Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Brasserie on the River

The Brasserie on the River is one of the eateries at the Stamford Plaza hotel in the city. It's in a great spot, right on the river next to the gardens. If it's not too hot, you can sit outside, but you will still get a good view out over the river if you snag a decent table inside.

The Brasserie on the River has an enormous food selection, covering you for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. You could sit here all day, admiring the view and munching your way through the menu.

You also have the choice of a buffet or ordering a la carte for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you aren't exactly limited for choice.

Both times I've eaten here its been for lunch - once for the buffet and once ordering from the a la carte menu.

The beauty of the buffet lunch is that you can walk in, grab a table and start loading up your plate. You can easily be in and out in an hour, which is always handy if you are on limited time before heading back to work. However, the buffet lunch is not cheap. During the week it's $45 per person, and on the weekends it will set you back $59. Having said that, it's a fair step up from your average Sizzler lunch selection, and includes smoked salmon, oysters, mussels and prawns, together with a generally tasty selection of smart hot and cold meats and vegetables. The dessert selection is usually good, so make sure you leave yourself some room.

On this visit though, we were ordering off the a la carte menu. The menu is not adventurous, but does offer a decent selection for lunch.

Entrees include prawn cakes on a green paw paw salad with nam jim dressing ($17.50), oysters with mango salsa ($19 for 6 or $33 for a dozen) and arancini with buffalo mozzarella on tomato fondant and balsamic reduction ($16.50) which sounded particularly good to me.

Unfortunately we were on a work lunch break, so had to skip the entrees. Mains fall into the fairly safe category and include harissa marinated lamb rump on cous cous with red bell pepper coulis ($34), baked barramundi with olive tapenade served with kipfler potatoes and wilted spinach ($31.50) and grilled butternut pumpkin with rosemary, honey and lime on avocado mash ($26.50).

I wasn't swayed by those options and decided to go for the grilled scotch fillet with Café de Paris, pont-neuf potatoes and broccolini. I thought I'd stick with something simple in the hope that it would be done well. The scotch fillet was good, and was well matched by the Cafe de Paris. Unfortunately the pont-neuf potatoes weren't so good. They looked good - big, chunky slabs of potato, but they were close to raw inside. When you've only got 3 things on your plate, and one of them isn't cooked, the whole meal falls down. The other three meals on our table were apparently tasty, however I didn't manage to try any of them.

We still had time for dessert though. There were a couple of sweets that caught my attention, including the Greek yoghurt and mango roulade with Tahitian lime and mango salsa and passionfruit syrup ($14.50) and the “Cherry Ripe” - devil’s food cake, cherry kirsch mousse and roasted coconut sorbet ($14.50). I decided to go for the limoncello brûlée with blackberry compote, pistachio and whole almond biscotti ($14.50) which was a good way to end the meal, after my disappointing main.

If you are looking for something Asian for lunch instead, the menu also has a small Singaporean selection, including a wanton noodle soup ($15.90) and a combination laksa ($17.90).

All up, The Brasserie on the River is a fairly solid place for lunch. If you are having lunch though, I think the buffet is probably the better option. It's probably one of the better buffets in the city. If you are ordering off the a la carte menu, then there are probably better places in walking distance, including Il Centro or Urbane. The Stamford Plaza does of course offer other eating options - Siggis for fine dining, Kabuki for Japanese and the Pav Bar if you are after a more relaxed meal.

The Brasserie on the River
Stamford Plaza Brisbane
Corner of Edward & Margaret Streets
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3221 1999
W -

Brasserie on the River on Urbanspoon

Monday, 28 January 2008


Sakura is a popular Japanese restaurant at Highgate Hill, set in a small row of shops on Gladstone Road, just up from Brisbane State High School.

I went here most recently on New Year's Eve for dinner with a group of friends in the private dining room. As I haven't been able to track down a copy of the menu, I can't post a full review, but at least I can give you a good idea of the great food which is served at Sakura.

Sakura is decorated with traditional Japanese touches and I've always found the staff to be very friendly. You'll find they go out of their way to say hello when you walk into the restaurant, which makes everyone feel welcome.
Although I'm no expert on Japanese food, the menu covers plenty of flavours, including seafood, beef, sushi, tofu and vegetables.

