Monday, 27 January 2014

Breakfast Series - Jak + Hill

Always on the lookout for funky new cafes that serve breakfast, I'd heard some whispers about a new cafe that was underneath a new hotel in Spring Hill.  With that tiny bit of information, I started to dig around in the interweb to see if I could track down any new dining spots in the area.  Luckily, it didn't take me long to find out that Jak and Hill was the new cafe sitting underneath the Punthill Apartments & Hotel, a chain that I'd stayed in while visiting Melbourne before, but was completely surprised had opened up in Brisbane.

There was double reason to head out for breakfast, it was Sunday and it was Australia Day, not that we ever need any reason to go out for breakfast!  Jak and Hill is located in Spring Hill but is actually right on the city fringe in Astor Street and is a very short walk from our apartment.  I always get excited about new dining spots that are within walking distance and it's fair to say that there are not a lot of weekend breakfast spots that we can get to on foot, so it was even more reason to get excited.

It has been years since either of us had walked down Astor Terrace and as we walked towards the cafe, we saw that there was another dining spot that we'd been meaning to check out for dinner.  We initially thought that the O Bar was our targeted destination but as we walked closer it became clear that there was another spot close to home that was open for breakfast (a fact stored away for next weekend).  We were running out of street when we finally stumbled across the Punthill Apartments and found Jak and Hill.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Pop Up Series - Howzat Burger

A funny thing happened during the week, one of Brisbane's best known and well loved chefs tried his hand at something a little different, and pulled off one of the successes of the decade. You could expect Philip Johnson of E'cco fame to be a little gun shy after the unfortunate end to Bistro One Eleven but it seems as if the opposite is true.  After an extremely well crafted social media campaign that was eagerly picked up by foodies and online magazines around town, Howzat Burger was on the tip of almost everyone's lips in Brisbane.

I think everyone understands the concept of a 'Pop-up' - you find a space and for a short period of time, a restaurant or cafe takes over and you have an instant restaurant.  I first saw a little banner for Howzat Burger a couple of weeks ago and was instantly on alert, I love burgers and since my trip to New York, have been on a mission to replicate some of the tastes and flavours of genuine USA burgers.  As the social media campaign picked up and more information was 'set free', I found myself caught up in the hype, so much so that I couldn't help 'like' and 'share' and 'repost' all that I could see.

As the information and details emerged, it became clear that Howzat Burger would only be around for a short time, open on the last two Thursdays and Fridays in January.   Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get along on the first Thursday and could only watch the day unfold on Twitter and Instagram, all the time wishing I was there, enjoying a burger.  I did learn some valuable tips by looking on from the social sphere.  Firstly, the day had been incredibly successful, with over 235 burgers on the first day of trading.  To put that in context, thats over 58 burgers an hour, or just under one burger a minute!  (it would end up being over 600 for both days - even more amazing). Secondly, I had to plan carefully to avoid waiting in a queue for over an hour to get a burger, which many patient and happy campers did on the opening day.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Kingsley's Crab and Steakhouse - Lunchtime by the riverside

A new year means its time to work on my relationships both personal and professional, and in some cases both at the same time.  I have a buddy that I met through work and we've become pretty good friends and we like to try to catch up for lunch fairly regularly, especially during tennis season.  You see, I'm a big Roger Federer fan and my mate, being Scottish (won't hold that against him) is a big Andy Murray fan.  Yeah, I know, it must be pretty hard for EC, watching so many close - but not close enough encounters with the worlds top tennis players :)

A little while ago, we'd arranged to catch up for lunch during the week and as luck would have it, the day we met up for lunch was the day of the Australian Open quarter finals which just happened to feature our boys. Yep, could not have been better timing.

I'd arranged for us to have lunch at an old favourite of mine that I hadn't been to for ages.  Kingsley's Crab and Steakhouse is just across the street from me, as part of Riperian Plaza.  I remember the days when Riperian Plaza was being built and wondering what wonderful restaurant would open it's doors in the brand new building.  That a restaurant might not have gone into the plaza never crossed my mind, it was after all Eagle Street and for me it was a given.  Completed in 2006 and at a cost of approximately $1.5 million, Kingsley's was designed by peckvonhartel (PVH) to integrate the inside with outside and and fully embrace Brisbane's climate and river views.  A task PVH has been extremely successful with.

