Category Archives: Uncommon Consumption

Eyes That Sparkle

For almost as many months as make a year, I’ve been working in a wine shop. From an outsider’s view, its a big leap from running an IT company. But for me it has felt easy, natural. I wanted my work to be more aligned with my passions, escape the soul crushing corporate world and take some time to decompress and work out how to take my life in another direction. I wanted to give up using the ‘w’ word. Enjoy going to work.

I love talking with people, meeting them, seeing the sparkle in their eyes when they talk about who and what they love. I am lucky that in my work now I get to see that sparkle every day. Customers celebrating with family and friends, choosing wine to share with their lover, their mates, their colleagues. Conversations that spark and fly off in many directions with passionate winemakers. Tales of the pursuit and discovery of beauty. The problems I solve for customers may seem meaningless, but they can make for a moment of reflection and joy in someone’s day. It is a pleasurable thing, to be able to do that for someone. Customers, particularly regulars are quick to share their gratitude when our recommendations have this result.

A little while ago, I got to talk with Enise and help her choose wine. At first we didn’t remember one another, and she asked for help to find the sauvignon blanc. That’s what threw me. She wanted Marlborough sauvignon blanc for her granddaughter, Sancerre, Pouilly Fume for herself and once we recognised one another she also decided to get the old and the new Adelaide Hills classics, Shaw and Smith and Marko’s Vineyard (made by another member of the Hill Smith family and to my tastes, just like Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc tasted in the mid 90′s) after I suggested she might enjoy comparing them. We had a great chat about fashions in wine, food, aesthetics as she piled sauvignon blanc of every style into my arms.

Enise has been living in Abu Dhabi but is making her home in Brisbane again. She’s an interesting lady who has worked in politics and more recently in humanitarian aid organisations. Her husband, a nuclear physicist for whom her adoration overflows, is continuing to work overseas while she directs work on their new home. She always buys him a bottle of whisky, something rare and interesting, though its some months yet until he joins here here. But Enise wants to ensure that when he’s back she has plenty of the things he likes so they can enjoy them together.

I feel privileged that from our brief interactions in the service of choosing wine, Enise has shared so much of her life and her effusive personality.

As we chatted, the lights caught Enise’s beautiful carved silver pendant, a square framing flowing Arabic script. A proverb from the Koran she told me. About beauty and trusting your heart. I wish I’d written down the words, but in that moment their beauty moved me. With a lump in my throat I told her so, and she responded, her eyes intensely on mine, illustrating the riches of Arabic culture through stories of her encounters in the region. I agreed and said how disappointing it was to see many Australian judge Arabic and people of other Middle Eastern cultures on the actions of a minority. My colleagues joined our conversation at this point as Enise’s granddaughter listened on. The conversation turned then to the treatment of refugees by our own government and the shame of detentions centres, as we expressed our disappointment and despair at the human cost of populist policy, the enormous contribution of migrants and refugees to Australia’s development as a nation and the need for action and vocal opposition. The need to find a better way and what shape that might take. How to make the leap from the way things are today, the need to start a national conversation. How to make a change we all strongly agreed is needed.

This conversation was unusual in context – from a conversation about wine – a shared passion – to a conversation of shared resolve, a sparkle in our eyes of a different kind and a fire in our bellies for change. To see our nation treat our brothers and sisters from coming across the seas with with dignity. To welcome them.

Talking About Food Is Like…



I had the pleasure last month of being invited to talk to John Beesley (aka @beeso)  of Lantanaland about food on his weekly podcast. We thought it would be a cool idea to chat over a few beers in a bar and roped in Paw Paw and Picnic Cafe head chef Rory Doyle. Rory, always one for a wry observation commented that talking about food on a podcast reminded him of the oft misattributed quote “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. It turned out that we were both wrong about who first spoke those words.

