Sunday, 27 December 2009

Grub Street

Although we used to live around the corner from Grub Street at Gaythorne, it was only a couple of weeks ago that we finally made it there for breakfast.

We'd tried to pop in a couple of times over the last few months, but the small dining room had been full, so we moved our ravenous stomachs on elsewhere. This time we managed to walk in when the room was almost empty, so we snagged a table without a wait. The dining room at Grub Street only seats 18 people, so if you wander in at a busy time, you might need to sit outside for 10 minutes or so until a table clears.

Grub Street has a pretty compact, but very interesting breakfast menu. Options include grilled grapefruit with house granola & yoghurt ($9.50), ‘Green eggs & ham’ - pesto scrambled eggs with ham off the bone & roasted tomato ($15), haloumi & zucchini fritters with poached eggs, spinach & dukkah ($14) and salmon gravalax & asparagus omelette with dill mayo on rye ($17).

Such a good menu makes breakfast decisions pretty tough. Although I was initially leaning towards the green eggs & ham (mainly because of the imaginative name), I eventually settled on the chorizo & potato baked eggs with chimichurri ($16), one of the gluten free options on the menu. It was served in a small round dish, which was full of big chunks of chorizo & potato. The eggs had been cracked on top, and were baked so they were just cooked & still fairly runny (exactly how I love them). The contents were drizzled with a good amount of chimichurri. Once I had busted open the egg yolks, the eggs and chimichurri mixed though the chorizo and potato, which resulted in a very tasty breakfast. The eggs, potato & chorizo were served with two slices of gluten free toast, much to my (happy) amazement. Grub Street must be one of the very few places in Brisbane where gluten free toast is a fixture on the menu, rather than an option at extra cost.

My wife ordered the toasted Turkish bread with avocado & tomato salsa, to which she added a serve of mushrooms ($11.50). Although it wasn't mentioned on the menu, this was also served with pesto that was spread over the Turkish toast. My wife loved it, with the pesto getting special praise. It looked delicious.

We also ordered one of the specials for the day - a corn cake with poached eggs & avocado. The presentation of this dish was impressive - rows of asparagus on the bottom of the plate, on which sat the corn cake, followed by mushrooms and the poached eggs on top. Not only did it look excellent, but my friend really enjoyed this breakfast.

We drank flat whites with our breakfast ($3.50), which my wife and I found a bit weak.

Each of us enjoyed our breakfasts at Grub Street. I found the breakfast menu very impressive. There are so many places in Brisbane that serve up almost exactly the same breakfast menu - luckily at Grub Street some serious thought has gone into putting together a menu that stands out from the crowd.

As I mentioned earlier, it's a small room, so service was both friendly and snappy.

Grub Street is also open for lunch. I'll have to come back to try their lunch options, which include burgers, salads and Turkish bread or ciabatta sandwiches. And to complete the all round food package, Grub Street offers catering for functions and cooking classes.

What does all this mean? Tasty food, and a thoughtful & interesting breakfast menu at reasonable prices. Every Brisbane suburb should have a local cafe as good as Grub Street.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Ambience - Casual, small, relaxed suburban cafe
Value for Money - Good
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Good

Grub Street
440 Samford Road
Gaythorne 4051
T - 07 3855 9580
E -
W -

Grub Street on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Customs House

To be perfectly honest, Customs House isn't the first place that rolls off my tongue when I think of CBD restaurants. But recently I organised a work lunch, and we really wanted somewhere with a river view. After having a look at the menu, we ended up making a booking for Customs House.

I hadn't eaten at the restaurant at Customs House for over 5 years, so I wasn't too sure what the quality of food was going to be like. If you haven't been before, Customs House is a lovely old heritage building on the Brisbane River. The restaurant is outside, on the river side of the building, with a great view over the river and the Story Bridge.

It was a very warm day, so we were all a bit hesitant when we found out that our table was outside. But there was a gentle breeze coming off the river, and the table was in the shade, so it turned out to be quite comfortable.

We only had about an hour and a half until we had to be back at our desks (unfortunately), so an executive decision was made that we'd have a main course and dessert. That meant we all missed out on entrees like seared scallops with beetroot tart, orange & fennel marmalade and creme fraiche ($22), rabbit and porcini mushroom ravioli, green olive insalata and truffle dressing ($22) and salt & pepper prawns with green papaya salad and toasted sesame ($22).

There were eight main courses from which to choose, including the fish of the day, which our waiter explained was barramundi served on a Moreton Bay bug laksa risotto ($34). Other main courses covered veal scallopine with sand crab meat, asparagus, potato mash, dill hollandaise & light jus ($34), pork loin with coriander pesto, cous cous & butternut pumpkin coulis ($34) and spatchcock served both as a seared breast and confit maryland with soft truffle polenta and broccolini. I was considering ordering the spatchcock (as I don't eat it often) but it was such a warm, sunny day I couldn't go past the barramundi.

Considering how busy the restaurant was, we didn't have to wait long for the meals to arrive. My main course was a good sized fillet of barramundi, sitting on top of a generous serve of the laksa bug risotto. The barramundi had been cooked well - still retaining a lovely moist texture. However it was served with its skin on, which I didn't really enjoy. Usually when I come across barramundi served skin on, the skin is very crispy, which adds great contrast to the fish (as I'd enjoyed it a couple of days earlier at Jellyfish). Although this piece was on its way to crispy, it just didn't make it - it was chewy and ended up being left on the side of the plate. That was a fairly minor blip though, as the bug laksa risotto was excellent. Although my initial thoughts were that the risotto had been served with too much liquid, it worked really well with the texture of the barramundi fillet. The flavour of the risotto itself was fantastic - very fishy, but with a good tang & a bit of heat from the laksa. The risotto was also dotted with pieces of bug meat. The barramundi skin aside, I really enjoyed this dish,, which turned out to be the perfect summer lunch.

Our table also enjoyed the lamb rump with broad beans, new potato salad & watercress ($33), as well as the veal scallopine, which was plated up with a generous serve of sand crab meat (and looked delicious). We enjoyed a bottle of Brown Brothers pinot grigio, which was a good match for most of the meals on the table, and was quickly guzzled down on such a warm day.

By this stage of the afternoon it was time to decide on dessert - always an enjoyable task. A few of the desserts which really interested me were the goats cheese curd and lemon tartlet with blueberries and truffled honey ice cream; creme brulee with roasted cinnamon ice cream and cats tongue biscuit; and mango carpaccio with passionfruit syrup, lychee sorbet and crystallised ginger. All desserts were $15.

After a bit of deliberation, I ordered the creme brulee - one of my all-time favourite desserts. This one was served in a large, flat dish, which meant there was only a shallow layer of the custard. The custard was also served warm, which I found a bit unusual (although that was probably the result of the custard being served in a shallow dish). The best thing about the large shallow dish however was that there was plenty of the crunchy sugar top to mix through the custard. The cinnamon ice cream turned out to be a fantastic accompaniment, without overpowering the custard.

The service during our meal was very good. Although we didn't have a lot of time for lunch, we hardly waited for either course, which allowed us plenty of time to enjoy both the wine and the river view.

If you're a vegetarian, there was only one entree and one main on the menu, both of which contained very similar ingredients. It would be worth ringing ahead to see if there are other vegetarian options available.

The menu at Customs House doesn't push the envelope of haute cuisine, but each of the dishes we ordered throughout lunch was impressive. The view from the table is very hard to beat, which means Customs House is certainly worth considering next time you're looking for lunch or dinner with a river view.

What does all this mean? High quality food and good service with a fantastic view over the Brisbane river.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Outside tables with an excellent river view
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Good
Vegetarian - Limited menu choices

Customs House
399 Queen Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3365 8921
E -
W -

Customs House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


I've eaten at e'cco quite a few times, but for some reason I hadn't made it back there in the last couple of years. So when a friend from London and I were trying to find a restaurant that would let us bring along a few good bottles of wine, e'cco was the first place that popped into my head.

The room at e'cco hasn't changed much since the last time I visited. If you haven't been, there's a bar on the right hand side as you walk in, most of the tables are to the left and you'll find the kitchen at the back of the room. Despite the high quality food on offer, the restaurant still has a casual bistro feel to it, with wooden chairs and no tablecloths.

We sat down and our waiter opened up the bottle of 1997 Gardet Cuvee Charles Gardet champagne which I'd rustled up. In the meantime, we'd started on the hard task of choosing what to eat for dinner. The menu is fairly compact - there were 7 starters (including a soup) and 6 mains. I was surprised that there were no specials, as I'd had some great specials at e'cco in the past.