Dell'Ugo New Farm - Ristorante Italiano

I've been feasting on plenty of Italian cuisine lately.  It's been pretty easy really, I quite like Italian food and the philosophy that the Italians have of using simple fresh ingredients to extract maximum flavour.  There's also the share aspect and while many cultures centre their lifestyle around food, the Italians seem to do it with just an extra little bit of flair.  We've been to check out many of the newer Italian dining destinations lately, so I thought it was time to check out Brisbane's long standing 'Ristorante Italiano'.

Dell'Ugo is the passion of Giuseppe and Gloria Robertiello who saw an opportunity to fulfil a dream of providing the people of Brisbane with a restaurant that delivered authentic Italian cuisine.  One day in 2000, Giuseppe was in the New Farm area and noticed that a beautiful old restaurants was available for sale.  Such was his passion and drive, Giuseppe had made the purchase and within a month had opened Cafe Dell'Ugo Ristorante Italiano. It was only a few short years later that Giuseppe and Gloria teamed up with friend Soula to open up Dell'Ugo at Southbank and at around the same time shortened the ristorante's name to Dell'Ugo New Farm.

In all the years I've lived in Brisbane, I'd never been to Dell'Ugo at New Farm.  I'm sure I couldn't count the number of times I've driven or walked up and down Brunswick Street and thought to myself I need to get along and check it out.  I've even been to most of the restaurants in the little strip that Dell'Ugo is located along and checked out the sister restaurant over at Southbank.  Yep, it sure was time to check out one of Brisbane's most respected traditional Italian diners.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Rogue Bar and Bistro - Another contender for my new favourite restaurant

It's not too often that I'm completely taken aback and surprised by a new restaurant, but this happened over the weekend when we visited Rogue Bar and Bistro in Newstead.  I really try to keep on top of all the new restaurants as they open around town, but I'm happy to admit that I'd missed Rogue, in fact I'd not heard about it at all.  It wasn't until our usual Saturday night dining buddies (well, TB to be precise) suggested we head over and check it out that it crossed my radar.

Once it was suggested, I hoped on the interwebs to do the obligatory 'look-see' and was pretty interested in what I found, which admittedly was not a lot, but enough to spark an interest.  Rogue Bar and Bistro had actually opened up about ten months ago in semi-industrial Newstead close to some of the new mid-rise apartments but closer to the car yards in the area.  It was a pretty ballsy move by chef and owner Daniel Myers, who had previously worked under The Jetty's Jason Coats.  Newstead is much better known for new development the Gasworks, but Rogue has moved into a less obvious location in a pretty grungy industrial part of the suburb.

We'd arranged to meet our dining buddies at 7pm at the restaurant and it was starting to get dark, so we had a little bit of difficulty spotting Rogue at first.  As we slowly cruised down Austin Street, it was one semi-industrial shed after the other, we almost drove straight past before we spotted a crowd of people just milling about.  I guess it was the juxtaposition of the crowd in an otherwise deathly quiet street that gave it away.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Rhubarb Rhubarb - A French Bistro worth travelling for

It's interesting how a simple statement can cause heaps of discussion.  I mentioned to a few people at work that I'd been to Rhubarb Rhubarb and was amazed with the number of people who have this superb little French bistro as their local fine diner.  The fact that I'd been to their local restaurant seemed to spark more conversation than normal and everyone was really keen to find out what I though about my first visit to the Wooloowin institution.

With a new year comes a new approach to things and we'd decided that Wednesday nights will be our new mid-week 'eating out' night, as opposed to Tuesdays.  I know, you're probably thinking "whaaaat, don't you eat out every night?"  The answer to that is definitely not, although it seems like it some weeks.  We've also been trying to check out spots outside of our usual 'hunting grounds', which worked out well as I've had my eye on Rhubarb Rhubarb for ages.