We talked about a range of subjects, some only tangentially related to food, perhaps more in the spectrum of “food culture”.  We talked about the Brisbane restaurant and bar scene, keeping chooks, whether tomato sauce should be excluded from the diet of children and serious food lovers, hillbilly butchers, and much else besides. Aside from the freefrom nature of the podcast, there were some struggles with the sound owing to our being in a bar with a bit of background noise. Beeso did a great job of cleaning up the sound. However, he was unable to do anything about my sounding rather more nasal and ocker than I sound in my own head. I’m laying the blame squarely on the beers consumed during the making of the podcast. Rory wore a very nice Parquet Courts t-shirt on the day which saw him rocket skywards in my estimation, but Beeso and I still hogged the conversation somewhat. Sorry Rory and sorry listeners. Rory is a pretty interesting person and a damn fine chef, but more on that another day.

You can listen to the podcast here. Thank you to the Mathew and the kind folks at The Gresham for letting us commandeer a corner of their bar for the podcast.




Chow House, Fortitude Valley

As a timid and naïve twenty-something, I had the good fortune of stumbling into a somewhat unusual job. I’d spent several years running a large roster of events for an industry association where I met some fascinating people who were generous in sharing their experience and knowledge. Working 70+ hours a week was part of the job, and in my narrow world, this was just what you did in order to have the opportunity to learn. I reached a point where I felt I’d done all there was to do in that role and began to realise that other people my age didn’t work as much as I did. Some quick sums showed my hourly rate to be about equivalent to a junior fast food worker. Time for a change.  A few missteps, and next thing I’d taken this strange job hybrid – one employer, two jobs. Working for as a legal assistant for a lawyer providing tax and estate planning advice to wealthy Asian families as well as doing marketing, accounts, payroll, etc, etc, etc for a restaurant the lawyer, Bill, co-owned with chef Timmy Kemp. There were many ‘etc’s to the job, as anyone who has worked in a restaurant will understand.

Fast forward 10+ years and Timmy Kemp, Thai born, French trained, long time Brisbane resident is the Chef at Chow House. Previously the site of the unremarkable James Street Bistro, the space at the entry to the Palace Cinema has been reborn as a timber and plant enclosed oasis, a casual restaurant serving ‘street food’ inspired dishes and the aromatic slow braises and duck dishes that Timmy is known for.

While I worked with Timmy, I had the privilege of eating her cooking most days. Having never worked in a restaurant before, I was surprised when on my first day, our head waiter Graham phoned my desk to ask if I was ready for him to deliver my lunch. I nervously stuttered back with a positive reply, then my mind  raced – I hadn’t expected this, what would they serve me? Should I tell them I was a vegetarian? No, that would be an insult – telling the chefs I didn’t want their food. Then – a decision. If one of the best chefs in town was going to cook my lunch and there would be meat in it, perhaps I should just eat it. I had no ethical reason for a meatless diet, simply a preference from childhood that had carried on over the years. A Thai quail salad was served, and as is the norm the small bird had been cut into pieces with a cleaver – sweet meat around what felt like knuckles of splintered bone. A somewhat brutal introduction to a more carnivorous way of eating, but just an entrée into the start of what remains an obsession. What I learnt from my time working with Timmy and Bill is the subject of a whole other discussion, suffice to say my time in their employ continues to be a big influence on my interest in food, wine and the business of restaurants.

I took my mum to lunch with me at Chow House. We were going to go somewhere else but they had just opened and weren’t ready to do a Saturday lunch service yet. So we agreed on Chow House. Mum would sometimes come and eat a late lunch with me at Brasserie Indochine, where I worked with Bill and Timmy, and still fondly recalls a dessert special of plums three ways prepared by pastry chef Amanda (surname escapes me) who had also worked at River Café, as had a number of chefs in Timmy’s brigade.

