Tag Archives: brisbane restaurants

Bar Barossa, Brisbane CBD

I managed to take a few days off between Christmas and New Year and particularly savoured time spent catching up on hundreds of bookmarked articles I’d gathered in an email folder over the last 9 months or so. I squirrel away all these shiny little gems like a bowerbird, and to extend the metaphor, a few of my treasures turn out to be as exciting as milk bottle lids and bread tags.

One article that provided some food for thought was this short paper from the Social Issues Research Centre on ‘Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective‘. It touches lightly on eating at restaurants and how their role has adapted to societal changes over time. My own relationship with restaurants has gone from a strange and foreign world I found myself working in to a ‘third place’ where I find myself much too frequently. A wardrobe full of size-too-small clothes testifies to this transformation.

As it’s a short walk from my office and home, Bar Barossa is one of a small group of restaurants I visit regularly. Sometimes for a chat with Darren Davis, one of the proprietors, sometimes for a wine dinner, sometimes because I’m exhausted beyond cooking and my partner wants a good steak. I’ve never had a bad meal here, but the extensive Barossa led wine list has always shone brighter than the rest of the restaurant experience. It’s been comfortably good, without being dazzling. But this has all changed.

The menu has had a bit of a rework, something that was long overdue.  Bar Barossa divides their menu into light plates, grazing plates and hearty plates, and servings are generous. There’s now a lot more colour and shade on the menu, without moving too far from the wine friendly fare that is their stock in trade. Flavours are simple and direct, with good quality beef, lamb and pork and fresh briney oysters. I’m more likely to order fish when I eat out as I rarely cook it at home, and the NT barramundi with potato cake, asparagus and beurre blanc I had on Friday night was fantastic. I’d have liked a bit more sauce, but then I mostly eat for sauces. My entrée of Cape Grim beef carpaccio with white anchovies was also excellent, with the beef seared and then sliced into glistening, translucent sheets and dressed with a just right mix of olive oil and lemony acid. A glass of Rockford Alicante Bouchet is a great match for this dish. Desserts aren’t really the strong suit of the kitchen, but the choose your own adventure cheese plate is worth a look, dressed with Barossa preserves and crispbread, as is the broad selection of stickies and fortifieds.

But the food is not the reason why I’d recommend you pay a visit to Bar Barossa. It’s the floor staff. A group of properly enthusiastic professionals, who love what they do and where they work is what elevated our meal at Bar Barossa. They’re hooked into what’s good on the menu, what works from the wine list and what’s happening around town. As Bar Barossa attracts plenty of business and tourist patronage, it’s great to see good ambassadors for our city and our dining scene. Darren was nowhere in sight, and yet service hummed along and the diners around us seemed to be enjoying themselves even more than we did.

Now in its second year of operation, Bar Barossa has hit its straps. Now if they can just squeeze in that mezzanine floor to make room for twice as many tables…..

Bar Barossa

545 Queen Street


Phone:    07 3832 3530

Web:  www.barbarossa.com.au

Tuesday to Friday:  Lunch and Dinner

Saturday: Dinner until late

Regular winemaker events

Review: Oshin Japanese Restaurant, Brisbane CBD

As we’ve discussed before here at The Supertaster, Brisbane has some kind of crazy fascination for sushi and Japanese foods in general. But mostly sushi.

Before Japanese food was cool, Brisbane’s business types did deals over the pine tables at Oshin, upstairs on the corner of Adelaide and Creek Streets. We used to direct people there by saying ‘there’s a koala statue on the awning’ but now we say ‘it’s next door to the Apple store’. Landmarks and the common consciousness may change, but everything inside Oshin has stayed the same. Laminated wine lists with prices relabelled and well worn menus and a decor not lead by design might make you think Oshin has been left behind by newcomers like Sono, Hanaichi, Nagomi and the like. Truth is, Oshin is a modest place with a winning formula and is content to serve good things to repeat customers and those lucky enough to venture in. There’s nothing tricked up or ‘fusion’ here.

The menu covers most of the fare you’d expect – sushi, sashimi, katsu, yakiniku, tempura, teriyaki, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, etc. It’s not been assembled to suprise and delight; it serves a more basic function- doing those Japanese staples we love, really well. Glistening platters of sashmi show Oshin know how to source great seafood. Service is friendly and staff will happily serve you in western style entree, main, dessert style. There’s also half a dozen stools at the sashimi bar. It’s a shame they’ve recently replaced their hot towels with plastic packaged disposable versions.

At Oshin, my ‘usual’ comfort foods include the agedashi dofu, tempura udon, deluxe sushichirashi and sometimes scallops skewers and prawn handrolls. The rice is always perfect too. All of these things go well with a Yebisu.

Oshin is a great place to retreat from the bustle of the city and enjoy the comfort of simple and reliably good Japanese staples.

