Thursday, 29 May 2014

Cheap Eats - Ribs and Burgers

If there is a way to catch people's attention, Ribs and Burgers certainly figured out how to do it.  The offer of one free hamburger a week for a whole year for the first 100 customers certainly got my attention, and that of my blogger buddies too.  Given that the offer was mid week, there was never any chance of me winning the prize but I hear that the queue on the opening was complete madness.  I guess I could have called in sick but that would have been irresponsible!

Even though I couldn't get in and wait in the queue for free burgers, the fact that a new burger joint had opened up in Brisbane was always going to pique my interest.   Of course, it wasn't long before I made my way to James Street to check it out.

I've always liked hamburgers, lets face it, they are the food of champions but it wasn't until I went to New York last year that I really got a taste for the traditional American (Gringo) fast food (see post here).  Ever since then I've been on a crusade to find Brisbane's best burger and I've had some beauties but the standard against which I've been measuring my burgers is Howzat Burgers in the CBD (see post here).  In fact, since I tasted my first Howzat Burger, I've pretty much eaten it every week!

Ribs and Burgers first opened in Sydney's Neutral Bay in 2011 and since that auspicious date has gone on to open another nine burger joints, Brisbane being the most recent.  The latest in a series of burger joints to open up in Brisbane, Ribs and Burgers aim to be different by considering themselves a boutique casual dining restaurant instead of a chain restaurant.  In doing so, they plan not to saturate the market with heaps of franchises, but choose select locations that increase the value of the brand.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Casual Dining - The Bread and Meat Co

If you're like me and keep your ear to the ground about cool new places to eat, then you will have no doubt heard about the Bread and Meat Co in the Valley.  When looking for dinner last weekend we'd had a bit of a mental block and really didn't know what we wanted for dinner (see post here).  We ended up meandering through the valley looking for interesting dining options and one of those spots was the Bread and Meat Co.  Our only problem was that it wasn't open for dinner, despite Urbanspoon clearly stating they were open Sunday until late.  That was a bit frustrating for us but we just shrugged our shoulders and continued on.

This weekend we were better prepared and with opening times in hand we walked into the Valley for Saturday lunch.  The Bread and Meat Co is located in the TCB building, just off the Brunswick Street Mall, which has seen its fair share of shops rotating through.  The mall itself is also going through a bit of a transformation and if you haven't seen it for a while, it's just a torn up mess.  Knowing this, we actually entered from the Chinatown Mall side, which was just as easy.

It was still pretty early in the day when we arrived and the Bread and Meat Co was pretty quiet, which gave us a bit of an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the menu.  Short and sharp, the menu pretty much reflects the name of the joint: simply put there's a few choice cuts of meat, stuffed into fresh bread and then served up on a breadboard.  There are three real options on the menu and then a trio board, which is a sample of all three sandwiches, especially designed for those who can't make up their mind!  Feeling quite decisive, we opted for two sandwiches and a side, which would leave us with something to check out the next time we came.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Tartufo - classic Italian

It was a Sunday night and we had absolutely no idea what we wanted for dinner.... None.  Sometimes it's like that and SC and I just look at each other and shrug our shoulders.  You would think that it would be easy to grab a bite to eat with so many great restaurants just a short walk away but sometimes 'analysis paralysis' in.  To sort ourselves out, we went for a walk and it just so happened that we walked towards the Valley and did a menu shop.  You know what I mean, walking up to interesting looking dining spots, casually glancing at the menu and seeing if anything jumps out.

Restaurant after restaurant passed us by as literally nothing looked interesting to us.  Eventually we made our way to Emporium and after walking a complete circle around the little Valley precinct we found ourselves standing in front of Tartufo.  A quick glance and a short nod and we were walking through the front door and asking for a seat.

It had been some time since our last outing to Tartufo, in fact it was incredibly over twelve months since we last walked through its doors (see post here).  That last outing to the Tony Percuoco's incredibly well regarded Italian fine diner was a beauty and we'd had a great time.  It was a contrast to our first visit, which had been disappointing to say the least and we were hoping that our latest visit would herald another winning meal.