Highlights of the night included the seafood sashimi plate - a great selection of different flavours and textures; the tempura vegetables, which are incredibly moreish (pictured); and the shabu shabu beef (also pictured) where you get to cook thinly sliced beef and loads of vegetables in a big wok on the table. You rarely get to cook food yourselves at restaurants anymore, so this dish is particularly fun.
If you are looking for good Japanese food, give Sakura a try. I've found the best nights here are when you get to graze on a good selection of dishes from the menu - so grab yourself a group of friends, book the private dining room (which has a sunken floor to add to the Japanese experience) and order a bunch of food off the menu. The staff will look after you, and you'll have a great night of Japanese food at reasonable prices.

9 Gladstone Road
Highgate Hill 4101
P - 07 3844 9935

Sakura Japanese on Urbanspoon

Il Centro

I think its fair to say that Il Centro is one of Brisbane's iconic restaurants. It's been at the Eagle Street Pier in the City since 1992 and is still going strong. Il Centro is incredibly popular with the business crowd - walk past at lunch time almost any day of the week and you'll find it full.

Although Il Centro is through and through an Italian eatery, it has a definite Queensland focus. All through the menu you'll find crab, barramundi, Moreton Bay bugs, king prawns and even crocodile.

It's also a perfect spot for lunch because of the great view out over the river through to the Story Bridge. The combination of the great view and the Queensland ingredients are also popular with tourists.

Every time I eat here, I always find it hard to choose from the terrific menu. The entree menu itself is pretty wide extensive. It covers a range of breads, pizza, soup, Moreton Bay bugs, oysters, scallops, crocodile, gnocchi and carpaccio. Starters which sounded good were the fantasia di granseola (a seafood selection of fresh crab and avocado salad with tomato gazpacho, crisp soft shell crab with fennel salad and salsa verde, and the renowned sandcrab lasagne - $23.50 per person), the sauteed scallops with lime carnaroli risotto, asparagus, prosciutto and tarragon jus ($22.50) and the char grilled Moreton Bay bugs, cauliflower with vanilla bean and baby cos salad, lemon aioli ($28). As good as all of those options sounded, there was a sandcrab and asparagus salad on the specials board, which was exactly what I felt like to kick off the meal. Our excellent waitress described this dish perfectly - layers of iceberg lettuce, chunks of avocado and lots of beautifully sweet sand crab. This was the perfect elevation of a couple of fairly simple, but high quality ingredients into an excellent dish.

By now the place was pretty much full with a big lunch crowd, but that didn't slow down the service of our mains, which came out after a perfect pause between courses.

There are also plenty of mains to choose from. A number of the entrees can be served as either starters or mains, so if there are a couple of entrees that take your fancy, then you can have them both.

First of all there is Il Centro's famous sandrab lasagne ($34). This dish was created by Gillian Hirst and has been a staple of the menu for years. It is a beautiful dish, but be warned, it's also very rich. You may find that the entree sized portion a bit more manageable. By the way, if you are a big fan of Gillian Hirst's sandcrab lasagne, you can now buy an eat at home version from a selection of good food stores around Brisbane - you can find more details here.

If you've already tried the sancrab lasagne, there are of course plenty of other options. If you aren't looking for seafood, there is also chicken, duck, veal, kangaroo, beef and lamb. I was tempted by the marinated kangaroo striploin with desiree mash, braised lettuce and pancetta, mustard fruits and red wine jus ($31.50) and the selection of Queensland seafood with saffron risotto, tossed with tomato and a touch of chilli ($37.50).

In the end, I decided to order the grilled North Queensland barramundi with desiree potato mash, new season asparagus and balsamic jus ($36.50). The barramundi was perfectly cooked, the crispy skin on the bottom of the fillet contrasting with the delicate flesh of the fish. Again, this was not an overworked dish, and allowed the flavour of each of its components to shine through.

The wine list complements the Italian food, and there are plenty of good whites to match with your seafood. It's also fairly reasonably priced, given its location and views over the river.

The other thing which has always been a constant at Il Centro is the excellent service. I've always found the staff here to be very knowledgeable, approachable, efficient and friendly. Our service on this visit was up to the usual standard. Although I thought our service might have been a tad overly business-like today, that's probably just a reflection of the customers who fill the place day after day at lunchtime.

Il Centro is not a destination for cutting edge culinary adventures. But if you want excellent Italian food or seafood, cooked with beautiful ingredients and teamed with excellent service, then it's hard to go wrong at Il Centro.