Oshin Japanese Restaurant

1st Floor Koala House

256 Adelaide Street, Brisbane

07 3229 0410

Review: Pourboy Espresso, Brisbane CBD

Given the dearth of weekend CBD breakfast spots, let alone ones worth eating at, I was pretty damn excited to hear that recently opened coffee hotspot, Pourboy Espresso, would be opening from 7am til 2pm every Saturday and Sunday.

Having already sampled the fine Mecca Espresso coffee and an excellent croque monsieur, I’m pleased to the report that our breakfasts were of the same high standard. As it was in fact our second breakfast of the day and we were already sufficiently caffeinated, we started proceedings with a couple of Fever Tree ginger beers. These are punchy little numbers, cloudy and reminiscent of the brewed-in-the-bottle wonders your grandma/aunt/neighbour used to make.  After some serious indecision over the menu, I employed the ‘blindfold’  approach and made a random pick from the menu. As the waiter took our order, I changed my mind again, going with her suggestion. We ordered the American pancakes with strawberries and sorbet and the ricotta, mushroom duxelles and poached eggs on toast. Both were fantastic, although I can only trust the opinion of my dining companion who didn’t share his pancakes. 

It’s clear that Sebastian Butler-White and Mark Bell are a clever and experienced pair who have a clear vision of what they want to offer at Pourboy Espresso. You can tell by the way their staff are involved with delivering a great experience for each customer, be it for a takeaway coffee or a pondorous lunch or breakfast. The bread and pastries are exceptional and only the very best ingredients are used. There are absolutely no corners cut, yet the prices are fair and equitable. The coffee is undeniably excellent and whilst most of the weekday business clientele opt for an espresso, cold drip and pour over options are also available, giving you a few more ways to enjoy the excellent Mecca Espresso beans. Decor is comfortable and minimalist, fair enough too, as there’s enough interest and quality on the menu that any additional fripperies are unneeded. 

I’m lucky enough to live within downhill on the way home walking distance, but if you’re keen to try it for weekend breakfast, there’s plenty of on street parking available, and some parking undercover in the neighbouring shopping centre too. However you get there, Pourboy Espresso is quality all the way.

Pourboy Espresso

26 Wharf Street, Brisbane

07 3172 1141


Twitter: @pourboyespresso

Monday – Friday 6am – 4pm

Saturday & Sunday 7am – 2pm

Restaurant Review: Nagomi, Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane

Nagomi is one of the new casual week day dining options at Eagle Street Pier, which regular viewers will recall has recently had a makeover. The offspring of Sono Restaurants, Nagomi is billed as fresh Japanese-on-the-go. This is hardly a unique idea, with a sushi place already on every block in the CBD. So what’s different about Nagomi?
First of all, the location offers views of the river and a certain cachet, being located in Brisbane’s premier dining precinct. Secondly, there’s an extensive seating area with communal tables under a shade sail. Thirdly, all food is presented in containers made of biodegradable recycled materials.

All this should add up to something pretty neat. But that’s the thing.  It doesn’t.

I joined the queue, perusing the menu on the fly. There’s a choice of bento boxes, sushi and side dishes. I love a good Bento box, and remember the good old days where an enormous bento box lunch at Sono set you back $15. Back then, I ate one at least once a week and chewed the fat with others in my industry, who also had no defence for the lure of light as a feather tempura, tangy teriyaki beef, perfectly seasoned rice and anything else the chef deigned suitable for our bento boxes.

I got to the front of the queue to be told that I could only order sushi at that station, and that I needed to join the other queue. OK, sure. I joined the other, longer queue to be told by the manager that we could order bento boxes at the other queue. The manager then turned his back to us to engage in a long chat to a mate passing by. Not a stunning introduction to Nagomi. I settled on the Teriyaki Beef Patty bento box and went with the option to substitute the rice portion for sushi for an extra $2, fearful that if I wanted sushi, I’d be asked to join yet another queue. I was given a number and took a seat at the indoor bar area with other lone diners. My number was called not long after that and the bento box presented at the counter, the ‘box’ entirely comprised of moulded paper containers in a larger cardboard tray. The stool wasn’t matched to the height for the bar, which necessitated leaning forward to operate my chopsticks.  Not a major problem, more an oversight on the part of the fitout designer that made eating a little awkward.  Perhaps a clever trick to ensure tables are turned over quickly? 

The contents of the bento box were however a problem. Salad with mesclun, mandarin segments and a scoop of potato salad were fine. Gyoza, crocquettes and a few edamame beans were OK, but not amazing. I had trouble getting the sushi pieces out of the cardboard container, as the rice was overcooked and had become welded to the cardboard. The fillings of spicy tuna, pork and tempura prawn were decent, but not what I would have chosen (if you take the sushi option, you do not get to choose your sushi). The beef patty tasted reminiscent of my mother’s meatloaf with some green beans, zucchini, carrot and a pool of tasteless brown sauce. The beef was cheap and over minced, without any pleasurable flavour or texture. Perfectly blanched green beans were easily the highlight of the bento box.