I'll be honest, as a central CBD dweller, I don't really get out to the suburbs that much but as we drove out to Wooloowin, it actually struck me that we'd spent quite a bit of time in the area when we were younger.  I had a mate that I'd worked with that lived just down the street from Rhubarb Rhubarb and while everything looked a little familiar, I wouldn't have wanted to rely on my memory to get around the suburb.  As we pulled up to the restaurant, it looked as if it was in a little strip of shops right in the middle of a suburban street and parking was no issue at all, in fact, we had a park right out front.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Casual Dining - Jude Kitchen and Bar

A new year at work means setting of new goals and planning for the year ahead.  For the last couple of years I've been meeting regularly with a mate I met on an intense training course where we bonded and have formed a strong peer relationship.  It's always great to have someone to bounce ideas off and basically tell you if you're going to make a huge mistake or to help shape your thinking in relation to your strategic thinking (yeah, a bit of business speak). We've mostly met for coffee, or in my case milkshakes but decided to mix it up a little bit for 2014 and make our catch ups a regular lunch instead.

It's a bit of a luxury taking an hour out for lunch, it's well worth the time and effort, but it's difficult to find a spot where you can sit down for a decent chat and but can get through the meal in an hour (especially at busy lunch time in the CBD).  Sure, there are the usual fast food joints around town, but they are just not the right spots to meet and you generally can't make a reservation, so its 'first in best dressed'.  After a bit of contemplation I thought that Jude Kitchen and Bar would be perfect and a short phone call later, we had a reservation booked in for a midday catch up.

Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar - a great spot to sit and watch the world go by

A friend from Yelp recently asked a twitter question about what was the current 'it' food in Brisbane and with the question came an assortment of responses from the twitter-verse. Predictably most of the responses were for American or Mexican cuisine.  There is no doubt that American is all the rage at the moment with recent openings of the Mighty Mighty (see post here), Papa Jacks and the Southside Diner, but I think there's another contender as well.

Italian cuisine has also had a pretty decent 2103 and while it doesn't seem to have had the same amount of press as American style cooking, there have been some great Italian diners open up, adding the the already flourishing Italian restaurants around Brisbane.  The new M&A Lane seems to be a litmus test for hip new restaurants and amongst the two new American style restaurants is also one of the latest Italian diners, Locanda Osteria and Bar (see post here)

While not the newest kid on the the block, Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar is one of the newer Italian restaurants in Brisbane and one I had been meaning to get to for some time.  Popolo is located over at the impressive River Quay dining precinct at Southbank and sits amongst some amazing restaurants with the Stokehouse (see post here) and Aquitaine (see post here) a couple of my favourites.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Breakfast Series - Billy Kart Kitchen

During the week, it was my nephew's third birthday, I know, it's a pretty big deal turning three, the world starts to make more sense and from an uncle/s perspective, the little tacker is a bit more interactive.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get over to see him on his big day and give him his totally awesome birthday present, so we arrange to head over on the Sunday morning.  Never letting an opportunity pass, we thought we would check out a new cafe on the south side for breakfast first.

Like a lot of areas around Brisbane, the south side is becoming a hot bed of cafe goodness with a heap of great cafes servicing the diners south of the CBD, so it wasn't an easy choice to select our breakfast destination.  While there were a number of choices that we would have been really happy with, my pragmatic side shone through and we picked a cafe that was pretty much halfway to my brother's house and therefore the most convenient.

We picked the new Ben O'Donoghue cafe with the cool name, Billy Kart Kitchen.  Most people would know Ben as the celebrity chef who partnered up the Curtis Stone on the television cooking show 'Surfing the Menu' as well as his prolific writing of cook books.  As well as doing his thing on TV, Ben has worked with some influential restaurateurs in the UK including Jamie Oliver and Oliver Peyton (who is kind of a big wig in the UK and a judge on my favourite cooking show Great British Menu).  Most importantly for a great chef is working in restaurants and Ben has worked in some of the UK's top restaurants, including The River Cafe and The Atlantic Bar and Grill - not to mention consulting with Brisbane's own The South Bank Surf Club (see post here).

