Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Fallen Angel

When I was in Peru at the end of last year, I was fortunate to eat at some really memorable places. One of those was Fallen Angel in Cusco.

Generally speaking I tend to avoid restaurants full of tourists, as I'd much rather eat at a vaguely authentic place. But our guide had booked us in to Fallen Angel on the last night of our trip. As soon as we stepped through the door, we realised this was no regular restaurant. The fit-out was completely over the top. There were angels everywhere, murals, random verses painted on the walls, lots of glass and plenty of quirky decorations.

But our table turned out to be even better than the surroundings, because it was a fishtank. It looked like a really big old bath that been filled with brightly coloured fish, a few plants and covered with a thick sheet of glass. After we were shown to our table we spent the first few minutes just watching the fish. The next 5-10 minutes were then occupied by us all trying to get a good photo of the fish, which proved a bit tough (as you can see).

The menu covers salads, soups, pasta and steaks. Most of us opted for the 250 gram organic tenderloins, because we hadn't had too much luck finding a really good steak in Peru. The tenderloins came with loads of different sauces, including Chancacon (Colorado chilli and Peruvian molasses), Cool-antro (marinated in ginger, sugar and garlic and served with freshly chopped coriander) and basil, pepper and aniseed. Each of the steaks were 40 Soles (about $18), which is actually a pretty expensive meal in Peru.

I ordered a tenderloin with red wine and fresh rosemary, thinking that the steaks here should be good enough not to need too much in the way of sauce. All of the steaks were served with a side of rice, potatoes, potato rosti, veges or some very suggestive looking mashed potato (two small mounds of mashed potato, each topped with a pea).

My steak was ok, but not as good as the surroundings. It tasted like it had been stewed in a pan on low heat, but was tender, and the sauce complemented the steak well.

As it turned out, the non-steak dishes were the best. My wife enjoyed her yellow potato and red beetroot gnocchi. Not only did it have an amazing presentation, it tasted just as good as it looked. Although I didn't get to try it, one of our friends ordered a salad that was topped with rose petals - no half measures on presentation here.

If the steaks were a bit underwhelming, the cocktails made up for it - they were fantastic. The fruit cocktails were real standouts. We had spent a decent chunk of the afternoon at a pub watching Peru play a world cup qualifying game (which they lost), so the cocktails were going down well by this stage of the night. My original margarita was great, but not a patch on the passionfruit daiquiri, which was one of the most refreshing and tangy cocktails I've ever tried. It was such an amazing colour too.

The crazy design even extended to the toilets. There were only two, and although there was some bizarre symbol above each door, I had no idea which one was the gents. One of the toilets was decorated with barbed wire and roses, and the other had every centimetre of its walls covered in cracked mirrors. We all came back to the table and asked each other which loo we thought was the men's or ladies - it just added to the whole experience.

Although some of our food wasn't a standout, the decor and drinks make this a memorable place for a meal. Sure, no-one wants to eat a place like this every night when you're on holidays, but it was the perfect place to go for a last dinner with some great friends we had met on our trip, before we all headed back to various parts of the globe.

What does all this mean? Over the top decorations and amazing cocktails make this the perfect place to remind you that you're on holidays.

food bling ratings
Food - OK
Service - Good
Ambience - Amazing, over-the-top surroundings, with fish swimming around under your table
Value for Money - Good
Vegetarian - Good
Wine - Forget about wine for the night and drink the amazing cocktails instead

Fallen Angel
Plazoleta Nazarenas 221
Cusco Peru

Saturday, 25 April 2009

MasterChef Australia

It doesn't seem that long ago when I put up a post for budding chefs to become contestants on MasterChef Australia, but the show starts on Monday night - 7.30pm on Channel Ten.

Channel Ten's website gives this rundown on their new show:

Thousands of applications flooded in from across the country. Students, mums, professional sportsmen, solicitors, nurses and cleaners all applied. Young and old, each came prepared with raw talent and enthusiasm to leave their old life behind and enter the kitchen with one driving aim: To become Australia's first ever MasterChef.

Hosted by Sarah Wilson, MasterChef Australia gives budding chefs the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop their cooking skills, to be mentored by the best, and ultimately make a change in their lives.

I'm really looking forward to it. No doubt there will be some disasters (which are usually great to watch), but at the same time I love to see people whipping up some amazing dishes under loads of pressure.

