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
W -

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