What does all this mean? Top notch Italian food, with a focus on Queensland produce

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Top Shelf
Ambience - Smart surroundings with a great view out over the Brisbane river
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Good
Vegetarian - OK

Il Centro
Eagle Street Pier
Eagle Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3221 6090
E -
W -

Il Centro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Kathmandu Newa Chhe'n

I've already done one post about Kathmandu Newa Chhe'n at Paddington.

We had a great dinner there, and headed back with a group of 7. On our second trip, the food was equally as good. The sherpa chicken main course was particularly tasty. But the service was terrible. We waited almost half an hour just to get some wine glasses, after asking 3 times. Things didn't really improve on the service front.

So be warned, although the food at Kathmandu Newa Chhe'n is great, and it's ridiculously cheap, you might spend a while here on a Friday or Saturday night if you're in a group. If you've got plenty of wine and you're not in a hurry, then its happy days I suppose.

Kathmandu Newa Chhe'n
72 Latrobe Terrace
Paddington 4064
P - 07 3369 7272
E -

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The Press Club

"Food is family, family is life, life is everything". That's George Calombaris' outlook on things, and it sounds on the money to me.

Every now and again we escape Brisbane and get to graze at some great places. We organised our last trip to Melbourne around dinner at The Press Club, where George Calombaris' food has been receiving rave reviews.

The first thing we noticed was how busy the room was. It was 8pm on a Sunday night and the place was packed. It was a wide selection of diners - young people, families, children, you name it. Always a good sign.

The other thing that really stood out was the service. Throughout the meal, the service was friendly, professional, knowledgeable and only there when you needed it. When we made our booking we were asked if we had any special dietary requests. I'm a coeliac but don't usually make too much of a fuss about gluten free food at restaurants as good as this one. However I was absolutely amazed when our waitress brought the bread out at the start of the night, only to tell me that the gluten free bread was being warmed and would be out in a minute. It's never happened to me before, and will stick in my mind for a long time. Little touches like that can transform a good night into a great one.

Happily munching on my crumbly gluten free bread while dipping it in some great olive oil (which is a good experience) we then had to make a few choices off the menu.

There are plenty of options when it comes to food at The Press Club. The menu is split up into orektika (small dishes - $19.90 to $24.90), kyria (large dishes - $34 to $39), synotheftika (side dishes - $9 - including the obligatory lemon potatoes), glyka (sweets - $17.90 to $21) and cheese ($11 to $24). If you'd rather leave what you're eating in the hands of the chef, then there is also the kerasma or tasting option, ranging from $65 for 4 courses to $82 for 6 courses. You'd have to be pretty fussy not to find something that takes your fancy here.

Time to order. First of all, I have to apologise that some of the items we had are not currently on the menu, so if I don't get the description right, please forgive me.

I started off with a crab and watermelon "sandwich" ($21.90). I can't recall if it was described as a sandwich on the menu, but that's what it looked like. Beautiful slices of pink crunchy watermelon took the place of bread, with tasty, delicate crab as the filling. This was one of the best, and most innovative, starters that I have had for a long time. It really was a fantastic way to kick off the night.

My dining partner had the beetroot salad ($17.90) as a starter. This was served as chunks of beetroot, with a spiced pistachio tower, soft feta and micro herbs. Again, this salad got rave reviews. Beautiful flavours, which complemented each other perfectly. Things were looking good.

On to mains. I didn't find anything on the main menu which jumped off the page as much as the crab and watermelon sandwich. After much debating, I went for the yoghurt braised neck of lamb with olive oil pomme puree ($36). Although it was tasty, it lacked the wow factor of my starter. Perhaps I should have gone with the "hot off the press" lamb spit with white bean skordalia, lemon potatoes and marouli salad ($37). To criticise the lamb neck in any way would be wrong, it was beautifully tender, it just lacked that extra special quality that I had been hoping for. We also had the raviolo of peppered fig ($18.90), a vegetarian dish, which was excellent.

We certainly weren't leaving a Greek restaurant without having some sweets. There are some great ones to choose from. We thought about going for the selection of dessert mezedes, but decided against it. Instead we ordered the "breakfast at Santorini" ($17.90) which tasted as good as it sounds. Great, tangy, flavours with lemon curd and yoghurt sorbet. I had the Chios mastic panacotta ($17.90) served with marinated strawberries. I've never had mastic before, but this was a great way to end the night. Whatever you do, make sure you leave room for sweets, as there are some fantastic (and unusual) options at the Press Club.

Another great thing about the Press Club is the Greek wine on offer. I enjoyed some great wine in Greece, but it seems to be very hard to find a decent selection of Greek wine in Brisbane. The wine list here is really impressive and has been put together after a lot of time and thought.