Judging by my quick glance of the tv guide today, it looks like the episodes this week will cover the audition process around Australia. That should definitely make for some interesting viewing. Hopefully we'll all still be watching it this time next week.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Susan the Providore

I know it's a bit of a tenuous link for a food blog, but I really love the new CGU ad, featuring the fast-rhyming Susan the Providore. If you haven't seen the ad yet, you can watch it here. It was filmed at the Rosalie Gourmet Market, so I suppose that justifies my post. Why can't there be more original ads like this one?

By the way, if you've never been, Rosalie Gourmet Market is definitely worth a visit. It's the perfect spot to drop into next time you're driving off to a long, lazy picnic.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

d'lish cafe

After being sadly rejected by my previous favourite breakfast spot on Tedder Avenue, Main Beach Delicatessen, we wandered around until we found d'lish cafe. The main factor influencing my choice for breakfast was the amount of gluten free options on the menu.

The friendly waitress at d'lish confirmed they had gluten free toast - happy days! After having a look at their giant breakfast menu, we were sold and quickly shown to a table on the footpath. At d'lish you can order anything from a bowl of muesli to a breakfast burrito.

I was in one of my "simple is good" moods, and ordered the bacon and eggs with gluten free toast ($10.90). My poached eggs had a fantastic orange colour, were obviously fresh and had been perfectly cooked. They needed the slightest nudge to burst open across my plate. Coupled with some multi grain gluten free toast and good bacon, this was a great breakfast for the price (especially when you consider we were sitting on Tedder Avenue, known for its inflated prices). No complaints from me.

My wife ordered the sauteed mushrooms with wilted spinach, tomato and goat's cheese on Italian bread ($12.90). This was really delicious. It was a plate of chopped up field mushrooms, which had been sauteed with the spinach and plenty of high quality goat's cheese. The Italian bread was also excellent. A great vegetarian breakfast all round. It even looked good to me, but I was too busy munching away on my bacon.

Coffee at d'lish is Piazza del Oro. We both had flat whites ($3.50), which were well made.

Service was quick and friendly. d'lish served us two very good breakfasts at great prices. When you throw in the always fascinating parade of Tedder Avenue locals that stroll past, what more could you want for breakfast?

What does all this mean? A great range of breakfasts at low prices, with friendly, snappy service.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Relaxed Tedder Avenue cafe vibe
Value for Money - Great
Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Good

d'lish cafe
Corner of Tedder & Cronin Avenues
Main Beach 4217
P - 07 5561 1595

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Farmers' Market in the City

I regularly go along to Jan Power's Farmers' Market at Mitchelton, although recently I've done a great job of being away from Brisbane when they are actually on.

Luckily for me (and you), Jan Power's Farmers' Market is now also held in the city every Wednesday. You'll find the market at Reddacliff Place, which is at the top of the Queen Street Mall (just across from the front of the Treasury Casino).

I wandered up a couple of weeks ago and was surprised at just how many stalls they have managed to fit into the space. There are plenty of food stalls, and it's great to see them open till 6pm, so you can drop by on your way home (if there's any stock left by that time of the day). It sure beats a trip to Woolworths or Coles on the way home at the end of the day.

Jan Power's Farmers Market
Wednesdays, 10am -6pm
Reddacliff Place, Queen Street Mall
Brisbane 4000
W - http://www.janpowersfarmersmarkets.com.au/

Friday, 17 April 2009

House of Hew

On my last couple of trips up to the Sunshine Coast I've enjoyed some great frozen yoghurt at House of Hew at Mooloolaba. Every now and again when I can't handle the sweetness of say Royal Copenhagen, Baskin Robbins or a gelati (which isn't very often), I find frozen yoghurt fits the bill perfectly.

House of Hew serves organic frozen yoghurt, which comes in assorted fruity flavours. The last few times I've tried the churned option, where natural yoghurt is mixed up with strawberries, blueberries, mango, mixed berries, cherries, pineapple, blackberries or raspberries. On the weekend I had a blackberry yoghurt in a tub ($4 for a single) - not only did it taste lovely and tangy, but the yoghurt was the most amazing bright purple colour from the blackberries.

If a tub of fruity frozen yoghurt isn't your thing, try out one of their smoothies instead. I'm sure they will taste just as good.

House of Hew
109 Mooloolaba Esplanade
Mooloolaba 4557

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


I went back to Urbane a couple of months ago, but I have to admit I've been a bit slack in putting up this post. The main reason for my slackness is that our dinner was so good, I wanted to make sure my post did the meal justice.

