I still remember the my first time. E'cco is that type of restaurant, you remember it and that memory holds you and calls out to you. For those of you who just moved to Brisbane, E'cco is an institution, a stayer, a leader and certainly one of the true gastronomical experiences you can have.
E'cco is the love and joy of Phillip Johnson and has been a mainstay of the Brisbane food scene for over 17 years. Located in a century old tea house on the City fringe, the area has seen some significant changes. At one time this end of the city was the restaurant hotspot in Brisbane, with the Jamesons building housing another cutting edge restaurant Circa. Well the Jamesons building is long gone and Circa a distant memory, but Phillip Johnson's E'cco is just getting stronger. Once named the best restaurant in Australia, it is a perennial performer with a top 10 ranking in Brisbane through the Gourmet Travellers list of top restaurants and of course a Chefs Hat through the Good Food Guide
I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a special event, hosted by Phillip and attended by some of Brisbane's top food bloggers and food journalists for the launch of the new menu. It was great to be invited along and meet a whole heap of really passionate foodies and spend the night talking about our the one thing that binds us all together! After arriving at the E'cco bar underneath the restaurant, I spend a while getting to know the other guests and discussing, you guessed it, food and blogging!
Onto the menu. One of the big challenges in life for me is coming across a menu that has so many enticing options that you get analysis paralysis (I know, first world problem). Of the seven items on the entree list, I would happily have selected six of them, but unfortunately I could only pick one. I would normally head straight for the scallops, but I was feeling adventurous with a whole heap of new friends.
I opted for the Lemon thyme butter poached bug tail, saffron mayonnaise, jamon crumble & fennel salad. I was really unsure of how this would be presented, sometime when ordering bug tails, they are already out of their shell, and you lose a bit of that experience of digging out the delicate and succulent meat. The bugs were cooked to perfection and the jamon crumble added a complexity of flavour. The saffron mayonnaise added a punch and when adding the bug flesh, saffron and fennel all together, the dish achieved perfect harmony. While I do prefer the bug meat cooked in the tail, I will admit to being a big clumsy trying to get the delicious meat out, and resorted to using my fingers at times... naughty!
What was cool about sitting down to dine with a heap of food bloggers and food journos was that the first 10 minutes of each course was taken up with us all 'capturing the moment' with our phones and cameras. There was a pretty broad range of cameras ranging from iPhones (me), to point and shoots, right up to a professional canon eos. I think it's time for me to upgrade to dedicated camera for taking photos in future, my iPhone is just not going to cut it.
My main selection also came at the end of some serious pondering as I would happily have had any of the options on offer. Knowing that no matter what I selected, I was going to suffer a case of food envy, I decided on the Cape grim eye fillet, bone marrow, field mushroom, broad beans, onion rings and red wine jus. I have to say, a brilliant selection! This was just magnificent, there was a richness of flavour in the red wine jus that is hard to describe. It was sweet and sticky and blended so perfectly with the mushroom and eye fillet. The fillet itself was cooked to perfection for me, medium rare and was tender, with a meaty flavour. The onion rings were a bit weird for me, they were cooked well and tasty, but I like my onion rings a bit thicker, these were very thin and almost onion chips. With the steak came the bone marrow, which for many is an acquired taste, but once you get over the texture is really delightful. I think this was the best of the mains on the night, but I know that my peers at the table all thought the same about their mains too!
The best thing about dessert was that we did not have to limit ourselves to just one. Two of each dessert came to the table 'tapas' style for us all to share. I really can't think of a better way to share dessert. Dessert consisted of valrohona chocolate delice, honeycomb & caramel ice cream; crema catalana (like a spanish creme brulee), red wine poached pears and almond praline; mint and lime parfait, strawberry sorbet and lime meringue; cinnamon sugared doughnuts, lemon creme and raspberry jelly and warm carrot cake, cream cheese mousse, candied pepitas and pumpkin ice cream.
Not surprisingly my favorite dessert was the crema catalana, which is the spanish version of the creme brulee. It had a more complex flavour that your standard creme brulee, it was nowhere near as sweet and the red wine poached pears added some contrasting tartness, wonderful. I also really liked the parfait, which I am not normally that fond of, the combination of the berries and mint is a classic and was happy and surprise when eating as I had a lovely meringue as a bonus. A medley of desserts was a great way to cap of a very fine meal.
E'cco used to be one of my favorite restaurants a few years back and I would go every opportunity I could. Then something happened, a combination of an exciting range of new restaurants to compete against and having a couple of sub par experiences, mainly relating to undercooked risotto and a rolled pork belly dish that I really did not enjoy. It had been a couple of years since my last visit (my birthday dinner of 2010 to be exact) and was really interested to see if the old spark was back.
I would have to say the spark is back with a bang! Not only was there so many options on the menu that looked perfect, every course I had was a winner. I could see in the smiles and hear in the way that the dishes were discussed that the rest of the foodies felt the same way. There was much of the old magic back on the plate, the sense of wonder and elation that comes with good, simple food cooked to perfection
Now, back to that first time, it was 14 years ago and the first anniversary for myself and my partner SC. I ordered the eye fillet with gorgonzola mash. So early on in my food journey, I didn't really know what gorgonzola was, thinking the mash to be of the potato kind............ I learnt some valuable lessons that day; firstly when you are not sure of something on a menu, ask! Secondly, I really don't like gorgonzola.
|Clockwise - Seared Scallops, Veal Sweetbreads, Green Eggs & Ham|
|Clockwise - Spanner Crab Tortellini, Grilled White Fish, Duck Brest|