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

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