The kitchen is quite separate from the dining area at Chow House, so I was happy to eat there for the first time without any special treatment from Timmy. Mum zeroed in on a dish that featured Timmy’s trademark chilli peanut jam and chilli coriander bread, served to accompany grilled chicken on lemongrass skewers. The chilli peanut jam is here described as satay sauce, but it was reassuringly the same in flavour as the moreish version I’d first tasted all those years ago at Indochine. I may have closed my eyes and lent back in my chair a little as I tasted it, before quickly moving in to beat mum to eating the rest. I chose the prawn served on sugarcane skewers which are much chunkier than the usual mousse-y Vietnamese version that you sometimes find inside a rice paper roll or as part of a vermicelli noodle dish. There’s also a lot more coriander in these. They came with a little glass bearing a  brightly coloured assortment of quick pickled vegetables and both entrees were polished takes on the sort of street food you might find in an Asian city.

I was so entranced by my main that I didn’t even ask to try mum’s salad of coconut poached chicken with green mango, pickled vegetables with a  lime vinaigrette, but I’m not sure she would have shared. My first choice had been the slow braised beef brisket with aromatic spices. There are insufficient words to describe the heavenly scent and complex flavours of Timmy’s slow braised dishes, but on this occasion it wasn’t available. So I went with caramelised pork belly braised in star anise and served with a salad of lychee, orange segments and watercress with pig’s ear. To be honest, faced with needing to make a quick decision, I’d settled on this because I’m kind of addicted to the salty crispness of fried pig’s ears. Good choice. This dish offers the depth of flavour I’ve only ever experienced in Timmy’s slow braised dishes, cut through with the gentle tang and acid of the orange and lychee salad. The generous baton of pork belly had dense, thickly crisped crackling on top and sweet yielding meat below with the fat between rendered to melting. Sadly the wine list doesn’t scale the same heights as the food, and the accompanying glass of Leo Buring Riesling was flabby and bland. There are however better options by the bottle and a decent list of beers too.

Not everyone will love Chow House as much as I did, since for me it represents more than just ‘that new place on James Street’. I’ve always felt that Timmy’s food is a fantastic match for the climate and the way Brisbane diners like to eat. The menu descriptions of her food often underplay the detail and technique borne of her French training. With all dishes under $30 and many small dishes under $15, this is a great place for a snack and a drink or a casual dinner. There’s also a breakfast menu which offers both conventional egg plus protein plus toast options and Asian inspired dishes like black sticky rice pudding, a confit duck omelette and nasi goreng.

Aside from plotting a series of opportunities to reacquaint myself with Timmy’s cooking, I’m pleased to see a format and menu that gives her the opportunity to share her uniquely delicious food with a new audience.

Chow House
39 James Street, Fortitude Valley (Outside Palace Cinema)
07 3852 5155
Open daily from 7am until late, Breakfast from 7am until noon.

Swampdog, South Brisbane

Off the beaten track midway between South Brisbane and West End, Swampdog is a fish and chip shop that focuses on sustainable seafood species. As much as I applaud this concept, I wasn’t sure I’d get the same enjoyment from Swampdog as the Greek run fish and chip shop of the sort I grew up with. So sentimental about the ‘traditions’ of fish and chips am I that I even asked the proprietor of Swampdog via Twitter if he wrapped his fish and chips in paper with a fold on top (they don’t – for practical reasons that become obvious when you eat there).

By chance we were walking past Swampdog tonight. As you approach from Woolloongabba, there’s a gentle glow that draws you in. Bare bulbs strung up over a courtyard with tables made from old doors, handles still attached. Charmingly so, rather than daggy and down at heel. Inside, the sustainability ethos of Swampdog is writ large, literally black on white, in proud and deliberate hand painted letters.

The food is deliciously fresh, with similar prices to other ‘gourmet’ fish and chips places around town, but without needless frills. Cooked to perfection and served piping hot with hand cut chips and salad, seasonal options are written on a blackboard. There’s also fish burgers, wraps and other dishes including a few Asian inspired options served with rice. Portions aren’t enormous, but the quality of the food satisfies. Even better, Swampdog is BYO and there’s cooling breezes to enjoy outside in the courtyard, though inside the shop is as hot as any other fish and chip shop.

