Tag Archives: West End

Restaurant Review: Depo


It’s Friday night in Brisbane and unusually we have a reservation for dinner.

“How’s 7:30 for you?” I’d asked. “Oh hang on, they only take bookings on the hour, so what about 7?” I was booking online using the restaurants own web based booking system. Ever curious to know whats for dinner, I downloaded the restaurants mobile app and browsed the menu to see what the chefs had devised for the day. My eye was drawn to a main of ling served with grilled fennel, black olives and lemon potatoes. Different, and we hadn’t even got to the restaurant yet. More browsing of the app tells me we can look forward to sustainable fish, seasonal produce, collaboration, more than a restaurant, a gallery, events and a daily changing menu. It’s every ideal a modern hospitality venture could hope to aim for.

Collaboration and contrasts are two words that sum up Depo, a new venture for Erik Van Genderen and Alexander Lotersztain. As proprietor of Gear, a West End hub for bike culture enthusiasts, you might be surprised to see Erik on the other side of the pass at Depo, though it all makes sense once you know that he was chef and partner in Amsterdam’s highly regarded Blauw aan de Wal restaurant (translated, ‘Blue on the Quay’). Erik’s wife’s work led him to Australia around 5 years ago and he followed his passion for bikes and street fashion, stocking items that he had grown to love but hadn’t found in Australia. Argentinean born, Brisbane educated partner Alexander Lotersztain’s name is perhaps more widely familiar as a result of accolades for his work as designer on projects like Limes Hotel and Alfred & Constance. Depo’s inception came out of a serendipitous meeting of minds between Alex and Erik, and Alex’s design studio, Derlot, is perched above with the restaurant taking the ground level warehouse space.

There’s a compelling tension between the necessarily simple cooking and the hyper-detailed interior at Depo, which mixes glamour in textures and soft furnishings with a playful menagerie of bears, buffalo, deer and pigs and a riot of foraged objects. For those familiar with Loterzstain’s work at Alfred and Constance this may sound familiar, though there’s a darker, lusher palette at Depo and it’s offset by the Besser block boundary walls and open beam warehouse ceiling.

Like the interior, the menu has plenty of personality, though thats not to say it relies on culinary trickery or trends. For the most part, the food is simple, with just a few ingredients given a slight twist here and there. Given the changing menu and requirement to respond to seasonal availability, the menu is sensibly brief with an average of four entrees, four mains and four desserts at dinner and share plates for other times. A day time menu is served from 7am to 3pm Tuesday to Sunday. Wherever possible ingredients are sourced from Food Connect, fish markets and independent butchers with excellent bread supplied by Chouquette.

The cucumber soup with heirloom tomatoes and piquant cubes of balsamic jelly and a smear of goats curd bursts with cool, fresh flavours while the addition of watermelon to grilled scallops and smoky chorizo provides a lift to a classic flavour combination. Beef tartare with salmon roe and a potato ‘salad’ seems bland by comparison and lacks for the seasoning this dish requires to make it sing. However the individual ingredients are good, with good quality hand chopped beef and a quail’s egg on top. The potato salad is a departure from the usual accompaniments to this dish and adds visual interest but otherwise seems out of place. We sip on our mineral water and remain defeated in our attempt to catch the attention of the floor staff to take an order for wine. After a mix up, the right bottle of wine arrives, and is served in good quality stemware. The list is eclectic and international, though seemingly draws from a small group of suppliers. It would be nice to see this evolve with time and reflect the personality of the venue more closely. Cocktails and a small list of beer and cider are well chosen.

A combination of a sure hand on the pans and exceptionally fresh fish result in a winning combination with the ling, fennel, olive and lemon potato. This is a dish that makes an excellent case for seasonal, produce driven cooking and delights my dining companions. The duck breast with sugar snap peas, parsnip mash and orange sauce doesn’t scale the same heights, let down by somewhat tough meat and under rendered fat below the skin. The sauce is however delicate and refined and the parsnip mash provides a fitting savoury undertow. There’s quite a buzz in the room by now and the floor staff seem to have found their form.

After generous entrees and mains, I dutifully order dessert, opting for a bavarois with ice cream. Engrossed in conversation, I taste the icecream and wonder for a moment at the unusual flavour. Paired with a goats cheese bavarois drizzled with thyme scented honey, that unusual flavour is balasamic vinegar. It’s unconventional but works, its gentle acidity teaming well with the creamy bavarois and has me tasting and pondering to the last spoonful.