I also have to confess that Urbane is my favourite restaurant in Brisbane. Since returning from overseas in 2003, I've consistently had excellent food there. Now that Kym Machin is back at the helm, I think Urbane is probably serving the best and most consistent food in its history. Although I love eating at Urbane, it also means that every time I go I have extremely high expectations. Luckily it's yet to let me down.

When you come through the fairly innocuous looking door on Mary Street, there's a bar which takes up the left hand side of the room as you walk in. Most of the tables are at the back of the room, in a fairly small area. I really enjoy the dark colours and the feel of the room at Urbane, although I'd like it even more if the tables were spaced a bit further away from each other. It can get a bit noisy in here when it's full, which takes away from the intimate feel of the room.

Once we'd settled at our table, we were brought out two small tastes to wake up our tastebuds. I had a small slice of trout served with potato cream. My wife was served a dehydrated cherry tomato with potato cream and an onion ring. They were both a delicious start to the meal.

For first course I ordered rare roast squab breast dusted in coca nib, with caramelised onion puree and jamon gelee ($26.50). I am a real sucker for rare squab, so it wasn't a hard decision to make. Other entrees included seared blue fin tuna with confit fennel, olive cheeks, crispy onion rings & tomato oil ($26.50) and spiced venison carpaccio, baby beets & cress, plum wine and blackberry gelee ($26.50). It was a pretty strong selection of entrees across the board.

The presentation of my squab was excellent. It came on a big round plate, which had a few different levels on it. The squab was really rare, as I love it, which means it's juicy, tender and has a delicate gamey taste. All of the other flavours on the plate worked really well - the coca nibs had a real bitterness and depth of flavour, while the onion puree and jamon gelee added a contrast of textures. This really was one of the best entrees I was lucky enough to eat in 2008.

On the drinks side of things, I'd ordered a bottle of the 2000 Curly Flat pinot noir (good value at $106 given its age) which was a beautifully perfumed wine, and a perfect match with the rare squab.

The vegetarian at our table ordered the beetroot & chevre tart with herbs, grapefruit, shaved fennel and shaved parmesan. Again, this was another well presented dish. Although I didn't try any (I was too busy scraping up every last drop on my plate), I was told this was an excellent combination of flavours, with no one ingredient overwhelming the others.

After two lovely entrees, we were both looking forward to our main courses. Mains included confit kingfish, tiger prawns cooked in coconut juice & chilli, ginger agre-doux and coriander paste ($40), Wagyu fillet 6+ "Wellington" style, with fricasee of garlic gnocchi, morels & broad beans and pan fried foie gras ($52) and roast rack of lamb with honey parsnip puree, polenta gems, ratatouille and jus gras ($41).

I went for the slow cooked pork belly, chilli & mandarin caramel, marron tail and apple ($41.50). The combination of pork belly and seafood is another flavour match I love, and this one didn't let me down. Although it was a small serving, each of the flavours was lovely. There was even some crunchy crackling on top of the pork belly, adding another level of contrast to the dish. The tiny pieces of sweet apple on the plate were excellent when coupled with a piece of the tender pork belly. As with my entree, I was scraping every little drop of sauce off the plate before it left the table.

We also ordered the black winter & summer truffle risotto, with sauteed & crispy fried mushrooms and cepe foam ($41.50). Although this must be one of the most expensive vegetarian mains in Brisbane, it delivered on the taste front. There were plenty of both the black & white truffles, which made for a perfectly rich dish on a cool night.

Although we probably didn't need to, we ordered a side serve of green beans, sugar peas and lemon oil ($9). The greens were perfectly cooked, still with a slight bite to them and were a great contrast to the rich flavours on both our plates.

After all this rich food it was time for something sweet. I had trouble choosing a dessert, but eventually opted for the rocky road bombe Alaska with coconut choboust, raspberry and puff chocolate panna cotta ($16). Again, this dish was presented in a very cool fashion. There was a big conical tower of the bombe Alaska, that was served with strips of the "panna cotta". The bombe Alaska had some extremely concentrated peanut butter ice cream on the inside, which I thought overpowered everything else on the plate. But apart from the ice cream, the rest of the dish was fun, with plenty of marshmellowly textures.

Our other dessert was the Turkish delight souffle, with rosewater jubes, marshmellow and chocolate sorbet ($16). The Turkish delight souffle was nothing short of amazing. It managed to perfectly capture the delicate flavours of Turkish delight. The chocolate ice cream was also filled with tiny pieces of Turkish delight. Obviously a lot of thought had gone into this dessert, and it's one that I'll remember for a long time.

