Saturday, 20 December 2014

Casual Dining - Communal Bar and Eat House at Brisbane Square 

Change, change, change!  The amount of change that's happening in Brisbane seems unprecedented, right?  I was completely blown away by the big hole in the ground that used to be the Law Courts up on George Street and pretty excited for the high rise apartments and hotel that are slated to be built in their place. George Street has seen a transformation over the last few years and it seems as if the 'top-end-of-town' will continue a resurgence.

One of our funkiest buildings is the Brisbane City Council building in George Street, which houses the Brisbane library and from a distance, looks like a colourful kaleidoscope of falling books.  The BCC building has recently undergone a new transformation, with most of the older style eateries being transformed into a 'diner's delight' that includes a pretty wide range of modern looking cafes and restaurants.  I'd already checked out Meat and Eat (see post here) but was pretty excited to get along and check out the showpiece of the Square - the gastro pub style Communal Bar and Eat House.

As part of the ever growing stable of cafes and restaurants run by General Manager Anthony Attard, The Communal Bar and Eat House is the biggest and boldest of the group's ventures, which includes The Cutting Board (see post here), Hive (see post here) and Meat and Eat (see post here).  Communal Bar and Eat House is inspired by the gastro pub culture and combines this with the communal theme by featuring many share tables among the two hundred available seats (yeah, it's big).

What turns Communal into a gastro pub is the huge mix of food and booze options, with both a huge food menu and an even bigger range of beers on tap, as well as a huge range of cocktails. In fact there are twenty four beers on tap as well as twenty different cocktails and eight cocktail jug specialties!  While a gastro pub should have plenty of alcohol options, for me it's always going to be about the food and I was keen to see what head chef Ben Limpus had done with the menu, which included a wood fired pizza oven, plenty of burgers and dishes from a flare grill.

I'd arranged to catch up with an old workmate as part of my final round of catch ups before I permanently move to Hong Kong in January.  It was a stinking hot day and we'd arranged to meet at Brisbane Square for lunch and by the time I'd wandered up the street, I was bathed in sweat!  Not a great way to start lunch, but luckily I'd arrived a while before NC and had a chance to cool down and check out the Communal set-up.  The space was huge, with a long bar and kitchen area that had plenty of share tables, as well as a more traditional dining room set up for smaller groups.

Once NC arrived, we were given a couple of menus to ponder over and try to decide what we'd have on such a hot Summer's day.  A jug of cool water was also delivered, and I have to say, it went down beautifully.  What went down even more beautifully for NC was the Withering Hills Sauvignon Blanc!  

Our first course could not have been more perfect on a stinking hot day!  We opted for the 'Chilled Out Seafood' platter, which came stuffed full of Mooloolaba prawns, South Australian oysters, bug tails and honey cured ocean trout with a candied lemon and aioli.  I started off with the oysters, which were massive and creamy with just the right salinity level - gee I've come to love oysters over the last decade!  My favourite part of the platter was definitely the super fresh Moreton Bay bugs, which were sweet and worked perfectly with the accompanying cocktail sauce.  The seafood platter was a good size for two people and an outstanding way to start any meal.

With so many options to choose from and pretty much over burgers (for the time being) we thought that we would head to the grill for mains.  NC owns a farm, so I was keen to see what she thought about the bourbon braised beef ribs, served with mac n cheese, coleslaw and corn on the cob. We didn't expect the monster of a meal that came out of the kitchen.  The beef ribs were huge, massive and I wasn't sure how NC would be able to eat the lot!  The ribs looked amazing and were incredibly tender, but the rich bourbon flavour of the sauce hadn't infused with the beef and so they lacked a little punch.  The mac n cheese was superb, sticky where it needed to be and with a lovely golden coating, it took NC right back to her childhood.

My choice was the 300g wagyu rump with a marble score of 7+ from the Darling Downs, which came with some creamy and buttery mash and a bearnaise sauce.  I love the rump, which is normally a much more robust flavoured part of the cow and my perfectly cooked piece of beef fulfilled my expectations.  I normally like to add just a little of the bearnaise sauce when eating wagyu, but I found the sauce too acidic and it didn't really work well.  There was a huge pile of mash potato which I tried to get through, but it just got the better of me.

In the spirit of the venues name, and after eating so much food already, we decided that we'd share a dessert and thought the lighter pavlova with passion fruit, vanilla cream and seasonal berries would be the best way to go.  The lightly toasted meringue came covered with pineapple chunks, strawberries and raspberries and was pretty decent.  I think the only thing missing was more of a toasted outer crust with the gooey centre, which signifies the perfect pavlova.  The outer crust was just a bit thin and therefore needed a little more texture.

I'd loved to have checked out the huge yellow tiled wood fired pizza oven, but it was just too hot for pizza and to be honest, we were stuffed from the meaty mains.  Having said that, there were actually a heap of things on the menu that I'd loved to try, but you can only eat so much in one sitting, right?

I really liked what the team at Communal had done to the restaurant, it had a really open feel to it and had there been any breeze, it would have been fabulous to be outside.  I'm not sure if that will be an issue on those really hot and humid summer days we experience in Queensland, but the completely open dining area would certainly be sensational on a hot summer's night.  I also loved the clean lines of the decor and the cool wall mural at the back of the restaurant.

With a plethora of new restaurants and dining options in Brisbane at the moment, Communal Bar and Eating House adds a new dimension in the CBD.  The only other spot that has such a diverse range of foods is Jo Jo's in the mall, but Jo Jo's doesn't have the amazing location that Communal has.  It will be interesting to see the place rocking out on a Saturday night....  With over two hundred seats, its one of the larger locations in the CBD.  Yeah, I think the timing is right for this place.....


** I was a guest of Communal for this meal

A huge plate of fresh seafood - perfect for a hot day
That was a lot of beef rib!
Very meaty mains - homely and simple
The pavlova was ok, but the meringue was not quite there
Its a huge space with lots of alfresco dining
And a more traditional dining room 
Audrey or Anne?  Your guess is as good as mine!
And a gastro pub is not a pub without beer!

Communal Bar & Eat House

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