During the night we had glasses of the Kir-yianni ‘Petra’ roditis (white) 2006 from Naoussa ($12), Gaia agiorgitiko (red) 2005 ($12.50), Kir-Yianni ‘Paranga’ xinomauvro, merlot, shiraz blend 2005 ($11.50) and the fabulous dessert wines from Samos, ranging in vintages from 2000 to 2005. I've never had a Greek dessert wine before, but these were the perfect way to end the evening. I was draining my glass for every last drip. By the way, our dessert wines were served in cool Riedel "O" series glasses. I was impressed.

If you're not a fan of Greek wine, there are lots of other options. In fact the drinks menu runs for 27 pages and includes Greek beers (Alpha, Mythos and Vergina), a good selection of Ouzo, cocktails and plenty more.

It's hard not to enjoy a night at the Press Club. Beautiful flavours, brilliant service and a terrific wine list round out a great place to spend the evening. Not only that, but it all comes in a relaxed, fun surroundings. Make sure you give it a try next time you are in Melbourne. Be warned though, it's popular, and you'll need to book.

What does all this mean? Excellent modern Greek food, brilliant service and a wine list that will keep you drinking all night.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Top Shelf
Ambience - Modern, relaxed surroundings
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Top Shelf
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Good

The Press Club
72 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
P - 03 9677 9677
E -
W -

Press Club on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 January 2008


Vil'laggio is an Italian eatery right next door to Anise on Brunswick Street in New Farm.

When entering Vil'laggio on a Friday night, the first thing that hit me was how busy the place was. The room was buzzing with plenty of people, and the flavours wafting around were terrific.
We were shown straight to our table and given menus and glasses of water straight away, which is always a good start in my book.

I hadn't eaten here before, at least not since it's been Vil'laggio. Vil'laggio now occupies the spot where Indigo's once was. Indigo's was set up by Gillian Hirst, and was one of my favourite spots for a dependably good dinner in New Farm.

Back to Vil'laggio though. Vil'laggio is Italian through and through, aiming to serve up home style, traditional Italian food, including wood fired pizzas. The starters on the menu cover breads (tomato, basil, boccocini & mozzarella bruschetta - $10.95, homemade bread with artichoke, cumin, black olives and rocket, served with a spicy tomato sauce - $11.95 or wood roasted eggplant, tomato, parmesan, fresh basil and boccocini on crusty bread with rocket - $14.95), prosciutto with deep fried ricotta & rocket ($14.95), antipasto ($17.95) and fritto misto di pesce if you are looking for some seafood ($18.95).

It was raining and miserable outside, so we decided to skip the starters and save room for dessert. In hindsight, that didn't turn out to be a good decision, but more on that later.

So it was straight on to main course. There were plenty of things that caught my attention on the menu here. There is a good selection of pasta and risotto ($21.95 to $26.95), traditional Italian mains ($30.95 to $32.95) and wood fired pizzas ($10.95 to $26.95 depending on size).

A couple of the traditional mains jumped off the menu at me. One was the porchetta arrosto su verza brasata con pancetta uvetta e pinoli in salsa di fondo, or wood roasted pork belly, rolled with Italian spices and fresh herbs on sautéed cabbage, pancetta, sultanas and pine nuts with roast potato and vegetable gravy ($31.95). The other was the agnello grigliato su polenta al gorgonzola, or char grilled lamb shoulder medallions on baked polenta with gorgonzola, marinated wood roasted capsicum, garlic and lime, finished with a veal jus ($31.95).

After much debating, I opted for the roast pork, which was fantastic. First of all, it was an enormous serving - slices of the pork, edged with good crackling, sitting on top of gravy covered cabbage, pancetta and roast potato. Although I'm usually not a fan of sultanas in savoury cooking, they fitted in perfectly with the other ingredients. The whole dish worked together beautifully, and it was the perfect hearty dinner for a cold, rainy and windy night. As hungry as I was though, and as good as this dish tasted, I still couldn't finish it.

Our other main was the ravioli di zucca al burro e salvia con pancetta e noci, or pumpkin and feta ravioli in butter, sage, walnuts and crispy pancetta ($24.95). We had the vegetarian version, without the pancetta. Again, this was a generous serving of ravioli. The pasta filling was deliciously tasty, as was the sauce with which it was served. However, 3 or 4 of the fairly large sized ravioli had not been fully cooked, to the extent that the unfilled edges of the pasta were difficult to cut with a knife, let alone chew. That was easily fixed by just cutting off the chewy parts, but its always a bit disappointing to be served obviously undercooked pasta.

