Sunday, 13 April 2008


Over the last few years, in almost every trip I've made to West End I've walked past Tukka and thought I really should go there for dinner some time. I've also heard Stéphane Brémont, the chef, on ABC radio, with his unmistakable French accent.

Last night, instead of walking past Tukka on the way to Huongs or El Torito, we finally ate there.

We sat at a table for two in the covered verandah part of the restaurant. It was a bit noisy to start with, but we got used to the noise as the night went on. There were also a few ants on our table, which we weren't expecting, but once we'd brushed them off, they seemed to get the message and didn't come back. I suppose it adds to the native experience. Before I move on to the food, I thought the tables were a bit close together - the table to the right of us was so close that the waiters had trouble getting past without brushing into me pretty regularly. I know restaurants try to get as many tables into their space as they can, but the table plan shouldn't inconvenience the diners.

Anyway, Tukka is one of the very few restaurants that I've ever been to that specialises in Australian native ingredients. You'll find native berries, nuts, desert limes and lemon myrtle popping up all through the menu. On the carnivorous side, you'll also see crocodile, possum, emu and kangaroo.

The menu is fairly compact and offered 5 entrees on the night. These covered a native platter (game meats, native berries, nuts, fruits and spices, home-made damper and native dips - $21.70 per person), tonka bean cured Cairns crocodile tenderloin, grape salad, kiwi and strawberry eucalypt dressing ($18.70), gourmet tomato and desert lime consommé, pickled cucumber and apple sorbet ($16.90), Queensland prawns with avocado and carrot salad and karasumi smoked mullet roe emulsion ($19.80) and Tasmanian possum baked in filo pastry with rosella braised pear and citrus salad ($19.60).

Before our entrees came out, a complementary appetiser was served. It was a couple of slices of a beautiful green tomato, with bocconcini and lemon myrtle dressing. This was delicious, and a great way to get our tastebuds ready for the food to come.

I ordered the prawns for entree. I was a bit surprised to find only two prawns on the plate, considering this was a $20 entree. In the prawns' defence, they were both pretty big ones, but I just can't see how this dish justifies this price. I would have also enjoyed the prawns slightly less cooked than they were served, but that's just my personal preference. The avocado and carrot salad was good, and the karasumi smoked mullet roe emulsion an excellent partner to the prawns. There was nothing bad at all about this dish, I just found it a little underwhelming.

My vegetarian dinner guest wasn't a big fan of tomato soup (even if it was a delicious sounding consommé) so we also ordered a lilly pilly salad with macadamias, mixed leaves and lemon myrtle dressing ($7.50) as an entree. This salad got the thumbs up from both of us. I'd never eaten the berries off a lilly pilly, but they had a real tanginess, and their chewy texture was a good contrast to the other ingredients. It was an excellent, innovative salad, which is actually on the menu as a side dish for main course.

We had glasses of Petaluma viognier and Coriole semillon sauvignon blanc with our entrees. Neither wine was actually available by the glass on this list. I'd ordered the Tahbilk viognier, but the waiter had just opened a bottle of the Petaluma viognier for another table, and happily volunteered a glass to me at the same price as the Tahbilk. As much as I enjoy the Tahbilk viognier, the Petaluma is a beautiful food wine, and there was no way I was going to knock it back. Again, the Coriole was offered to us in place of the Abbey Rock, and we had no complaints there either. By this stage of the evening, we were really enjoying things, with the service going seamlessly.

After a good pause, our mains were served. I won't go through all the mains in detail, but the menu includes seared rare emu fillet ($30.60), Queensland scallops ($29.90), pumpkin and bush tomato flan ($25.60), braised beef cheeks ($27.80), slow roasted grain fed 'Aurora' lamb shanks ($29.40) and the fish of the day, which was barramundi.

I had the ginger and rosella braised beef cheeks with fondant potato and creamed leeks. The beef cheeks were excellent, and an exercise in simplicity. The plate had a generous serve of the beef cheeks, which were meltingly tender, simply matched with the big chunk of fondant potato. The leeks were sprinkled over the potato, and still had a bit of crunch to them. I had a glass of the Logan "Weemala" shiraz viognier with my main, and it was an excellent match. This dish would make the perfect autumn or winter dinner. The rich beef cheeks just fell apart on the plate, and the combination of flavours bounced around in my mouth well after the dish was cleaned away.

Our other main course was the pumpkin and bush tomato flan, capsicum and anisata coulis, grape and green bean salad. My dinner guest was a bit miffed that there was no pastry in sight in the "flan". It was rather a smallish mound of very tasty mashed pumpkin, served with the side salad. The flavours of this dish were innovative, but it could have been a bigger portion for the price. A glass of the D'Arenberg D'Arry's original grenache shiraz was a good match with this main course.

We still had room for the desserts, which sounded tempting. We both wanted to have the apple trilogy of anisata roasted gala, pink lady parfait and granny smith sorbet ($16.20), but our dinner pact meant we each had to order something different. In the end I ordered the native spiced red wine poached pear with Daintree vanilla bean ice cream ($15.20). The poached pear was divine, particularly with the rich vanilla bean ice cream. I grabbed a glass of the Romavilla muscat, which was a good partner for the deep, spiced flavours of the pear.

The apple trilogy was yet another example of keeping things simple. Three different types of apple, served three different ways. Unfortunately this was so good, I didn't get to taste much of it, but I was told that the granny smith sorbet was just like eating a frozen apple. Both our desserts were excellent, and really ended off the night on a high note.

Throughout our meal the service was very good. Our waiters were friendly, knowledgeable and always popped up at the right time. Service was also very attentive, and our water glasses were topped up regularly, without us even noticing most of the time.

The diners at the three tables behind us all had American accents, so Tukka is obviously popular with overseas tourists. I'd certainly have no hesitation in taking any overseas friends here, to try some of the native Australian flavours that you just don't find on many menus anywhere.

The wine list has been put together with a lot of thought. It features plenty of Australian wines, including those from regions which aren't classed by many punters as fashionable at the moment. There's also a smattering of Queensland wines, which I'm always pleased to see. The best thing about the wine list is that the mark ups are very reasonable, and you should have no trouble finding a good bottle or two that won't bust your budget.

Tukka also gets a tick on the gluten-free food front. Their gluten free dishes are clearly marked on the menu, and they aren't limited to a token dish or two.

If you're looking for more information about native food, have a look at Tukka's website. There is plenty of information, including recipes and a glossary of native food.

I really didn't know what to expect from Tukka, but it's safe to say that the food we had was, in general, very impressive. Although my entree wasn't fantastic, and some of the portions could be a bit more generous, the general standard of the food was very good. The simplicity of the food and clean flavours really shone throughout the night. It's reassuring to see a chef committed to building meals around a few high quality ingredients. Also, don't think the food here is gimmicky "Aussie" food, aimed at tourists, because it isn't. Tukka stands alone with this kind of real modern Australian food in Brisbane. On this showing, I'll definitely be going back.

What does all this mean? Excellent, modern Australian food built around native ingredients, with a well-priced wine list and professional service.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Fairly formal, but a bit noisy
Wine - Good selection at very reasonable prices
Value for Money - OK
Vegetarian - Limited selection
Gluten Free - Great

145 Boundary Street
West End 4101
P - 07 3846 6333
E -
W -

Tukka on Urbanspoon

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