The starters included star anise cured salmon terrine, herb mascarpone, avruga caviar, croutons & green tea salt; grilled quail, salad of orange, witlof, bocconcini & pecan dressing, and grilled sardines, roast kipflers, watercress, smoked eggplant, capsicum & olive salsa. Each of the starters are $24.50, other than the soup of the day which is $14.50.

I was having a hard time picking between the salmon terrine and the sardines. I'd almost decided to go for the terrine, but changed my mind at the last minute and ordered the sardines instead. I'd never had sardines at a restaurant before, so I thought e'cco would be the perfect place to start.

I was pleasantly surprised when the sardines arrived - I'd been expecting the tiny sized ones you see in tins, but these were much larger - not far off the size of a small whiting fillet. It was a good starter - there were 4 or 5 sardines, sitting on top of the watercress and smoked eggplant, with the kipflers and salsa arranged around the edge of the plate. I enjoyed the delicate flavour of the sardines, as I'd been expecting a much stronger, fishier flavour. All the ingredients on the plate worked well together - I particularly liked the smoked eggplant and the kipflers. My only minor gripes were 1) there was too much watercress for the size of the serving (which I ended up leaving on the plate) and 2) there were slices of raw red onion that weren't mentioned on the menu (unless somehow they were part of a deconstructed salsa).

My wine buddy ordered the seared scallops with curry-spiced cauliflower, wild rocket, raisins and flaked almonds. When the dish arrived I was impressed with the size of the scallops - they were three of the biggest scallops I've ever seen. Although the raisins ended up being left on the plate, the rest of the dish got a vote of approval, with the scallops well and truly the star.

The Gardet champagne (which I hadn't come across until recently) was lovely - its good weight and power really stood up to the starters. If I kicked off every meal with a 12 year old bottle of vintage champagne I'd be a very happy camper.

I knew we were drinking a red with main course, which limited the menu choice to some extent. Mains at e'cco include roast spatchcock, sweet corn risotto, tomato pickle, chilli & spring onion; seared ocean trout, shaved fennel, zucchini flowers, pickled red onion & soft herb beurre blanc; lamb loin, scorched tomatoes, sumac croutons, Persian feta, sugar snap peas & olives, and chilli & fennel spiced pork belly, eggplant relish, bok choy & crispy garlic. All of the mains are $42.50.

Neither of the red meat dishes on the menu really jumped out at me, so I opted for the pork belly instead. Pork belly is one of my favourite meats, so I was really just looking for an excuse to order it. As it turned out, we both really enjoyed the pork belly - the pork itself had been subtly flavoured by the chilli and fennel, and was lovely and tender. However my favourite part of the dish was the excellently crunchy, salty top layer of the pork belly. I didn't realise I'd ordered two dishes in a row featuring eggplant, but the eggplant in this dish took more of a back seat to the other flavours. The thin slices of crispy garlic and the bok choy added some contrasting textures to the dish. All up, a great Asian-influenced dish.

With our mains we enjoyed a bottle of 2007 Le Cent Cornas La Geynale from the Northern Rhone. This is a shiraz made by Vincent Paris, one of the leading Rhone winemakers, with grapes sourced from the small La Geynale vineyard. Although there aren't too many bottles of 2007 Australian shiraz I'd attempt to drink with pork belly, this turned out to be a terrific match. Initially it was wonderfully spicy, which really worked well with the flavours on the plate, but over time the lovely fruit started to shine through. Although this wine won't be commercially available in Australia, if you're interested in a bottle or two, let me know. I will be putting a few away in the cellar.

We didn't have time for dessert, after spending too much time nattering on about wine, but there were six on the menu, including grapefruit & mint granita, lemonade sorbet & rose foam (which I would have ordered) and a strawberry & basil crème brûlée with vanilla madeleines. Each of the desserts are $16.50.

Although the food at e'cco was very good across the board as usual, e'cco is also a wine destination. Without a doubt it has one of the best wine lists in Brisbane - I could easily write a post entirely about the gems on the list. However e'cco also allows diners to bring up to four bottles of wine, at a corkage charge of $10 per bottle. As far as I know, e'cco is the only one of Brisbane's top 5 or so restaurants which allow you to bring your own wine. Personally I think it's an excellent policy, which means you can enjoy a special bottle or two from your cellar (as we did) or choose to drink from their own wonderful selection.

Service during the night was attentive, although a bit cold. I've had friendlier service at e'cco in the past, but our wines glasses were topped up without fail during the night and our meals came out in good time, with a nice pause between courses to allow us to enjoy the vintage champagne.

e'cco has now been open for 14 years, and has for much of that time been in the top handful of Brisbane's restaurants. If I had to pick a restaurant that summed up Brisbane, it would be e'cco - a relaxed, understated room, excellent ingredients cooked to perfection and an attitude to wine which is two steps ahead of its competitors.

Sorry there are no pictures - the low light meant that my photos came out far too grainy.

What does all this mean? e'cco consistently serves up some of the best food in Brisbane, has a brilliant wine list and even allows you to bring your own bottles - it's one of Brisbane's must visit food & wine destinations

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Ambience - Relaxed, casual feel, but can be noisy
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Brilliant list or BYO
Vegetarian - Great

100 Boundary Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3831 8344
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E'cco on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 December 2009

Christmas Pressies

Don't know what to buy the foodie in your life for Christmas? Here are a few ideas that will (hopefully) go down a treat:

The Songs of Sapa

I enjoyed Luke Nguyen's show so much that I went out and bought this book. I kind of justified it because we had a pile of friends over for a Vietnamese food night, so I had to have a few recipes up my sleeve. I've cooked a few dishes out of this book, and have found them fairly easy to make - they also taste great. The tricky part is finding ingredients like betel leaves and Vietnamese herbs. If you like fresh, tasty, clean Asian flavours, then you'll love this book.

Larousse Gastronomique

When it comes to cooking reference books, Larousse Gastronomique is the king. Although it's definitely focused on classical cooking, it's still an amazing book. Basically it's the encyclopedia of the cooking world and a new edition has just been released. Personally I prefer the cover of the edition I've got (which has pictures of quintessential French waiters), but you don't buy a book for its cover. Be warned though, its a bit pricey.

Oz Clarke's Pocket Wine Guide 2010

I've bought a lot of wine books in my time, but when it comes to one book that covers everything, this is it. It's only small, but so comprehensive - the whole world of wine in one handy book. It's still the first book I go to for wine, and great value at about $25.

Serendip - My Sri Lankan Journey

Out of all the cookbooks that have been featured in Gourmet Traveller this year, Serendip by Peter Kuruvita is the one that really caught my interest. I can't say that I've ever come across a Sri Lankan cookbook before, but the recipes looked & sounded so amazing - the beetroot curry, snake bean curry, mud crab curry & egg hoppers all looked delicious. It's the perfect gift for the foodie that has all the "standard" cookbooks.

Vefa's Kitchen

I've always wanted a Greek cookbook, and if I bought one it would be Vefa's Kitchen. I've been admiring it for months at Borders in the city. I've got such great memories of the food we ate in Greece that I'd love to create it at home. Greek food is such a good match for the Australian climate and way of life that this book will provide years of delicious lunches & dinners.

Food Safari DVD

As far as I'm concerned, Food Safari is the best food show that I've ever seen on Australian tv. Maeve O'Meara is such a good host that's its hard not to enjoy Food Safari. Each episode features a different country's cuisine, so there's also an amazing variety of food. There are now 3 series of Food Safari, so there are hours and hours of cooking to enjoy.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tibetan Kitchen

During my uni years, the Tibetan Kitchen in the Valley was one of our tried and trusted dinner spots. It was BYO, the food was tasty and it was cheap - it ticked all the important boxes. There were countless nights when we'd occupy a room there from about 7pm until very late, popping out every few hours when the wine had run out for resupplies. Now that I think about it, the restaurant was probably lucky it didn't have too many tables of diners like us.

Anyway I hadn't eaten at the Tibetan Kitchen for years and there's now one at Petrie Terrace as well. We headed in to the Petrie Terrace restaurant a Saturday night for dinner.

The Tibetan Kitchen on Petrie Terrace is in a building that used to be occupied by Romeo's, one of Brisbane's iconic Italian Restaurants. Although a few Tibetan decorations have been added to the room, there's still an Italian feel to it. The food however is well and truly not Italian. Here you'll find Tibetan, sherpa and Nepalese food - with about 60 items on the menu, there's plenty to choose from.

The large menu also means it takes a while to work out what to eat. The entree section of the menu had a few standout dishes - namche ko momo (steamed Tibetan style dumpling with coriander, ginger & garlic served with homemade chutney - $6.90), sekuwa (chicken or lamb marinated in yoghurt, fresh ginger and garlic curry sauce, served with salad - $7.90) and aloo chop (potato patties with Nepalese herbs & spices, covered in chickpea batter and served with homemade chutney - $6.90). There are also a few soups on the menu, including the tempting dhaal soup of lentil, tomato, ginger, garlic, onion and vegetables with fresh coriander ($6.90).