We had also ordered a salad of shaved fennel, rocket and parmesan in a balsamic dressing ($7.95) which turned out to be completely unnecessary, given the size of the mains. However it made a nice contrast to both our main meals, and we made a good dent in this simple but sharp and crunchy salad.

At this stage, the service, which had been friendly and spot on, went downhill. Once our mains had been cleared, we sat at our table, with no drinks for 25 minutes, without being even approached by a waiter. We eventually grabbed a waiter and ordered dessert. Although the room had been very busy, by this stage of the evening the room had thinned out, so it was strange that the good level of service fell away.

Unfortunately, the desserts were not worth the long wait. The cannoli ($12.95), apparently the house specialty, was particularly disappointing. Each cannoli was soggy and chewy, lacking the good crunch we had been expecting. They were also served with some pretty average quality vanilla ice cream. Not the way we had hoped to end the meal. I had the white chocolate pannacotta ($10.95), which was ok, but didn't have the good wobbly, custardy consistency that I enjoy in a good pannacotta.

The wine list is fairly compact, but does have a range of both Italian and Australian options. It is also very reasonably priced. We were just drinking wines by the glass, which were brought to the table in glasses, already pre-poured. As someone who particularly enjoys wine, I always prefer for wines to be poured at the table, so that you can always be sure that you are in fact being served what you ordered. Personally I don't think it's that difficult to do and it does make an impression on the customers. However I've noticed more and more restaurants in Brisbane now bringing out pre-poured wine glasses to the table, which is a shame. Vil'laggio's wine list also gets a special mention for including a number of Queensland wines. It's very good to see a busy restaurant such as Vil'laggio supporting the Queensland wine industry.

I haven't yet mentioned the pizzas. We didn't order one, but saw plenty of them being brought out to other diners. They all looked pretty tasty, and include margherita, Siciliana, capricciosa and quattro formaggi. We'll have to try them another time.

Vil'laggio was almost full the night we were there, so it obviously has a fairly solid following. The tastiness of our main meals backs that up. Unfortunately the service and the desserts meant that our night didn't end on the same high note. We eventually left Vil'laggio after 2 and a half hours, having only eaten a main course and dessert each, and only 3 glasses of wine between the two of us. If they can pick up their service and quality of desserts, Vil'laggio would become a very solid traditional Italian establishment.

What does all this mean? Tasty, traditional Italian food, but with variable service.

food bling ratings
Food - OK
Service - OK
Ambience - Busy, modern surroundings. Can be a bit noisy inside.
Value for Money - Good
Wine - OK
Vegetarian - Good

695 Brunswick Street
New Farm 4005
P - 07 3254 0275
W -

The Foodie BlogRoll

food bling, Brisbane is now a member of The Foodie BlogRoll, which is an enormous list of food related blogs from all around the world. It's put together by the Leftover Queen, whose blog you'll find here.

You'll find The Foodie BlogRoll under my links on the side bar at food bling, Brisbane. Have a look through the list and check out some of the great food blogs as varied as "100% Microwave Cooking - Indian Food" to "My Husband Hates Veggies".

Friday, 11 January 2008

Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels

Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels is one of my work's usual after hours drinking venues. Its a bit of a wordy name, but luckily there aren't too many Belgian beer establishments in the Brisbane CBD, so you can't really get confused.

Of course the main attraction here is the excellent selection of Belgian beers. Lets face it, Belgian beer is great, and its always nice to knock back a few after a long week. You know a place is serious when they have a beer menu. If you're looking for somewhere to spend $27 on a Chimay Grande Reserve, then this is the spot for you.

But if you wander in here for lunch one day, they also serve a decent selection of food. I had lunch here recently. The menu has a few starters, which didn't really take my fancy. But we were only here on a quick lunch, so there wasn't time for two courses anyway.

For me, Belgian food means frites with mayonnaise, chocolate and mussels. They were the things I couldn't go past in Belgium, so there wasn't really much to decide here. The only decision was which of the mussels to go for. Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels serves mussels Provencale, mariniere, poulette and Creole (all $26.50). It was a tough choice actually, but in the end I went with the Provencale. All of the mussels are served in big pots with frites and mayonnaise.

