Saturday, 16 August 2014

Lutece Bistro and Wine Bar - a truffle degustation from the French master


There are not too many foods which evoke a pure sense of indulgence, but for centuries, black truffles have been sought out by chefs for their aromatic, earthy and indulgent flavour.  The French Black Truffle grows in the roots of oak or hazel trees, with the edible portion harvested during the winter months, usually by specially trained dogs or even pigs.  Once the exclusive domain of regional France, Australia now has a very successful black truffle season, which has enabled the once almost inaccessible fungus to have become almost mainstream.

I say almost mainstream because at up to $9000 per kilo, the humble truffle is one of the most expensive food substances on the planet.  In previous years, we'd always take the opportunity to add truffle to a meal when offered - which usually meant a supplementation of fifty dollars a person for a few shavings of the 'black gold'.  Even our most recent visit to Vue De Monde was elevated to our most expensive meal ever due to the inflationary impacts of truffle (see post here).

Even though we've always added truffle to a meal, interestingly, we've never taken the next step of attending one of the many truffle dinners that are invariably offered each year in Brisbane.  Well, that was until recently, when we were invited along to check out the Lutece Bistro seven course truffle degustation dinner by renowned French chef Romain Bapst.  Romain hails from Strasbourg in France but has lived in Australia since 1990, where he has worked in some of Australia's finest restaurants before establishing his little French bistro in Bardon.  Most impressively, Romain is the President of Bocuse D'or Australia, which is perhaps the most quintessentially French and prestigious cooking competitions in the world.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Brisbane Arcade - high tea by candlelight


I'm sure many of you who are regular visitors to the Brisbane CBD and in particular the Queen Street Mall, know it can get pretty hectic at times. After visiting all of the major city Malls around the country, I can safely say that our very own Queen Street is the best and busiest in Australia. It's become particularly crowded since the East West building had been demolished to make way for the new double decker Jimmy's on the Mall.  Amongst all of the craziness that can be the QSM is an oasis of calm and tranquility, yep, I'm talking about the wonderful Brisbane Arcade.

Brisbane Arcade celebrated it's 90th birthday last year, which make it an anachronism in today's increasingly modern and fast paced world.  Originally designed by one of Queensland's most important turn-of-the-century architects, Brisbane Arcade reflects the Edwardian Baroque style made popular in European cities in the late 18th century.  In a city that for decades has torn down the old to replace with the new, it's a miracle that the original terrazzo stairs, balustrades and dado panelling that grace the arcade are still standing, just as they did ninety years ago.

Many of the shops that call Brisbane Arcade home feel as if they are from another era too, one that was reminiscent of a bygone time where style and substance was the order of the day.  Award winning fashion stores mingle with classic timepieces; jewellery stores mix with wonderful gift stores; it's still one of the only places in Brisbane that has a classic millinery shop (that's a hat maker if you didn't know).  What most people don't know, or often forget, is that there are a number of wonderful options to refresh and energise within the arcade.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Cheap Eats - Ben's Burgers


Who knew how polarising pickles could be?  I mean, I just assumed that everyone else hated pickles as much as I did and saw no place for them in hamburgers!  Apparently that's not the case and just as many people like pickles in their burgers as those that don't.  You might be asking why I'd kick off a post with a question like that, but I found out over the weekend just how many people shared my thoughts and how many people thought I was nuts.

But let's start at the beginning. I'd heard about a new burger joint in the Valley that everyone's been talking about.  I've got a few followers who know about my burger fixation and need to find the best burgers in Brisbane and thankfully they've been scouting new places out for me.  Ben's Burgers has taken over the old Flamingo Cafe spot in Winn Lane in Fortitude Valley.  It's a great little spot, just a little out of the way of the hustle and bustle of the rest of the Valley.

We'd actually walked past Ben's Burgers a couple of weeks ago when walking to James Street and even though it was well past 2pm, the place was packed full of hipsters, funksters and some down and outers just enjoying a burger.  At the time I'd decided to make a beeline for a burger the next opportunity, which as it turned out was the following week.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Madame Wu - fine dining Chinese - take two


Fine dining Chinese.  Take a moment to get your head around that statement.  Ever since learning that one of Melbourne's finest restaurants over the last ten years was a fine dining Chinese restaurant, I've thought that it would be a great idea. I've never been to the Flower Drum in Melbourne but I've always wanted to get in and check out the Melbourne three hatted restaurant.  Every time I've been in Melbourne, its been booked out on the nights that I've wanted to go (note to self - plan better for August trip).

I thought we were on to a winner a few years ago when Zen Central opened its doors on the site of the old Rugby Club in the Eagle Street precinct.  Touted as Brisbane's only premium Chinese restaurant, it was to be our Flower Drum equivalent.  Quoting from one review "Its master chefs, direct from Asia, us only the freshest ingredients and first class produce to create delicate dishes..."  I have to say, Zen Central didn't last too long, in fact, it was closed before I could even get in to check it out, but SC did manage to get in there with some work colleagues and her response was a very loud 'Meh'.  Over priced and quality that was reportedly not much better than you're average Valley Chinese, the fine dining Chinese cuisine dream was over before it began.

Intriguing then that only a few short years later I received a cryptic email one day stating that Madame Wu was coming.  It was not a lot of information, but slowly over a couple of months, I was drip fed details and managed to hear rumours that a new attempt at Chinese fine dining was on its way.  I was pretty excited but a little apprehensive that someone was brave enough to have another crack at a concept that had failed in recent memory - and in almost the same location.  I got my first taste of Madame Wu at the formal opening a couple of weeks ago and I have to say that I was impressed, so impressed in fact, I came back to have a full meal as quickly as I could.

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