In the end I settled on a serve of tipan tapan, partly because of the catchy name. The menu told me that tipan tapan was a traditional Nepalese snack, prepared with fried chicken or beef, potato curry, crispy rice and a spicy sauce. This turned out to be a substantial snack - there was a good amount of both the chicken and potato curry, which had been scattered with crispy rice (the crispy rice looked very similar to rice bubbles). It was tasty enough, but the real winner on the plate was the spicy sauce, which had a good, hot chilli kick to it.

We also had a serve of the aloo chop (4 pieces), which had obviously been freshly made. The potato filling had a lovely flavour to it - we could pick out fresh ginger and chilli. The round patties had been well cooked, and were matched with a spicy, peppery sauce. Again, this was a very filling starter.

There's a very wide selection when it comes to main course - chicken, lamb, beef, goat, prawns and fish all feature on the menu. The Tibetan Kitchen is also a good spot for vegetarians, with 15 non-meat options. The more interesting main courses were the shakpa (stew of lamb, potatoes, vegetables, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and dumplings cooked with fresh coriander and curry sauce - $15.90), bakra ko tihun (goat curry on the bone with pumpkin & squash) and the jhinge macha ra aduwa (prawns cooked in a lime, ginger & coconut milk curry, topped with fresh coriander - $17.90).

I ordered the khasi ko masu, described as traditional Himalayan vindaloo - pieces of lamb cooked in a Nepalese curry sauce, topped with coriander ($15.90). Expecting that this could be a pretty fiery dish, I ordered it medium. There was plenty of lamb in the curry when it arrived, and the sauce had a good chilli zing to it. I also enjoyed the fresh coriander sprinkled over the curry, but if you order this dish, you really need something else to accompany it - it was all meat and nothing else.

Luckily for me, my wife ordered the somar (tofu curry). This was a Nepalese style curry with sour cream, coconut milk, capsicum, garlic, ginger, fresh coriander and green chilli ($13.90). The somar was made with pieces of silken tofu, and it was an excellent dish. It was a beautifully fragrant curry, with lovely delicate flavours that really complemented the tofu. I quickly got a bit bored with the plate of meat before me and shifted my attention to the delicious plate of tofu.

Unfortunately the place was fairly dead the night we were there. Although we arrived at about 7pm, there was only one other table of guests in the restaurant. Only two more tables of diners came in during the night, so it would have been a very slow night for the restaurant. It's also a fairly big room, so it felt a bit deserted.

Tibetan Kitchen is both BYO (wine only) and licenced. Staff were very friendly throughout the meal, although I found it a bit odd that one of the chefs came to the table at the start of the night to take our order.

All up, the Tibetan Kitchen is a good spot for a big group dinner, where you'd get the opportunity to order a wide selection from the large menu. It's solid, reliable food, rather than anything spectacular, although both the vegetarian meals were ordered were excellent.

What does all this mean? A huge range of tasty Nepalese and Tibetan food at good prices - BYO drinks and a big table of friends to get the most from the menu.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Ambience - Tibetan & Nepalese clash with the Tuscan feel
Value for Money - Great
Wine - Small selection or BYO
Vegetarian - Great

Tibetan Kitchen
216 Petrie Terrace
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3367 0955
W -

Tibetan Kitchen (Spring Hill) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Christmas Supplies

I can't believe it's almost December. Which also means it's almost Christmas. When it comes to Christmas, I tend to do everything at the last minute, but I know there are plenty of people out there that actually engage in some forward thinking. So here's a list of places that are worth checking out if you're looking for a few special items for an amazing Christmas feast. This list is just a start - I'll add more places to the list as it gets closer to Christmas, including Christmas markets.

Bittersweet Chocolate
Too hot to make your own chocolates to enjoy after all the prawns, turkey, cake, wine, etc? Pop into Bittersweet instead for a few chocolates that are sure to end the meal on a winning note.

Tenancy 8, The Barracks
61 Petrie Terrace
Paddington 4064
P - 07 3367 3323
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Black Pearl Epicure
For me, Black Pearl Epicure is probably the first place I'd head in Brisbane to pick up ingredients for a memorable Christmas meal. You'll find turkey, ham, duck, caviar, foie gras and truffles amongst their Christmas offerings. If you're looking for inspiration, this is the place to go. You'll find their Christmas order form here - orders close on 4 December 2009.

36 Baxter Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3257 2144
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Brisbane MarketPlace Christmas Twilight Market
The Brisbane MarketPlace at Rocklea will be holding a Christmas Fresh Market on Wednesday 23 December, featuring fresh fruit, vegetables and deli items. The market will run from 2pm to 8pm.

Wednesday 23 December 2009, 2pm to 8pm
Brisbane MarketPlace
Sherwood Road
Rocklea 4108
P - 07 3915 4200
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Cru Bar + Cellar
If you can find a park at James Street, it's worth popping in to Cru Bar + Cellar. I'm always impressed with wines I come across at Cru that you just can't buy anywhere else. With Christmas just around the corner, Cru is also very handily placed right next to the James Street Markets.

James Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 3252 1744
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Fair Trade Christmas Market
The Queensland Fair Trade Collective will be holding their Christmas market on the 5th & 6th of December. Although its more of a homewares, toys & jewellery type market, there will be fair trade tea, coffee, chocolate and gift hampers. So you can pop in & pick up some fair trade coffee and also do your Christmas shopping at the same time.

Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 December 2009, 10am to 4pm
Marymac Community Centre
616 Ipswich Road
Annerley 4103
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Kelvin Grove Village Christmas Markets
Peter Hackworth will be running a special Village Christmas market on 23 December 2009, from 4pm to 9pm - with 100 stalls the Village market will be the perfect spot to pick up fresh food & produce for Christmas day.

Wednesday 23 December 2009, 4pm to 9pm
Blamey Street, between Musk Avenue & Victoria Park Road
Kelvin Grove 4059
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The Meat-ting Place
If you're looking for a range of organic meat for your Christmas lunch, head over to the Meat-ting Place and get your order in today. A great butcher, who can supply turkey, ham, chicken, duck and pork for your Christmas feast. You'll find their Christmas specials here, and orders must be placed by 12 December 2009.

The Meat-ting place has stores at Paddington and McDowall.
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Rosalie Gourmet Market
An excellent deli at Rosalie with a super range of cheese, smallgoods, fruit & veges and general deli items. Rosalie Gourmet Market also includes a bakery and sells a range of kitchenware. Christmas orders close on 14 December 2009, and you'll find the Christmas order form here.

Corner of Nash Street and Baroona Road
Rosalie, Paddington 4064
P - 07 3876 6222
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Samies Girl
Is your Christmas lunch all about seafood? Samies Girl supplies a huge range of fresh seafood, including prawns, oysters, scallops, mussels, whole fish, fish fillets, crabs, bugs and octopus. Samies Girl doesn't take Christmas orders - they recommend buying your Christmas seafood on the 23rd of December, or you're likely to miss out.

15 Hercules Street
Hamilton 4007
P - 07 3131 4120
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Stewarts Wine Co
Stewarts Wine Co have three stores across Brisbane. Every time I walk into one I'm impressed with the range and inevitably end up walking out of the store with a few bottles I've never tried before. They also have a good range of well-priced Champagne, if you're looking for that special bottle for Christmas lunch or dinner.

Stewarts Wine Co stores are located at Ascot, Portside Wharf and the Barracks.
W -

For years Tognini's is where we've headed to pick up a few memorable cheeses to enjoy over Christmas. I'm always impressed by their range of cheese, but they also have a very solid deli selection. Their Christmas offerings include hams, turkey, pate, puddings, Christmas cakes (including gluten free), salmon and a range of salads. You'll find the Tognini's Christmas order form here, and orders must be placed before 21 December 2009.

Tognini's delis are at Milton and Spring Hill.
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Village Meats Rosalie
Village Meats at Rosalie is one of Brisbane's leading butchers, with a quality selection of ham, Bangalow pork, turkey, bacon and hand made sausages.

Shop 2, 155 Baroona Road
Rosalie, Paddington 4064
P - 07 3367 3396

Although WINE@Era doesn't have a range as big as The Wine Emporium, you'll find some great wines here that you just won't come across anywhere else. I think it's a fantastic selection, with some excellent imported wines. And once you've stocked up on your Christmas tipples, you can pop into Era for a delicious lunch or snack.

102 Melbourne Street (Corner Merivale Street)
South Brisbane 4101
P - 07 3255 2033
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The Wine Emporium
The Wine Emporium may not be the cheapest place to buy wine in Brisbane, but they do have an amazing range of wines from all over Australia and the rest of the world. The staff are friendly and helpful, whether you're looking for a $25 bottle of riesling or a $500 bottle of Champagne.

