A FLIRTATIOUS French fellow is pouring a sexy shiraz from a pleasingly phallic stem, while explaining the sex muscle of a cow. I am dining in one of Brisbane’s oldest riverside restaurants, revisiting the classy classic that is Cha Cha Char…and my tastebuds are ready to rumba. While Cedric, the restaurant’s General Manager is ensuring I am well libated, it’s the steak here that really does the talking.
Brisbane’s beef baron John Kilroy opened Cha Cha Char 21 years ago after working in country pubs and vowing to “never sell a steak again in my life.” These days you’ll find every steak imaginable on his restaurant from the Wagyu Rump Cap which has been grain fed for 300-plus days; the Rib Fillet Black Onyx Angus aged 30 to 36 months and grain fed for 270-plus days; to the T-Bone Angus Yearling aged 12 to 18 months and grass fed. This is a man who knows his meat. When he’s not in the restaurant, he’s out mustering with mates “for fun”.
Kilroy, as he is known about town, was the first to introduce Wagyu to a sceptical Brisbane dining public who hadn’t yet cottoned on to the idea of marbelling in their beef. Now, he is about to tantalise the city’s taste buds with the introduction of a new cut, the French Blonde D’Aquitaine beef, to his menu. There’s also the new light dishes, tapas if you will, of the Oyster Carpet Bag bao bun with Wagyu striploin, oyster and bernaise sauce; and the Bugs BBQ served in brioche roll filled with Blonde D’Aquitaine steak tartar.
Not content to rest on its laurels, Cha Cha Char will soon transform the private dining room in which we are sitting into a Wagyu bar.
It appears there is not rest for the wicked for this country boy who once couldn’t read and was assisted in gaining his first job by Flo Bjelke-Petersen who helped him secure a role as a Main Roads surveyor…despite Kilroy having no surveying skills.
By his own admission, Kilroy has lost and made millions of dollars over the years, but for him, success all comes back to the customer.
“I can take a piece of meat in this town and make it tender just by the way it is cooked,” he says.
“Owning restaurants is not just how much money you have in the bank. You get to know people.
“I get to travel the world in people’s big boats and jets and planes. You never know who you are going to meet in there.”
Kilroy admits Brisbane palettes have come a long way “everyone knows Wagyu now” and has moved on from the days when calamari was used for fishing bait.
“We didn’t used to eat these things in Australia but people are eating anything now. A lot of this has to do with travel,” he says.
“There is passion in this restaurant. I can put a plate of food in front of you and in 30 seconds I know if you are disappointed or not.
“We’re just dishwashers listening to people. It is a very rewarding business.”
Along George Street, the Queensland capital has just opened its doors on new Indian restaurant Heritij in the new Brisbane Quarter. In this cavernous space, overlooking the Brisbane River towards South Bank, there’s dining for 210 people including private spaces such as The Library, Cellar Room and Passage, each accompanied by their own inspirational quote outside. I am feasting at the Captain’s Table, inspired by the quote “Around my table we make the big decisions, we solve the world’s problems, yet never lose sight of the deck or horizon.” It’s a fitting tribute to a city whose dining scene is on fire.
Outside, on the deck, it’s all breezy, blue cushions and river views, accompanied by a chic bar set up, while inside, it’s plush royal colours…purples, turmerics, navy blues, emerald greens, reminiscent of a Maharaja’s palace. The food here is fit for a king, with the pungent scent of the smoky tandoor wafting through this beautiful, big space, punctuated by voluminous, brick columns. While Michelin-star Chef Mural and his talented team weave their magic with the likes of chicken thigh, Thai basil, mint, rhubarb, zucchini, pineapple and kasundi from the tandoor, he pays homage to his homeland with his curries such as Kashmiri lamb, Goan fish, chicken Makhna, spinach kofta, black lentil dahl and vegetable masala.
“Indian food is incomplete without curries,” Chef Mural says.
“I don’t want everyone to be disappointed if there is no curry served in my restaurant. We used to serve this food in the home.
“Kofta is very close to my heart. My mother used to make this.”
Back over at Cha Cha Char, I ask Kilroy, the self-made man who has lost and made millions over the years, what he would do if it all went belly up.
“I’d go to Europe and buy a little restaurant on the beach,” he says.
“To me, it’s all about the people.”
We’re a bit like that in Brisbane.
The Global Goddess dined as a guest of Cha Cha Char – http://www.chachachar.com.au; and Heritij – https://heritij.com.au
JUST when we thought Australian politics couldn’t become any more bizarre, Prime Minister Tony Abbott proved us all wrong this week, when he threatened to “shirt-front” Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Brisbane next month. Being a Queenslander, I have to confess I had no idea what this shirt-fronting business was all about, and for several hours I thought there might be some kind of bro-mance going on between Tony and Vlad. For those who don’t know what this quaint turn of phrase means, it is apparently an AFL term to describe a front-on charge designed to knock an opponent to the ground. Frankly, since learning this, I haven’t stopped laughing all week.
Apparently the Ruskis think it’s pretty funny as well, with Russian embassy official Alexander Odoevskiy telling Fairfax Media that he had “learned a little more about Aussie Rules football”. Odoevskiy went on to say “We are not sure when the Prime Minister would like to shirt-front the Russian President.” So, in the spirit of this great city in which I live, I’d like to offer up 10 Perfect Places to shirt-front a Russian President in Brisbane. (Hey, you never know when it may come in handy).
