Sunday, 30 August 2009

Into Africa

This year's Brisbane Festival kicks off in a couple of weeks time, and there are a few food related events that have caught my eye.

The first one is Into Africa, on 26 September. Out of all the events in the program last year, this is the one I really wanted to get to, but then something came up on the day and I missed it. So this year its in the diary and I'm going no matter what.

Into Africa is free event, celebrating Brisbane's African community. It will feature plenty of live music during the day (including King Marong, Afro Mandinko, Ajak Kwai, Samoko, Afro Dizzi Act and the Big Fela Afrobeat Orchestra) along with food stalls, craft, dancing and drumming. I'm really keen to see what African food will be on offer - hopefully there will be plenty of authentic meals.

Into Africa
Saturday 26 September 2009, 12pm-8.30pm
Yeronga Park
School Road
Yeronga 4104
W -,101,4646,010100906.aspx

Friday, 28 August 2009

2010 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards - Part 2

Just in case you're just about to head off on a trip around Australia to sample the best food on offer, here are the top 20 restaurants in the 2010 Gourmet Traveller restaurant guide:
  1. Quay, NSW
  2. Marque, NSW
  3. Tetsuya's, NSW
  4. Vue de Monde, Vic
  5. Est., NSW
  6. Rockpool, NSW
  7. Pier, NSW
  8. Guillaume at Bennelong, NSW
  9. Becasse, NSW
  10. Claude's, NSW
  11. Berowa Waters Inn, NSW
  12. Jacques Reymond, Vic
  13. Rockpool Bar & Grill, NSW
  14. Cutler & Co, Vic
  15. Attica, Vic
  16. Aria, NSW
  17. Rockpool Bar & Grill, Vic
  18. Pearl, Vic
  19. Royal Mail Hotel, Vic
  20. MoMo, Vic

As you can see, there are no Queensland restaurants in the top 20. In fact, the top 20 are all from NSW and Victoria. The highest placed non-NSW/Victorian restaurant in the guide is The Manse in Adelaide (at #35).

Out of the top 20, the only restaurant I've eaten at is Quay, so obviously I need to get down to Sydney & Melbourne more often. I'm keen to try Claude's next time I'm in Sydney, so that will be one more off the list.

If you enjoy food, picking up a copy of the current month's Gourmet Traveller is a good investment. I think their restaurant guide is one of the best around. I take it with me pretty much everywhere, and it rarely lets me down.

Monday, 24 August 2009

2010 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards

Today in the post I received my new Gourmet Traveller magazine, which contained the winners of their 2010 Restaurant Awards. I thought it was a bit weird, considering that the awards were on tonight.

Quay in Sydney was judged to be the best restaurant in Australia this year. We actually ate there the night we got engaged, so it's an amazing meal that I'll never forget.

Here are the Queensland restaurants which made it into the top 100 in Australia, as judged by Gourmet Traveller:

Absynthe (#37)
Montrachet (#47)
E'cco (#48)
Restaurant Two (#50)
The Buffalo Club (#51)
Nu Nu (#69)
Vanitas (#81)
Wasabi (#83)
Berado's (#94)

So do you agree with Gourmet Traveller? Given that Urbane is currently closed, I'd have to say that Absynthe would be my pick, but I certainly haven't eaten at every restaurant in Queensland.

I'll do a more detailed post about the other winners later in the week.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Voyager Estate Wine Dinner

We Brisbanites really are being spoilt on the wine front at the moment. Just in case you won lotto on the weekend and are able to attend an unlimited amount of wine events, the next one you'll need a ticket to is the Voyager Estate wine dinner at Vino's on 2 September 2009.

Voyager Estate is one winery that I've been a big fan of over the last 5 years or so. I visited the cellar door in 2003, and was extremely impressed with their wines. Since then, I've been stashing away every release of their cabernet merlot, which has become one of the rising stars from Western Australia. Their chardonnay isn't far behind either.

Cliff Royle, the winemaker responsible for the stellar rise, has recently left, so it will be interesting to see the direction their wines take over the next 5 years or so.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, Travis Lemm (winemaker) and Steve James (viticulturist) from Voyager Estate will be attending the dinner, to guide you through the wines.

According to Stewarts (who are putting on the event) the night will feature "current release wines and rare back vintages alongside a carefully selected four course degustation menu". Tickets are $110 per person and you'll need to book ahead.