Shop 47, Emporium
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4005
P - 07 3252 1117
E -
W -

Sunday, 8 November 2009


Unfortunately for the last 3 years or so, hamburgers have been wiped out from my essential food groups. Surely it can't be that hard to source gluten-free rolls for a hamburger? Apparently it is. Other than Raw Energy (who make amazingly good, healthy hamburgers) I haven't come across anywhere around Brisbane that actually serves gluten free burgers. That was until I got the tip to mosey along to Grill'd.

To say that I was pretty happy when reading through the menu at Grill'd is an understatement - I was over the moon to find out they'll do any burger with a gluten free bun. I know it probably sounds a bit lame to be so excited about eating a burger, but I had 3 years to make up. I've been repaying my delight by becoming a very regular customer of Grill'd at Rosalie ever since.

Now don't think that Grill'd only does food for crazy, fussy, gluten free types like me - they have a range of burgers for everyone (even vegetarians!).

You'll start off by choosing a bun - panini, traditional burger roll or gluten free. All buns at Grill'd are baked daily, and a gluten free one will set you back an extra $1.50 (small change as far as I'm concerned).

After you've picked your bun, you need to decide on a filling - beef, chicken, lamb or vegetarian - all up there are 18 burgers to choose from the menu.

We've slowly been working my way through the menu, and here's my thoughts on what I've munched away so far:

Crispy Bacon & Cheese - lean beef, crispy bacon, tasty cheese, salad, relish and herbed mayo ($9.90). As much as I hate to admit it, I ordered this with distant memories of greasy, yet so tasty bacon double cheeseburgers from Hungry Jacks. As you'd expect, this tastes way better than anything I ever had at Hungry Jacks. I thought this burger worked really well - none of the fillings overpower the others, the bacon was actually crispy and I really enjoyed the relish.

Mustard & Pickled - lean beef, Dijon mustard, dill pickle, tasty cheese, salad & relish ($9.90). If we're sticking with the fast food analogy, I suppose this would be the equivalent of the golden arches' quarter pounder. I wasn't the biggest fan of this one - there were so many pickles on the burger that, combined with the mustard, you couldn't really taste anything else. Luckily that's easily fixed by just removing a few pickles. Order this burger if you're a fan of big, robust flavours.

Baa Baa Burger - lean lamb pattie with avocado, tasty cheese, salad, relish & herbed mayo ($11.50). This is my pick of the burgers so far. Although I'm in the middle of a major avocado fad at the moment, this burger is spot on - the relish, avocado, cheese and lamb pattie all combine so well together. I think the Baa Baa burger is going to be hard to top, but I'll keep trying.

Field of Dreams - grilled field mushroom, roasted peppers, basil pesto, tasty cheese, salad & herbed mayo ($10.50). This is my wife's favourite burger and I have to admit it did look very tasty. There's no vegie pattie on this burger - just a giant grilled field mushroom and the pesto gives the burger a real lift in flavour.

Garden Goodness - veggie pattie (which is vegan) with beetroot, tasty cheese, avocado, salad, relish & herbed mayo ($9.90). This one only gets an average score - my wife wasn't that impressed with the vegie pattie, which was a bit underwhelming in the taste department.

So I've still got another 15 burgers to try before exhausting the menu. You'll need to bring your appetite - the burgers are large, and it can be a challenge to get the whole thing into your mouth. But if you're ravenously hungry, their thick chips are very good ($4.30). You can order a little pot of herbed mayo, tomato relish or sweet chilli mayo to dip your chips in (70 cents extra). Out of the sauces, the tomato relish is my favourite, although I wish they had an aioli.

Grill'd seems to be popular with a good cross-section of the community - kids, teenagers, families and uni students. I've found the staff at Rosalie very friendly, particularly on my last visit, when I was just there with our 3 month old bub.

Although I've only put the contact details for the Rosalie store below, check out the Grill'd website for other locations around Brisbane.

What does all this mean? Quality burgers with fresh, tasty fillings that are light years ahead of their fast food cousins - the perfect emergency lunch.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good (order at the counter)
Ambience - Very casual
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Very limited selection and a few beers
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Top Shelf

19-21 Nash Street
Rosalie 4064
P - 07 3367 1555
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Grill'd on Urbanspoon

Friday, 6 November 2009

Brisbane's Budget Bites 2010

Want to know where you can eat around Brisbane without burning a hole in your wallet/purse? More interested in spending your money on good food than propping up high rents at mediocre city restaurants? Then rush off to your local bookshop today and pick up a copy of Brisbane's Budget Bites. For the measly sum of $20 you'll be the owner of a great guide to bargain restaurants around Brisbane. I picked up my copy from Borders in the city a couple of weeks ago - they're widely available.

Brisbane's Budget Bites covers restaurants, coffee shops and specialist grocery stores. Some of the featured restaurants that I'm looking forward to trying out are K'mer at Sunnybank (Cambodian), Best Friends Kainan Sa in the Valley (Filipino) and The Persian Restaurant at Coorparoo.

Best of all it's independent and well written - pick one up today.

Brisbane's Budget Bites 2010
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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

food bling, Brisbane turns two!

Well its now 2 years since I kicked off food bling, Brisbane. At the time there were only a handful of Brisbane food blogs around, but it's great to see that there are now so many people blogging about the food scene in and around Brisbane.

I'd like to pass on a very special thanks to all my readers - numbers have doubled in the last year, with almost 20,000 visits in the last 12 months. As always, I'm only interested in the best quality food, wine & service around Brisbane, rather than the current place to be seen.

The last year has been a huge one for me, especially with the arrival of Josephine, the newest food bling, Brisbane team member. Although she's not quite four months old, she's already visited a good few restaurants around Brisbane - she's off to a good start in the food stakes (even though she can't actually eat anything at the moment).

Top of my never-ending list of places to eat at the moment are The Buffalo Club, the three new Urbane venues (due to open in a few weeks), Wasabi at the Sunshine Coast, The Sardine Tin, Bar Barossa and Desmond & Molly Jones. There are also a load of new bars that have opened in the Valley this year, which I'm keen to visit before Christmas.

I'm currently in the middle of doing a photography course at TAFE, so hopefully you'll all notice a marked improvement in the standard of pictures on food bling, Brisbane. Although I'm not sure how much help the course will be when it comes to taking photos with my mobile phone...

As always, don't be shy in posting comments or passing on any feedback - it all helps to improve the blog. And of course, I'm always on the lookout for new restaurants, cafes and bars to visit, so keep the suggestions coming.

Thanks everyone for reading,


2010 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards - Part 3

Just to wrap up my posts about this year's Australian restaurant guide, here are the top 10 restaurants in Brisbane according to Gourmet Traveller:

1. Montrachet
2. E'cco
3. Restaurant Two
4. The Buffalo Club
5. Alchemy
6. Gianni
7. 1889 Enoteca
8. Sono Portside Wharf
9. Siggi's at the Port Office
10. Era Bistro

There are no real surprises in that list - the obvious place missing is Urbane, but that's because it is currently closed (re-opening very soon). I'm sure it will be back up at the pointy end of the list next year. It will also be interesting to see if Aria makes it into the top 10 next year.

Any thoughts from readers on the list?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Good Food & Wine Show

If you haven't already heard, the Good Food & Wine Show is coming to Brisbane this weekend.

What's it all about you ask? The Good Food & Wine Show features a celebrity theatre, cheese masterclass, cooking school, wine theatre, bar and restaurant. There will also be about 300 exhibitors, showing off both food and cooking equipment.

The main attraction of the show though is the chefs taking part over the course of the weekend - including Matt Moran, Tobie Puttock, Alastair McLeod, Ben O'Donoghue, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris.

General tickets are $20, or if you pay $22.50 you'll also get a ticket to the celebrity theatre. There is plenty more information on the website.

Good Food & Wine Show
Friday 6 November to Sunday 8 November 2009
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Corner of Merivale Road & Glenelg Street
South Brisbane 4101
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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Bittersweet Chocolate

For years and years Hot Chocolate at Paddington was my favourite place to buy chocolates in Brisbane. Many a weekend afternoon we would wander in there, take about 10 minutes to decide what chocolates to buy and then leave with big smiles on our faces, knowing that they'd be lucky to last a couple of hours at home (one of my friends would eat hers in the car on the way home).

So I was very disappointed to find out that Hot Chocolate had closed. That was until I found out that Ann Atkinson, the owner, had opened a new chocolate store at The Barracks, called Bittersweet.