Nagomi has been open for 4 – 6 weeks with an interruption in trade during the floods, which damaged the underground infrastructure and food storage areas at Eagle Street Pier.  The concept is good, the location is great and there is serious money and resources at the venues disposal with its backing from the established Sono group.  I hope they can refine their service and food offering to successfully differentiate themselves from the myriad other Japanese lunch options available in the CBD.

Teriyaki Beef Patty Bento Box @ Nagomi

A little birdy tells me a new interstate player is opening in the last remaining tenancy, known for its waterside location and ‘hot’ kitchen.  Any guesses?

Restaurant Review: Bavarian Bier Cafe, Brisbane

Eagle Street Pier is Brisbane’s original and arguably most successful restaurant precinct.  It’s now been trading for almost 20 years, but in the last five it seemed to lose its way.   Pier Nine, the premier spot for seafood and high class fish and chips closed its doors as the Hill-Smith family focussed on winemaking and other interests.  City Rowers became Jade Buddha and Ted Stewart’s Vino’s restaurant and function centre closed after several years of inconsistent trading.  With new owners Stockland coming on board there was talk of a substantial redevelopment of the site which created uncertainty for traders.  Then the ‘global financial crisis’ came and everything got a little quiet and the rumours died down.  Throughout this Andy & Marcia George’s Il Centro and John Kilroy’s Cha Cha Char carried on offering calm and consistency at the centre of the storm.

The opening of Aria by celebrity chef Matt Moran in mid 2009 created renewed optimism for the precinct and now as 2010 draws to a close there is a rash of new venues opening their doors.  I’ll leave it for Stockland’s PR machine to list them all out, but some highlights are the contemporary Japanese Sake Restaurant and Hamptons styled Jude Café, both of which are in soft opening mode.  It’s got to be a difficult time to open a new restaurant with chronic staff shortages affecting many operators.

Let’s get this out of the way:  Bavarian Bier Café is part of a chain.  There’s already a bunch of them trading in Sydney along with Lowenbrau Kellen at the Rocks.  The formula is great German beer, a menu with something to please everyone and young female waitresses with plenty of cleavage on display, without straying into Hooters territory.  If you’re blond haired and blue-eyed, then so much the better. 

The Brisbane venue occupies the plum spot at Eagle Street Pier, upstairs with a 180 degree view of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge.  There’s a number of distinct dining areas with long bench seating for groups, high stools for boozy afternoons or Parisienne style tables for two lining the bottom tier of the indoor dining area with even more bench seating on the wrap around verandah.  A large bar curves around the central atrium with suspended glass racks reflecting light into the indoor dining area.  It’s not quite as spectacular as when 90′s night spot Grand Orbit occupied the premises but it’s a successful design that make the most of the dramatic curves and expansive multi-level space.

Obviously you’ll want to try the beer and schnitzel.  We polished off several Lowenbrau and Hofbrau steins (300ml, 500ml and 1 L all on offer) along with Franziskaner Hefe Weissbier Hell and bottled Paulaner Hefe Weissbier and Franziskaner Kristall Weissbier.  The ‘ladies beer’, a Weissbier with a choice of cherry, peach, banana or lychee flavouring didn’t appeal and the wine list was pretty pedestrian, but it hardly matters since the beer is so good.  Ordering wine here would be like ordering a Thai chicken pasta at the pub.

We chose a pretzel, beef schnitzel and Nurnberger sausages with mash, sauerkraut, onion rings and Lowenbrau jus for lunch along with french fries.  Everything was competently cooked and made with quality ingredients.  I revelled in the flavours of my youth, remembering stealing forkfuls of sauerkraut from the fridge as a kid and the deli next to the fruiterers where my sister and I were given cheese kransky and German sausages to snack on.  The schnitzel filled the plate and was adorned with nothing more than a lemon wedge.  The fries turned out to be chips but they were cooked just the way I like them.   The menu is pretty extensive with salads, starters, schnitzel, mains, house specialties and dessert as well as platters and pizzas.  Pizzas topped with German sausages will no doubt appeal to blokes drinking with other blokes after work who enjoy watching ladies sampling the cocktails and ‘ladies beers’.

Service was a little scattered but then the staff are still settling in.  There was a more than adequate staff to patron ratio when we visited on a wet Saturday afternoon, but getting the bill was close to mission impossible.  After our second failed attempt to get the bill, we got up to pay only to be led on a full circuit of the dining area back to a station metres from our table. 

