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
P - 07 3831 8344
W - http://www.eccobistro.com/
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