Its taken me months to actually pop in for a chocolate fix, but I dropped in recently. It's only a small shop, just next door to Coles, but once you step inside the door you are surrounded by chocolate. Not only that, but you'll be overwhelmed by the amazing aromas of high quality chocolate.

Getting in the store is the easy part - then you have to decide on what to buy. I stuck with two of my past favourites - a white chocolate macadamia cluster and a macadamia caramel (and yes I do like macadamias). Branching out a little, I also picked up a champagne truffle, mainly because it looked delicious. Although I do love the macadamia chocolates, I have to admit that when it came to eating them, the champagne truffle was an amazingly decadent ball of chocolate.

My wife picked out a dark chocolate ginger disc, orange & coconut truffle and a dark chocolate truffle - out of those three the dark chocolate truffle was the winner by a nose.

All up there are 60 different flavours, including ginger & benedictine truffles, whipped cream snails and kumquat clusters. You can buy chocolates in boxes of 4, 8, 12, 24, 48 and 96 (if you're really in need of a chocolate fix). Otherwise you can select as many as you like for $15 per 100 grams.

If you haven't been to Bittersweet, you're missing out on some fantastic hand made chocolates. As you've probably guessed, I'll definitely be back.

Tenancy 8, The Barracks
61 Petrie Terrace
Paddington 4064
P - 07 3367 3323
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Monday, 26 October 2009

Frankland Estate and Ngeringa Wine Dinner

Wineaway's last wine function of the year is a Frankland Estate and Ngeringa Wine Dinner, which is being held this Friday night, 30 October 2009.

Frankland Estate is a rising star on the Australian wine scene, particularly because of its amazing single vineyard rieslings, from the Great Southern region in Western Australia. On the other hand, Ngeringa is a small, boutique producer from the Adelaide Hills, making biodynamic wines - its first vines were only planted in 2001. I've only tried one Ngeringa wine so far, which was part of a degustation dinner at Absynthe.

The evening will be jointly hosted by Hunter Smith (Frankland Estate winemaker) and Erinn Klein (Ngeringa winemaker). Tickets are $90 and Brent Farrell will be in charge of dinner.

The wines on tasting during the night will be:

2008 Ngeringa JE Rose

2008 Ngeringa Chardonnay

2008 Ngeringa Viognier

2007 Ngeringa Pinot Noir

2006 Ngeringa Syrah

2009 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling

2009 Frankland Estate Cooladerra Riesling

2009 Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling

1996 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling

2007 Frankland Estate Malbec

2007 Frankland Estate Olmo's Reward

1996 Frankland Estate Olmo's Reward

1996 Frankland Estate Cabernet Franc

1996 Frankland Estate Petit Verdot

Frankland Estate and Ngeringa Wine Dinner
Friday 30 October 2009, 6.30pm
Unit 3, 276 Abbotsford Road
Bowen Hills 4006
P - 07 0852 1891
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I've been wanting to eat at Alchemy for ages, so it was very fortunate that I managed to get an invite to a work lunch there recently.

Alchemy is in a great spot, overlooking the river next to Customs House. Although it doesn't have the wide frontage of Jellyfish, it's still a great view out over the river. Our friendly waiter came to the table with lunch menus - all the staff were wearing their "Vote for Brad Jolly GQ" shirts.

When I opened the menu, I was impressed with the range of food on offer - there were 12 entrees and 12 mains (including specials). The flip side is that with so many dishes to choose from, decisions are very tough.

Entrees that I wanted to order included the spiced sweetcorn soup with sautéed spanner crab ($24), cod brandade with coddled duck egg, herb vinaigrette and petite salad ($26) and the charcuterie of cold cured meats, venison bresaola, salami, prosciutto marinated olive and crusty bread ($28). After plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, I picked the scallops with slow roasted peppers, confit cherry tomato and garlic puree ($26). I'd had scallops as an entree for lunch at 1889 Enoteca the day before, so I thought I'd see how the two dishes compared.

After enjoying a refreshing gin & tonic (made with Bombay Sapphire - my favourite gin), we shared a bottle of 2007 Escarpment Pinot Gris from Malborough ($79). Although I'd had the Escarpment pinot noir before, this was my first taste of the pinot gris, which turned out to be a good match with the scallops.

We didn't have to wait too long for the entrees to arrive. The scallops were impressively presented and were perfectly cooked. There's nothing worse than a tough, overcooked scallop, but these were excellent - only just cooked in the middle. I found the flavour of the slow roasted pepper and cherry tomatoes overpowered the delicate flavour of the scallops, so I didn't end up eating too much of the puree, and focused on the lovely scallops instead.

In between the entree and main course, our table (and most of the restaurant) were startled by some very loud swearing being shouted around the room. I thought that some crazy person must have wandered in to the restaurant and started shouting some pretty terrible language. I won't repeat what was said, but let's just say it made Gordon Ramsay sound like a kitten. We were even more shocked when we realised that it had come from the kitchen - not what a diner wants to be hearing at a top Brisbane restaurant while enjoying a slow Friday lunch. If that's going to happen in the kitchen, then the door to the dining room should remain well and truly shut. As the person said sitting across from me - if her mother had been there, she would never return. I think that probably went for a few others in the room as well.

After that bizarre event, our mains arrived. All except one of us on the table had ordered the beef cheeks, which were one of the specials for the day. I had a really hard time choosing my main course from the menu, which included swordfish sous vide with tomato compote, celery & artichoke noodles and jus gras ($38), glazed pork loin with white wine cabbage, apple and cider purée, pork crackling and mustard dressing ($38) and grilled rare tuna with braised orange endive and red wine sauce ($38).

The beef cheeks were served with big, chunky lardons, button mushrooms and potato mash. As you'd expect, the beef cheeks were meltingly tender - our waiter told us they'd been cooked for 18 hours. Although I enjoyed the dish, it reminded me of a beef bourginon, and just lacked a bit of wow factor. Maybe I had just ordered the wrong thing off the menu.

We had a bottle of 2005 St Hugo cabernet sauvignon from Coonawarra ($75) which was drinking well, and went down very easily with the beef cheeks.

I hadn't really been blown away by my food so far, so I was really looking for something different by the time it came to dessert. Luckily I noticed on the menu that they were offering liquid nitrogen gastronomic nibbles, which was exactly what I needed. It immediately reminded me of the frozen chocolate I'd had as part of an amazing dessert at Absynthe.

Apart from the liquid nitrogen nibbles, there were some delicious sounding desserts, like coconut and palm sugar panna cotta with caramelized pineapple financier ($17) and hot chocolate marbre with crunchy honeycomb and vanilla bean ice cream ($17).

Our desserts took a long time to arrive, even though there were only four ordered around the table of six people. For the liquid nitrogen nibbles, I was invited up to the special station at the front of the restaurant. The chef put his industrial gloves on and poured in a decent amount of liquid nitrogen into a little bowl - it was all very theatrical. First up was a small chunk of honeycomb, which had been flavoured with a bit of mint. After a minute or so floating around in the liquid nitrogen, the chef popped it onto a little napkin and told me to throw it straight into my mouth. It pretty much disappeared as soon as it hit my tongue - even more crumbly than normal honeycomb. The mint gave it a great zing on the finish. This was my kind of dessert!

Next up was some apple sour mixture, which was probably my favourite of the liquid nitrogen nibbles - it had a fantastic tang to it after being completely frozen in the liquid nitrogen bowl. Finally I was served some black forest cake mousse, which was probably the least impressive of the three nibbles. While the chef was whipping these up, a few restaurant guests came up to watch and had a chat with me. It's great to be able to interact with other guests during a meal - I thought the liquid nitrogen stand was a great idea.

I had an espresso to finish up the meal, which was very well made - if only I didn't have to go back to work afterwards.

All up, the location and view over the river meant this was a really enjoyable lunch, on a perfect Brisbane afternoon. I walked in holding extremely high expectations, and although they probably weren't completely met, it's hard not to enjoy a lunch in this fantastic setting.

What does all this mean? A huge selection of modern Australian food, solid wine list, unique liquid nitrogen desserts and a super view out over the Brisbane river.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Modern, understated room with a fantastic river view
Value for Money - Ok
Wine - Good

175 Eagle Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 3229 3175
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Alchemy Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Rice Paddy

I go out of my way to support neighbourhood restaurants, so after seeing a few ads for the Rice Paddy in our local newspaper, we popped in for dinner on the weekend.

The Rice Paddy is in a fairly innocuous block of shops on South Pine Road at Everton Park. If you didn't know it was there, you'd probably drive right past it - luckily we were looking out for it. The main reason I wanted to visit was because there were dishes on the menu that were different from the regulars you usually come across at suburban Thai restaurants around Brisbane.