I'm not sure if had been a conscious decision to head to Tartufo but I had been talking about the fine diner earlier that week. A fellow foodie asked if I'd seen Queensland's top ten wildest desserts in which Tartufo's chocolate fondant had featured heavily.  Tony Percuoco Tartufo is used to awards, informal and formal and has consistently been recognised with chefs hats and Gourmet Travellers stars.  

Breakfast Series - Shouk Cafe Paddington

You can usually tell the popularity of a new restaurant or cafe by the amount of Instagram photos, blog posts and 'interweb' chatter that it generates. There have been times where I've been on my way to, or on my way home from a restaurant and noticed another blogger posting Instagram photos from the very restaurant I've visited.  In what must be a really positive sign for Paddington's latest breakfast hotspot, Shouk Cafe, I noticed that not one, but two blogger buddies had decided to pay Shouk a visit at the same time as me.  

We'd arranged to visit Shouk with a couple of good mates  on a Sunday morning, which is generally one of the busiest times of the week.  We love catching up with DruBoy and Thommo but over the years, we have grown accustomed to the fact that they are almost always late.  Thinking that we'd get to Shouk early and score a table for the inevitable queue started, we arrived right on time at 8:30am to an already full restaurant.  

Our request of a table for four was met with a wait of about ten minutes and as we stood around looking over the crowd, I spotted blogger buddy Melissa Loh and her SO.  I wandered over for a quick chat and found out two things.  One, when Melissa had arrived a short while before we did, the restaurant was mostly empty. Two, they were really excited about testing out Shouk.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Alchemy - A new season and a new round of goodness

Whether by accident or by design, it seems as if seven is a lucky number for one of Brisbane’s most enduring and acclaimed restaurants.  Alchemy Restaurant’s Brad and Angelica Jolly have been weaving their magic at their riverside fine dining establishment for seven years.  To celebrate the changing of the season, Head Chef Brad Jolly has put together an astounding new menu, which I was fortunate enough to be invited along to sample.  And what better way to celebrate seven years, than with a seven-course degustation?

Brad Jolly has been one of Brisbane’s most influential chefs for many years and incorporates his philosophy for exceptional service with the highest quality produce into everything he does.  It’s a philosophy that has been refined throughout his career, working alongside culinary giants such as  the original superstar chef, Marco Pierre White, Eric Chavot and new king of the kitchen Jamie Oliver.  It’s this search for perfection that has made his French inspired Modern Australian restaurant one of my favorite restaurants to dine in our fair city.

There are a few restaurants in Brisbane that I consider old favourites and Alchemy has been right up the top of that list for a long time.  What I've loved about Alchemy is the level of consistency that Brad and the team have been able to produce over the years.  There have been many nights where I've come home from a long day from work, taken one look as SC and we've marched across the road for a nice stress relieving meal. There have also been those important work dates or even more important lunch meetings where I've needed to impress and Alchemy has always been there, on my side.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Eatery - Hotel dining at the Fourpoints by Sheraton

I've mentioned in my blog before that I love wandering about Brisbane and watching all of the new developments take shape.  There had been a really, really big hole in the ground in Mary Street that was vacant for a long time and had a few development, most notably Vision, fail due to the Global Financial Crisis.  The site next to that big hole has been developed and over the last 18 months, I've been avidly watching the new building take shape wondering what who the tenants would be.  As it turns out, it wasn't a commercial or residential building, but a much needed boutique hotel, Fourpoints by Sheraton.

As you'd expect in a Sheraton Hotel, a couple of new restaurants opened up and I was invited along to check out the main dining area, aptly called The Eatery.  Many of the better hotels in Brisbane now have restaurants that have seafood buffets and The Eatery is no exception but I opted to get along mid week and check out The Eatery's a la carte dining options.  Executive Chef Desmond Carneiro is the man in charge of the kitchen at The Eatery and has brought a wealth of experience to the new venture having worked in the prestigious Sheraton on the Park in Sydney.  

Walking out of the elevator to the dining area, we were confronted by a very modern and clean looking restaurant that had overtures of an informal cafe, which I think was the result of the highly colourful chairs.  Any other similarities are quickly dispelled once the contemporary open style kitchen and pink cherry blossom wallpaper came into view.  

The menu for the night was a cut down version of the full a la carte offering with the option of getting two courses for $40 or a full three courses for $50.  

