sand crab in a lasagne, although the bisque that came along with the lasagne was pretty spectacular.  Anyway, personal preferences aside, I think I might be the only person in Brisbane that doesn't like it!

We hopped along for our G20 visit on a busy Friday night, the week before G20 kicked off and before the city became a ghost town. With a week to go until the G20 public holiday, it seemed as Brisbane city dwellers were all out and about, enjoying themselves, perhaps sensing that it might be the last opportunity for a while.  As we arrived, we had the option of sitting inside or outside, choosing the former because of the hot and steamy night and wanting to take advantage of the nice cool air conditioning of the restaurant.

Our menus were placed in front of us while our waitress went in search of the restaurant's special's board, which was placed in front of us and the daily specials explained.  With half a dozen great looking items, I had an inkling that I'd be partaking in a few of the specials.....  While we waited for our meals to arrive, we were given a sour loaf for two with some beautiful and freshly poured, slightly peppery olive oil.  It was a huge slab of warm and crusty bread and I couldn't help run the famous Simpsons line 'No Homer, don't fill up on bread' (see image here).

We kicked off with a starter of the zuppa: cauliflower soup with seared scallops, crispy prosciutto and walnut oil.  Two huge, perfectly seared scallops sat in a bowl surrounded by a very thick cauliflower soup with pieces of crispy prosciutto that poked out of the soup, almost like shark fins. The soup was almost thick enough to be called a puree, but it was surprisingly light and creamy, with a lovely fresh flavour.  The salty prosciutto proved to be a great pairing for the scallops and combined with the thick soup, provided a slightly different twist on a classic scallops starter (often found with cauliflower puree and prosciutto).

My last visit to Il Centro was marred by a seafood soup that was lacking in flavour, so I'd planned to give the dish a second chance by ordering the latest iteration of the seafood soup from the specials board.  My soup looked very familiar from my last visit, although the colour was a little deeper and a little richer looking and there were huge chunks of seafood visible.  Wow, it was pretty different, this time packing a huge punch, with the shellfish stock made to make the soup front and centre in flavour.  The reef fish and cuttle fish that made up the seafood component were both nicely cooked and added some freshness and texture.  Yeah, I really enjoyed the latest batch of seafood soup.

First of the mains was the gnocchiette: potato gnocchiette with seared scallops, roasted chestnuts and glazed baby vegetables with a butter sauce.  Unusually, SC had doubled up on scallops for her meal and like the soup, the dish came with expertly cooked scallops sitting along side some pretty unusual looking purple gnocchi.  I was conflicted about the colouring, on one hand, the purple contrasted nicely with the orange of the glazed carrots, but on the other hand, it was purple! The highlight of the dish was definitely the butter sauce and the glazed carrots along with the scallops.  The jury is still out on the gnocchi, the flavour was fine but texturally, it seemed a little odd and we were left wondering if it was the potato choice.

My main was again off the specials board with the grilled red emperor with saffron linguine and soft shell crab salsa.  The fresh, clean looking plate looked incredible, with two wonderfully cooked pieces of fish sitting atop the al dente linguine and the punchy salsa topping the whole lot off.   The  red emperor had a lovely subtle flavour and the firm and flaky flesh was a joy to eat but I did struggle a little with the salsa, which I ended up scraping off and leaving, there was nothing inherently wrong with the salsa, but I found it a bit over powering for the beautiful fish.  I really loved the slightly sweet taste of the saffron linguine but struggled to eat it all after scoffing down my fish first.  Also, it was supposed to come with sand crab and there was only one little piece of sand crab in the pasta. There were almost two dishes in my bowl, the fish and the linguine, and either one would have been fine on their own.

It was time for dessert and we decided that after so much food that sharing a single, light dessert would be the best option.  I again went to the specials board, which I'd noticed had a raspberry souffle (again, the sweet dulcet tones of Prince singing raspberry beret comes to mind).  Once the souffle was presented, I could tell it was a beauty!  It had risen like a dream and looked a lot like a mushroom that way it poked out of the ramekin.  Not only had it risen well, it was a light a souffle as you could hope to devour, in fact, at one point it dissolved on my tongue and left the flavour of raspberry like a beautiful memory.  When I say that we shared dessert, I tell a lie, SC doesn't really like raspberries, so I polished off the whole dessert on my own.

It was an interesting visit to Il Centro, one that dispelled many of the issues that I'd had from my last visit, where the food was technically cooked well, but just lacked a little flavour.  On this occasion the flavours were punchy and on the whole quite lovely.  My entire meal had been from the specials board, which is a little unusual, while at the same time SC ordered her meal from the standard menu (I think I came out with the better options!)

It was quite a busy night but not every table was booked out, I wasn't sure if it was because G20 was starting to have an impact on people coming into the city, or if Il Centro is suffering from being in one of the most competitive restaurant precincts in Brisbane.  There are so many great restaurants in that little quarter of the CBD that it's important for restaurants to keep on top of things and make sure the food and the experience is top notch.

**I was a guest of Brisbane Marketing and Il Centro for this meal

An unusual but much appreciated change up on the traditional scallop entree
It's hard to make soup look sexy...  But this one packed a punch and had deep rich flavours
Almost two dishes in one.  It was a bit much for me and I would have loved more soft shell crab
A risen souffle is a thing of beauty
The restaurant was busy but there were a few tables spare
The chefs hard at it
Action in the kitchen
on the pass and almost ready to go

Il Centro on UrbanspoonIl Centro Restaurant and Bar

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...