We arrived to be greeted by a couple of friendly staff, who showed us to our table. We were offered menus straight away, and two glasses of water were brought to the table. A wine cooler was brought out in a stand next to the table, with plenty of ice, and two glasses of wine were poured. By this stage, we felt very welcome.

The entrees didn't jump off the menu at me, so I ordered satay chicken, my favourite Thai starter. Other entree choices include vegetarian spring rolls, golden bags (rice pastry filled with stir fried chicken, coconut, corn & oyster sauce), fish cakes and Thai dippings (roti pastry served with chilli jam and satay sauce).

When I saw the size of my four satay chicken skewers, I was very concerned about how I would ever finish my main course. They were four very generous satay skewers, with plenty of chicken. Although a couple of bits of the chicken were a little gristly, they were otherwise tender, properly cooked and covered in plenty of Thai peanut sauce. Even though I didn't need to eat them all, they disappeared off the plate.

We also ordered a serve of the crispy tofu. These were little squares of tofu that had been deep fried and served with a peanut chilli sauce. When this dish arrived at the table it was obvious that it had only just come out of the deep fryer. The outside of the tofu was beautifully crisp, while the inside was still delicate and soft - they'd been perfectly cooked. I've had some great tofu dishes recently and this is another very impressive one (they were also great to dip into my satay sauce).

If none of the entrees are your bag, order a soup instead - tom yum (lemongrass, mushroom, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and chilli) or tom kha (coconut cream with lemon juice, mushroom, galangal and chilli). Each of the soups can be served with chicken, king prawns, seafood or vegetable & tofu.

Main course is where the menu gets more interesting. I went straight to the house specials, which include stir fried fish with ginger, duck garden, chicken kaffir lime leaves, king prawns tamarind, king prawns clay pot (sauteed king prawns with glass noodles, fresh ginger, black peppercorn and sesame sauce) and crying tiger (BBQ beef marinated with Thai herbs & oyster sauce, served with crushed roasted rice and spicy & sour sauce).

There were also some eye catching salads, like the lime pork salad (spicy pork cooked in lime sauce mixed with fresh vegetables), Rice Paddy golden salad (fresh salad greens with tofu and boiled egg served with peanut sauce and crispy sweet potato) and the prawn salad (cooked fresh prawns with lemon juice, fresh herbs and seasoned with chilli & lime dressing). I'll have to go back for the salads.

As much as I loved the sound of the crying tiger and the salads, I opted for the duck garden, thinking it might be presented in some very impressive fashion. Although there was no magical presentation, no-one would be disappointed by the size of the serving - it was huge. Unlike some duck dishes at Asian restaurants, this one was full of tender duck pieces. There were also plenty of vegetables - zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, carrot, sweetcorn, celery and cauliflower. While there was a distinct sesame flavour to the sauce, it didn't overpower the duck. A good (but not great) dish.

My wife ordered the stir fried vegetable & tofu with basil and chilli. As soon as it hit the table I could smell the amazing aromas of Thai basil. I only had a quick taste, but it was a lovely dish. The sauce was excellent - a bit of chilli kick complemented by the fragrant Thai basil. Plenty of vegetables and some more well-cooked tofu rounded off a delicious dish.

There are numerous other main courses, many of which you will find at your local suburban Thai restaurant - red, green, panang, massaman, yellow and chu chee curries, together with ten or so stir fry dishes. Most of main courses can be prepared with tofu and vegetables, so there are loads of options for non-meat eaters.

We both had so much of our main courses left that we asked for a couple of take away containers, not wanting to waste the food. The staff happily obliged and packaged them up with the coconut rice we didn't manage to eat either.

Service was terrific and friendly throughout the night. Our waitress happily re-filled my wine glass continually (which is almost unheard of at a BYO restaurant) and we were never short of water on the table. There was a good, comfortable space between courses, which we really needed because of the amount of food. All up our dinner was $55 (which included a Thai style iced tea), so it was a great value meal.

Although I wouldn't say the Rice Paddy is the best Thai food I've ever had, its a solid suburban Thai restaurant that I'll happily return to, so I can explore the rest of the menu.

What does all this mean? Well priced, tasty Thai food with very friendly service. Worth a visit to try interesting Thai dishes you don't often see around Brisbane.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Casual suburban restaurant, with Thai decorations
Value for Money - Great
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Great

Rice Paddy
Shop 5, 544 South Pine Road
Everton Park 4058
P - 07 3162 5219

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Luke Nguyen's Vietnam

Unfortunately my favourite food show of the moment, My Family Feast, has now finished up. Luckily for all of us though, the great people at SBS have replaced it with another food show - Luke Nguyen's Vietnam.

Luke Nguyen was born in Vietnam, but is now the chef and owner of Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney (I still haven't made it there yet). I watched the first episode last week, and he cooked some amazing dishes around Saigon - he makes them look so easy. The beef with wild betel leaf and lemongrass that he cooked on a street vendor's little van looked particularly tasty.

If you love Vietnamese food, then its definitely worth adding to your viewing schedule - Thursday nights at 7.30pm on SBS1. And stay tuned afterwards for Costa's Garden Odyssey, which is the most entertaining gardening show I've ever seen on TV - I'm hooked.

Luke Nguyen also seems to have a new cookbook out, called The Songs of Sapa, which I've been eyeing off at Borders. I think it will find its way into my cookbook collection sooner or later...

Luke Nguyen's Vietnam
Thursday nights, 7.30pm - SBS1
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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Breakfast Creek Hotel

It's been years since I've had a steak at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. As my wife is a vegetarian, steak restaurants don't usually get a look in for dinner. But our baby shower was the perfect chance for me to round up a few carnivorous friends and pop into the Breakfast Creek for a leisurely lunch.

Although the pub does offer food other than steak (including vegetarian meals), beef seems to be the main reason people visit for lunch. And if it's steak you're after, you can choose from not only the cut, but also the breed of the beast:

Nolan meats private selection rib eye on the bone - $37.50

Rib fillet finished on 100 day grain fed (bos taurus x angus) - $28.50

Prime Rump finished on 100 day grain fed (bos taurus) - $27.90

Nolan meats private selection T-bone - $29.90

Wagyu Rump grain fed (350 days plus) - $33.00

Large eye fillet finished on 100 day grain fed (bos taurus) - $36.90

Petite eye fillet finished on 70 day grain fed (bos taurus) - $28.00

Fillet mignon finished on 70 day grain fed (bos taurus) - $29.50

New Yorker 100 day grain fed (bos taurus) - $29.90

Wagyu Striploin from the Darling Downs - $39.00

750gm T-bone 120 to 150 days grain fed (bos taurus) - $45.90

All of the steaks are served with the Breakfast Creek's famous coleslaw, tomato and an Idaho potato topped with bacon sauce (which I can remember eating there when I was about 10 years old) or salad and chips. Your steaks can also be served with mushroom, chilli or pepper sauce. Breadrolls are still served wrapped up in napkins, keeping with tradition.

After a fair bit of indecision, I ordered the Wagyu rump, medium rare with salad and chips. I was tossing up between that, the New Yorker (which looked fantastic) and the Wagyu striploin. All of the steaks are on display in a big cabinet as you line up to order, which helps (or hinders) the decision making process. I skipped the sauce, remembering the sage advice of a good friend (a butcher's son) - that if a steak is good enough, you don't need sauce.

You wander back to your table with a little beeper, which starts to go crazy once your meals are ready. My steak was a good size, and had been cooked perfectly. It was still tender right through and had a lovely flavour. I had no quibbles paying $33 for it. It still amazes me that plenty of places in the CBD serve far inferior steaks for around about the same price and manage to get away with it.

There were no complaints from around the table. Between us we had ordered a good selection of the various steaks. Although I was very happy with the Wagyu rump, the consensus around the table was that the Wagyu striploin was the winner. For $39 you'd hope it would be good.

After our steaks were cleaned up, we headed into the public bar, and felt like we'd gone back in time about 30 years. The public bar at the Breakfast Creek looks like it hasn't changed in a long time. I find it sad that so many pubs around Brisbane have been "modernised", losing their historical charm. No chance of that in the public bar at the Breakfast Creek. It was such a refreshing experience that we spent most of the afternoon in there, watching the Lions game and just observing the regulars. The other attraction of this bar is that the Breakfast Creek is (as far as I know) the only pub left in Queensland that still sells XXXX "off the wood" (ie from wooden casks).

I'm in no hurry to rush back to the Breakfast Creek this weekend, but we all really enjoyed both the steaks and the atmosphere in the public bar. Although there are plenty of challengers around Brisbane for great steaks, it's good to see that the Breaky Creek can still walk the walk.

