Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cheap Eats Lunch - The Charles Bean Bar

Sometimes I wonder if you can look too deeply into things.  

I've recently been going on solo travels around the Brisbane CBD, looking for great little lunch spots where I can fuel my inner introvert and enjoy quiet lunches on my own.  In most cases, there are heaps of cafes around that you walk by every day and just never step into, it's these types of little eating oases that I'm looking for.

The Charles Bean Bar is just such a place, squeezed into the foyer of one of the CBD's many commercial towers and next door to one of the many popular Sumo Salads around town.  It would be pretty easy to walk by and never notice, and if fact I did walk past countless times without observing.  It was only because I've been recently keeping an eye out for such gems that I even spotted the little cafe on Adelaide Street.

Which brings me back to my opening statement, have I made the right connections?  Charles Bean was quite a famous Australian that not too many people remember.  A schoolmaster, judge's associate, barrister, journalist, war correspondent and historian, Bean was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian War Memorial and of the creation and popularisation of the ANZAC legend.  The Charles Bean Bar is located just across the street from ANZAC square, so in all likelihood refers back to this legendary historical figure......

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Casual Dining - Papa Jack's

Southern style Americana is definitely the cuisine of the day at the moment and with a huge number of US of A restaurants opening, I thought I'd check out a place that's been kicking around for just over twelve months.  Papa Jack's didn't start the Southern American revolution but it certainly kicked off a second wave.

We'd been attempting to get to Papa Jack's ever since it first opened in the newish M&A Lane that houses a heap of other restaurants, including fellow Southern Belle the Mighty Mighty (see post here). Several false starts and and attempts to get along on really busy nights meant that we checked out every other M&A Lane restaurant before we finally got it together and paid Papa Jack's a visit.  In hindsight, that could have been a huge error!

We had a bit of a choice, go and see new Affleck flick, Gone Girl, or walk over to McLachlan Street in the Valley for a bit of Louisiana comfort food.  It was a tough choice, but we really felt like it was time, so made the twenty minute walk from the CBD and found ourselves on the front doorstep of Papa Jack's.  It's a spot that we've walked by many times on our travels and from the outside, Papa Jack's looks pretty neat and new, but it's a different matter once you step over the threshold.  It was like stepping into a vortex and finding ourselves in swampy old Louisiana.

If you're like us, then one of the must watch shows of 2014 was True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, a show set in the Louisiana bayou.  It's a brilliant show and some of it's set in seedy bars and while Papa Jack's didn't have that same seedy feel to it, it was un-mistakingly Southern American.  Adding to the feeling was the costumes that the wait staff were wearing and the French American accent of our waiter as he welcomed us and showed us to our seat. Owners Marco and Emily Nunes (who created Woolloongabba bar, Canvas), have faithfully recreated a Louisiana watering hole right in the middle of the Valley.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Breakfast Series - the HUB Cafe Kitchen

Ashgrove is not an area that I associate as a foodie hub, in fact, I kind of think of it as the start of the 'burbs and the end of the inner city area.  I'm thinking that I might have to reassess that view!  We were invited along to check out new Ashgrove restaurant the HUB Cafe Kitchen and thought breakfast would be ideal.

We're quite familiar with the Ashgrove, we used to live around the corner in Bardon and a long time ago, I lived in the Gap and drove up Waterworks Road every day to get home.  The HUB was located on Stewart Road, just off Waterworks Road and right by the shopping centre.  It hadn't been that long ago since our last visit to the area, when I dropped SC and her regular dining buddies for their Indian Curry nights, of which I am (thankfully) excused.  Annasamara was right next door to the HUB and when we pulled out the front, we were surprised by the flashy looking new restaurant and even more surprised that that little part of Steward Road had developed into a little foodie hub.

The HUB has pride of place once you turn the corner into Stewart Street and it's pretty hard to miss. The heritage listed corner store style cafe and been completely remodelled and has the feel of yesteryear but a very modern fit out.  As we walked into the restaurant, I was impressed with the very contemporary open style kitchen and bar area inside, and the open feeling of the main dining room, which had massive open doors that let the outside in.  We were greeted by co-owner and head chef John Lambkin, whom was impeccably dressed in his chef whites and a cool green apron that all of his staff were wearing.

Vapiano - Italian done the German way

When thinking of Italian dining, there are a heap of places around Brisbane that come to mind.  I have a couple of favourites that I've visited many times over the years, my current favourite being Beccofino at Newstead (see post here).  Beccofino is not the only Italian restaurant I've visited, there have been many, and in fact, Brisbane has a dearth of Italian restaurants (see my blog list here). There is one Italian restaurant though that I don't often think about, even though it is right under my nose (figuratively).

Vapiano has been in Brisbane for a quite a few years now and is a restaurant that I'd gone to a little bit when it first opened, mainly due to it's unique approach.  Vapiano Brisbane is part of a much larger chain of restaurants which spans the globe and has outlets in Sydney and Melbourne as well as cities like New York and London.  It stretches from Estonia to Brazil; Luxembourg to Mexico; South Korea to Kuwait - there are over 135 outlets around the world.  Forty five of those restaurants are located in Germany.  Germany you might ask?  Yep, the very Italian restaurant Vapiano was created by a couple of guys from Germany and the first Vapiano opened its doors in Hamburg in 2002.

I remember when Vapiano first opened in Brisbane, it was actually kind of hard to get into, there were queues and fairly long wait times.  Nowadays, the restaurant is busy but those halcyon days are long gone, swept up with the restaurant renaissance that has occurred in the last few years in our fair city.  It had been a more than a few years since my last visit and I'd been meaning to get back to Vapiano and check it out for some time.  We just needed the right opportunity and motivation, which we found when heading off to see Spamalot one Sunday evening - it seemed as if the stars had aligned and we found ourselves standing at the entrance in Albert Lane.


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