Depo both confounds and delights. It’s an energetic space that engages, though it doesn’t feel forced or uncomfortable. Van Genderen and Loterzstain’s collaboration is in many ways a reflection of their own ideals and vision. It’s original and attractive. Depo’s biggest test however will be in how the high ideals of this venue translate into the ongoing commercial realities of a hospitality business.

16 Horan Street, West End
Phone 07 3846 6537
Tuesday to Wednesday 7am to 4pm
Thursday to Sunday 7am to midnight



This review first appeared in ExtraVirgin Magazine.

The Spaghettihouse Trattoria, West End

I’m always dubious about restaurants with long menus. How can the kitchen possibly cook all of them well? Alarm bells went off as I was handed the menu at The Spaghettihouse Trattoria, a new Italian restaurant on Boundary Street at West End.

A relative newcomer to this restaurant strip, I’d watched the fitout of this place with interest. That they hung their sign while the fitout was still underway signalled that there might be experienced operators behind this place. There’s nothing groundbreakingly or original about Spaghettihouse. As the name suggests, the menu has a strong focus on pasta – with no less than 28 pasta dishes listed on the menu and another 3 or 4 pasta specials scrawled on the gilt framed mirrors that line the narrow dining room. Along with this feast of pasta, there’s some typical trattoria style dishes like fritto misto, veal variously saltimbocca, scalloppine, parmigiana and involtini alla Milanese (stuffed veal bearing spinach and mozzarella and wrapped in pancetta with a marsala cream sauce). Should veal not be your thing, try the pollo alla piccata – that’s chicken Kiev given an Italian accent. By now you’re either hungry or weary. If you’re hungry, then I would commend Spaghettihouse to you.

There’s something about Spaghettihouse that makes you feel a little bit like you’ve entered a time warp. Racks of wine in the windows, raffia-matted pine chairs and European chandeliers. Jazz standards play. Is it Frank Sinatra? And no, that’s not Nat King Cole. Ah, but that is Dean Martin! Sade’s ‘Diamond Life’ is up next, unmistakable as the first track, ‘Smooth Operator’ begins to play. It’s not 1995, but in context, it all seems agreeable enough. There’s no candles in chianti bottles and no red checked table cloths, so a tip of the hat to modernity there, though they’d suit the atmosphere and the style of food. It’s an impressive feat to take a restaurant open for months not years and give it this kind of comfort-worn feeling.

Service here is attentive and charming without being polished or formal. A small troupe of young Italian men in red aprons take care of orders, wine, running plates and peripheral requests. This being West End, there’s a perfectly-audible-at-the-next-table request for a dish to be changed to accommodate the ethics and preferences of a diner. Despite the complexity of the request and the entitled attitude it’s made with, they handle it with aplomb. Back at our own table, when a dish of fried calamari isn’t available due to a technical issue, a substitute dish of grilled fontina with garlic and rosemary served with crusty bread is offered. It’s wickedly good. Service is in the warm and generous vein of Italian hospitality, even if perhaps a combination accents and background noise sometimes lead to a breakdown in communication. Another entrée of eggplant melanzane looks and tastes good, but could have done with a few more minutes under the grill to melt the cheese and colour the eggplant to give it a more pleasing silken texture and sweetness. The tomato sauce its served with is packed with flavour and richness.

It’s worth noting that prices at Spaghettihouse are pretty keen with the most expensive dishes at $26.90, which is for shellfish ‘Pasta Speciale’ dishes. With my ever reliable inclination towards expensive tastes, I opted for the saffron linguine with scampi and a cream seafood bisque. This dish hit all the right notes – just the right amount of garlic, background notes of saffron with the seafood bisque sauce providing plenty of depth of flavour without being rich or cloying. Good value too with three fresh and firm halved scampi arranged atop the nicely al dente linguine. A glass of Soave was a good match for this dish, and there’s a decent selection of Italian, Australian and NZ  red and white wines on offer, as well as some more serious Italian bottles. Each of the Italian wines has a concise and easy to operate tasting note, with prices by the glass starting from $6.50. Wine is served in quality stemless glasses, which suit the casual trattoria feel.

Desserts cleave to the Italian classics of panna cotta, tiramisu and gelato with rather delicious sounding semifreddo of mascarpone, berries and torrone (Italian almond nougat)  for something a little different. Somehow we wound up with a tiramisu being called away and glasses of Averna and limoncello presented by our unfailingly smiley waiter. The tiramisu arrived in a giant martini glass with savoiardi biscuits arranged in a sort of crown around the rim. Retro presentation aside, it tasted good, with plenty of punch from the espresso and Frangelico soaked biscuits.