What does all this mean? Good steak, an authentic public bar and XXXX off the wood - it's a Brisbane icon.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Collect your meals from the counter
Ambience - Relaxed outside seating, but can be noisy on weekends
Value for Money - Good
Wine - OK, but stick to XXXX off the wood
Vegetarian - Limited selection

Breakfast Creek Hotel
2 Kingsford Smith Drive
Breakfast Creek 4010
P - 07 3262 5988
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Breakfast Creek Hotel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Valley Fiesta 2009

This year's Valley Fiesta is almost here - it's happening next weekend, 23 to 25 October 2009.

I know Valley Fiesta isn't a food festival, but it is a great chance to head into the Valley for drinks and dinner, followed by some terrific live music. This year there are three stages, and once again all the entertainment is free. Artists on the bill next weekend include Bertie Blackman, Kev Carmody, CW Stoneking, the Panda Band and Hungry Kids of Hungary. I'm planning on catching Bertie Blackman on Saturday night, but you can look through the whole Valley Fiesta program here. In addition to the great line up of music, the program also includes theatre and visual arts this year.

So round up a few friends, head off to your favourite Valley bar/cafe/restaurant and then make the most of a fantastic weekend of free entertainment.

Valley Fiesta
Friday 23 October to Sunday 25 October 2009
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Saturday, 17 October 2009

Vespa Pizza

Unfortunately I don't get to write about many pizza places in Brisbane, because pizza is one of those things that was cruelly taken away from me when I found out I had coeliac disease (cue sad music).

Over the last couple of years though I've been perfecting a thin, crispy, gluten-free pizza base at home, but I've had a lot of trouble finding a good one out in the restaurant world. I suspect the main problem is that while a few restaurants around the place are now serving gluten-free pizza bases, the people preparing them don't eat the finished product on a regular basis, so the usual quality controls may slip by the wayside. The main disappointment, after trying plenty of gluten free bases, is that they tend to go really soggy. From my experience at home, the trick to a good gluten free base is pre-cooking it first, so it's on the way to getting crispy, then top with only a few ingredients and cook at a high heat. One day I'll remember to post up a recipe for my gluten free capricciosa pizza.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, one of my readers recommended Vespa Pizza at New Farm. We popped in a couple of weekends ago to give their pizzas a try. Vespa Pizza is right next door to Tandoori King (my current favourite Indian restaurant) on Merthyr Road.

We arrived at 7pm, which is a bit early for dinner in my book, but now we have a 3 month old daughter we don't get a lot of say in dinner time. Even though it was early, the place was packed. The tables out the front were full, the tables inside were almost full, and all the tables along the side courtyard area were also full. That's usually a good sign.

We were shown to a table in the side courtyard. It was pretty dark, except for the fairy light on the table - it would be the perfect table for a big date. I was immediately attracted to the Moroccan-style lamp on the side wall. On our trip to Morocco I was desperate to buy a Moroccan light shade, but had no idea how to get it back to Australia. Luckily our daughter was equally as transfixed by the light shade, which kept her entertained for most of our meal.

After having a look at their menu online, Vespa sounded like my kind of pizza place. Call me traditional, but I'm really not a fan of lamb shanks, Moroccan chicken and/or satay sauce on pizza - when it comes to pizza, I like them simple.

We didn't have a lot of time, so we weren't really interested in starters. But if you get to your table early, waiting for late arrivals, there are some tasty sounding entrees, including basil, diced vine tomatoes, buffalo feta and olive oil bruschetta ($8.50), crispy polenta pieces with rosemary and garlic aioli ($7) and marinated artichokes with fennel, mint and basil ($11).

We went straight for the pizzas. There are 20 to choose from, most of which only contain a few toppings. I fairly quickly narrowed it down to capricciosa (my favourite all-time pizza - pancetta, salami, olives, mushrooms, anchovies, red peppers - $19), suppresed (sopressa with tomato, olives and chilli - $18.50), pancetta and buffalo feta with rosemary and cracked pepper ($18.50) and salami and mushroom with basil, mozzarella and truffle oil ($18.50). I was in one of my "try something different" moods, so I went for the pizza bianco instead (pancetta, olives, cherry tomatoes, artichokes, capers, sea salt and fior di latte cheese - $19.50).

There's also a good range of pizzas to choose from if you're vegetarian (as you'd expect from a traditional pizzeria) including margherita (semi dried roma tomatoes with fior di latte cheese and fresh basil leaves - $18.50), mushroom ragout with spinach and feta ($19.50) and carciofi (artichoke hearts, buffalo feta, oven dried cherry tomatoes and rosemary - $19.50).

We thought we'd order a salad as well, just for a bit of variety, and the Caprese style salad took our fancy (vine tomatoes, fior di latte cheese, torn basil and olive oil - $12.50).

Although we had to ask a couple of times for our bottle of water to show up, the pizzas didn't take long to arrive. My pizza arrived first. Even though it had a gluten free base, it was thin and really crispy around the edges. They hadn't managed to get the crispiness through the whole base (if I was to be very picky) but it was probably the best gluten free base I've eaten at a restaurant. As for the toppings, they were excellent. Forget the Pizza Hut "load it up with 5 centimetres of toppings" - this pizza featured a few well chosen toppings, sparingly spread over the base. The white pizza (pizza bianco) meant there was no tomato sauce on the base, which again helped the flavour of the toppings to shine. I thought the capers might overwhelm the rest of the toppings, but they turned out to be tiny little ones, and everything worked together remarkably well. I managed to eat all but the last piece - it would have been rude to let such a good pizza go to waste.

My wife had ordered the carciofi pizza, which also turned out to be very tasty. There was a good, thin base which was perfectly crispy. The buffalo feta was apparently the star of the pizza, but worked well with the artichoke, cherry tomatoes and rosemary.

Our salad turned out to be very good, matching the quality of the pizzas. Forget thin slices of tomato & cheese that you usually come across with a Caprese salad - this one had huge big chunks of fior di latte cheese and equally large chunks of ripe tomatoes. There were plenty of basil leaves, either torn or cut into tiny bits. It was another reminder as to how good a simple salad can taste when it only contains top ingredients.

There is a very compact wine list, which features Italian wines and varietals. It was a fairly warm night, so I went with a glass of the Tuesner Salsa rose ($8.50/glass). Luckily it had a good level of acidity, which really helped with the strong Italian flavours on the pizza. Keeping with the Italian feel of the night, my wife ordered a San Pellegrino pompelmo soft drink ($3.50).

Other than having to ask for water a couple of times, our waitress was very friendly and unobtrusive. Our orders were taken quickly, and the pizzas were out within half an hour - good service all round.

I will definitely be back to Vespa Pizza to explore the rest of the menu. In these days where fast food places pile more and more tasteless toppings onto pizza, it's good to see that there are still restaurants like Vespa that concentrate on quality. If (like me) you're on a gluten free diet, put Vespa on your must visit list.

Sorry there are no photos, but our table was too dark for me to get any decent ones.

What does all this mean? Delicious, thin, crispy pizzas which each focus on a few high quality ingredients. A must visit if you're looking for good gluten-free pizza.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Ambience - Casual, with seats out the front, inside and along the side
Vegetarian - Good
Wine - Compact selection, but pizza friendly
Value for Money - Good
Gluten Free - Great

Vespa Pizza
148 Merthyr Road
New Farm 4005
P - 07 3358 4100
W -

Vespa Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, 12 October 2009

Brisbane Big City Barbecue

Sick and tired of your local CBD food court lunch? Looking for something different to set your tastebuds on fire? Then wander along to the Brisbane Big City Barbecue this Friday lunchtime at Riparian Plaza.

You can buy a lunch pack voucher for $8 at Riparian Plaza (from 12pm-2pm) until Wednesday, which will get you a sausage in roll (or corn), nuts/dried fruit and a choice of bottle of water or soft drink. Vouchers will also be on sale during Friday.

There will also be raffle tickets on sale, with prizes worth over $10,000, including a Virgin return flight for two to Phuket, a Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicle for a weekend and a $500 Julie Tengdahl voucher.

Proceeds from this year's BBQ will go towards Drug Arm and the Lord Mayor's Community Trust, so make sure you pop down for lunch on Friday.

Brisbane Big City Barbecue
Friday 16 October 2009, 11.30am to 2pm
Riparian Plaza
71 Eagle Street
Brisbane 4000
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Sunday, 11 October 2009


After trying to eat at Zafron one night only to find the place full, I learnt my lesson and booked ahead to make sure it didn't happen again. Zafron is on Brunswick Street at New Farm, basically across the road from the old Village Twin cinema. Zafron is a Persian/Mediterranean restaurant, which means there is a wide selection of food on the menu.

As you walk in there are tables on the deck at the front, but the tables inside have a bit more atmosphere, especially because you can look at the enormous grill at the back of the room. I wouldn't want to be sitting at the table next to it, but it does look impressive. We sat in a booth type table on one side of the room. Although we'd booked for 4 people, it was a real squeeze fitting all our food on the table during the night.