Voyager Estate Wine Dinner
Wednesday 2 September 2009, 7pm for 7.30pm
Level 1, Eagle Street Pier
1 Eagle Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3221 2085 (Stewarts Wine Co)

Kabuki 2 Go

I'm pretty lucky when it comes to eating sushi for lunch, because I've got an LR Sushi shop just across the road. I still haven't got around to putting up a post about its great sushi, but it will happen sooner or later. (By the way - if you want to avoid the crazy queue, go before 12pm).

In the meantime, it now has a quality competitor about 50 metres down the road, in the shape of Kabuki 2 Go. As you probably know, Kabuki is the Japanese restaurant at the Stamford Plaza Hotel. In the last week or so, it's opened up a take away sushi bar, just off Felix Street.

I wandered in the other day to see if it was as good as the rolls I've been buying from LR Sushi. The first thing I noticed was that the selection of rolls is smaller. There were only about 8-10 to choose from - at least that makes the choice easier. I bought 3 rolls - tofu, avocado & ginger, fresh salmon & avocado and a California roll. Each of the rolls was a good size - no skimping on ingredients here.

So what did they taste like? The short answer - excellent. I started with the California roll, because it looked like it was actually full of good crab (not seafood extender). It was probably the best of the three. The crab had a lovely, delicate flavour and by the time I'd finished it, I wished I had another. Next was the tofu, avocado & ginger, which I'd bought out of curiosity. Again this roll turned out to be delicious. The tofu and avocado were fresh and the pickled ginger provided a great contrast, both in flavour and texture. In comparison, the fresh salmon & avocado roll didn't bowl me over, but I think that's because its more delicate flavours were overwhelmed by the strong taste of the ginger in the tofu roll that I'd just eaten.

Although there isn't a huge selection of rolls, the quality is good. Kabuki 2 Go is also great value (considering the quality) with the rolls around the $2.20-$2.50 mark. You can also arrange take away catering platters if you call ahead.

With such good sushi on offer, I wonder how long it will be before Kabuki 2 Go starts eating into the long queue at LR Sushi just down the road? They are both streets ahead of the standard sushi rolls that you find in food courts around the city.

Kabuki 2 Go
Stamford Plaza Brisbane
Felix Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3221 1999

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Tastes of Gold Coast

A quick post about Tastes of Gold Coast, which has just started (I meant to write this post weeks ago). If you live at the coast, or are lucky enough to be down there over the next couple of weeks, there are loads of food events taking place as part of the Tastes of Gold Coast festival.

The festival runs until 6 September 2009. Some of the events include:

Waterfront Food & Wine Festival featuring George Calombaris & Tobie Puttock, taking place today at Carrara

Savour Gold Coast dinner featuring Queensland produce, on 1 September 2009

The Italian Lunch at Mt Tamborine, on 25 August 2009

Toast to the Coast, the signature event, on 4 September 2009

Of course, there's plenty more information on the Tastes of Gold Coast website.

Tastes of Gold Coast
21 August to 6 September 2009
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Lunch with Vanya Cullen

If there was one wine event in Brisbane that I would happily pay pretty much anything for, it's lunch with Vanya Cullen. Luckily, that's happening on Tuesday 1 September at Era Bistro.

The Cullen family was one of the pioneers of the Margaret River region in Western Australia. Vanya Cullen took over the mantle as the senior winemaker at Cullen in 1989 and has since become one of Australia's leading winemakers. Her flagship wine, the Diana Madeline, is widely regarded as one of the top cabernet blends in Australia. On top of that, Cullen has been actively pursuing biodynamics, receiving an organic vineyard certification in 2003.

I've been lucky enough to visit the cellar door a couple of times. Although the Cullen wines are sensational, its also a lovely spot to sit out on the verandah and enjoy a terrific lunch, right next to the vineyards.

If you can't jump on a plane tomorrow to Margaret River, the next best thing is to grab a ticket to lunch with Vanya Cullen at Era. Here are the food and wine matches:

Seared Scallop, Cucumber, flavours of Citrus
Tuna Loin, crisp Polenta & Pepperonata
Cullen ‘Mangan Vineyard’ Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Ceviche of Prawn
Cullen ‘Cullen Vineyard’ Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008

Western Australian Marron, Scampi Raviolo, Asparagus, Bisque & Sauce Vierge
Cullen Chardonnay 2006
Cullen Cabernet Merlot

Seared Margaret River Venison Loin, Witlof, Bacon, Walnuts & Port Jus
Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ 2007
Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ 2005

Pyengana Cloth Matured Cheddar & Ironstone Gouda with Muscatelles, Quince Paste & Lavosh
Cullen ‘Mangan Red’ Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot

Tickets to the lunch are $130, which are all inclusive (you'll need to reserve a ticket ahead). It's bound to be one of the best wine & food events in Brisbane this year.