Spaghettihouse offers the kind of food and hospitality that’s hard not to love. There’s nothing confronting or challenging here, and for this reason I reckon it would be a great place to meet for a family dinner or with the sort of mates who don’t Instagram their food, wine and coffee.

There’s no great heights scaled, but rather a good, solid, bums on seats, plates and glasses full kind of good time vibe to this place.

The Spaghettihouse Trattoria
Shop B, 120 Boundary Street, West End
Phone: 07 3244 4844
Open: Tuesday – Sunday 11:30am – 3pm; 5:30pm – 10pm

Short Order – West End

Despite jokes about my being unwilling to travel outside of the CBD, I do go through spurts of catching the 199 bus to visit places in New Farm, Teneriffe and West End. I know, hardly the sorts of destinations that require a map and compass (or satnav) but with around 100 places to eat and drink accessible from a single bus route, there’s plenty of scope for adventure.

The last few weeks has seen me mostly heading to the West End part of the route. Here’s some newish places and some old faithfuls I enjoyed.

The Burrow
I remember when I first moved to Brisbane and lived in the outer suburbs and my seemingly sophisticated friends used to love going to The Three Monkeys. So bohemian, milky coffee served in bowls and nachos. Huge slices of cake with cream and ice cream. Posters for all the cool gigs pinned up on the walls near where you ordered. Concert posters signed by Peter Allen and Julie Anthony, well they were less cool.

Sort of like that somehow yet not at all like that is newcomer The Burrow. Its right over the road from The Three Monkeys, and is also under a Queenslander. I visited late on a Sunday morning and loved the atmosphere. A real mixed bag of patrons enjoying the Mexican inspired breakfast menu and good coffee. There’s a comfortable mix of communal forest furniture tables and café tables closer to the front. You order at the counter and drinks are quickly brought to your table or even made as your order is taken. There’s more seating up stairs, so it’s a good option if you’re not keen on queuing at the Gun Shop Café. Few things in life are so good that I’m willing to queue and breakfast isn’t one of them.

There’s quiet quirk to the décor here, enjoyable details at every turn. Comics pasted up as wall paper, Aqua Teen Hunger Force voiced sign on the front counter, an espresso machine group handle repurposed as the door handle for the bathrooms and a variety of novelty salt and pepper shakers on the tables. But somehow avoiding that try hard hipster aesthetic that often plagues inner city cafes with reclaimed furniture. It doesn’t feel forced.

I was pretty damn happy with my breakfast ‘El Desparados Tacos’ – featuring two chipotle pulled pork filled tacos, tangy sinus clearing pico de gallo, fresh chopped salsa, poached egg and Mexican style beans with a salted lime wedge. Lots of complex flavour on the plate and quality, fresh ingredients.  If you want to turn it up there’s an optional hot sauce. “Are you a Mexican or a Mexi-can’t?” the menu asks. Today I can’t. Maybe next time. No boring breakfasts here, there’s cider braised pork belly with celeriac puree, fried egg and poached pear; beef cheek with mushroom duxelles and poached egg and Pepe Saya butter served with your toast and other tasty options.

A great place to do breakfast at your own pace, on your own or with a group of variously hungover mates.

37 Mollison Street, West End
Ph 07 3846 0030
Open Tuesday to Thursday 8:30am to late, Friday to Sunday 7am to late, closed Monday. Licensed.

I liked this place so much I’ve visited a few times recently, including that time I went for breakfast and stayed for lunch. It’s not that hard to do. There’s a small bar area just inside off the street, but the place to be if you want to get comfy and graze is the courtyard out the back. As you pass the kitchen, through the narrow hall to the courtyard check out the works by local artists. ‘Courtyard’ seems an insufficient term to describe the space that greets you – stencil art, veejays, fanlight windows, souvenir teaspoons and bone handled knives and The Cramps moaning gently in the background create a kind of West End ‘mood board’. But it’s a comfortable one, and the service is smartly pitched between familiar and knowledgeable, for you to engage with at whatever level suits you.