There are some terrific starters at Zafron. We ordered one of the tapas shared plates for $25. The tapas plate had dolme (vine leaves stuffed with lamb & beef mince, split peas, rice, walnuts, blackcurrants and herbs), eggplant rolls (charred eggplant slices rolled with semi dried tomatoes, herbs & feta), kashki-badem-joon (lamb & eggplant slow cooked with goat's yoghurt & mint) and triangles of filo pastry stuffed with spinach, feta and pine nuts. The platter was delicious (the eggplant rolls and kashki-badem-joon were the winners), and a perfect way to start the night - I love having lots of little tasting dishes as an entree.

If you'd rather start the night off with dips, try the Mediterranean dip platter ($15) or the Persian dip platter ($15), each of which is served with three different dips, Turkish bread and fried lavash crisps.

Although it took me a while to pick a main course (there were a few that stood out), I eventually settled on their house specialty, the chello kebab ($28). These were chicken & lamb kebabs marinated with saffron, yoghurt & herbs and then char grilled on the Turkish barbeque. The kebabs were served with saffron rice, Persian yoghurt and a little salad. The kebabs were delicious, and the Persian yoghurt was a great accompaniment to both the lamb and chicken.

I also tried the Caspian chicken ($26), described on the menu as the chef's Persian nouveau signature dish. The Caspian chicken was a chicken fillet coated in pomegranate nectar and crushed roasted pinenuts which had been pan fried, then baked. It was served with a creamy saffron sauce, caramelised carrots and baby spinach. The Caspian chicken looked great, but I found it very rich - I wasn't convinced that the tangy pomegranate flavour gelled with the creamy saffron sauce.

Service during the night was friendly and generally attentive. At one stage our tiny table had so much food on it that the waitress ended up putting a bottle of water on the floor next to the table, because there was no room left. You can BYO wine, and corkage is $6 per bottle.

There is a good selection of meals for vegetarians, and gluten free meals are clearly marked on the menu (which was great for me).

Overall, Zafron is a great place to visit with a few friends, to try food that you don't come across in Brisbane very often. The entrees are particularly good - I'd be more than happy just to spend the night grazing on loads of the shared platters.

What does all this mean? A great range of tasty Persian & Mediterranean food, with excellent entrees to share around the table.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Ambience - Persian decorations inside, with a giant Turkish BBQ
Value for Money - Good
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Good selection

7/726 Brunswick Street
New Farm 4005
P - 07 3358 2655
W -

Zafron on Brunswick on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Queensland Multicultural Festival

This year's Queensland Multicultural Festival is coming up next weekend, on Sunday 18 October 2009. It's one event that I really love, and make sure that I get to every year.

Why? Because there are food stalls from all over the world, people from loads of nationalities, music, multicultural entertainment and best of all, it's free!

Food of course is the main reason I go, but there are plenty of activities for kids, so it's also a great family day out. If you haven't been before, its a fantastic way to spend a few hours, especially if the warm weather sticks around.

Queensland Multicultural Festival
Sunday 18 October 2009, 10am to 8pm
Roma Street Parkland
Roma Street
Brisbane 4000
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Friday, 9 October 2009

BeerMasons Sunday Tasting

If you head along to Oktobertfest this weekend and find yourself suffering beer withdrawal symptoms by Sunday, then grab a ticket to BeerMasons' Sunday beer tasting.

BeerMasons recently received plenty of publicity when Chris Badenoch (one of its staff) made it down to the last few contestants on MasterChef, but was pipped at the post.

Anyway BeerMasons is putting on a tasting this Sunday which features beers from Flying Dog Brewery (USA), Nogne O (Norway), Rogue (USA) and a new release brew from Matilda Bay. Tickets are $35, which includes a sample of at least 5 beers and tapas. Best of all, a $10 donation from each ticket will go to the Royal Children's Hospital music therapy unit. Apparently Chris from MasterChef will be there as well.

You'll need to get tickets from the BeerMasons website.

BeerMasons Sunday Tasting
Sunday 11 October 2009, 12.30pm
Grand Central Hotel
270 Ann Street
Brisbane 4000
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Tuesday, 6 October 2009


I've been posting up loads of wine events recently, so it's only fair that I correct the balance with a few beer related ones.  The first festival of beer is Oktoberfest, which takes place over the next two weekends at the RNA Showgrounds.

Oktoberfest will feature Krombacher beer from Germany, together with Jagermeister and Tyrrell's wine (which is Australian, not German).  As you'd expect from a German beer festival, there will also be plenty of hearty, filling food, including preztels (compulsory with beer), wursts, Schweinshaxen (spit-roasted pork hocks with traditional Bavarian crackling and sauerkraut), schnitzels, gingerbread, pastries and strudels.  It all sounds delicious to me, but you might need a month of exercise to work off all that German beer & food.

To keep you entertained while you knock back a few beers, there will be an Oktoberfest Oompah band from Munich, German dancing and Miss Oktoberfest & German Strongman competitions.

Entry is $10 on Friday or Sunday, but it's $15 if you visit on Saturday.  You can pre-buy tickets through Ticketek.

Friday 9 October - Sunday 11 October 2009
Friday 16 October - Sunday 18 October 2009
RNA Showgrounds
Gregory Terrace
Bowen Hills  4006
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Sunday, 4 October 2009


For the chance to enjoy all things Italian in Brisbane, head along to Fieritalia in New Farm Park on Sunday, 18 October 2009.

The festival will feature loads of Italian themed activities during the day, including a market day, wine tasting, Italian beer garden, grape stomping competitions, music, Italian cooking demonstrations, Venetian face painting and Italian food stalls.

Entry is $5 and you can find out more details for the day on the Fieritalia website.

Sunday 18 October 2009, 10am to 5pm
New Farm Park
Corner Brunswick and Sydney Streets
New Farm  4005
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Saturday, 3 October 2009

El Taco

El Taco Mexican restaurant was the auspicious venue for our 3 week old daughter's first dinner out. We'd eaten at El Taco about 5 or so years ago, but hadn't been back since. Seeing as it's just down the road, it was a good candidate for the 2-3 hour dinner window we had.

We knew the main courses were very filling, so we took it easy on the starters - we just ordered one serve of guacamole with corn chips, thinking that should be a safe bet in a Mexican restaurant. Unfortunately, while the guacamole was obviously fresh, it really didn't have much flavour. In fact we had to put a giant blob of it on the corn chips even to get a taste of avocado. Although the corn chips were thick and crunchy, we found the guacamole underwhelming.

If you're not a fan of guacamole, other entrees on the menu at El Taco include chilli dip, frijole dip (savoury mashed beans topped with chilli sauce) and a variety of nachos & tacos.

When it came to mains I ordered the chilli con carne (ground beef with whole beans, tomatoes, onions and chilli). After we had ordered, the waiter came out and told us that they had run out of rice for the night. It was only about 7.30pm at the time, so I was a bit surprised to find out that a Mexican restaurant had run out of rice. It was even more surprising considering that there was an IGA open about 50 metres up the road.

The waiter then seemed a bit taken aback when I said I'd like to change my order - I wasn't particularly keen to have chilli beef served with green salad. So instead I ordered one chicken enchilada and one beef enchilada. The menu described the enchiladas as "cheese with seasoned beef or chicken wrapped in a soft tortilla, covered with spicy chilli sauce, topped with more cheese and shallots and baked to mouth watering perfection". Although it was a very generous serving, the enchiladas were a disappointing because they didn't really have any distinctive flavour - more of a chilli kick in the sauce would have been welcome.

My wife ordered an enrollada with beans (an enrollada is an enchilada topped with sour cream). Again the enrollada was a filling, generous serve, but it didn't pack much punch in the way of flavour.

Overall I'd have to say that on this visit we found the food disappointing. Each of the dishes we ordered was just a bit bland for my liking. One of the main reasons I enjoy eating out is to eat food that we don't usually cook at home. Unfortunately, based on the dishes we ate on this visit, we cook tastier Mexican food at home. El Taco was fairly busy the night we were there, so it certainly has its share of supporters.

Other than the bizarre rice episode, service was friendly throughout the night. El Taco is BYO, and there is a handy bottle shop on Blackwood Street, if you find yourself thirsty.

What does all this mean? Generous servings of Mexican food at reasonable prices, but the meals could do with a bit more punch and variety of flavour.

food bling ratings
Food - OK
Service - Good
Ambience - Casual family surroundings with Mexican ornaments
Vegetarian - OK
Wine - BYO
Value for Money - Good

El Taco
50 Blackwood Street
Mitchelton 4053
P - 07 3355 9723