Saturday, 8 November 2014

Stokehouse Brisbane - no better way to spend #SundayFunday

One of the things I love about this hobby of mine is that I get to promote the Brisbane food scene and all the greatness that it has to offer.  I do this in a couple of ways, firstly 'going undercover' and checking out new restaurants and then recounting my experiences back to you.  The other way, which seems to be picking up a bit at the moment, is getting back to places I love and doing a bit of promotion. 

I was recently invited along to the Stokehouse Brisbane, which is not only one of the best restaurants in Queensland with two Good Food Guide hats but is also rated as one of the top 100 restaurants in the country by Gourmet Traveller.  It's definitely a special occasion place and there are many people around town that rate it as their favourite restaurants.  It's a restaurant that I've been to many times over the years (see post here) and for me, it forms a special place in the local dining scene.

A restaurant is often as good as the team running it and General Manager Peter McMahon has a first rate team alongside him, led by award winning head chef Richard Ousby.  If you know your food, you might have known that Richard was formerly the sous chef at arguably the country's best restaurant Quay and won the 2011 Electrolux Appetite for Excellence chef award.  Also in the kitchen is a finalist of the 2014 young chef of the year, Ollie Hansford.  I had the pleasure of tasting Ollie's fantastic entry into the awards at this years Young Chef of the Year dinner (see post here).

There was never any doubt that we were in for a treat and we decided that we'd make it a #SundayFunday by cruising into the Stokehouse for a Sunday lunch.  If you've not been to the Stokehouse, it takes pride of place over at South Bank and has one of the prime positions of any restaurant in Brisbane - it's view of the Brisbane CBD is second to none.  We'd planned a leisurely stroll through the Botanical Gardens and across the Goodwill Bridge, but it turned out to be a beautifully warm day, so we were a little sweaty by the lime we'd traipsed across the bridge.  Luckily, we were a bit early and had the opportunity to cool down before our lunch commenced.

As the clock struck twelve, we followed a group of equally excited customers into the restaurant, which was lovely and cool after being outside in the heat.  We were warmly greeted at the reception area by a bubbly young lass who did a great job of greeting diners as they arrived.  Our table was in an awesome and prime position, right at the front of the restaurant and as close to the river as you'd hope to get.  My seat gave me equally great views of the Brisbane river and the restaurant - more importantly, the kitchen (I love watching kitchens).

One of the things I've noticed about each of my visits to the Stokehouse is that the menu has been different, albeit with a similar theme that is largely fish focussed but with plenty to offer meat lovers. A quick glance at the menu showed there were a couple of delicious looking options that I'd have munched into quite happily, but we were presented with the specials board, which completely changed my thinking!  While we placed our orders, including a glass of pinot gris for SC, a basket of warm and crusty bread was presented with some incredibly delicious olive oil for dipping.

We kicked off our meal with half a dozen Kangaroo Island oysters.  SC had originally wanted just two each abut my suggestion of a half dozen where she could have two and I would have four was soon shot down - it was three apiece!  When I was young, I thought there was nothing worse than oysters, but as I matured my palate, I'm positive there are not many better foodie pleasures.  The oysters were fat and plump with a medium salinity level - we'd opted for a mignonette on the side, which added some beautiful acidity.

Onto starters and the dish that I really, really wanted went to SC.  I'd been eying off the Moreton Bay bugs with braised leeks, spinach and whole-egg fazzoletti with shellfish butter, but SC got in first with her request, so the bugs went her way.  It's a case of opportunity lost for me, because they were stunning - the little sample that I had was delicious.  The sweet bug meat was offset by the slightly bitter-sweet flavour of the shellfish butter.  It was a generous serve too, with a heap of bug meat and a literal pool of shellfish butter.  The braised leeks and the fazzoletti (flat pasta) were good secondary accompaniments for the bug flesh and the pasta helped soak up that delicious sauce.

