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
I AM dining in the Brisbane restaurant which has just been named Best for Romance/First Date 2015 by the Dimmi Awards. The irony of the fact that I am dining with five other women, two of whom are complete strangers, is not lost on me. Story of my life that this is, I am at Auchenflower’s Deer Duck Bistro to see what the duck the fuss is all about. How can a restaurant be romantic? Isn’t it up to the diners? We are here to try the 7-course Chef’s Menu with matching wines and even better, it appears romance is right around the corner from me, with this restaurant in the next inner west suburb to that in which I live.
Owned by Chef Nicholas Cooper, if you love the planet, Deer Duck Bistro sprouts a very romantic ethos: to promote ethical eating by using the freshest, local, sustainable, organic and macrobiotic produce possible. A boxed garden onsite grows heirloom plants and micro herbs harvested just before they hit your plate, and the restaurant supports small, independent growers. Where possible fruit and vegetables are sourced locally from Mount Tamborine, The Darling Downs and South Burnett regions and bread is baked on premise using organic ingredients.
While there’s not too many deer or ducks roaming the streets of Brisbane, you’ll see plenty on the walls of this restaurant which is themed with unusual antiques and is a pleasant departure from the usual bold Queensland colours you see elsewhere around town, particularly on this crisp winter night. In fact, so eclectic are things in this establishment, that even each table setting consists of mismatched cutlery, which evokes that comfortable, familiar feeling of dining at your grandmas. The aim: to deliver modern Australian, European cuisine.
The restaurant also serves a-la-carte dishes and, despite its carnivorous name, is incredibly popular with vegetarians and vegans for whom it caters beautifully, including an individual 7-course degustation for those who don’t eat meat. For consummate carnivores like myself, the menu is a delicious dream. Our 7 courses started with mussels, carrot and dill, which was an unexpectedly tasty combination. Onion, thyme and veal sweetbreads followed before barramundi, shitake and black rice.
Chicken, corn and tarragon formed the basis of the fourth course, followed by beef, pumpkin and onion. While not part of this particular 7-course menu, we had the opportunity to try the duck after which the restaurant takes its name, and I’m delighted to report it, too, was delicious. We finished the savory courses with beef, pumpkin and onion. While my forte as a travel and dating blogger lays more in describing destinations and men, rather than food, I can report that each dish possessed a crunchy texture and a surprise I’d never even imagined…just like most of my dates, although in this case, it’s a most pleasant surprise. I only wish, like the deer heads in this restaurant, I could hang some of the men I’ve met on the wall.
While a refreshing zing, the rockmelon, honey and pistachio would have made a far greater impact served somewhere between the meat dishes as a palate cleanser and seemed slightly strange to serve just before another dessert – the chocolate, pear and hazelnut, which would have worked well straight after the rich, slow-cooked beef dish.
But it’s difficult to fault this restaurant which pairs each course with a diverse and innovative wine list, serving everything from French champagne to start, to high-quality international and Australian drops in between. However the sparkling merlot at the end was an unusual finish and again, I would have ended with something sweeter like a sticky. Apart from the gorgeous main dining room, there’s a private dining room and my favourite of all, a cosy cocktail lounge in which you can partake in pre or post dinner drinks, and even order from a bar menu if the desire to slink into those comfy couches overtakes your need to sit at a table.
Deer Duck Bistro last week won its first coveted Chefs Hat at the Good Food Guide Awards and it’s easy to see why. My advice: make a booking there sooner rather than later, as this is one of the hottest restaurants in Brisbane right now which is courageous enough to not follow the pack with its menu, flavours or décor. As for the romance, partaking in a fabulous feast with three old friends and two new ones may not be conventionally romantic, but you could do a whole lot worse. Bloke or no bloke, what the duck, I’ll be back.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Deer Duck Bistro – http://www.deerduckbistro.com.au
MONDAY, bloody Monday and I am in the sort of mood other people normally reserve for dentists and funerals. I despise Monday so much, that if there was an Olympic sport for this kind of thing, I would be the reigning gold champion. With such contempt do I hold the first day of the working week, that I am utterly convinced no one else on this planet could hate it as much as me. Except for my good friend Matthew, who is the silver medallist in this sport. Our email conversations on Monday run along the lines of “Only 51 more weeks until holidays”. But not this Monday. You see yesterday we hatched a plan to escape to Japan, if only for a few hours. Yesterday, we went to Sake Restaurant Brisbane.