I’d happily spend a lazy lunch or dinner here with a few beers or a bottle of wine, and my whiting burger with house made aioli, salad and a ginger beer was one of the best things I’ve eaten for sometime, perfect in its simplicity. It’s refreshing to know that you’re not eating some deep frozen, over-fished species, but ethics aside, this is good food. Swampdog manages to get its point across by serving food that tastes better than the others, without any pretension or preaching.

Swampdog Fish and Chips
186 Vulture Street, South Brisbane
07 3255 3715
Open 7 days from 12 noon until 8:30 pm

Men-Jikan Noodle Shop, Geebung

I kept hearing about the ramen and gyoza at Men-Jikan at Geebung. Geebung? It seemed unlikely.

Owner Terry Forbes is an Aussie chef who has stumbled into the clutches of the Great Ramendo and opened his unassuming restaurant in the Railway Parade strip shops opposite Geebung train station. He’s there right between the post office and the Salvos. Furnishings are basic but the food is good. This is the way of the Ramendo.

I’d heard a few people talk about the ramen and gyoza at Men-Jikan. They were particularly insistent that the gyoza was good. Then I heard that Taro of Taro’s Ramen had been inspired by Terry’s miso ramen to create his own version. This pretty much sealed the deal for me. I needed to visit Men-Jikan for myself.

I arrived a little before my dining companion, met Terry and wasted no time in ordering the gyoza. We were Terry’s only customers at around 1:30 pm and within minutes we were talking about takuan (fermented daikon pickle), Japanese breakfasts and Terry was checking out the parcel of Malaysian foods my Mum had brought back from her trip for me to try.  Somehow between chatting with us, Terry managed to cook and serve us truly delicious gyoza filled with pork mince and cabbage, perfectly cripsy on the bottom, along with takoyaki (octopus balls with bonito flakes and kewpie mayo) and a mix of Japanese pickles, including his own pickled mustard greens, takuan, lotus root and ginger.

We both had Terry’s miso ramen, mine with the addition of kimchi. The miso broth was very good, rich with plenty of depth. Bamboo shoots, firm noodles and thick slices of char sui pork along with half a boiled egg nestled in the broth. The egg is plain, rather than sho-yu tamago (boiled eggs steeped in soy after cooking), but all the ingredients work well together. Ramen prices range from $12 – $15 which makes it a good deal, particularly for the generous amount of well flavoured pork. Excellent texture too, succulent and fatty with out being cloying and mouth coating. As we chatted a couple of locals wandered in, not to eat, but with a guitar to strum and sing out behind the kitchen and chat with Terry. He’s that kind of guy.

Men-Jikan also has the unlikely endorsement of Warwick Capper, who visited and signed the wall. Capper just went up a notch in my estimation.

If you find yourself in this part of Brisbane, I highly recommend a visit to Men-Jikan. Terry’s a great host, the food is good and it’s easy to park out the front. Oh, and have the gyoza!

Men-Jikan Noodle Shop

1/16 Railway Parade

Geebung Qld 4032

07 3265 5665

The Problem With Emotional Eating

Some of us eat for sustenance while others eat for pleasure. It’s safe to assume that those who see food as mere ballast to fill a hole are unlikely to read this blog.

‘Emotional eating’ is a term used in connection with obesity in a certain sort of women’s magazine, usually in articles up the back near the horoscopes. I’ve always found it a strange term, for a number of reasons.

So far as mainstream media is concerned, it would seem that only women suffer from this condition. There are thousands of articles on the internet for women who want to break free of a cycle of weight gain caused by their compulsion to eat to relieve stress or alleviate boredom and disaffection. Male obesity is a different matter altogether, with weight gain usually framed as having occurred ‘due an increasingly sedentary lifestyle’. In tune with our expectations about gender roles, the Journal of Applied Psychology found that women in a large study who were 11 kg below average weight took home an additional (US) $15,572 while men who were 11 kg below average weight earned less than their colleagues. The researchers commented:

“Perhaps the most startling finding of this investigation is that men and women experience opposite incentives regarding weight in the very thin to average weight range. Whereas women are punished for any weight gain, very thin women receive the most severe punishment for their first few pounds of weight gain. This finding is consistent with research showing that the media’s consistent depiction of an unrealistically thin female ideal leads people to see this ideal as normative, expected, and central to female attractiveness.”

