Food

Vintaged Bar + Grill, Hilton Brisbane

by Christine Salins on July 22, 2014

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I’ve always loved walking into the Hilton Brisbane because of the big arrangement of fresh flowers that greets visitors at the Elizabeth Street entry. As I step into the lift to the reception desk on level six, the hotel has already won me over. We can all do with more flowers in our day.

Opened in 1986, the hotel was designed by legendary architect Harry Seidler. It’s an eye-catching design with an enormous atrium more than 80 metres high, topped by a striking glass dome. Seidler’s sketches inspired the giant mural that forms a backdrop for the Vintaged Bar + Grill.

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The mural, created by local artist Simon DeGroot, was unveiled a few months ago. It’s suitably modernist, in keeping with the design of the hotel, and it has special lighting that enhances the vivid colours. It almost looks like a screen print or a digital image rather than an original artwork, but it certainly draws your eye to the bar. Twelve of DeGroot’s working samples are on display in the hotel’s business centre until August 30.

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If you pop in to have a look at the After Image exhibition, you might like to take advantage of a special for Good Food Month where you can get a main course (choice of four dishes) and a glass of wine or beer for $35. The hotel also has an accommodation package celebrating the Harvest: Art, Film + Food exhibition currently on at GOMA (Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art).

Vintaged Bar + Grill was awarded a chef’s hat in the Brisbane Times 2014/2015 Good Food Guide. This is the third edition of the Guide and the restaurant has scored a hat each time.

It’s a casual restaurant, but still with a certain elegance, and the chefs cook at an open grill in front of an illuminated wall of Himalayan rock salt used for dry-ageing meat. We had a prime spot at the Chef’s Table overlooking this spectacular wall and it was great fun watching the chefs at work. The table can take up to nine people and anyone can book it; in our case, it was just the two of us enjoying this very special spot.

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Almost all the dishes, including an extensive selection of steaks, are prepared on the grill. The restaurant showcases local produce and we loved the Mooloolaba swordfish dish that executive chef Jeremy Clark created with inspiration from GOMA’s Harvest exhibition. It’s accompanied by avocado puree, fennel, thinly sliced discs of radish and cucumber, baby herbs and sorrel, all ingredients sourced from boutique providores within a 200 kilometre radius of the hotel.

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I have to add a word of praise here for our excellent waiter Daan and very talented sommelier Dasha. Dasha chose a Reichsgraf von Kessels 2011 Kaseler Riesling Trocken to go with the swordfish and with tasting spoons of salmon gravlax, and scallop with asparagus puree and caviar. This lightly aromatic German wine was a lovely match with its gentle acidity and ever so slight sweetness.

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Dasha opted for a Cloudy Bay Pinot to go with the meats, a stunning charcuterie plate followed by slices of wagyu and sirloin and a couple of prawns. I can’t begin to tell you how good the charcuterie is: Kurobuta Berkshire capocollo (from the heritage Berkshire breed of pig), Cantimpalo salami and Wagyu beef bresaola. Of course, all the great flavour comes from lots of lovely fat that you can feel going straight to the hips.

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Dasha took us on a tour of the Wine Room, a glass-walled room strutting its stuff in the middle of the restaurant. Around 120 Australian and imported labels are on the shelves, from the tiniest producers you’ve never heard of to real icons like Rockford Basket Press Shiraz. In front of the Wine Room there’s another unique dining space in the Wine Table, a 5.5 metre long table that has an illuminated ice well running the length of the table. Up to 12 people can sit here.

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We drew on the special stomach reserved for desserts to enjoy a glass of Campbells Muscat and a tasting plate of treats including icecream with honeycomb and a little jug of caramel sauce. The hotel makes all its icecream in-house. I love that attention to detail.

Christine & Maurie dined as guests of Hilton Brisbane.

Fact file:

Vintaged Bar + Grill
Hilton Brisbane
190 Elizabeth St, Brisbane, Australia
+61 (0)7 3231 3265
www.vintagedbarandgrill.com

After Image art exhibition: May 22 – August 30, 2014.
Harvest-inspired lite bite available until September 21, 2014.
Harvest: Art, Film + Food’ experience at Hilton Brisbane, from $270 per room per night.

Download the full Brisbane Times Good Food Month program here.

More posts on Good Food Month: Good Food Guide AwardsGood Food Month; Winter Harvest Mondo Organics; Gerard’s Bistro: A Winning Formula.

Food.Wine.Travel is delighted to be an official blogger for:

www.foodwinetravel.com.au Good Food Month, program in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, My Kitchen Rules, Jake Harrison, Elle Harrison, Serendipity icecream, Natascha Mirosch, Joanna Saville, Brisbane restaurants, Brisbane Times Good Food Guide, Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, Antonio Carluccio, Night Noodle Markets, Kwan Brothers.

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Sweet Home Alabama

by Christine Salins on July 19, 2014

Eaves restaurant Huntsville

Drive into any American city and all the stereotypes about American food will stare you in the face – the fast food joints on every corner, the people who are among the fattest on earth. It’s not a pretty picture, but nor is it the complete picture. For dining out in the US is, at once, awfully bad and astonishingly good.

In the deep south of the United States, Montgomery, capital of Alabama, is perhaps the greatest contradiction of all. This attractive city, awash with cultural and historical attractions, is the place where in 1955 a brave African-American woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, leading to the civil rights movement that changed the course of US history.

The legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr rings out loud and clear in Montgomery, and there’s an acknowledgement of past wrongs and a pride in civil rights progress that I never expected to find in this neck of the woods. There’s also a flourishing and quite unexpectedly vibrant food scene.

True restaurant Montgomery

Alabama has some of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the country. In a curious dichotomy, it also has some of the highest rates of childhood hunger in the country. It produces only 5% of its own food. But just as people throughout the United States are embracing the “eat local” movement and aiming for a higher standard of food production and consumption, the people of Alabama are on a mission too.

Montgomery urban farm

Two urban farms are giving children hands-on opportunities to grow and eat healthy and delicious food. Eat South, the non-profit organization behind the project, also works in the community by developing school gardens and encouraging better food policy. One of Eat South’s most passionate supporters is chef Leo Maurelli, who does cooking demonstrations in the farm kitchen. He buys produce from the farm for use in Central, an uber-modern restaurant in an old downtown warehouse.

Central chef Leo Maurelli, Montgomery

With a nod to his Italian and Panamanian heritage, he serves black-eyed pea hommus with flatbread, soft tamal with sofrito sauce, and tuna carpaccio. In almost two months of travelling in the US, this was possibly the finest meal I had. I never expected to find it in Alabama. Maurelli’s use of local produce is echoed at True, where Wesley True produces dishes with a Southern theme, such as shrimp and grits, spiced with New York City.

True, Montgomery, shrimp and grits.

About three hours north of Montgomery, the rocket city also boasts a level of dining that is unexpected. Huntsville is best known for its role in the US space program, but the international community working at nearby Redstone Arsenal has spawned sophisticated restaurants like The Eaves, where Merle Philip playfully constructs and deconstructs classic dishes such as Fried green tomatoes with feta and roasted red pepper vinaigrette.

At 1892 East, Steven Bunner is an intensely dedicated young chef who makes everything from scratch and delivers Southern-inspired food with creative flair. Unlike Bunner, who has roots in the area, James Boyce has adopted Huntsville as his home only in recent years. But already he has left an indelible mark on the local dining scene with a string of fine restaurants, including Commerce Kitchen and Cotton Row.

James Boyce

Their emphasis on using fresh, local produce is inspiring and although their presence is not as glaringly obvious as the ubiquitous roadside diner, they are reason alone to put Alabama on the tourist map. If Alabama is a state of surprises, its exciting food scene is the biggest surprise of all.

Urban Farm Montgomery

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Gerard’s Bistro: A Winning Formula

by Christine Salins on July 17, 2014

www.foodwinetravel.com.au Brisbane Good Food Month, Gerard’s Bistro, Ben Williamson, Moubarak brothers, Brisbane Times Good Food Guide, Fortitude Valley restaurants, Brisbane restaurants.

The inspiration for the sumptuous Middle Eastern banquet that will be held at Gerard’s Bistro this Sunday comes from Ben Williamson’s five years of living and working in the Middle East.

“During Ramadan, they would have these massive feasts after sundown. It was very opulent,” said Ben, who fulfilled a passion for travelling the world by working as an in-flight chef for Gulf Air.

Whereas Gerard’s regular menu is a modern take on Middle Eastern dining, Ben will play around with more traditional dishes for Sunday’s feast. “We wanted to pay homage to the culture that has spawned what we do here.”

Restaurant of the Year

When Ben took on the role of head chef for Johnny, Elie and Mel Moubarak, brothers who are of Lebanese descent, he was excited by their vision for the Fortitude Valley restaurant.

And, it seems, the people of Brisbane have embraced it too. The excitement in the air was palpable when Gerard’s Bistro was named Restaurant of the Year in the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide for 2014-2015.

This newcomer (named Best New Restaurant in last year’s guide) had trumped the two- and three-hatted restaurants and proved that the best restaurant was not necessarily the most formal or expensive. “It was completely left of field,” Ben said of the win, admitting that he didn’t even have a speech prepared.

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Ben is delighted with the recognition because it vindicates his decision to offer a fine dining standard of food despite the restaurant’s casual surrounds and emphasis on shared plates. It’s a big commitment to offer such well-executed food, given the high cost, and Ben admits it’s been a hard slog since they opened two years ago.

“We make everything from scratch. It’s not your regular formula to have well-executed food in a really relaxed setting. It’s been a long, hard road but I guess people are enjoying it,” he said. “For the last six months, bookings have been completely solid and weekends are now booked three to four weeks in advance.”

He believes Brisbane is at a turning point in its dining scene, and that the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide has played a large part in that.

“It’s been a steak-oriented city and quite conservative. The Good Food Guide has really put Brisbane on the map as a competitor for the southern states. It’s a great time to be in the restaurant scene in Brisbane.”

Photos supplied by KDPR on behalf of Good Food Month.
Download the full Brisbane Times Good Food Month program here.

More posts on Good Food Month: Good Food Guide AwardsGood Food Month; Winter Harvest Mondo Organics;

Food.Wine.Travel is delighted to be an official blogger for:

www.foodwinetravel.com.au Good Food Month, program in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, My Kitchen Rules, Jake Harrison, Elle Harrison, Serendipity icecream, Natascha Mirosch, Joanna Saville, Brisbane restaurants, Brisbane Times Good Food Guide, Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, Antonio Carluccio, Night Noodle Markets, Kwan Brothers.

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