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.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Coppa Spuntino - the Italian snack shop

The ever changing Brisbane CBD restaurant scene has been active again, with a brand new Italian spot opening in the heart of the city. No, I'm not talking about Jamie's Italian, which opened up a few weeks ago. I'm talking about a funky little spot in Creek Street called Coppa Spuntino, which as luck would have it, can be seen from my office window!

There is a little spot in Creek Street that has had a little bit of misfortune over the last few years. Originally part of the new development at the back of the National Australia Bank building on the corner of Queen and Creek Street, the little spot at 88 Creek Street was once slated for bigger fish.  It was rumored that Melbourne institution Taxi was to take over the lease, but a little thing called the GFC kicked in and killed that plan.  Adelaide coffee institution CIBO espresso got a little bit further, establishing yet another attempt at the Brisbane market before fading away (pretty quickly too).

Cursed site?  Maybe, but well respected Brisbane duo Bonnie Shearston and Tom Sanceau, of Public and Red Hook, saw an opportunity to expand their culinary empire and had Italian cuisine firmly in their sights.  The site is quite compact, so instead of going with a full blown Italian joint, the pair have come up with an interesting concept.  Spuntino means 'snack' in Italian, and that's pretty much the concept for their restaurant Coppa Spuntino.

I'm a huge fan of Public, which in its first year of operation won a Brisbane Times Good Food Guide chefs hat, as well as taking out that year's 'Best New Restaurant' (see post here).  I'm less enamored with their US of A style offering, Red Hook, which is OK, but inconsistent (see post here), but given I love Italian cuisine, I couldn't wait to get in and check out Coppa.  As it turned out, I loved the place so much, I've practically lived there since!

Cheap Eats Lunch - Meat and Eat in Brisbane Square

The construction around Brisbane town continues with a brand new food development at Brisbane Square replacing the tired old food court.  If you've not been up to Brisbane Square in a while, you will surely be surprised, with a handful of new eateries opening up spiffy looking new venues.  It's been a slow transformation, with most of the old fast food joints closing down and the area looking like a bit of a construction zone for what seemed like an age.

Of course, once I knew that the space had opened up and the new restaurants were trading, I headed down for a sticky beak, which lead to a quick bite to eat at Meat and Eat, a sister venue of the Cutting Board (see post here) in George Street and Hive Coffee and Eat House over at Eagle Street (see post here).  General Manager of the group, Anthony Attard, has been a busy lad, not only opening Meat and Eat recently, but a number of other venues at Brisbane Square.  Anthony (great name by the way) is clearly a man who loves his meat, as each of his venues focus on different parts of my favourite animals (to eat, that is).

Meat and Eat is pretty much a carbon copy of the Eagle Street eatery Hive Coffee and Eat House, its nice and casual and it targets the lunch time eating crowd.  With a menu that focuses on meat based sandwiches and cuts of meat that come with salads, it's not a place that will be mistaken as a vegetarian hang out.  I guess the title of the cafe says it all....  Those of you that love your Reuben sandwiches will love this place, the Reuben takes pride of place as the first item on the menu.  Other sandwiches include the Watson (rare beef), the Spaniard (chorizo) and the Corporate (ham), each catering to a different animal.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sake Brisbane - Sunday funday champagne and sashimi

Now that we're getting into the warmer months, I bet you're looking for a cool spot, hopefully with river views and a nice breeze. Someplace that you can sit down, chill out and have a fabulous Sunday-funday.  I'm guessing it would be even better if there was some relaxed tunes and the type of refreshments that just work on those hot summer afternoons.....

As part of the recent #G20 global flavours, I was invited along to such a spot and spent a completely relaxed and chilled Sunday afternoon in one of the best dining spots in Brisbane.  Sake Restaurant is arguably the best Japanese restaurant in Queensland (tied with Sono Portside and Wasabi) and turned out to be the perfect spot for a quiet Sunday afternoon leading up to Brisbane's own global event.