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Mondo Organics - fine dining with a very healthy attitide

Quite often, when I am lacking inspiration or simply have no clue where I want to go for dinner, I hop onto one of my favourite resources sites, which normally sets me right.  While I love most food, the style of food that I feel most at home with is fine dining.  There are a couple of resources around to get some inspiration about where to eat out but I constantly find myself coming back to the Australian Good Food & Guide (AGFG).

Each year the AGFG produces a list of the finest restaurants in the country and awards them coveted Hats and then lists out the best restaurants in the country.  If you've ever wondered what the Hats rating system is all about, you can check it out here, but the AGFG takes it's lead from the Michelin standard, where AGFG inspectors are anonymous and their identities kept strictly confidential - this ensures the highest level of integrity when determining who is best.  

The 2014 AGFG list of 'Hatted' restaurants came out just a few weeks ago and Mondo Organics was again awarded with a coveted Hat.

So, during the week I really felt like having a fine dining experience from a restaurant that I'd never been to before, which is getting increasingly difficult in the Brisbane area.  Of the forty five hatted restaurants in  the South East, I've been to most of them but there is one in particular that I've been dying to try for a long time, but have just never made it to.  When I'm looking for a spot to have a nice dinner, I usually make out a list of two or three restaurants and then pick one of them.  For the last few years, Mondo Organics has made that list but never quite made it to the number one spot, until now.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Ole Spanish Restaurant - did my chorizo obsession get the better of me?

When you feel like something tasty, I mean really full of flavour, it's hard to go past Spanish cuisine.  I have to admit to a bit of an obsession with chorizo, for me it's the king of sausage and the king of flavour.  I'd had a little taste of chorizo with my breakfast (see post here) and found that it had whet my appetite for more, much more.  We wondered where we could go so I could get another hit of that sweet sweet chorizo, it obviously had to be a Spanish restaurant, but where? 

It came to me in a flash, we've walked past one of the larger and more popular Spanish dining spots so often, it had faded into the background a little bit.  Ole Restaurant seems to be the most popular dining spots over at Little Grey Street at Southbank and it seems to be packed at any time of the day or night.  I've thought about going there a lot and when I suggested Ole to SC, she seemed pretty interested and reminded me that she had been there before and had really enjoyed it.  We had a plan, now it was time to execute it.

We would normally walk over to Southbank when heading over for dinner, especially on a weekend but we had a dilemma.   If you've been in Brisbane for the last week or so, you know that there was a massive bushfire over on Stradbroke Island and it had been creating havoc over Brisbane, in fact it had turned the CBD into a smoky haze.  There was no way that we would be over to walk over, especially with SC's asthma already playing up, it was definitely driving weather.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Breakfast Series - Cockadoodle Cafe and Espresso Bar

Over the weekend, we had a fairly loose plan to go to breakfast, that was if we got out bed in a timely manner. Because we didn't have any firm plans, I didn't do any research the night before for a breakfast but I did think that we would give Paddington a go.  As it turned out, we were up early enough to cruise somewhere for a leisurely meal in one of our favourite suburbs before it got too busy and after a quick search on Urbanspoon, we were off to check out Hamptons Home Living.

A funny thing happened on the way though.  SC was driving and went a totally strange route to Paddington from the CBD and we ended up at Waterworks Road and needing to cut down Enoggera Terrace.  As we shot around the corner (like the car was on rails), we caught a blurry glimpse of a little cafe that we'd been meaning to check out for a long time.  A quick look at each other and we knew that our plans for breakfast had changed and after a quick u-turn we were parked and heading off to Cockadoodle Cafe.