In the past I've found service at Urbane to be a little bit aloof. However on this visit it was good to see that service has become more friendly and slightly less formal, whilst still being very professional. The end result means that diners like you and me feel much more comfortable in the restaurant.

I was also glad to see that the wine list has really improved. I was particularly impressed with a few cellared selections on the list at very reasonable prices (like the Curly Flat pinot which we enjoyed).

I think Urbane really is a must visit food destination in Brisbane. I know it's expensive, but if you want to enjoy the best food in Brisbane, it's not going to come at happy meal prices. It also means that there aren't too many people out there that can eat at Urbane on a regular basis, which means it really is a special occasion kind of place. I try to get there once every twelve months or so, and save my pennies in the meantime.

What does all this mean? Brisbane's most innovative modern food, with a well thought out wine list and approachable, professional service. Next time you're looking for a special occasion restaurant, put Urbane at the top of your list.

food bling ratings
Food - Top Shelf
Service - Great
Ambience - A small room with dark wood and a modern feel
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Great
Vegetarian - Great

179 Mary Street
Brisbane 4000
P - (07) 3229 2271
W - http://www.urbanerestaurant.com/

Urbane on Urbanspoon

Monday, 13 April 2009

Bye Bye Bruno Loubet

I was sad to read in my Baguette newsletter this week that Bruno Loubet is heading back to the UK, apparently to open a gastro pub.

So if you haven't been lucky enough to try Bruno Loubet's food while he's been in Brisbane and Noosa, you've only got until 30 April to have lunch or dinner at Baguette. I still vividly remember an amazing dinner which I had with a few friends at Bruno's Tables a few years ago -his beetroot ravioli and the game charcuterie plate were standout dishes.

Although it will be a shame to lose such a great chef from Brisbane, he currently has a "recession busting" menu (with entrees under $20 and most mains under $30), so there's never been a better time to go to Baguette.

Baguette Bistrot & Bar
150 Racecourse Road
Ascot 4007
P - 07 3268 6168
E - info@baguette.com.au
W - http://www.baguette.com.au/

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Schulte's Meat Tavern

For so many years I've driven past Schulte's Meat Tavern on the way back from Toowoomba, wondering just what they sold (other than meat of course). Recently, on the way back from Peppers Hidden Vale, I dropped in to investigate.

To start with, there's a great range of meat, including beef, lamb and pork sourced from the local area. In addition to the fresh meat, there's a selection of smallgoods, including house-made wursts, which are famous for miles around (even my local Brisbane Woolworths sells Schulte's wursts). You can also buy a selection of wines (including Ballandean Estate) and plenty of specialty German food, like gherkins and sauerkraut.

I picked up two Kumamoto Wagyu rump steaks ($11.65 - which is actually grown on the property at Peppers Hidden Vale), some delicious prosciutto ($5), a bottle of Ballandean Estate Sylvaner ($16 - one of my favourite dessert wines) and a can of Almdudler ($2.35) which I'd never come across in Australia before. Almdudler is an Austrian soft drink, which I used to buy to wash down various kinds of wursts from the little snack stands in Vienna. Seeing a can on the shelf brought back some great food memories, so I just had to buy one.

Anyway Schulte's is a great place to drop into next time you're heading back to Brisbane from Toowoomba way. Not only will it break up the drive, but you're likely to walk out with some great local meat, smallgoods and wine.

Schulte's Meat Tavern
4424 Warrego Highway
Plainland 4341
P - 07 5465 6592

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Aratula Markets

Whenever we get out of Brisbane, I always try my hardest to try and pick up some real fruit and veges on the way back to the big smoke.

On the way back from Warwick after a great country wedding, we stopped at the Aratula Markets in (surprise) Aratula.

Aratula is a small town on the Brisbane side of Cunningham's Gap. On the weekend we stopped to buy some local potatoes, sweet potatoes, Queensland Blue pumpkin (they had an amazing range of pumpkin varieties), parsnip (a whole bag for $2!), onions, miniature yellow zucchini (it makes great pasta), broccoli and new season apples. Our whole box of real fresh fruit & veges only cost $15. The vegetables made the most delicious roast I have had in ages. The potatoes ($1.99/kilo) and onions were particularly amazing.