I didn't have high hopes for the mussels, but they were great. Tasty, plenty of mussels and the frites were excellent - chunky, crunchy and served with addictive mayonnaise. I'd rather eat a pot of these mussels any day over many of the overpriced $30 main courses which are unfortunately now the staples of far too many CBD eateries. Between the mussels and the frites, this was a pretty decent meal.

If you aren't a big fan of seafood, there are of course other options, including pork and fennel sausages with mash ($24.50), eye fillet ($35), chicken breast ($30), oven baked barramundi ($34) or the basil & pumpkin risotto with seared scallops ($24.50). One of my friends had the risotto with scallops, which also looked appetising.

If you are still hungry after your mussels, frites and beer, there are also a few desserts, including of course a Belgian dark chocolate mousse ($13). Unfortunately we had to get back to work, so a long afternoon in the bar was out of the question.

Service was acceptable, but not particularly friendly. Our waiter appeared to have more pressing things on his mind than our table. Still, everything came out without any dramas, so the were no problems there.

As I only had one meal here, I won't be listing out the usual ratings. But if you're looking for a good pot of mussels, or even just some excellent frites to munch away on next time you are having a few beers, then give the Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels a try.

What does all this mean? A good spot for lunch if you stick with the Belgian specialties - mussels, beer and frites.

Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels
Corner of Mary & Edward Streets
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3221 0199
W -

Belgian Beer Cafe Brussels on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 6 January 2008


Huong's has been in West End for ages and serves my favourite Vietnamese food in Brisbane. I've probably eaten here more times than in any other Brisbane restaurant. It doesn't look much from the street, but once you walk up the narrow stairs to the first floor, you'll find some great Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese food.

The decor is tidy and is a step above many suburban Asian eateries. Service has improved over the years and is now friendly and usually quick. Huong's is popular with a younger crowd, and there's usually some decent music playing in the background.

Although their Vietnamese food is great, there is only a limited selection, because the menu also covers Thai and Chinese.

On this trip, we started off with two serves of the san choy bow ($5 per serve). I love this and order it almost every time. It usually comes out about 2 minutes after ordering. The san choy bow is tasty, with a great crunchiness from the lettuce leaf in which it is served. I could eat these all night.

We also had one of the rice noodle salads with fried tofu ($9.50) which is a fantastic salad. Other than the rice noodles, this salad is served with carrot, cucumber, mint, beansprouts and lettuce. Once you pour the dressing over the top, this is a clean, crunchy and tasty salad. In my book, it's the perfect Brisbane meal.

When it came to mains, I also had a rice noodle salad with pork balls ($9.50). All of the rice noodle salads are essentially the same, just with different toppings. Other than the tofu and pork balls, you can also order spring rolls, pork chop, lemon grass beef or sugarcane prawns with your salad. I would have to say that the pork balls weren't the greatest, and certainly not as tasty as the lemongrass beef which I usually order. Anyway the salad itself was terrific as usual.

Our other main course was the pad kapoa, or Thai stir fried tofu with green beans, bamboo shoots, fresh chilli and sweet basil ($14). This was tasty and fresh but had a real chilli kick.

If you are looking for other Vietnamese options, there is a good range of soups, a selection of make your own rice paper rolls (which are delicious) and a few chef's specialties. Almost all of the Vietnamese dishes are around the $10 mark or less, which makes them excellent value.

If Vietnamese isn't your favourite, then there are also Thai soups, curries, stir fries, noodles and salads. On previous visits I've found the Thai curries to be particularly good. And finally there are also Chinese dishes to round out a fairly wide-ranging menu.

Huong's is BYO and there are a number of bottle shops nearby. If you are looking for something that's non-alcoholic, try one of their iced teas, which are delicious.

For me, Huong's strength is its Vietnamese food, which has proved over the years to be clean, fresh and tasty. It's also exceptionally good value - you can have a Vietnamese entree and main course for less than $20. Huong's is definitely worth seeking out on your next visit to West End.

What does all this mean? Excellent, clean Vietnamese food at rock-bottom prices, with plenty of Thai and Chinese options.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Ambience - Fairly traditional Asian surroundings
Value for Money - Top Shelf
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Great

83A Vulture Street
West End 4101
P - 07 3844 6701

Huong's on Urbanspoon

La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque is a recent addition to the food scene at Emporium in the Valley.

Personally, I've never been that impressed by the food on offer at Emporium (other than Sirianni's) so its a welcome addition as far as I'm concerned.

