Saturday, 30 November 2013

Au Cirque - now also known as 'Cirque by night'

There are so many new restaurants opening in Brisbane you would wonder why an established Brisbane breakfast institution would take the risk of opening up for dinner.  That's exactly what's happened with New Farm favourite Au Cirque, who've recently launched their 'Cirque by Night' dinner menu on Thursday and Friday nights.

I was invited along with a couple of blogger buddies and online publications to check out the new offerings and provide some feedback and thoughts.  Au Cirque is extremely well known as one of Brisbane's best breakfast spots, a reputation that is well deserved and well earned after years of hard work and toil.  I've written about my experiences with breakfast at Cirque and was blown away by the breakfast (see post here), so I was extremely keen to see what they would do with their dinner offering.

As is usually the case, I arrived pretty early for our 6:30 kick off, I really need to get better at my timing my arrival, but I would always prefer to be early somewhere than late.  I sat in my car for a while before deciding to 'bite the bullet' and head into Cirque, my fears of being a 'Nigel no-friends' quickly allayed once I saw our host for the night.  After some quick catching up some of the other guests for the night started to turn up and there was a great mix of known and new people.  It's always fun putting names to faces because most of us are connected through Twitter or Instagram, so I'm continually meeting people in person who I follow.

Peng You Chinese Kitchen and Bar - Gasworks gets another diner

I can't really remember the last time a new precinct in Brisbane generated so much buzz and excitement than the one being created by the Gasworks over at Newstead.  It seems like every week there is a new opening of a hip new dining spot under the purple haze of the brightly lit Gasometer Frame.  What's amazing about the Gasworks is the short timeframe that it's become a 'go to' destination for Brisbanites and the fact that there is still plenty of development to be completed yet.

During the week I was invited along to check out one of the latest dining spots, a place doing a modern take on a very old and traditional cuisine.  Peng You China Kitchen and Bar has one of the best locations at the Gasworks precent and is right next to the iconic Gasometer, which acts as a beacon for those in the general vicinity.  I would be dining with a number of other foodies on the night, which would be ideal when eating Asian cuisine, which is all about sharing and experiencing the food as much as just consuming.

Thinking that it would take ages to get from the CBD to Newstead in peak hour traffic, I arranged to be dropped off at the Gasworks but as luck would have it, it was pretty quiet on the backstreets and I arrived a little early.  I took the opportunity to get into the restaurant early and have a good look around to see what they had done to the space.  As I walked into Peng You, I was greeted by our host for the night, David Hung, who is also the Manager and son of owner Joyce Chiu who owns Obsession over at South Bank.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Tinderbox Kitchen - a great space in James Street

It's an exciting time in Brisbane, there are new restaurants opening up weekly and there are now more options than ever before to get your dinner fix on. It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up the the pace of the new dining spaces across Brisbane and I often don't come across a new restaurant until it's not new any more.  In some ways I'm luckier than most, I have a network of fellow bloggers that help me keep in the loop and I occasionally help them out with a new spot I've come across.

One of the reasons why I love writing my blog is to let others know about the cool new spots that are worthy of their dining dollars.  I'm often encouraged by the feedback I get from my readers about how much they enjoy reading my blog and how it's their main source of finding out what's going on around town.  It makes me want to go out and check out more exciting and new spots, just so I can pass it onto my readers.

Just when you thought the James Street precinct couldn't get any more exciting, a new dining spot has sprouted up, and while not off the beaten track, it is tucked a way just a little bit.  The Tinderbox Kitchen has recently opened it's doors just behind it's big brother and perennial James Street favourite Harveys Bar and Bistro.  I first came across the name when one of my Blogger buddies shared on the interweb that she had just had an amazing meal, which of course got me pretty interested.  I certainly love amazing meals.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Breakfast Series - Eurovida

North, South, East or West, it doesn't really matter any more, you can head off in any one of these directions from the CBD and hit a decent breakfast spot.  When it came to deciding on where to go for breakfast this morning after a late night out on the Sunshine Coast I had to decide to which point of the compass we would head.  It would be great if I had a little spinning wheel with dining precincts, something like a twister spinner but instead of colours resplendent with dining areas.  At least then it might be easier to at least get a start on where to go for breakfast, spin the wheel and off you go!

After getting my somewhat foggy brain into gear, I decided that it would be West, inner West to be precise so I started to look for cafes in Paddington that we had not yet visited.  There are around nineteen cafes in Paddington that are doing breakfast on  Sunday mornings and we have been to most of them, so making a choice became a little easier.  One particular cafe caught my eye, somewhere that not only had we not been before, but I had never heard of, my spider senses were tingling, this could be the place.