I’ve already heard someone make comparisons to the venerable German Club opposite the Gabba, and whilst both offer German beers, schnitzel and pork knuckle, they’re two very different animals.  Yes the food is cheaper at the German Club and the beer selection isn’t restricted to stuff made by Anheuser-Busch.  However, the Bavarian Bier Café has great views and a concept that will appeal to tourists, locals and families alike.   As it’s two blocks from my house and has a kitchen that stays open until 10pm every night of the week, I reckon I’ll be back.

Bavarian Bier Cafe

Level 1, Eagle Street Pier

45 Eagle Street, Brisbane

07 3339 0900


Restaurant Review: Mizu, Teneriffe

I have Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman to thank for discovering this place.  Or more specifically Brisbane Transport’s 199 bus.  It took four years of living in the city centre and the introduction of the GoCard system for me to contemplate that taking a bus to dinner might have its advantages.  This route runs from the Teneriffe Ferry through New Farm, Fortitude Valley, CBD, West End, Highgate Hill and Fairfield, passing at least 50 restaurants and cafes along the way.  As I wouldn’t think of dining without drinking or drinking and driving, this has been a boon for my desire to try more Brisbane restaurants more often.

We visited Mizu by chance on a walk to Teneriffe.  We’d spotted it from the 199 bus, busy on a Tuesday night. The atmosphere here is relaxed and unpretentious with welcoming and competent older Japanese staff looking after the floor.  There’s none of the stuffy formality you’ll find at some Japanese restaurants, no tatami mats and no kimonos.  Mizu is all about enjoying Japanese food informed by local ingredients and climate in a neighbourhood restaurant setting. 

The dining area is simple with polished concrete floors, unclothed tables and seating spilling from inside to a covered outdoor area.  Look above the counter and you’ll see sake bottles labelled with the names of regular patrons, in the best Iza kaya tradition.  The selection here effortlessly trumps Brisbane Japanese fine dining venues and so does the food. (Perhaps overtaken in the last few days by the just-opened Sake at Eagle Street Pier).

We snacked on a bowl of edamame as big as your head and enjoyed a couple of Sapporo beers with our entrees. Distinct courses are a Western concept, but the staff at Mizu happily accommodate our habit for entrees and mains.  The sashimi is presented with artistry showcasing a selection of tuna, salmon, kingfish, scallop, prawn, shredded daikon and expertly prepared wasabi.  The fish is fresh and alive with flavour and colour.  The ‘mizupaccio’ is a Mizu’s own interpretation of carpaccio and is prepared using sashimi quality fish, in this case meaty hiramasa kingfish, sliced thinly to showcase its texture and finished with grapeseed oil, shiso flakes and lemon.  The simple but beautiful rough glazed Japanese pottery further enhances our entrees.  The food is complemented by the quiet and friendly service and beautiful Japanese woodcuts.  A light breeze from the river and another Sapporo – I could stay here all summer.

There’s enough interest in the mains offered at Mizu to have you returning regularly with sushi and sashimi, substantial salads, two course bento boxes, agemono and yakimono.   Agemono courses at Japanese restaurants are often greasy Gaijin pleasers, and whilst tonkatsu, tempura and kara-age all feature here, the quality of the ingredients and cooking elevate them to a higher plane.  The simply described ‘prawn and mango’ perfectly sums up Mizu -fresh local sweet prawns cooking in light, crisp tempura batter, expertly seasoned with saikyo miso sauce arranged in a salad of mizuna and ripe mango slices with a judicious slick of Mizu’s own dressing.  Steamed koshihikari rice, real miso and tsukemono pickles complement the menu.

Mizu also offers what may be Brisbane’s only traditional Japanese breakfast.  Okonomiyaki are Japanese style  pancakes which are a favourite for many Aussies who’ve visited Japan and Mizu version doesn’t disappoint.   Loco moco is the Mizu breakfast ‘man meal’ with rough minced wagyu steak, fried egg, sukiyaki sauce, sesame, steamed rice and misu.  The breakfast bento box is a great way to sample the traditional Japanese breakfast constituents with grilled miso marinated black cod, agemono octopus, perfect kare-age chicken with sea salt flakes, sunomono and Japanese pickles, miso and rice.  Quality sencha and genmai-cha green teas are served in traditional Japanese teapots and small cups.  Matcha, a sort of green tea latte, hort blacks, cappuccino and flat white are available too.

Mizu further commends itself to regular visits by welcoming BYO wine at a very reasonable $4 a head corkage.  I reckon you could have alot of fun matching wine with this menu.

After trading successfully for four years and building up great regular patronage, Mizu doesn’t need your support.  But you’d be mad to miss out on its authentic but unpretentious Japanese food.

Mizu Japanese Eats

2 Macquarie Street


07 3254 0488

Lunch and dinner 7 days a week

Breakfast Saturday and Sunday from 8am – 11am

Fully licensed and BYO Wine

Takeaway available

Mizu Sushi Cooking School