With a coveted Good Food Times chefs hat, you're always guaranteed to have a sensational Japanese meal at Sake, which has a lot to do with the way Executive Chef Shaun Presland has set the place up. Teamed with Head Chef Daisuke Sakai, Sake Brisbane distinguishes itself from its sister restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne with its use of regional produce that, in my opinion, is the best in Australia.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Breakfast Series - Bar Pacino

I almost sound like a broken record, but it's amazing how many new spots are opening up around Brisbane, with new venues seemingly opening on a daily basis.  There are also so many older buildings in the CBD that are getting a make over, that it's hard to count them all.  Of course, a new facade means a new cafe or restaurant opening.  I've been watching the old CUA building (otherwise known as the Hopoate Building due to the installation art) go through its make over recently and was excited to learn about another new dining spot.

Taking a slightly different approach, the team behind new Italian bar e ristorante (bar and restaurant) have literally built new floor space behind the building, almost like land reclamation. Giuseppe Petroccitto, of the Bellezza Group, is the man behind Bar Pacino and has done a wonderful job with the fit out.  With floor to ceiling glass windows, the restaurant and bar has arguably the best view of the Story Bridge and Brisbane river in Queensland.

I'd been looking for an opportunity to get across the street to check out the newly opened Bar Pacino and after a few false starts (it was stupidly busy for the first week or so), I arranged to get across for a breakfast.  You're probably aware by now that I am moving from Brisbane to Hong Kong in early January, so I'd been looking for times to catch up with mates before I head off. Fellow foodie and former Brisbane food blogger, JC from Feed Me Now Brisbane was my dining companion for the morning and I was really looking forward to catch up before I finally leave our shores.

Dessert Series - Cowch dessert and cocktail bar

I'm not sure exactly when dessert bars became the norm, but I do remember a time when the only after dinner (or any time) dessert spots were the Freestyle Tout locations (see post here). Nothing stays the same forever, and the few Freestyle Tout's that were around Brisbane have closed, just leaving the Valley option. What's sprung up in their place is a fairly diverse range of dessert bars including the likes of Max Brenner, San Churro (see post here) and Passion Tree (see post here) - just to name a few.

One of the cooler dessert options in recent times caters to both a sweet tooth and the evening drinking crowd.  Cowch at South Bank is pitched as a dessert cocktail bar and for a while was the hottest place around the South Brisbane area on a Friday and Saturday night.  As a destination, the dessert bar has really played up to it's name, decorated in all manner of bovine paraphernalia, covering the cow part of it's name.  There's also a lot of comfy looking couches on site, covering the full name (when you put your hand over part of the w in Cowch).

Cowch was a welcome addition to the South Bank dining scene and while it competed with a few of the aforementioned dessert spots, rapidly became the go-to spot.  We've been to Cowch a heap of times, but ironically, given we hate queues, we've never sat inside the dessert bar.  We realised pretty quickly that there was a much better way of enjoying some of the goodies that Cowch had to offer...

Monday, 8 December 2014

Farewell Tour - Gerard's Bistro

There are very few restaurants that burst onto the scene and make an impression in the same way that Fortitude Valley’s Gerard’s Bistro has done.  In a very short space of time, Gerard’s has done what very few restaurants have done….

Chefs Hat – check (currently One Brisbane Times Good Food Guide Hat)
Gourmet Traveller top 100 list – check (currently 88 in Australia)
Gourmet Traveller 10 ten in Brisbane – check (currently #4)
Gourmet Traveller best new talent – check (Ben Williamson )

It would be foolish to understate the impact and influence that Gerard’s Bistro has had on the Brisbane dining scene.  It’s helped radically transform the fine dining paradigm.  No longer did amazing restaurants need to charge $50+ for a main course;  silver service was relegated to yesterday’s news; and share plates became the norm….

All because of Gerard’s Bistro.

A collaboration between Brisbane’s well known Moubaraks and wonderkind Chef Ben Williamson, it would also be a mistake to think Gerard’s was an overnight success.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Julius Pizzeria- the boys from Beccofino on the south side

I can't tell you how excited I was when I heard that the boys from Beccofino were opening up a new restaurant over in South Brisbane. Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite Italian restaurant is, Beccofino regularly sits as one of the top three (see post here - the others being Tartufo here and 1889 enoteca here). There was never any doubt that I'd be over checking out their new venture, Julius, the first opportunity, which as it turns out, was last weekend.