Eurovida is an interesting name that conjures up images of European cafes and looking at their site, this is exactly the image that they are looking to portray.  In fact with a quite like "come and experience a little taste of Europe right here in Brisbane" you can guarantee this is the just the feel they are going for.  The cafe is located pretty close to the city at the beginning of Given Terrace and if we had been a little more energised we could have walked there in no time.  Energised was probably the last way you could describe how we were feeling so into the car we went and five minutes later we were cruising past looking for a park.

Casual Dining - Cicada in the CBD

Throughout your working life, you will work with heaps of people you like and for many it's the main reason why they keep getting out of bed in the morning and keep going to work.  When you manage people it's the same but unfortunately sometimes they will leave you and move onto bigger and better things.  While it's sometimes hard watching them leave the nest to spread their wings, it's also quite rewarding as well.

When you stop working with those people, it doesn't have to be the end and hopefully you can continue on with friendships to replace working relationships.  In the last twelve months I have had a couple of team members leave my team for greener pastures but I have continued to remain close to them and managed to catch up for a long overdue lunch.  It's not always easy to catch up with the 'dynamic duo' as I will call them for the rest of the post, they are both vegetarians and in many ways are like 'peas in a pod'.

Usually I am the dude that is recommending lunch spots but I was happy to accede the responsibility of choosing a lunch spot to one of the dynamic duo, one that would be right in the middle of our now diverse work locations.  While we all work in the CBD, the Brisbane postcode of 4000 now covers a lot of ground.  The spot that was chose was Cicada, which is underneath the Telstra building on the corner of George and Adelaide Street.  As it turned out I had the furtherest to go but still was the first to arrive, with RL coming along as short while later.  Of course SG was the closest to our lunch destination and was the last to arrive, something RL and I had to chuckle about.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

EDB13 - Solo Dining in Perth (Guest Post)

With EDB13 being held in Perth, I decided to tag along for the ride and have a long weekend away.  I knew that Saturday I would be on my own, with FoodMeUpScotty indulging in all things eating, drinking and blogging, so I decided to explore a little of the nation's western capital.

I'd hired a car for the weekend, and after dropping off FoodMeUpScotty at the Perth City Farm for his day of bloggy fun, took the trip back to Beaufort Street way for breakfast.  At dinner last night (see post here), I had been recommended the Tuck Shop Cafe as a great suburban breakfast spot, although was warned there may be a queue.  After driving around the block a couple of times (thanks GoogleMaps for the bum steer on a little alleyway), I was able to get a park only a little way down Newcastle Street and was early enough at this Northbridge favourite to score a table without having to wait (dining solo also helps!).  Not long after being seated I was provided with a big jug of water and a menu, and was able to order the usual half strength latte.

There is one thing I can say about Perth - they know how to do a good coffee over there!  Which was a relief, as while its only 2 hours behind Brisbane, my body clock was all out of whack. While I waited for my order I watched the crowds come and go, lots of locals getting takeaway coffees and the tables turned over pretty quickly.  I must admit it seemed to take a little while for my order to arrive, although I didn't really mind, as I had nothing else to do for a few hours and was enjoying reading my book.  Finally I was presented with my breakfast, a big bowl of poached eggs, tomato, bacon and sour dough.  As FoodMeUpScotty was not with me, I could indulge in a simple breakfast, and it was a good simple breakfast.  The eggs were poached well, the tomatoes really tasty and there were heaps of bacon rashers.  Unfortunately I felt I had barely scratched the surface when my stomach told me "enough is enough" and I had to admit defeat. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Bucci - The Italians invade James Street

I never really thought of Brisbane having a big Italian population or having a large number of Italian restaurants, but I've had to revise my thinking.  While we are not in the same league as Melbourne when it comes to Italian dining spots, they have over eleven hundred, Brisbane has almost three hundred, which is way more than I would have expected.

I've walked by Bucci so many times I have lost count.  It's on the way from my usual fresh food shopping spot at James Street.  Yeah, I know that you're questioning whether I eat at home, but I occasionally do and it's with fresh food from the Standard at James Street.  So, walking by Bucci early on a Saturday morning a heap of times has piqued my interest quite a bit but it wasn't until a few months that I saw how insane the restaurant can get in the evenings.