It wasn't as if I was a loser with my starter selection of crudo of Hervey Bay scallops with red grape, sorrel and nasturtium oil.  Presented in a plate specially made by head chef Richard, the thinly sliced crudo (raw) scallops were stunning.  The natural sweetness of the scallops was supported by the fragrant nasturtium oil (made from edible flowers) and the slightly acidic red grapes.  I had a real problem with this dish - there simply wasn't enough!  But to be fair, I could have had a plate the size of the table and have been left wanting more.

For mains, we bypassed the regular menu and went for options on the daily specials board.  SC's choice was an entree sized version of the pork and fennel sausage with fusilli, roasted red peppers, fennel and rocket.  Knowing that it was a pasta dish, SC opted for the smaller size and was pretty happy she did, it was still a decent sized bowl of pasta.  A bowl of pasta is hard to make elegant, but lets face it, the taste is much more important anyway and the dish was again a masterpiece.  The clumps of pork and fennel sausage were the highlights, but the fusilli (spiral pasta) worked beautifully with the rich sauce.  

My specials board option, was just that..... special!  The roast veal loin with broccoli puree, king brown mushrooms, cavolo nero and mustard seeds was something to behold.  It was plated well, sure, but it was the flavours that were packed onto the plate complimenting each other so well that blew me away.  The expertly cooked veal was medium rare and tender as could be but it was the punchy mustard seeds with every bite that won me over.  The air dried cavolo nero provided some texture and saltiness to the dish and the broccoli puree was bitter-sweet and helped bring the dish together.  It was filling, but I managed to get it all down....

Dessert time and there were two standout looking desserts, one I'd had before and was planning on having again, as well as the valrhona chocolate mousse with peanut crunch and banana ice cream. SC decided that the chocolate would be hers and by crikey, it was a winner.  It looked wonderful on the plate, with a perfect half sphere of valrhona chocolate mousse with a crunchy peanut centre and the silky smooth banana ice cream.  We'd discovered some time ago that chocolate and banana go well together, but the Stokehouse dessert was something new altogether - yeah, I might have even suffered a little food envy...

That was until I dug into my dessert, which is the Stokehouse signature dish.  The Bombe consists of frozen white chocolate parfait with strawberry sorbet and toasted meringue and is without doubt a must  try from any restaurant in Brisbane.  I'll warn you though, it's rich and it's sweet - so much so that the first time I had it, I was unprepared and went into a sugar coma.  More prepared this time, I very much enjoyed the sweet dessert that was offset by the slightly tart strawberries.  I'm not sure if the parfait or the toasted meringue was better individually but together, whoa, just total balance and a great dessert.

Sunday lunchtime is just about the busiest time over at the Stokehouse and we'd watched every table in the restaurant fill up while we'd been there.  We'd even noticed (and chatted to) blogger buddy Dolce Bunny who was also over to enjoy a lovely lunch - such a small world.  The staff at the Stokehouse are incredibly professional, as you'd expect from a well run two hatted restaurant and we'd enjoyed chatting to our waitress throughout the day.  

It was a sensational way to spend a Sunday afternoon and inspired SC to start listing out some activities for future #SundayFundays - which look to incorporate segways and other such fun activities....  We both loved the meal and agreed that there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon...  Maybe we will see you at the Stokehouse one Sunday?

**We were invited guests of the Stokehouse for this meal

The Stokehouse is right on the river and there are some great seats!
We arrived early and it was pretty quiet - initially....
White linen tablecloths - its a pity we made a decent mess of ours!
The pinot gris really hit the spot for SC
Seriously good nosh - the bugs worked beautifully with the shellfish butter
The scallops plate was made by the Stokehouse's head chef - cool
My veal dish was sensational - particularly the combination of the mustard seeds and veal
The signature dish - get in and eat this
The kitchen hard at work
If you've not been to Stokehouse - its well worth the visit

Stokehouse on UrbanspoonStokehouse Brisbane

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