Vanya Cullen Lunch
Tuesday 1 September 2009, 12pm
Era Bistro
Corner Melbourne & Merivale Streets
South Brisbane 4101
P - 07 3255 2033
E -
W -

Taste of Western Australia Wine Tasting

The wine regions of Australia really are coming to Brisbane at the moment. After Tasmania and Coonawarra tastings happening in the last week or so, our next visitor is from Western Australia.
Taste of WA is being held at the Stamford Plaza on Tuesday, 1 September 2009. Wineries that are attending include Plantagenet, Stella Bella, Ferngrove and Capel Vale. Judging from the website, it looks like some of the big guns from WA won't be there, but I always find these nights enjoyable, because you don't often get the chance to try such a diverse range of wines all in one go. Tickets are $35.

Taste of WA
Tuesday 1 September 2009, 5.30-8.30pm
Stamford Plaza Hotel
Edward Street
Brisbane 4000
W -

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

My Family Feast

SBS make some terrific food shows - Food Safari is probably my favourite food show of all time. So I hope that My Family Feast turns out to be just as good.

Each week, chef Sean Connolly (the host) visits a different family and gets to help out with the preparation of traditional food. As with Food Safari, My Family Feast covers a diverse range of cuisines, including Italian, Mandean Iraqi, Vietnamese (I can't wait for that episode), Cuban and Burmese.

The first episode kicks off next Thursday night on SBS One at 7.30pm, and focuses on Congolese food in Sydney. I'm hoping SBS puts the recipes up on their website, because it sounds like there's going to be some cracking food over the course of the show. I'm really looking forward to it.

My Family Feast
7.30pm Thursdays
First Episode on 27 August 2009

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Balnaves Wine Dinner

Yes I know this is yet another post about wine. But there are so many good wine dinners on at the moment, it would be mean of me not to tell you about them.

If you trundle along to the Coonawarra roadshow on Monday night and wake up the next morning suffering from Coonawarra withdrawal symptoms, then Baguette has the perfect dinner for you. They're holding a Balnaves Wine Dinner on Tuesday night, hosted by Peter Bissell, Balnaves' winemaker. Here are the wine & food matches for the night:

Confit trout and curd cheese on parmesan shortbread with Cattier Champagne
Seared scallops, jerusalem artichoke veloute with Balnaves Chardonnay 2008
Veal loin, mushroom & tarragon tartlet with Balnaves Shiraz 2005
Beef fillet bearnaise, sauteed spinach with The Tally Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Chocolate tart with white chocolate sorbet with Balnaves Sparkling Red 2007

The vinous highlight of the night will of course be the 2006 The Tally Cabernet, which is fast becoming one of Australia's top red wines. On the food front, the chocolate tart sounds like my kind of dessert. Best of all is the price - $90 inclusive of food and wine. As far as I'm concerned, that is an absolute bargain, when you consider the standard of food and wine on offer.

Balnaves Wine Dinner
Tuesday 18 August 2009, 6.30pm for 7pm
150 Racecourse Road
Ascot 4007
Bookings through Vintage Cellars at Ascot - 07 3868 2421

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Two Sides of a Steak

I've already written a post about the $2 steaks that the Fox Hotel sells on Sundays. Not to be outdone, Hotel Broadway at the Gabba is now selling steaks for $1.95 on Sundays and Mondays, provided you buy a drink - sides will cost you extra. I can't imagine how many steaks both pubs must be selling at those prices.

At the other end of town, the soon to be opened ARIA Brisbane has a 200 gram Blackmores wagyu rump (marble score 9+, 400 day grain fed) on its menu for $95. A side dish of truffle mash will set you back another $12.

So how would you spend your $95 - one wagyu rump at ARIA, or steak for you and 46 friends at the Fox/Hotel Broadway?

Hotel Broadway
93 Logan Road
Woolloongabba 4101
P - 07 3217 3469
E -
W -

ARIA Restaurant
Eagle Street Pier
1 Eagle Street
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3233 2555
E -
W -

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Primo Estate Wine Dinner

There seems to be no end of wine events on over the next couple of months - which is of course a great thing. Primo Estate is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and in order to mark the occasion, dinners are being held all over Australia.

The Brisbane leg of the celebrations will be held at dell 'Ugo in New Farm on Tuesday 8 September 2009. Tickets are $125 per person, which includes one of their cool Ciao Bella posters for each couple. If you're interested, you can read the full menu for the night here. Considering the ticket covers 5 courses and wine, the event is very well priced. You'll need to book through dell 'Ugo, and I imagine seats will fill up pretty quickly.