During the week I felt like some pasta or risotto, so I booked us in for a 6:30 sitting for dinner and neglected to tell SC what time dinner was, thinking she would easily be home in time.  As the clock started to tick towards 6:15 I started to get a bit nervous about our booking and after texting to check how she was going. As I started to call the restaurant to change the booking time, SC walked through the front door and I could immediately tell it had been a hectic day at work.  With some gentle urging, SC changed in record time (for a girl) and we were off to Bucci and just made our booked time.  I love living in the city!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Breakfast Series - Pablo of Newfarm

It's no secret that I eat out a lot, I mean my blog is like a personal journal of how much food I've eaten in the last twelve months.  As a food blogger, I'm always looking for an excuse to go out for dinner or breakfast or lunch, well, any time or reason in fact.  You would think this amount or rich restaurant food would take its toll on a body and I've been pretty luck, up until recently that is...

I recently went and had my eyes tested and apart from getting the news that I now needed glasses, the optometrist dropped a bombshell for me, I had cholesterol rings in my eyes and she recommended a doctors visit.  Crap, it seemed as if my lavish eating out lifestyle had finally caught up with me.  Timing is a funny thing but the day my glasses arrived I watched a documentary called "Eat Fast and Live Longer" by a guy called Dr Michael Mosley (see documentary here).  Talk about serendipity, were was a solution to all of my problems, a way to reduce my cholesterol and solve a myriad of other potential health problems and a way to possibly live longer!!  All I had to do was fast for two days a week, then I could eat whatever I wanted for the other five days - a bloggers dream.

You may ask why I am telling you this?  Well apart from now being completely sold on the idea and have been recommending it to everyone, its the first time I have typed up a post while fasting.  I'm not sure how it's going to go.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

French Martini - great food and better cocktails

I've been trying to get over to Southbank a little more of late.  Southbank has one of the highest concentration of restaurants in one spot in all of Queensland, perhaps even Australia.  Since I've been blogging, I've only visited a few of the restaurants and cafes in what amounts to a thriving dining scene.  We wanted to head out with some friends on Saturday night and one of the best things about hanging out with TB and CI is that TB is quite the foodie herself.  I'm not sure I know anyone, outside of the blogger fraternity, that spends as much time studying restaurants with a view to checking out as many as possible.  It was quite refreshing not to be the one making recommendations and when TB sent over her list of four possibilities, one jumped straight out.

That restaurant was Hatch & Co....  I had a bit of a chuckle to myself, Hatch & Co is one of the hottest restaurants in Brisbane at the moment and to think that TB thought we could get a booking on Saturday morning for later that night was amusing.  A quick call and a bit of a laugh later, we had sorted out that we would need to book a few weeks in advance for a Saturday night at that particular little hotspot.  There was another interesting looking place on the list and even better, we could get a reservation for four at 7pm with no trouble.

French Martini is one of the ever increasing number of French bistros in Brisbane and has been around for almost two years, which is a bit freaky to think about.  It's one of the many many restaurants located on Little Stanley Street, which has got to be one of the busiest for foot traffic, especially on a Saturday night, in Brisbane.  We'd arranged to meet at French Martini at 7pm and SC and I decided to take the short walk across the bridge from the CBD to Southbank.  Walking across the Victoria Bridge around 6:45 pm provided us with an amazing light show with a major electrical storm on the Gold Coast visible in the clouds on the horizon.  I was pretty thankful that the storm was not hitting us in the CBD, we needed a respite from the last few days' storms.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Restaurant Manx - Chicken and Lobster? Can it work? Should it work?

It seems as if we had been spending a lot of time at the airport recently and only a few short days after returning from Perth I again found myself at the airport.  This time is was a pick up job, with SC returning from an day in Cairns on business.  Usually when we come back from the airport, we have a ritual that we head over to our favourite restaurant, which is just across the street, and have a lovely and relaxing meal.  Unfortunately, when I went to book a spot for dinner I was advised that a private function was on and the dining area was not open to the public.  This presented a dilemma, what would we do for dinner?

Once SC had landed and I broke the bad news that we would have to go elsewhere for dinner, we took the pragmatic approach to checking out somewhere new on the way home.  This didn't leave us a heap of options but we did have one dining precent that we have not spent a lot of time exploring open to us.  We have eaten at Portside Wharf before when we checked out Sono Portside (see post here) but Hamilton is not an area that is generally on our radar when looking for a meal.  It's a little surprising actually given the concentration of reasonably good restaurants in such a contained little district.