The little corner of Enoggera Terrace and Waterworks Road has been a cafe that we've wanted to check out for a very long time, in fact it could have been in the decade range.  Cockadoodle Cafe is a relatively new tenant in the spot and for years and years it was a restaurant called Oliveto's, which was a little Modern Australian bistro.  When we lived in the area, we always thought that there would be time to check out Oliveto's and continued to put it off until the next time.  As is normally the case with these things, but the time we finally decided that 'tonight would be the night', it had closed down and we'd missed our chance forever.  Bummer.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Eat Street Markets - A world of food and fun entertainment waiting to be explored

Have you ever had the feeling that you didn't realise what you were missing out on until you stumble across something so awesome, that you wonder how you lived without it?  Well, that's the feeling I had when we finally managed to go check out Eat Street Markets.

I'd first heard about the Eat Street Markets last September when I had been invited to a dinner at the Hilton to check out Vintaged (see post here).  I was sitting at a table with a bunch of new friends (read that as people I hadn't met before) and heard one bloke talking about a new concept in dining opening up and that we should all get behind the concept.  He went on to say that shipping containers would be used and at the time I struggled to picture how it would all work in my mind and I promptly forgot about it.

Then late last year I started to hear some stuff about this new market that had opened up at Hamilton and it all came back to me.  The new marked was called Eat Street Markets and it was a place for foodies to check out.  So, as a foodie, I started to plot and plan about getting over to check the place out.

Eat Street Markets is only open on Friday and Saturdays from 4pm until late, so I'd struggled to get over but we finally had a free night to drive over to Hamilton and see what everyone was raving about.  Unfortunately, we picked just about the hottest day on record in Brisbane to drive over and even at 5:30pm, when we pulled into the markets car park, the temperature was still in the high 30's.  Phew!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Era Bistro - New Years Eve dinner

We were always going to go out for dinner on New Years Eve, it was just a matter of deciding where to go and how best to see out the year that was 2013.  Of the restaurants open for NYE 2013, there were six or seven that looked really great and we had to decide on how much we wanted to spend and what we were going to do after eating.  Some of the options were at the premium end of the spectrum, such as the $185 per person Stokehouse package that included dinner and drinks as well as partying afterwards.  Some had set menus with little option but to eat the entree, main and dessert that was prescribed as part of that menu. Others were just about the food with a complimentary glass of bubbly included in the price.

We ended up choosing one of our favourite restaurants, one that we hadn't been to for a little while and one where there were multiple options for each of the courses.  Era Bistro is a restaurant that SC has been to a heap of times, way more than me, so I was keen to get along and see what they would be doing for NYE.  The last time we had been to Era together, I'd missed out on one of the most spectacular entrees that I'd ever seen (see post here) and I was hoping to get something that was just as good this time (and hopefully not miss out to SC again).

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Breakfast Series - Pop Coffee Brisbane

There is a real shortage of great breakfast spots in the Brisbane CBD, so lately I have been charging all over Brisbane suburbs looking for a great breakfast.  It turns out that there is a great new breakfast spot much closer to home, in fact it's right next door to me in Queen Street.  We first noticed that there was something new and crazy happening next door when we went for a walk into the Valley recently. Normally we escape through out back door and head to the Valley along Adelaide Street, but for some reason we went the front way, along Queen Street.  

There used to be a cafe slash carvery called 444 Queen Street, that hadn't been around for a while and in it's place was a funky looking new cafe called Pop Coffee.  Straight up I could see that the guys at Pop Coffee were looking to try something a little different by laying some 'grass' down in the middle of the CBD, giving the cafe the appearance of having a front garden.  I didn't think much at the time as we were on our way somewhere to do something and I promptly forgot about it.

Then came New Years Eve morning, we had slept in a little bit and wanted to go somewhere for breakfast but were feeling pretty lazy and didn't want to drive anywhere.  I'd actually thought about the cafe next door the night before and after some digging around on the interweb, found some info about the cafe and in particular it's name and Instagram address.  Hoping that Pop Coffee would be open in the morning I had sent a message on Instagram asking if they would be open in the morning.  Lo and behold, when I finally got out of bed, there was a response and it was good news, they were open for business!


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