Archive for the 'Restaurant Talk' Category

One of our favourite Sydney restaurants

March 5th, 2011

Porteno in Surry Hills (Sydney) was an instant success when it opened last year.  All the ingredients are there … robust/tasty food … busy/ buzzie (some would say noisy) atmosphere … efficient/friendly service, and it’s own distinct personality.  Partners Ben Milgate, Elvis Abrahanowicz and their wives already have the very successful Bodega.

This is not a small restaurant, yet it’s busy every night and they don’t take bookings.  We went at 6.15pm on a Tuesday night and were seated immediately, however it was already 3/4 full.  They turn the tables a couple of times a night, and service was brisk without you feeling you were being pushed out.

Porteno is an Argentinian grill restaurant and Elvis’s Dad is the pitmaster.  He mans the asador, where whole baby pigs (from Melander Park) and lambs (Suffolk) are splayed across crucifix-like pieces of steel.  The meat slow cooks over the smouldering campfire.  Blood sausages, roasted red peppers, veal sweetbreads and steaks are directly cooked over coals on 2 parrillas — adjustable grills.  The food here is a genuine labour of love and don’t miss the white polenta smeared onto a wooden board, or the chocolate pudding.  This restaurant is fun and you also get a good feed.

The latest restaurant affectation?

October 24th, 2010

30 years ago when we simply could not buy fresh herbs in Brisbane (for our restaurant), I grew what I could at home and Francis flew up the rest from Sydney.   I am an avid home gardener at our 1 acre holiday property in Mapleton on the Sunshine Coast (  I think Stephanie Alexander should have been nominated for Australia’s first saint, for her work in getting young people to grow vegies at school.  So why am I feeling so cynical about the latest “thing” with trendy restaurants i.e. growing their own herbs and vegetables on site? 

Food Detective, Michelle Rowe (Indulgence column in the weekend Australian) lists various uber restaurants around the world that are now ‘ doing it for themselves’.  The new Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo in New York which has a 12th floor rooftop urban vegie patch to provide fresh produce for the hotel kitchen, or Bell, Book & Candle restaurant which has set up hydroponic growing boxes on the roof of the Greenwich Village townhouse in which it sits.  And we have a growing number o restaurants in Australia proclaiming their green thumbs.   But is this just another publicity stunt? 

Well, I hope they have their own full time gardener with heaps of space because frankly I am skeptical as to how any restaurant could grow anything like their fresh veg requirements out the back, next to the garbage cans.  If you want an example of how to do it — the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV in 1678 commissioned 29 elaborate walled garden ‘rooms’ at Versailles, to feed the palace population of 3000 people.  It covered 20 acres.  Now, that’s a kitchen garden!

Flight of 4 Rosé Wines Matched with Tapas for $21

October 11th, 2010

For the next 3 months you can taste a flight of 4 true Provencal style rosé wines, matched with some great tapas — in the Bar at Baguette.  Scott and Benoit will chat to you about the different styles:

* De Bortoli La Boheme, Yarra Valley, Vic with

  ‘Popcorn’ prawns with garlic mayo

* Omrah Plantagenet 2009 Rosé with

   Duck wings with paprika

* Chapel Hill Sangiovese 2009 Rosé SA with

   Grilled sourdough with romesco

* De Bortoli Yarra Valley  2010 Pinot Noir Rosé, Yarra Valley Vic with

   Spanish style meatballs

The Rosé Revolution is Coming

October 2nd, 2010

One of the special memories of Provence in the south of France, is sitting on a clifftop terrace overlooking the blue blue Mediterranean and drinking rosé wine.  It’s embedded as being the essence of the place.  Light, dry, aromatic and food friendly — perfect for the hot climate.  And of course Italy, Spain and Portugal have their equally addictive versions.

So why can’t we sell the stuff in Brisbane?  Wine writers and critics love rosé (as they do rieslings which are also not popular), it’s perfect for our weather especially when you are sick of drinking whites.  Perhaps you have to have been there (i.e. Provence) or perhaps they have tried those toilet duck pink wines posing as rosé. But my theory is that we just have to get people to taste the real thing … and they will be hooked!  So …

… this Spring (Oct-Dec) at Baguette bistrot+bar we will feature a flight of 4 rosé wines matched with some yummy mediterranean tapas.  Cost will be $21 (value $40).  So get some friends together and experience ‘The Rosé Revolution”.

One of Brisbane’s Best Restaurants

August 10th, 2010

Javier Codina, Chef Patron

Last week Francis and I lunched at Moda (nee Gianni’s) in the CBD.  It was an outstanding experience in every way.  Javier Codina has taken over the reins with a new casual concept — very stylish Spanish bistro.  I loved the decor and charming courtyard that is perfect for lunch, and pretty as a picture at night under candlelight.  We had a number of small dishes first.  In Spain they would be called tapas but Javier said that this name had become so debased in Brisbane, he’d rather not use it.  One of our favourite Spanish dishes (Francis and Javier are both Catalans) is paella, and Javier’s version was spot on — sexy but authentic.  Paella is a special on Fridays, or by prior arrangement.  Prices at Moda are very approachable. 

This is a restaurant that has been going for a number of years (under a more formal guise as Gianni’s) but always with Javier as the guiding light in the kitchen.  And his food, either formal or casual, is superb — he has the experience, background and technique that makes him a stand-out chef.  Australia tends to worship the “cult of the new” so restaurants like this can sometimes be overlooked.  Don’t fall into that trap … you will miss out on something special.