For those who have been hiding under a rock, and clearly I am one of these people (in my defence, it’s not like I ever go on a date), Sake opened in November 2010. In true Brisbane style, this riverside establishment not only survived the 2011 floods at its Eagle Street pier location, but has thrived during the past five years, winning a coveted Queensland Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat every year since it opened. And it’s easy to see why.
Apart from the fact Matthew likes to match my Monday complaining (I am the Edamame to his Sapporo), he is also a Japanese aficionado, known to enjoy the food as much as the skiing there and hence, he makes the perfect lunch companion on this occasion. A creative way to experience the menu here is to indulge in the “omokase” which, loosely translated, means “we create the menu for you.” In fact, around half of this restaurant’s guests choose this option, leaving it in the hands of head chef Daisuke Sakai and his team to make magic.
Drawing inspiration from the new winter menu, we were treated to a number of dishes, starting with a scallop tiradito with yuzu lemon and rocotto chili; and spicy tuna rice, tuna sashimi with crispy rice blocks.
A wagyu gyoza with ginger, chives and butter ponzu followed; as did tonkatsu pocket buns with panko crumbed pork belly, spicy miso sauced on a steamed white bun.
Our last two savory courses consisted of grainfed wagyu teriyaki cooked medium rare with sautéed shiitake, buckwheat and yakiniku sauce; and Osaka sushi roll with prawn, sweet ginger, egg sheet wrap with okonomiyaki barbecue sauce, and dancing bonito flakes.
The outstanding flavours and texture of the spicy tuna rice made this dish a clear winner for both of us due to the clever crunchy base. For my money, the salty wagyu teriyaki was a close second, while Matthew enjoyed the tonkatsu pocket buns, describing them as upmarket sliders. The Osaka sushi roll prawn promised much, but fell short due to its overpowering ginger, and had the chef possibly deconstructed this dish, as I ended up doing, the beautifully distinct taste of the egg wrap became evident, as did its other individual elements.
A really nice touch is the wine list, with an Austrian white from near the Austrian/Hungarian border and which tastes somewhere between a Riesling and Chablis, a perfect pairing to this menu. The restaurant has also sourced a rare Japanese white wine – Gris de Koshu – which comes from a Japanese grape, and is also a great drop for this kind of food. As the name suggests, Sake is home to numerous drops of the potent Japanese rice wine with 30 varieties of sake on the list. While Monday is pretty dire in my opinion, I did resist reaching for the sake bottle, instead, admiring the sake barrels on the wall, which I am told are used for traditional opening ceremonies.
Matthew had to rush off for a meeting before dessert arrived, but not before he ranked the experience a 9/10. As someone who hosts business lunches of his own, he found the private space in which we were seated, the varied menu, and the use of local produce such as Hervey Bay scallops, impressive. I was all set to give the restaurant an 8/10 (we both agreed the thumping lounge club music in the background was a distraction), until dessert arrived. Even the name of this dish, on this melancholy Monday, made me smile. And the “nihon nemesis” – a delicate chocolate cake with raspberry, matcha raspberry sorbet and honeycomb, was enough to brighten even the darkest day. With stunning service, fabulous food and such creative cuisine, this restaurant is worthy of a 9/10 and a repeat visit. Just like Monday, I’ll be back.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Sake Restaurant – http://www.sakerestaurant.com.au