Primo Estate Wine Dinner
Tuesday 8 September 2009, 7pm
dell 'Ugo
693 Brunswick Street
New Farm 4005
P - 07 3254 2188
E -
W -

Coonawarra Wine Tasting Roadshow

It seems August is the month for wine roadshows. Once you've enjoyed the lovely pinot noir, riesling and sparkling wine at Tasmania Unbottled, next stop is the Coonawarra Wine Tasting Roadshow on Monday 17 August.

Cabernet sauvignon reigns supreme in Coonawarra, so there will be plenty of reds to taste during the night. Best of all, the big guns of Coonawarra will be there, including Balnaves, Katnook Estate, Majella, Petaluma, Wynns and Zema Estate. There's a full list of all participating wineries here.

Tickets are $25 - you can either pre-book or buy them at the door. I've been plenty of times in the past, and it's always a great night. You can hardly buy a decent bottle of Coonawarra cabernet for $25, so grab a ticket and enjoy the great red wines on offer.

Coonawarra Wine Tasting Roadshow
Monday 17 August 2009, 5.30-8.30pm
Upper Level, Eagle St Pier
1 Eagle Street
Brisbane 4000
W -

Friday, 7 August 2009

My Kitchen Rules

Think you could show Julie, Poh or Chris a thing or two in the kitchen? Then find a friend and get your entry in for My Kitchen Rules.

My Kitchen Rules seems to be the Seven network's attempt to ride on the enormous publicity of MasterChef. There are a few differences though with My Kitchen Rules. First of all you'll have to find a partner, as you need a team of two. The other big difference is that the food gets cooked in your own kitchen, which will be interesting as I'm sure there will be some pretty unique kitchens around the country.

If your brother/girlfriend/mum/postman is a kitchen maestro, then get your entry in today. You'll need to submit your entry through the My Kitchen Rules casting website.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sling Lounge

I'd intended this post to be a scintillating rundown of Sling Lounge at West End. Unfortunately, it's going to be a bit more "broad brush" than usual.

Sling Lounge is a pretty innocuous looking spot from the street, just up from Tukka on Boundary Street. Luckily we nabbed some seats right at the front, which meant we could watch the always entertaining parade of people pass along Boundary Street as we sipped our cocktails.

As I ordered my first cocktail (which I think was a Polish Prince) I was counting on the webpage containing a full cocktail list. By the time I'd had two fairly potent cocktails at Sling Lounge, followed by a bottle of wine over dinner, any detailed recollection of the earlier cocktails had pretty much evaporated. I was however sharp enough to take a photo of their cool tiki glasses.

What I can tell you is that the list at Sling Lounge is huge - it's certainly the most impressive cocktail list I've come across in Brisbane. There are so many cocktails that it took me about 10 minutes just to skim through the list and pick my first drink. Not only is the cocktail list huge, but service is much snappier than it is at the Bowery or the Lark. There was a group of about 8 of us, but our cocktails came out pronto every time.

So if you're tired of the selection at your local bar, drop in to Sling Lounge next time you're feeling thirsty. I'll be going back next time I'm in West End, to try a few more drinks off their excellent list. Although I don't think it has the atmosphere of the Bowery, it's perfect for a few cocktails in West End.

Sling Lounge
153 Boundary Street
West End 4101
P - 07 3255 3522

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


It was Saturday night and I had a craving for Vietnamese. But I wanted to eat somewhere new. Then I remembered that we hadn't yet eaten at all the Vietnamese spots along Hardgrave Road at West End, so after some googling I narrowed the choices down to Dakbla or Trang. I picked Dakbla, pretty much out of the blue, and booked a table. It turned out to be terrific - I should impulse dine more often.

Finding a park around the restaurants on Hardgrave Road always takes a while. After driving around the block once, I fluked one just around the corner from the Tibetan Kitchen. When I walked through the door of Dakbla, the place was packed - usually a good sign. I found our table and noticed that they'd printed out a place card with our name on it - a nice touch. After a quick flick through the menu I was wondering why I'd never been here before.

Although the menu was extensive there weren't many entrees which really grabbed me. I ended up ordering the san choy bao roast duck. These were really good. The duck filling still had a bit of bite to it, and was a lovely consistency - lacking the oil which can drip out of inferior san choy bao as you bite into it. The lettuce leaves were crunchy and fresh, with a layer of crunchy noodles on the bottom. So far so good.