We normally take the tunnel when returning from the airport to the CBD, which is the best of all the major road infrastructure programs over the last few years, but a quick detour through the old route took us right past Portside.  It was a relatively quiet Tuesday night and the under ground car park was pretty empty, so we thought that we would have no problems getting a table without a reservation.  After a short walk around the restaurants looking at the menus on display, we opted for Restaurant Manx, partially due to some of the menu items and partly because of our Entertainment Card.

EDB13 Perth Trip - Sayers Sister Northbridge

Phew, it was the morning after the night before and we were feeling in need of a top breakfast to re-energise for our long flight home to Brisbane later in the afternoon.  It was hard to believe that Eat Drink Blog 2013 was over, it had been an amazing 24 hours of meeting so many other passionate foodies at the conference.  

The morning before had started nice and early, especially so as I had arrived early to check out the Perth City Farm, which is an organic growers market and a perfect spot to hold a food bloggers conference.  I wasn't the only early bird and it was soon apparent that some of the other Queensland and Victorian bloggers were going to get an early start too.  I'd made up my mind before the conference that I was going to step outside of my normal shy and introverted nature and meet as many of the other delegates as possible, starting off with meeting all of the male bloggers.  A pretty easy first step because there were only about fifteen or so male bloggers!

As EDB commenced and the day progressed, there were so many interesting and relevant sessions from speakers that were well versed in the world of food blogging, I had so much to learn.  I'd actually met my first goal of meeting the boy bloggers fairly early on in the day, so set about the fun task of meeting the rest of the hundred or so bloggers.  I was going to be the networking king!  The breaks in-between sessions and lunch became my opportunities to walk up to individuals and groups and just start talking and I did just that.  You know what?  As scary as it seems to walk up to people that you don't know, it's actually not so bad, on the whole, everyone is feeling just as apprehensive about meeting new people as me!

Friday, 15 November 2013

EDB13 Perth Trip - Cantina 663

We were in Perth with full bellies from a fantastic lunch from Balthazar (see post here) and we had a few hours to kill before we would be catching up with a handful of Brisbane bloggers for dinner.  We had never been to Perth together before, so we had a really good opportunity to explore the CDB a little bit and being honest do a little comparison with Brisbane. 

The first thing we noticed is that the Perth CBD is long and skinny. I mean really long, the main street seems to go on for ever.  Thinking that we would tackle the long walk back to the hotel, we cut through a cool little arcade that transported us to London, England.  It was no wonder, it was called London Court and is a well known spot in Perth and I could see why, it was so cute with great little shops and a very Edwardian feel.

As we continued to walk around Perth, we noticed quite a few similarities to Brisbane, the climate is hot and people are pretty relaxed.  I mean really relaxed, there were more singlets and shorts wandering around the CBD than I have seen in a long time!  There's also not one mall but two, with one of them reminding me of Rundle Mall in Adelaide and the other a little bit like the Queen Street mall back home.  After a few hours of wandering around and finding where the hipsters live (around the hip and cool King Street), it was time to walk back to the hotel and get read for our visit to Cantina 663.

I'd heard a lot of great things about Cantina 663 and when I did my obligatory tweet to WA bloggers for recommendations, Cantina was one of the handful of restaurants that was almost universally loved.  I had arranged to meet Melissa Loh and Aga from A Matter of Taste at the restaurant but Aga had asked if she could bring another blogger along for the night, which was of course OK.  This was how we met Rachi from Le bon vivant who rounded out the six for dinner with Melissa's SO and SC.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

EDB13 Perth Trip - Balthazar

I've just had an amazing weekend over in Perth.  Yeah, I know! Perth is about as far away from Brisbane as you can possibly get, in fact it's pretty much the most isolated capital city in the world.  If you're wondering what would get a Brisbane foodie over to Perth, then wonder no further, I was off attending an annual food bloggers conference called Eat Drink Blog (#EDB13 on Twitter). That's right, a conference dedicated to food blogging, what a freaky concept, what could be more exciting (or scarier) than a hundred or so food bloggers all congregating in the one spot.

Both SC and I had been to Perth before, but never together, so when I found out that my nomination had been accepted to attend this years conference we thought it would be a great way to finally see Perth together.  We both decided to take a long weekend and made the long trip over to Perth on the Friday with a plan to hit a few restaurants and have some fun before the conference.  While I was pretty excited about the #EDB13 conference I was equally excited to be checking out some of Perth's hotspot restaurants and do a subtle comparison to my home town of Brisbane.