Best Restaurant in the World

July 1st, 2010

In April S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list went live on the internet, and Noma in Copenhagen was named the world’s Number One.  Next day they got 100,000 emailed enquiries.  822 jurors around the world nominate winners from their region — a jury made up of critics, chefs and industry people.  Gourmet Traveller’s Pat Nourse heads up the jury for Australasia.  He says that “I don’t think it’s a perfect system, it’s not without flaws, but I think it’s a pretty good-looking list.”  Sydney’s Quay came in at 27 and received so many inquiries that their systems crashed.

Noma has more a ‘neo naturalist’ approach to food so is this the new direction for food at our top restaurants?  Some say the Pellegrino list favours “bistronomie” instead of technical excellence, but many believe it is an international yardstick for what’s happening in contemporary dining.

The new gastronomic centres are Spain and Scandinavia these days, rather than France. But this is all at the rather esoteric stratosphere of restaurant experiences — which is not for everybody.  France’s “best” restaurant was No. 11 — Le Chateaubriand, a bistro and not a 3-Michelin starred establishment as you might expect.  Is this all a reflection of new trends … or just fad and fashion?

Whatever … it keeps us all interested in what restaurants are up to, food, learning to cook and an extraordinary number of people glued to the box watching Masterchef.

Pop Up Restaurants — any in Brisbane?

April 2nd, 2010

The latest trend to hit London is the pop-up restaurant.   This is subversive dining  that runs from student fare to haute cuisine.  It is said to be the offspring of the GFC but roving supperclubs in New York and one or two in Paris have been going for years.  Aided by Facebook, Twitter and Paypal these underground ‘restaurants’ operate like this:  budding chefs, or entrepeneural types after some extra cash, clear out some of their loungeroom furniture once a week and offer meals to their friends and the public, sometimes for a ‘donation’ and other times a price is set.   Another variation that is legal is when would-be restaurateurs borrow the kitchen of an established restaurant for one night to serve their own cooking. 

Do you know of any home restaurants operating in Brisbane?  Restaurateurs may see this trend as a threat, but I say ‘bring it on’.  Many people have the peculiar idea that restaurants are easy money and a tootle to pull off successfully.  After a stint in a pop up, for both ‘chef’ and the dining public, I am guessing that most will be more than happy to let the professionals do it next time.    Still … it could be fun.

Dinner with Rick (Stein)

March 19th, 2010

I’m not thrilled by a great deal these days, but having dinner and a cooking class with Rick Stein in his new restaurant at Mollymook (3 hrs south of Sydney) is the best thing I’ve done in ages.  I have been a fan because he is so down to earth and uncheffy, and he does a good line is gastro-tourism with his very entertaining TV series — French Odyssey (canal boating thru France), Mediterranean Escapes and coming to ABC TV in May Far Eastern Odyssey.  All of these by the way come with the same-name cookbook. He is just as charming and passionate  in person, as on film.

Rick Stein at Bannisters (Bannisters is a boutique hotel at Mollymook) is the first restaurant he has done outside his home base of Padstow in the UK.  We were part of a group of foodies who spent 2 days at the hotel indulging in some excellent food, a dinner with Rick and a cooking class at his nearby home.  Here is a very easy recipe he gave us, perfect for your next dinner party:

Marinated Tuna with Passionfruit, Lime & Coriander

“Chefs agree that tuna is best served rare.  Here I’ve taken the idea of a ceviche and added some Australian flavours — but don’t marinate the fish for longer than 10 minutes.”  Rick Stein

3cm thick piece of tuna loin fillet (or Atlantic Salmon)

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 passionfruit

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 medium/hot green chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt plus ground black pepper

Slice tuna into very thin slices.  Lay slices overlapping onto plaates.  Just before serving make the dressing.  Sieve passionfruit pulp into a bowl to extract the juice and mix the rest of the ingredients. Spoon marinade over tuna for 10 minutes only and serve.

Gregor & Lewis Bespoke Travel at Noosa organised the trip, and hopefully will be able to do another … after Rick has filmed his northern Spain/Portugal TV  series. or phone 5447 4666.

Duck Degustation with French Wines

March 19th, 2010

This week our head chef, Graham Waddell, put together a 6 course duck dinner for a packed restaurant of 93 people at Baguette Bistrot+Bar — and pulled it off splendidly.  He used (every bit) of the excellent duck we get from organic grower Bendele Farm, outside Gympie.  The menu:

* Duck liver parfait on apple galette, date confit   * Soft boiled duck egg, tarragon brioche & white asparagus soldiers   * Duck consomme with asian flavours, artichoke tortollini   * Confit duck leg, crisp potato mille-feuille, veloute of wild mushrooms   * Pan roasted duck breast with giblet & fig pie, cinnamon sauce   * Pear & duck egg clafoutis with brown bread ice-cream


The food was team with some very interesting wines made in France by a group of Australian and French winemakers …  for the Australian market.  Fascinating idea and highly successful, if comments on the night are anything to go by.  The project put together by Fosters is called Maison de Grand Esprit (loosely “a meeting of the minds”).  Ask for them at your independent bottle shop — they go under La Belle Voisine, Les Petites Vignettes and Les Seize Galets labels. 

Tired of ponsy, expensive restaurants?

October 17th, 2009

In this Weekend’ Australian newspaper, Graeme Blundell writes:  ‘…when many of us are tired of poncy, expensive restaurants, the lionisation of self-indulgent food critics and esoteric cooking that has lost its attachment to a living culture.  We want satisfying platefuls of good ingredients, cooked well, and value for money.’ Amen to that!

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