It just goes to show that you can actually taste the difference between fresh vegetables and those that we usually buy at the supermarket. Next time you're going through Aratula, make sure you stop at the Aratula Markets. You'll remember what good vegetables should taste like.

Aratula Markets
Cunningham Highway
Aratula 4309
P - 07 5463 8144

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Lark

I've been wanting to pay a visit to The Lark for ages. Sure I love The Bowery, but I'm always on the lookout for great cocktail bars. So the other night I rounded up a few friends and headed off to The Lark for my birthday.

There are a few distinct areas to sit in The Lark. You can take your pick from a few tables at the front, a stool at the bar, a table in the outside courtyard or the lounges upstairs. The lounges looked by far the comfiest, so it was a pretty easy decision in the end.

Once you've found a comfy spot, it's time to order a drink. The cocktail list is divided up into 3 parts - prelude, body and epilogue. Each part of the cocktail list contains about 18 drinks, so there are loads to choose from. Here are the ones which I was lucky enough to try during the night:

Lark Rum Punch - my first drink for the night - Matusalem Platino and Classico rum, Curacao, fresh lime juice, bitters and pineapple juice, served in a highball with a sprinkle of cinnamon ($15). This was a great, tangy punch, served with lots of ice, that I could have easily drank all night. A great way to kick off the evening.

Jackrabbit Slim - Calvados apple brandy and quince liqueur shaken with fresh lime juice and served in a Champagne flute ($15). Our waitress warned us this was very sour, but it was a good, tangy, refreshing kind of sour. The flute was topped with a wooden skewer that had small slices of apple fanned around it - a great presentation. Again another great cocktail to start off the night, and it also wins the prize for the best name on the list.

The 51 Martini - a vodka martini, made with Fino sherry as Vermouth and strained into a chilled, Cointreau rinsed glass, garnished with an anchovy stuffed olive ($15). I hardly ever order Martinis, but I thought if there was anywhere to order one, The Lark would be a good bet. It turned out to be excellent. Sure it was strong, but the fino sherry gave it a bit of a tang. I just found it to be a great mix of flavours. The 51 was served with the olive perched on a skewer, just touching the drink. I couldn't resist dropping it in, to give the drink a more salty, olive flavour. I also ate the olive at the end. Believe me, the taste of the anchovies completely wiped out the strong Martini flavour.

Spring Hill Fair - Martin Miller’s gin, Campari, vanilla sugar, pink grapefruit juice and orange bitters served straight up ($16). I only had a sip of this one, but it was a winner. You've probably guessed by now that I'm a definite fan of the zingy, tart cocktails.

Gibson Martini - Plymouth gin served in a slightly wet Martini, garnished with two balsamic cocktail onions ($15). Again, I only had a taste, but it was slightly less tangy/salty than the 51 Martini. The balsamic cocktail onions were divine.

Eastwood Fizz - Plymouth gin, peach liqueur, pineapple juice and lemon juice, topped with soda and a mint sprig ($15). Another refreshing, tangy cocktail that you could easily get wiped out on pretty quickly.

Although we got through a pretty good selection of cocktails off the list, there are plenty more that I can't wait to try next time, like the Silver Fox (Jose Cuervo Tradicionale Tequila, Falernum syrup, lime and Lark’s own apple reduction topped with a drizzle of blood orange), the Rum & Tea Swizzle (Mount Gay XO Rum, Pedro Ximenez sherry, chai tea syrup, lemon juice, Angostura Bitters swizzled till chilled), the Roisin Murphy (because she is so cool) and my old favourite, the Pisco Sour.

Service was a bit up and down. Although our waitress was excellent, and had an amazing knowledge of the list, the cocktails didn't come out very quickly. We were at The Lark for about an hour and a quarter, but only just managed to get 2 cocktails each. Not that anyone wants to rush a cocktail, but we had a dinner booking afterwards and were keen to have at least a couple of drinks at The Lark. Next time we may try popping downstairs to order straight from the bar, to speed things up.

The Lark also does food, including some tasty tapas type options. As we were off to dinner next, we only had a bowl of the blanched almonds with paprika and lemon salt ($6). They were very good - the perfect nibblies to have with good cocktails.

All up, The Lark is an excellent cocktail bar. I will have to go back a few more times before I can compare it to The Bowery, but I'm definitely looking forward to my next trip.

The Lark
1/267 Given Terrace
Paddington 4064
P - 07 3369 1299
E - info@thelark.com.au
W - http://www.thelark.com.au/

Lark Food and Drink on Urbanspoon