JamJar is now the partnership of Jamie Simmonds and chef Damien Styles, back from a stint at Pope Joan and Charcoal Lane in Melbourne. Jamie and his mum Robyn look after the floor, the beer, wine and cocktails and Damien has full control of the food. If you’re yet to have the pleasure, Damien’s food at JamJar is above and beyond any other casual offering in Brisbane. Highly original and expertly realised, the dish you must try is the pink lake salt cured kingfish with sardine fossils. Salt cured kingfish finely cubed and showered with bonito flakes made on the premises combine for maximum texture and flavour with sardine crisp staligmites and nori punctuating this genre-defying signature dish. If you’re look for safer ground, there’s a dead good burger with new potato chips at lunch time, and a tasting plate to give you a feel for what the food here is all about. Pristine, ozone fresh oysters say a lot about the quality of ingredients in play. The menu is structured into ‘Smalls’ ‘Middle’ and ‘End’. You’ll get the most enjoyment here by picking a few things from each group and sharing them. The kingfish grabs your attention, but the dish of toasted dark rye, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sprout & shoots, poached duck egg, vegetable flakes and parmesan crumbs rivals its originality and textural interplay. Damien has very dark rye bread baked specifically for the dish and while it might read like some macrobiotic hippy concoction, there’s a sure hand at work here. You’ll thank me.

The wine list may be brief but you can see that everything there appears for a reason and cleverly matches the food. Beer avoids the tired selections you’ll find at neighbouring establishments and there’s proper cocktails on offer too. Interestingly, the wine list leans towards well priced imports and smaller producers.

Besides the knockout food and drink, JamJar is also astonishingly good value. Get yourself there.

138 Boundary Street, West End
Ph 07 3844 3395
Open Monday 7pm to midnight. Wed, Thurs, Fri 10:30am to 3pm; 5pm to midnight. Saturday & Sunday 8am to midnight. Closed Tuesday.

King Ahiram
A West End original, still bearing a sign with a seven-digit phone number, King Ahiram’s quietly churns out some of the best Lebanese food in town. I’ve heard there’s some place at Red Hill that does it better, but I have made my allegiance, and its to the vegetarian deluxe platter on a cheap vinyl chair under fluoro lights on Vulture Street. It’s one of the places that still links West End to it’s ethnic past, along with Mick’s Nuts and George’s Seafood, that place with giant octopuses hanging in the window.

Smoky baba ganoush, garlicy smooth hommus, dolmades that aren’t out of a tin and warm flat bread are the foundation.  Fresh zingy tabouli and authentic felafel are the feature. If he died with this felafel in his hand, then it’d be a pretty good way to go. There’s a deluxe meat platter too, also good, but Lebanese is one of the greatest cuisines to go for as a vegetarian, they know how to maximise flavour without adding meat. It’s worth noting that King Ahiram is BYO, though you may wish to pack your own glassware. Or your own disposable cups, I’m not sure what would suit best.

This is a great place to fill up before you head out for drinks or to a gig at The HiFi, and its great value. The family who run the place have been going for years, and its thankfully untouched by innovation. The bags of grout stacked at the back of the dining room in readiness for a renovation have been there for a few years now, and I’m almost relieved to find them unopened each time I visit.

Make room for a baklava or rosewater rich Turkish delight to finish your meal. If you don’t like garlic or gluttony, King Ahirams may not be for you.

88 Vulture Street, West End
Ph 07 3846 1678
Opening seemingly 7 days a week from around 11am to when people stop coming.

The End
My next stop after King Ahirams, a bit further up the street in the old Trash Video premises, a few doors up from the Vietnamese bakery. It took a family outing to get me through the door, and I’ve got no idea why I resisted. The End is run by a couple of young blokes having a go and getting it right. There’s more of that reclaimed, repurposed thing happening with the décor but again it works. Rather than being a Frankie magazine style pastiche, lines are simple and uncluttered, there’s some overstuffed leather lounges, and some long bar tables made from work benches, with vices still attached and some lumpen stuffed coffee sacks that make it more likely you’ll forego sitting to get up and dance after a few drinks. The mark of a good bar for me? I could get very comfortable here and the music is good. There’s no apparent dress code, and no hipster attitude. These guys believe in good beers, decent cocktails and tunes that veer more in the direction of Talking Heads and Velvet Underground than LMFAO and PSY.

I don’t know if they do food, but I rate the Blackstar Coffee Porter if you’re looking for something a little chewier. A divine marriage of two of the world’s great beverages with a distinct West End twist. There’s usually a few house brews on tap, and a changing roster of bottled craft beers too. A smattering of reasonable wines and a well thought out yacht/resort wear kind of cocktail list. If you go on the right night, there’s handsome DJs spinning quality old time vinyl.

Given its away from other West End bars and clubs, it has a kind of independent streak you can’t help but be attracted to.

73 Vulture Street, West End
07 3846 7271
7 nights a week from 3pm to midnight.
Capacity: 100 people ie. tiny. If you are claustrophobic, go early.