We weren't 100% sure where Julius had opened up, but once we confirmed the address, knew that it was underneath the monster new residential development at the corner of Grey Street and Fish Lane. When visiting Beccofino at Teneriffe, we sometimes walk, but often drive as it's just a little too far away from the CBD to make it a quick trip.  Luckily, Julius is well within walking distance of the CBD, so we were able to walk over in about twenty minutes.

It was the first time we'd checked out the new development and the Aria group, who'd constructed the building, had used the facade of the old building that was on the site.  Even better, they'd taken the facade to it's original brick, which helped give a surprisingly modern look to the base of the building, which also houses the new Julius restaurant.  As we walked closer to the building, we were impressed with the look and feel, especially the Fish Lane side of the building, which is really enhancing Fish Lane as a go-to spot on the South Side.

Casual Dining - Lennons at NEXT

If you hadn't heard by now, I am moving to Hong Kong shortly to take up a new and exciting role.  It has put a brand new perspective on my home city of Brisbane.  Not only do I not have a lot of time left before I move to check out all of the new restaurants around, but I'm running out of time to hang out with my mates.  At time of writing this post, I only have about five weekends left in country, then its all new, scary and exciting.  So, I'm trying to combine meeting with great mates and hitting new restaurants at the same time.  Sweet really :)

Another of the annoying but awesome renovations that's been happening in Brisbane of late (following on from my last post here) is the NEXT hotel, which has taken over the old Lennons.  I guess with many of the CBD renovations there is always going to be a new restaurant and doubly so when it's in a hotel.  The Lennons hotel was always a bit of an eyesore, looking tired and frankly, quite weird, the NEXT hotel group have made substantial changes to the site, which now includes a Forever 21 and a shiny new restaurant.

The restaurant is called Lennons, keeping a bit of a link to the past, which is sometimes unusual in Queensland where the past is regularly stricken from sight and eventually memory.  What better place to check out with some of our oldest and dearest friends, DruBoy and Thommo.  SC and Thommo had arranged for one of their regular Jack Sims Ghost Tours, so DruBoy and I had arranged for our own little get together at new hot spot, Bar Pacino (post coming soon).  After hanging out for a bit and shooting the shit, we made our way up the Queen Street Mall and into the swanky new NEXT hotel.  In an interesting case of timing, Thommo and SC were already on the rather long escalator, just beating us to the restaurant.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Casual Dining - TooBirds

Living in the CBD has it's ups and downs, mostly ups I have to say, but one of the only real problems is the constant noise.  It's noisy in the city - All.The.Time.  It means that since moving into the CBD, I've taken to wearing ear plugs, just to be able to sleep at night.  It's seems to have become more of a problem over the last few years with city streets seemingly requiring being repetitively dug up!  It's sometimes so bad, that I look forward to coming into work and being far removed from the noise. 

That was until my CBD building underwent severe renovations this year.  Look, I'm not averse to old things getting a make over and looking all shiny-shiny, but I'm not a fan when I'm in the middle of a construction zone.  This is what happened; excavation machines arrive; jack-hammering starts; jack-hammering ceases four months later (it might have seemed longer than it was, OK). The facade of my building got the make over to end all make overs and while there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth during the renovations (yeah, my office was right over the jack-hammering), I have to say the end result has been spectacular.

The team behind well known CBD cafe Sparrow and Finch (see post here) have evolved from their light CBD lunch-spot and created a full blown CBD bistro and bar.  Interestingly named TooBirds, which seems to be a play on words from the aforementioned Sparrow and Finch, TooBirds caused a stir in my workplace....  Some people just couldn't get their heads around the spelling of too - why not TwoBirds they would say!

Owner Paul Limberios likes to do things a little differently, which no doubt accounts for the unique spelling of his new Bistro.  Looking to do something a little different from the usual lunch spot in the CBD, Paul engaged the services of top chef Jamie Pearce, who has worked at some of Australia's most recognised restaurants, including a few years at Peter Gilmore's three hatted Quay.  Jamie also spent time at one of my all time favourite restaurants Brents (now 85 Miskin Street) under Brent Farrell before becoming head chef over at Cross Town Eating House - some seriously good restaurants.


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