Casual Dining - Blackbird Bar

Right idea, at the right place at the right time.  How else can you explain Blackbirds meteoric rise to the top of the Brisbane dining scene?  I guess if you add a super star Aussie chef who perfected his trade in some of the best restaurants in the world and a really smart pricing strategy, it actually turns out to be a pretty good recipe for success. 

I'd been to the main dining room at Blackbird a few times (see post here) and fell in love with the place straight away.  Funny thing, I wasn't the only person and it seems as if Blackbird is the place that's on everyone's lips at the moment.  I'm not sure how many restaurants around Brisbane there are where it can be almost impossible to get a last minute reservation.....  on a Tuesday night!  There wouldn't be many.

Blackbird is more than a restaurant, much more, and I was recently invited to come along and check out the other half of the establishment, which is the seriously cool looking bar area.  Now most of you know that I'm not a big drinker and you're probably wondering why I'd go to and checkout Blackbird bar?  Well, wonder no longer, I was actually there to check out the  bar menu, which I'd heard was also pretty spectacular.  SC on the other hand was more excited about the cocktail menu, so we both had something to look forward to.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Euro - a faultless meal

We'd left it until the last moment before deciding that we wanted to hit one of Brisbane's best restaurants on a Saturday night.  I'm not sure if you've ever tried to book into on of the city's best restaurants at 2:30pm on a Saturday, but it can be a bit hit and miss (mostly miss).  We really wanted to have a meal that would be faultless, so that meant that there was only a handful of restaurants where we could be absolutely certain that we'd have a perfect dinner.  Sure, we could have tried some of our usual haunts, but we also wanted to go somewhere where we'd not been before.

We actually decided that it was impossible to find an amazing restaurant that we'd not eaten at, at least once, so we agreed that we should go to one that we'd not been to together before.  The Euro in Mary Street is just such a restaurant and I'd tried to get a seat the previous weekend at around the same time, without luck, but being the eternal optimist, had another crack.  A quick call to book a table was successful, albeit for a 6pm sitting with a promise of being out by 8pm, something that we were happy to guarantee.

I'd last been to The Euro for a work function in 2012 and at the very beginning of my food blogging journey and had been mightily impressed (see post here).  At the time The Euro had recently acquired a new head chef, and co-owner Alejandro Cancino, who was still finding his feet in Brisbane.  In the sixteen months since my last visit to The Euro, Alejandro has woven his magic in the kitchen and elevated the restaurant to one of the top in the country.  The Euro is currently 66th on the 2014 Gourmet Traveller list of top 100 restaurants, which is a pretty impressive feat - even more so when you consider big fine dining brother Urbane is number 12 on the same list.  More impressive when you consider The Euro also has a Brisbane Times chefs hat and a Gourmet Traveller star.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Casual Dining - Moga

I find it incredibly interesting to go back to suburbs where I used to spend so much time and check out new and exciting dining destinations.  The Paddington and Rosalie areas feel so familiar to me, mainly because we used to live in Bardon for years and the area was our 'back yard'.  During the week I was invited back Rosalie to check out Moga, a new Japanese restaurant that I'd never heard of.  In a strange twist of fate, a few short days after my invite to Moga, it was listed by Lizzie Loel in QWeekend as one of her top ten restaurants in Queensland, so my interest was really piqued.  

One thing that I will admit is that I am absolutely terrible with directions and even though I'd lived in the area for years, I still had to look on Google Maps to confirm where to go.  What was embarrassing was that Moga is located on the main street in Rosalie, Baroona Road, and once I'd looked at the map, I felt pretty foolish. After parking outside the Rosalie State School and walking to the restaurant, I was completely blown away that the old Queenslander where I'd once visited my Doctor had been torn down and a modern looking building with restaurants had taken its place.  I guess you can't stop progress, especially in the 'cooler' suburbs in town.

The night was to be an intimate affair with some invited bloggers and journos and I always like to get to these things early so I can pick out the best spot to sit (lighting for my camera).  As usual, I was the first of the guests to arrive, so it gave me an opportunity to have a good look around Moga and catch up with our host for the evening.  The dining area at Moga was quite a bit larger that I'd initially thought when walking up to the restaurant, with a sushi train inside but a really large inside/outside dining area fronting the main street.

