Variety Young Chef Collective – South Brisbane

I have had only four other-worldly, exciting dining experiences in the past year. Two of them I can credit at least in part to Ollie Hansford and in whole to the collective efforts of some fantastic young chefs and the efforts of Variety Children’s Charity.

Chefs

Callum Gray, Cormac Bradfield, Ollie Hansford & Rob Wood

Following on from last year’s highly successful Variety of Young Chefs dinner at Restaurant II, Hansford and some of his past and present compatriots from Stokehouse got together again last night in support of disabled and disadvantaged children. Not only did these guys give up their personal time to wow us for a good cause, but they arranged all the produce and brought along the exceptionally talented Stokehouse assistant sommelier, Alex Balodis to make it perfect.

A Canapes

Citrus granita oysters set the bar but not the complexity. When I said exciting I meant it. Imagine canapés of crispy carrot bark with bone marrow foam, topped with shaved seaweed. Not inventive enough? How about quince leather with cumin orange butter cream? Shows you what happens when you give some exceptionally talented young chefs carte blanche and some superb produce.

A RavioliCallum Gray’s soft-cheese, silky pillow ravioli and burnt courgette popped to life with a vibrant herb emulsion.

Chargrilled Octopus with Snow Pea JuiceCormac Bradfield’s tender chargrilled octopus with snow pea juice, chicken fat and saltbush, served with Lark Hill’s wild-fermented Mr V (Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier blend) was one of the best pairings I’ve ever had.

It’s just as well I’m South African and have no memory of (or aversion to) skippy. Otherwise I might have missed Hansford’s butter-soft pepperberry-crusted kangaroo with blackberry vinegar, beurre noisette and pumpkin.

A Kangaroo I could never have imagined though that the simplicity of a buttermilk-poached potato would have been a clincher, nor how well this dish would have worked with caramelised but slightly crunchy beer-braised onions and roasted pine-nuts. Wild but sophisticated and utterly inspired.

As for Rob Wood’s dessert … I’m not normally mad about deconstructed food. Why mess with something that has been so carefully put together? Unless it’s infinitely better, adds a few surprises and gives you that “wow” moment when you realise what it is that has your synapses firing down memory lane.

Violet parfait with lemon curd, Yorkshire tea brack, creme fraiche mousse, oat crumble, poppy seed tuille & burnt orange syrupThis may have looked like a violet parfait with lemon curd and oat crumble. If the crème fraiche mousse and crumbled Yorkshire tea cake with a side of poppy seed tuille hadn’t thrown you off, the burnt orange syrup might have. It was all so mind-blowingly good that you probably wouldn’t have cared. But when you got it all together in your mouth there is no way you could not have recognised it. Lemon meringue pie. Only it took 200 years to make it this good.

Stokehouse is one of my favourite restaurants in Brisbane. If you have a few hours spare and it’s a good summer’s day there is nothing better than whiling away a Sunday afternoon on the deck overlooking the river. The gourmet bar menu offers lighter fare and anything I’ve ever eaten in the restaurant is testament to the talent of the chefs.

Ollie Hansford will soon be joining new Grey Street restaurant Gauge as head chef, working with executive chef Cormac Bradfield (who currently heads up Sourced in Teneriffe). No doubt I’ll be one of Gauge’s first patrons.

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The Best of my Best in Brisbane

I was asked tonight which are my favourite restaurants in Brisbane. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked and I realise that while I have only been writing this blog for a few months, I have been indulging in my food passion for far longer. So here is a very short, very sweet mention of a few of my favourites ….

Aria – Eagle St Pier, Brisbane

Matt Moran is unashamedly my foodie hero. He’s unpretentious, lives up to his food ideals (sustainability, waste not, paddock to plate) and is one of the nicest people I’ve met. An evening at Aria can be eye-wateringly expensive but is worth every hard-earned penny. It’s easy to tell when food is farmed, prepared and presented with unwavering dedication and care, but it’s not always easy to find. And you get what you pay for. I promise.

The Stokehouse – Southbank, Brisbane

Hot on Aria’s heels. This is a great destination for a summer’s lunch on the river. Go casual with the bar menu and a bottle of wine on the deck, or relish the very fine and beautifully presented, magnificently balanced dining in the restaurant.

Alchemy – Brisbane City

Heston-lovers this one’s for you. Gastronomy, liquid nitrogen and foams delight.

L’Aquitaine – Southbank, Brisbane

Slightly less pretentious, more modern French dining. Great value, fantastic service and on the river. Perfect for a pre-show dinner if you’re heading off to QPAC.

La Vie – Southbank, Brisbane

Also perfect for the pre-show dinner; this Italian gem is a must. Casual dining, lively (aka a little noisy) but great food. Don’t miss the arancini if it’s on the menu.

Mariosarti – Toowong, Brisbane

This was one of my very first Australian restaurant dining experiences and the first one I enjoyed. If you live in the area it’s worth a go. Contemporary Italian.

The Fat Noodle – Treasury Casino, Brisbane City

Blog coming soon, but if you’re after pho this is where it’s at. Luke Nguyen is the master of Vietnamese.

Oyama – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Traditional Japanese and outstanding. Mind you don’t confuse the wasabi for avo though (novice mistake – ahem).

Mons Sabai – Cannon Hill, Brisbane

My favourite Thai restaurant in Brisbane. Curry pastes are house-made and everything on the menu is good (yes, we’ve tried most of it). My favourites though – prawn and grapefruit salad (sometimes on the specials menu) and the red duck curry.

Kingsleys – Eagle St Pier, Brisbane

Contemporary Australian steakhouse. The best soft shell crab and you can’t beat the steaks. You might need to be a little patient though.

Didier – if you read this you’ll have to write to me with some suggestions for the Gold Coast 🙂

Look out for my breakfast guide … coming soon.