Emotional eating is a problematic term on another level, as it conveys the idea that ‘emotions’ can only be negative and unattractive. That we would only eat prodigiously when things are bad. That emotion is valid as a pejorative term. Yet the spectrum of human emotion covers from deepest black to the brightest hues of happiness. And food can provoke or match a wide range of emotions too.

Think: when do we choose to eat good food and wine? For many people, they celebrate special occasions with food, a decent steak or a roast at home with a special bottle of wine and warm company, or a meal at a restaurant, where a team of chefs take the best produce and their professional techniques to present several courses of the finest food for our enjoyment. Such an occasion is one of happiness and pleasure that is recalled fondly at a later date. Photos are taken, mementos tucked away so that we can prolong the enjoyment and recount the highlights to our friends. A whole industry is built on this that now extends to television shows, books, blogs, licensing deals and merchandising rights. Photosharing sites like Instagram and Pinterest are vehicles to parade our gustatory conquests  to others and record our good taste in food and wine for posterity. Our desire to extend the enjoyment of good eating seems boundless. These occasions are emotional and eating is central to them.

Even at a base level of choosing our food, emotions are involved. All of us have likes and dislikes, favourite foods and others we reject or avoid due to how they taste or their texture – these foods provoke feelings or emotions and are often tied to our memories of some other time when we experienced the same food. Have you ever found yourself  thinking about that amazing holiday you had by the sea years ago while your eating dinner or thinking about hanging out with your Granny as a kid as you catch the scent of your neighbour’s rose garden? Or of the dive-y sharehouse you lived in on the cusp of adulthood after you’ve just discovered a rotten onion or potato in your kitchen? Our olfactory memory is strong, smells and by extension food and flavours can bring all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the past sharply into our consciousness.

How food makes you feel is central to the act of eating. Eating is by its nature emotional, even if that feeling is simply the contentment of being able to fill your belly.

So, dear reader (I know there are at least three of you), tell me about your emotional eating experiences.

Semillon, Garden Gnomes and Jellied Eels

Just as there are fashions in food, clothes, shoes and hairstyles, so there are fashions in wine as well.  Some in the wine industry view Semillon as having all the curious appeal of ‘a garden gnome, or…jellied eels’ and others praise it’s versatility and ability to pair with foods we love, like seafood.  Who to trust? Is Semillon really the ugly ducking some would have us believe?

If the name seems familiar, its probably because you’ve seen Semillon used to blend with Sauvignon Blanc in bright and cheery easy drinking wines readily available in most Australian bottle-o’s.  More than just a curiousity, others see Hunter Valley Semillon as ‘Australia’s gift to the world’. Why so divisive?  And ultimately, is it safe to punt your own money on a bottle or two?

This month’s SwirlSniffSpit tasting brings together a dozen expressions of Semillon, demonstrating its versatility and showing why it should be in your fridge this summer.  Join us at Era on Tuesday 18 November and RSVP by replying on Twitter