Let's start with the decor. This place looks fantastic. If you're looking for an over the top French brasserie, then look no further. It really is impressive. Personally, I thought the room was too big (its apparently a 200 seat venue), but I seemed to be in the minority there. The room is broken up with partitions, which is good, as it gives the little sections a bit more intimacy.

Once you get over looking at the place, it's time for a drink. At this stage, you realise you're in a French brasserie, not a dime a dozen Brisbane restaurant. The wine list really does deserve a special mention. There are a lot of wines on the list that you've probably never had before, which in my book is the perfect wine list. They are also reasonably priced. There is a good selection of wines by the glass, ranging from $7 to $35 a glass. Or if you are there with friends, then there are some great bottles to investigate from all the great French regions - Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy, Loire, Bordeaux, Chablis and the Rhone. Some reasonably priced wines that caught my eye were the Christian Salmon Pouilly Fume Les Criots 2005 ($70), Jean Luc Mader Riesling Rosacker GC 2002 ($90), Georges Dubeouf Moulin a Vent 2005 ($49) and the Lucien Muzard Santenay “Gravieres” 2004 ($97).

If you've just won the lotto and are looking for a night out with fantastic wine, then there are some options here to really go crazy. You could start with the Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1973 ($880), move on to a Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne 1996 ($300), then theDomaine Leroy Clos Vougeot 2001 ($1000) and wrap up the evening with a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 1999 ($650). When you're drinking wines like that, who needs food?

Sorry to rabbit on about the wine list, but its impressive to see a restaurant really go out on a limb and avoid the typically "safe" wines you usually see.

And if wine's not your bag, then there's absinthe, beer, cocktails, pastis, cognac...

So if you manage to get past the wine list, its time to eat. The menu is pretty big, with various sections. There are plenty of options, whether you are after a salad, or something heartier. The food is French brasserie food, and doesn't try to be anything more. There are plenty of French classics on the menu like baked French snails ($16.50), French onion & Madeira soup ($13.50),beef Bourguignon ($27.50) or cassoulet du Languedoc ($35).

As there weren't an awful lot of gluten free entrees, I started with 6 natural Coffin Bay oysters ($16.90) which were lovely with a glass of Chablis. We also had the goat's cheese tartlet, served with basil, caramelised onion and petite salad ($14). The tartlet was very tasty and the perfect size for a starter. The flavours were well balanced, and the blue cheese didn't overpower the rest of the dish. Both our entrees were very good.

For mains I went with the grain fed rack of lamb with sautéed seasonal vegetables, roasted chat potatoes and rosemary jus ($31.50). The lamb was perfectly cooked, and it was tasty without being memorable. Probably not really worth $31, but this is Emporium after all.

The other main course we ordered was the salade Belle Epoque ($22), described as butter lettuce, witlof, green beans, toasted walnuts, walnut vinaigrette & fourme d`Ambert cheese. The main problem with this salad was the "toasted walnuts" were in fact candied walnuts, that just didn't go with the rest of the ingredients. Even putting the walnuts aside, this salad didn't really impress, as the flavours and ingredients didn't work together. At $22, it was a big disappointment.

For dessert I couldn't pass up the crème brulée a la chartreuse ($12). Creme brulee is one of my favourite desserts, and this one didn't let me down. Anyway we were in a French brasserie, so it would be wrong of me to finish off the meal with anything else (apart from perhaps a glass of Chateau d'Yquem, which was a bit outside the budget for the evening).

The service was a bit hit and miss. We had a table of eight, which meant a few waiters serving our table. There were a couple of mix ups during the night, but for the most part the service was decent and unobtrusive.

Don't think La Belle Epoque is limited to dinner either - the restaurant describes itself as a bar, restaurant and boulangerie/patisserie, so there is something to suit any time of day or occasion.

All in all, La Belle Epoque looks great, has a fantastic wine list and serves up classic French food. It's good fun, and you can have an enjoyable dinner without breaking the bank if you choose carefully. You're not likely to remember the dish you ate for the rest of your life, but it's not aiming to serve that level of food. La Belle Epoque certainly has a place in Brisbane and hopefully it will be welcomed with plenty of custom from hungry diners. And if you are a wine fanatic, then put it on your must visit list.

What does all this mean? Classic French favourites, a top wine list and great surroundings.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - OK
Ambience - Classic French brasserie (if a little big)
Value for Money - OK
Wine - Top Shelf
Vegetarian - OK
Gluten Free - Limited selection

La Belle Epoque
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3852 1500
E -
W -

Belle Epoque on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Satay Hut

Satay Hut is one of the newer eateries on Little Stanley Street at Southbank. It was set up by the owner and chef of Ginga, Patrick Ip.