C'est Bon - Classic French cuisine that's almost perfect

Given my penchant for fine dining cookery, it's quite surprising that I'd never been to French restaurant C'est Bon.  After all, French cuisine is the basis of most traditional fine dining and when you hear that a chef has been classically trained, they're often referring to being trained in French cuisine.  In fact, many of the greatest chefs in modern history are classically trained French chefs and some of the most amazing meals I've ever eaten have come out of the kitchen of classically trained chefs.

I've known about C'est Bon for ages and have even thought about going many times, mainly because its a favourite restaurant of a good work buddy, who's always suggesting we head over for a double date to check it out.  Up until recently, I'd always resisted the urge to visit the little French restaurant, mainly because of it's location, which is about the grungiest part of Woolloongabba, right on Stanley Street near the freeway.  I'm not sure what inspired me to get motivated enough to finally book, but I suspect that it was the promise of a wonderful meal overseen by one of Brisbane's few French born chefs.

While C'est Bon is owned by renowned chef Michel Bonnet, gone are the days when Michael controlled the kitchen but he has handed the reins over to talented young French Chef Anthony Weynard.  Considered one of the most traditional French restaurants in Brisbane, Chef Anthony has taken the classic French dishes designed by Michael Bonnet and put a particularly modern twist with them, while managing to keep the elements that take classic French the pinnacle of world cuisine.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Summit Restaurant - with views to die for

I remember a time, a very long time ago, when I was just a young lad trying to impress my flatmate and soon to be girlfriend (and much later wife).  How does a lad impress a young lady, well, back in the day it was hop in the car and drive up a hill really really fast. Not that I condone that type of behaviour now, but it sure did set a young girl's heart aflutter at the time. Fast forward over twenty years and a drive up that same hill was at a much more sedate pace, even though the car was much nicer and the temptation was to let it 'off the leash' for a bit.

The drive on that fateful day was up to the Mt Cootha lookout, one of the most recognisable couple's spots in Brisbane and definitely a place to take a girl for a romantic view of the city.  While we'd been back to the Mt Cootha look out a few times over the years, there was one thing we'd never done, and that was eat at the Summit Restaurant.

It's a strange occurrence that the last few times I've driven up to Mt Cootha it's been raining, which was again the case when we drove up to visit the Summit Restaurant.  One thing that amazed me was how quickly we got to the Brisbane lookout, home of the Summit Restaurant, it really isn't that far from the Brisbane CBD. When we arrived, I was quickly reminded that the Mt Cootha lookout is one of the most popular spots in Brisbane, even on a slightly cool and wet(ish) night.  So busy in fact that we had to loop around the mountain once after failing to find a park.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Breakfast Series - The O Bar and Restaurant

If I was to think about a street in Brisbane that held a lot of promise and potential, one that was not so well known, it would have to be Astor Terrace in Spring Hill.  It's a little street just on the outskirts of the CBD that has lovely large trees and sidewalks, almost boulevard like in its appearance, and an increasing number of hotels and apartments opening.  Of course, where you get a smattering of hotels, cafe's and restaurants soon follow and Astor Terrace is starting to get it's fair share of dining establishments.

I'd already checked out one of the newer cafes in Astor Terrace late last year and thought that the funky little Jak + Hill had a lot of promise (see post here).  It was when visiting Jak + Hill that I'd stumbled across the O Bar and Restaurant, which we'd considered going to for New Years Eve dinner a few years back with some buddies, but not knowing much about it, ended up at Iceworks in Paddington instead (see post here).   We were looking for a breakfast spot to catch up with our mate DruBoy and it just so happened that the O Bar was midway between our two apartments and in an ironic twist, it was with DruBoy that we'd almost visited the O Bar for that NYE dinner.

The O Bar was an interesting looking spot.  From the outside, it had a very modern appearance, with lots of wood and feature brickwork, but inside, it went from contemporary to 'old-world' charm.  In fact, it looked a lot like the inside of a Swiss ski chalet with a patchwork of exposed stone and a warm feeling that would not be out of place in any Scandinavian country.  It was quite a juxtaposition between the inside and out, especially with the crazy lighting features that separated the two.


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