1.Head to the Cauldron
Ok, so we’re more into rugby league than AFL in Brissie, but don’t worry, we still know how to go the biff. Of all the places in the Queensland capital which has seen its share of fights, it’s got to be Suncorp Stadium or “The Cauldron” to locals. What many people don’t know is this hallowed turf was once a cemetery (I’m just sayin’ Tony). If the thought of Tony (a keen cyclist), beating up Vlad (a judo expert) makes you thirsty, head to the nearby Caxton Hotel, which has also seen plenty of bust ups over the years, particularly during State of Origin. Locals call this hotel “the Cacko” and after you’ve seen Tony take on Vlad, you’ll be laughing too. http://www.suncorpstadium.com.au; http://www.caxton.com.au
2.Make Love, Not War
I like to think of Brisbanites as lovers, not fighters. But we do have a secret war history. Few people realise that General MacArthur based the Allies’ southern pacific headquarters right here in Brisbane during World War Two. Today, the MacArthur Central shopping centre stands in the same building. For more of a war tour head to the MacArthur Museum and see the impact the events in Europe and the Pacific had on Brisbane. Entry fee costs $5 for adults. Tony, I’m happy to pay your entry fee, if you promise to stop picking on the nuclear giants. http://www.mmb.org.au
3.Got a Beef with the Russian President?
God, how we love a good steak in Brisbane. In honour of his bullish behaviour, I’d recommend Tony take Vlad straight to the Spanish Garden Steakhouse at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. It’s on the way from the airport, so it’s real handy, and the beef is good too. Still dancing around the issue, Tony? Then head to Cha Cha Char! for some of the best wagu in town. Given I’m dining out on the worst Prime Minister in Australian history, I may as well recommend the “Worst Vegetarian Restaurant” as well. Yes, the Norman Hotel makes this cute claim. Step away from the steak knives, Tony.
http://www.breakfastcreekhotel.com; http://www.chachachar.com.au; http://www.normanhotel.com.au
4.Bridge That Golf
What blokes in the history of the world haven’t patched things up over a game of golf? But let’s keep this one simple. Rather than going to some fancy, smanchy course, I recommend the Victoria Park Golf Complex for Tony and Vlad. This course offers some of the most challenging putt putt on its 18 hole course with Brisbane skyline view. Best of all, Tony, it comes complete with sand and water traps, a rocky terrain, swinging poles and even punching bags. http://www.victoriaparkgolfcomplex.com/golf/puttputt.html
5.The Smoking Gun
This one was a no-brainer really. Tony, you might want to bulk up before all that shirt-fronting, so I recommend you head to The Gunshop Café at West End. Mate, you’ll love it but don’t get too excited. Yes, this was a former gunship where they sold firearms, but the only smokin’ thing these days is the food on the menu. Has anyone told Vlad lately he’s got nice guns?
This former World War Two bomb shelter is now a cigar bar in South Brisbane. Just think, Tony, no one will hear the screams. Yes, behind this mysterious red façade you’ll find some of Brisbane’s best coffee as well as a couple of Cubans. I mean cigars, not actual Castros. Although Fidel would fit in well with this whole shirt-fronting scenario, I reckon. A quick Google search reveals Putin does not smoke (nor drink, apparently), so the upstairs smoking deck may be lost on him.
I reckon a day at the bay down at Redcliffe should sort everything out between this pair. Tony, what I suggest is you take Vlad for a lovely stroll along Bee Gees Way, which pays homage to these local lads who set the world on fire. Still feel like Jive Talkin’, then take a wander along the Redcliffe Jetty. Testosterone Tony, how about you get your James Bond on and strap yourself in for a tandem skydive over Suttons Beach? (Vlad, I recommend you pack a separate parachute). http://www.redcliffe.net.au/visitor-information.htm
8.Cuddle A Koala
Who can stay angry when you’re cuddling a koala? And Lone Pine Sanctuary has 130 of these furry little beasts with names like Rory, Sinnamon, Lina, Rose and Beck. But, best of all, there’s a platypus named Barak – who most tourists call Barack. Yes, as, in Obama. Now, if anyone can sort out this shirt-fronting mess, it’s Obama. http://www.koala.net
9.In Pursuit Of Libertine
This suggestion might be a bit girly, but Tony and Vlad can create their very own love potion at Libertine Parfumerie at New Farm. This place offers masterclasses in the art of fragrance and features a huge range of products.In fact a number of their scents have been worn by world leaders including Winston Churchill and Napoleon. Their fragrance Creed is 250 years old and is worn by the Obamas. Another fragrance, Love In White, has been worn by 3 or 4 US First Ladies. Let’s call this new fragrance the dirty shirt-front.
10.Get A New Shirt-Front
In case we are all wrong, and all Tony really wanted to do was actually buy Vlad a new shirt, there’s a few interesting options in Brisbane. At Mitchell Ogilvie – which has a secret bar in the store – it’s rumoured that $30,000 suits are currently walking out the door in the lead up to G20. The boys could also head to the The Cloakroom, which offers a modern tailoring service. But Tony, you can do your own ironing. I don’t care what you say about how “the women of Australia” like to spend their time.