Sunday, 27 September 2015

NUR - nourishment, love and science come together

Every once in a while, you experience something so unexpected that it instantly forms a lasting memory.  The tasting menu at NUR has left an indelible impression, one that has me comparing the meal to one of my top five ever....  Big call for sure, but there it is.

Let me tell you a little bit about NUR.  

The chef and founder of NUR has an interesting background: inspired and tutored by culinary legend Raymond Blanc, Nurdin Topham's life changed when Blanc prepared him a tomato dish which was a revelation, tasting like nothing Chef Topham had tasted before.  So much flavour, yet so light and balanced, the dish inspired a life changing decision, one that led to ten years in Blanc's two Michelin Starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, as well as a qualification as a natural therapist. 

The inspiration for NUR came once Nurdin was able to eat at Rene Redzepi's world famous NOMA in Copenhagen, which led to an internship at Redzepi's Nordic Food Lab, where he immersed himself in artisanal food production, science and fermentation.  Wanting to open his own restaurant, but never thinking that Hong Kong would become home, it was a chance meeting with a HK chef that led to the  opening of NUR.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

LONgTIME - definitely a funky spot

Not long before I moved away from Brisbane, a cool sounding little restaurant opened up in the Valley called LONgTIME.  I'd walked past a couple of times and made the rookie mistake of looking at the bar area outside, assuming it was the dining area and thinking 'Meh.

I'd never really given the modern Thai restaurant much of a thought until we came back to Brisbane for a short visit and arranged to go along with good mates.  You can imagine my surprise when I arrived for our dinner and found a huge and contemporary looking dining room, wrapped around an open kitchen, hidden from street view.  I was gob smacked!

It didn't surprise me that it was one of the hottest dining spots in Brisbane and a favourite of our Brisbane buds Thommo and Druce.  It was just the sort of hip and out of the way place that would appeal to our friends, who regaled us with stories of former visits and amazing food.  I literally couldn't wait to get cracking...

But, wait I did.  I'd arrived a little early and Thommo and Druce, who'd been entertaining SC, were quite late.  So, I had the opportunity to sit in the dining room and watch it slowly, then quickly fill up as I waited for my dining companions.  At least I was comfortable and it did give me the opportunity to admire the fit-out, which was solid looking wood tables and chairs and green leaf covered chandeliers, bringing the outside in.

Ta Vie - Japanese fusion with Chinese Influences

What would make a chef at the top of his game, a chef who is incredibly well regarded, make the decision to a leave a very successful two Michelin Star restaurant?  Earlier this year, acclaimed chef Hideaki Sato moved on from one of Hong Kong's best Japanese restaurants, Tenku Ryugin to set up Ta Vie in the historic Pottinger Hotel.  Bold move...

The Pottinger Hotel is located in busy Central, but is like an oasis in a chaotic desert and stepping through the front doors of the hotel was like stepping into a bygone era.  Classy and chic, it was a mix between colonial Britain and renaissance Paris.  Helpful staff went the extra step of escorting us to the charming old lifts that took us to the second floor and entrance to Ta Vie.  It was a stark contrast, while the lobby was light and airy, the restaurant was all greys and blacks, and while it retained a hint of the Parisian theme downstairs, it was much more attuned for romance (perfect for a date or special occasion).

Like many special occasion restaurants, we were warmly greeted by an incredibly friendly maĆ®tre d' and shown to our tables.   With a warm glow from our special treatment, we quickly noticed a couple of glass bottles containing our menus for the evening, displayed just like I'd always imagined how a message in a bottle would appear walking down a beach.  Instead of a message of help, we were presented with chef Sato's customary tasting menu.  Sato is well known for degustation only menus, blending traditional Asian stylings with contemporary Japanese techniques.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Gauge - breakfast on steroids

One of the things I miss most about my home town of Brisbane is the breakfast culture.  Don't get me wrong, there is an amazing food scene in Hong Kong, one of the best in the world, but no one seems to have nailed the breakfast gig.

It's why, when I recently flew back to Brisbane for a week, I decided I'd get out and have as many great breakfasts as possible.  One I'd been particularly keen to check out was Ollie Hansford's Gauge in South Brisbane.  Formerly of two hatted restaurant the Stokehouse Brisbane and winner of Young Chef of the Year, I was super excited to see what Ollie was up to.  

When I set off from my Hotel to find Gauge, I was surprised to find that it was right next to Julius Pizza, in a spot that had significantly changed in the nine months since I left Brisbane.  With a couple of new high-rise buildings finally open, there was a different vibe from a few years ago, where there was not much at all to do at the Museum end of Grey Street.  Looking quite dark and brooding from the facade, I loved the juxtaposition of the light and airy interior that had a post industrial feel.  Quite stark and simple, with lots of share tables arranged around the kitchen area.


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