Leading up to #EDB13, I had been using the 'interwebs' to size up the best spots to visit while in Perth and a couple of restaurants kept coming up in discussion, Print Hall and Cantina.  The plan was to land in Perth just before lunch, collect the bags and then check out one of the newer and hipper spots in Perth, Print Hall.  Of course the plan went awry immediately, the only session that I could get into was a 12:30pm sitting and there was just no way that we could get from the airport to Perth in time.  I was a bit bummed out, but had to make the most of the situation, so I hit up Urbanspoon to see where else I could go on such short notice.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bishamon Japanese - authentic Japanese in Spring Hill

Once I get an idea in my head to check out a restaurant it can become a burning desire to go.  I was hanging out with a mate last weekend and the plan was to head off to Bishamon Japanese restaurant while the girls were at a ghost tour.  As it turned out DD was not so keen on heading to Bishamon after having some less than stellar experiences, so we ended up at Statler & Waldorf (see post here).  But I couldn't shake the idea from my mind and it just wouldn't get out, I had to get over to check out Bishamon.

I'm a big fan of Japanese cuisine and have checked out most of the great Japanese restaurants in Brisbane, but up until recently, I had never heard of Bishamon Japanese restaurant.  The restaurant is located in Spring Hill, which is not a part of Brisbane that I spend a lot of time in, in fact, apart from driving through from time to time, I almost never go there.  

I'd given SC a bit of advance warning during the day that I was wanting to check out Bishamon, so when she got home from another busy day at work I'd already booked in for a 6:30pm booking.  The big question for us was to drive or walk, which would ordinarily be an easy choice but I have a bit of a foot injury at the moment. Throwing caution to the wind, we decided it would be much easier walking up the hill than trying to drag the car out of our underground garage and drive through city traffic, after all it was only 1200 meters away from our front door.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Statler & Waldorf - Gastro Pub

It was a Saturday night and the girls had arranged to visit one of Brisbane's many cemeteries as part of a ghost tour.  It used to be that the boys were also invited to go along for ghost tours as well, but after a number acts of bastardry, we are no longer invited.  I guess that's what you get when you try to scare the bejesus out of your friends in dark and spooky spots.  So instead of hanging out with the girls at the South Brisbane cemetery, we decided that we would have a boys' night out and hit one of the many restaurants around town.

In a clear case of irony, we ended up hitting a new gastro pub in town called Statler and Waldorf, or for those of you who are not Jim Henson and Muppet fans, a place named after the two crabby old bastards that would shout abuse to the entire Muppet crew (see clip here).  While I wouldn't normally consider myself a bastard (defined as objectionable person), something comes over me when I'm in a dark and spooky spot with girls who are easily scared....

There are multiple cultural references to Statler and Waldorf, both names also reference quite well known hotels in the United States, with the Waldorf being one of the most recognisable hotel names in New York. Aside from the cultural references, Statler and Waldorf is is just a really cool name for a gastro pub and it conjures up all sorts of images about a stately and stuffy building.  Nothing could be further from the truth, with the new gastro pub located in Caxton Street pretty much being a hipster hang out.  

The Lab Bar and Restaurant - heritage listed fine dining

I felt like fine dining for dinner during the week and wanted to go somewhere new.  It's become increasingly difficult to check out restaurants that I haven't been to, especially in the CBD, so I had to think about places I hadn't visited in a while.  I also wanted to go somewhere that wouldn't break the bank, so I wanted to use my trusty Entertainment card and for a while I thought I was severely limiting my options.  That was until I flicked to the page that displayed the Lab Restaurant and Bar, one of the fine dining options out of the Treasury Casino.

It had been about seven years since my last visit to the Lab Bar and Restaurant.  We had just moved from the 'burbs' to try out city living and were renting an apartment having just sold our massive 5 bedroom house and were adjusting to a 2 bedroom apartment.  We had never been great in the kitchen, in fact we really tried to avoid the kitchen, so one of the benefits of moving to the city was the numerous restaurants that surrounded us.  The Lab Restaurant and Bar was just across the street from our new rental in George Street and seemed like a natural starting point for us to check out the CBD dining scene.

My overarching memory of the meal that night was of disappointment, so much so that it had been driven from my consciousness, never to be considered for a meal again..... that was until now.  After glancing at the lovely and extremely arty looking picture of a main course, I felt compelled to check out the menu online and what I saw intrigued me further, there were many items that jumped out at me as 'must try'.


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