My wife ordered a serve of the veggie and tofu soup to kick off her meal. This is comically described on the menu as "ideas for vegetarians with veggies and tofu". It was ok and full of tofu, but wasn't overwhelming our tastebuds. There are probably better entrees on the menu.

If you're looking for alternatives to the soup, other entrees include spicy chilli quail, Vietnamese spring rolls, prawn & pork rice paper rolls, grilled skewered pork and chao tom (minced prawn wrapped around sugar cane, deep fried and served with fresh lettuce, herbs and vermicelli).

There are a huge range of meals for main course. I won't even try to cover them all, but the menu is divided up into omelettes, vegetarian, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, house rice, noodles and chef's suggestions (always my favourite).

Meals that took my fancy out of the chef's suggestions were mud crab with tamarind, fresh pippis with rotti bread (apparently a must try dish according to the menu), bird's nest seafood, Vietnamese chicken salad, green mango and papaw salad, and ca kho to (silver perch or cat fish slowly stewed in a clay pot with pork belly).

Because of the overwhelming amount of choices, it took me ages to decide what to eat. I eventually went for one of my favourites, and ordered pho. It sounds a bit boring, but we'd been to Paniyiri for lunch, where I'd filled up on octopus, cabbage rolls, haloumi, rice pudding and Greek wine. By this stage of the night I was after something clean and healthy. The pho was good, but not memorable. It was made in a more delicate style, where the soup didn't overwhelm everything else. A side dish was brought to the table with bean sprouts, lemon, basil and chili sauce. This was exactly what I felt like for dinner, but I didn't quite manage to finish it.

We also ordered the lemongrass tofu salad style - tofu marinated with seasoning, lemongrass and chilli, then deep fried and tossed with fresh garden salad & lime dressing. While my pho was enjoyable, the tofu was superb. I would have happily eaten it for a main course. There were three huge pieces of tofu, which all carried the flavours of the spicy marinade. Although it had been deep fried, the tofu still had a lovely texture, mainly because the chunks were so big. The fresh garden salad turned out to be a delicious, fresh coleslaw with a really zingy dressing. I'm not a vegetarian, but this was one of the best tofu dishes I've tasted in a long time.

Before our main courses arrived (but after we'd ordered), the couple next to us had an amazing dish brought to the table. It looked and smelt so good I just had to ask what it was. Turned out it was the deep fried flounder. It was served as a whole fish and our neighbours proceeded to completely devour the entire plate. Next time it will be deep fried flounder for me.

Although the menu is mainly Vietnamese, there's a smattering of Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Indian dishes to keep your options open.

Dakbla is BYO and our meals went down extremely well with a Cape Mentelle semillon/sauvignon blanc. My wife had the home made lemonade, seeing as our new bub was only a couple of days away.

Service was snappy throughout our meal. The room at Dakbla isn't very big, and it's mainly wood. Given that the restaurant was full, it was fairly noisy - it's not the place you'd want to be wandering into for a big date on a Saturday night. Two courses each and the lemonade only came to $40, so it's excellent value.

If you haven't eaten Vietnamese food before, Dakbla is a great place to start. And if you are a fan of Vietnamese, book yourself a table this weekend. As someone who enjoys Vietnamese food, I was excited by the scope of choice, and will be going back as soon as I can.

What does all this mean? A huge range of interesting, fresh and tasty Vietnamese food that's great value and BYO.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Great
Ambience - Casual, lots of wood
Value for money - Great
Wine - BYO
Vegetarian - Great

65 Hardgrave Road
West End 4101
P - 07 3844 0594
E -

Dakbla on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Tasmania Unbottled

If you're a wine nut, the next event to squeeze into your diary is Tasmania Unbottled, which is happening on Thursday 13 August 2009.

I missed this event last year because something came up at work at the last minute, but I'm determined to make it this time around. Tasmania Unbottled brings together some of Tasmania's best winemakers and brings them to Brisbane. This year the event will feature wines from producers such as Clover Hill, Dalrymple, Freycinet, Frogmore Creek, Moorilla Estate and Stefano Lubiana. I'm a big fan of Tasmanian wine, particularly their pinot noir, and you rarely get the chance to taste such a good selection all in one room.

Tickets are $50, which is a bit pricier than usual for a wine roadshow, although it does include a "tasting platter of superb Tasmanian food produce" according to the website. Hopefully we'll all get our $50 worth.

Tasmania Unbottled
Thursday, 13 August 2009 - 4.30pm to 8.30pm
City Hall
King George Square
Brisbane 4000
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