We checked out the menu for Satay Hut on a stroll around Southbank one day and thought we should head back for dinner. We eventually made it back here for a quick pre-opera dinner. The place looks pretty impressive from the street, and you can either sit either inside or in their fairly large outside dining area.

The main reason we wanted to try Satay Hut was because of the menu, which has quite a few dishes that you don't see very often. The menu has pictures of many of the dishes, and also has a chilli rating system to give you an idea of how hot to expect the food.

Anyway I wimped out in the adventurous stakes for entree and instead went for one of my favourite starters, chicken satay sticks with rice cakes ($9.90). These were served with cucumber and peanut satay sauce. They weren't the best satay sticks I've ever had, but were fine nevertheless. I hadn't tried the rice cakes before, which were basically a little blob of sticky rice (which tasted better than my description of them). The sauce was good, and got completely cleaned up between the rice cakes and the chicken satays. The rice cakes make this a fairly filling starter.

We also had the vegetarian spring rolls ($6.90) for entree, which are described on the menu as containing cabbage, onion, carrots, mushroom and bamboo shoots, served with plum & sweet chilli dip. I didn't try one of these, as I was too busy munching away on my satay sticks, but I'm told they were fresh and very tasty. The plum & sweet chilli dipping sauce wasn't as tasty as the satay sauce. Needless to say, there was no satay sauce left.

A number of the other entrees were usual suspects, such as prawn spring rolls ($9.90), Thai fish cakes ($6.90), yum cha platter ($24.90 for 2) or you could go for the Malaysian style fried tofu ($7.90) if you're looking for a vegetarian option. There are also a few soups if you're in need of something to slurp all over your shirt to kick off the night.

On to mains. This is where the menu gets interesting - it's a pretty wide ranging one, covering Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai food. Dishes that caught my eye were the sambal stir fry (chicken $16.90, fish $17.90 or prawn $24.90), seafood bird nest ($29.90), coconut seafood bake ($29.90), scallop with tofu ($18.90 - the picture of this looked really good) and the kapitan chicken rice ($18.90).

Anyway, we were in a hurry, so I had to decide and went for the beef nasi lemak ($19.90). Wikipedia calls this the "unofficial national dish of Malaysia". Apparently it's a breakfast dish in Malaysia. The main reason I picked it was because it was a platter, and was the best way of trying a few new meals all in one go. The plate consisted of some Malaysian beef curry, hard boiled egg, ikan belis (dried anchovies), kacang (salted peanuts), achar (pickled vegetables) and coconut rice. Although the curry itself wasn't mind blowing, the combination of all the small dishes was great (although I don't know if anyone could eat all the anchovies). The coconut rice was also delicious. It turned out to be a good choice.

We also had the tofu with satay sauce and cashew nuts ($9.90). This was a bargain and was very good. It was little rounds of silken tofu with some tasty satay sauce. Once again, we couldn't get enough of the satay sauce, which is addictive stuff.

There is a compact, reasonably priced wine list, and you should be able to find something to accompany whatever takes your fancy off the menu.

We only had a limited time at Satay Hut, and the staff were excellent in making sure that all the food came out quickly, so we could head off to the opera.

All up, Satay Hut is a welcome addition to the eateries at South Bank. It's not the cheapest Asian food in town, but its comparably priced with many of the places along Little Stanley Street, and is by no means expensive. Satay Hut is definitely worth a try, especially if you're looking for a few dishes you might not have seen before.

What does all this mean? An interesting range of Asian food at decent prices, with loads of options to keep everyone happy.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Impressive modern Asian surroundings
Value for Money - Good
Wine - OK
Vegetarian - Good

Satay Hut
Shop 3, Little Stanley Street
Southbank 4101
P - 07 3846 6600
W -

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Sustainable Seafood Guide

The December issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller has an interview with Tim Winton about sustainable seafood, which makes for interesting reading. The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has published Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide. According to the AMCS's website, it's the first national guide to choosing sustainable seafood. The guide lists those species which are overfished and which we all should avoid buying or eating.

The Sustainable Seafood Guide only costs $9.95 and you can order a copy from the AMCS's website here. It also comes with a handy pocket guide to take with you on your next shopping expedition. There is plenty of other information about the AMCS on their website, if you want to find out exactly what it is they do.