Bracket 1 – Sparkling

Bimbadgen Estate NV Sparkling, Hunter Valley @bimbadgen

St Agouant 1999 Brut Blanc de Blanc, Bordeaux @TheTruffleManOz

Bracket 2 – Young Semillon

Scarborough Wine Green Label Semillon 2011, Hunter Valley @ScarboroughWine

Murray Street Vineyards Semillon 2010, Barossa Valley @MSVWine

Bracket 3 – South Burnet, Queensland

Clovely Estate Left Field Semillon 2010 @ClovelyWine

Barambah Estate Semillon 2008 @BarambahWines

Bracket 4 – Aged Semillon

Meerea Park 2005 Alexander Munro Semillon, Hunter Valley @MeereaPark

Peter Lehmann Wines Margaret Semillon 2005, Barossa Valley @PLWines

Bracket 5 – Off-Dry & Barrel Fermented

Thomas Wines 6 Degrees Semillon 2010, Hunter Valley @ThomasWines

Juniper Estate Semillon 2009, Margaret River

Bracket 6 – Dessert Wines

De Bortoli Wines Black Noble @DeBortoliWines

Punt Road Botrytis Semillon 2010, Yarra Valley @PuntRdWines

SwirlSniffSpit is a free, guided and informal tasting held at Era Bistro on the 3rd Tuesday of each month.  For more information visit

A Table For One

Depending on your viewpoint, dining solo is an awkward necessity or a cherished luxury.   We so often hear platitudes like ‘food, wine and friends’ and ‘good food, good company’.  Fair enough too.  But that’s not to say that a table for one doesn’t have its charms.

In another time in my life I did quite a bit of solo dining.  I travelled for work, sometimes day trips, sometimes further afield.  Not always glamorous locations.  Having a glass of wine and a plate of something delicious on your own is a pleasure, once you get comfortable with the idea.  I love sitting up at the bar in a foreign city, without any pressure or expectation from dining companions.  Eat what you like, drink what you like and savour every flavour and texture.   It’s the perfect opportunity to experiment a little with the menu, have a conversation with someone you’d not normally talk at length with and eavesdrop on conversations around you.  And don’t underestimate the opportunities you’ll have to indulge in a session of people watching.

I don’t eat alone so often these days, and when I do its by choice, not necessity.  Nowadays its usually at lunch time and as I’m always trying to cram more into each moment, I usually have my Kindle or smart phone in one hand and a fork or chopsticks in the other.

So if you find yourself dining solo, where should you go?  Restaurants with bars are a good choice, particularly if you’re dining early or need a bite a little later, perhaps after a cocktail function without any substantial food.  Provided you’re there either side of the rush of diners, you’ll find most bar keeps admirable companions in conversation.

Some cities do solo dining better than others.  When I was in Melbourne for business, Il Solito Posto was my table for one of choice,  interesting wine by the glass and many an overheard gem.  With plenty of small bars, Melbourne is one of the best cities to be in for a table for one.  But with the Brisbane dining scene maturing, there’s no better time to venture out alone.

What makes a good table for one?  Here’s a few of my favourites.

Lonesome Lunching

Taro’s Ramen

My love of Taro’s is well known and since its over the road from my office I find myself there often.  A solo diner haven.  The focus here is undoubtedly the ramen, made with care and fine ingredients.  Don’t overlook the Japanese curry, which I usually have with vege croquettes or crumbed prawns.  Ramen and contemplative reading work well together.

AJ’s Noodles (CBD)

It’s the size of your living room, but don’t get too comfortable, they’ll need your table back soon.   Pho, rice vermicelli salads with lemongrass chicken, prawn on sugarcane and thinly sliced beef are what you should have.  Keep a serviette handy to wipe the soupy smudges off your phone or Kindle.

Guzman y Gomez

Yes it’s a chain, but the Valley branch is well located for a quick visit between appointments. Burritos are tasty and require only one hand for eating leaving the other free for reading, emailing and other one handed pursuits.  They can be a bit messy and if you’re eating alone no one will question the amount of jalepenos or tabasco you have.

Fresh Fish Co.

Sure, you can comfortably dine alone at any sushi train in town.  But the best sashimi is at Fresh Fish Co. and the parade of yuppies and moneyed housewives keeps things entertaining.

Dinner & Drinks

1889 Enoteca

Both the staff and the wine makes for amiable company here, take a stool at the bar and get lost in this piece of Italy transported to Logan Road, Woolloongabba.  The answer to many of life’s questions lies in the bottom of a glass of Barolo.

The Laneway

Tucked up above Urbane and The Euro, this a great spot for a cocktail, thanks to Pez and the boys.  Tunes are good, silent movies flicker and the burgers and onion rings really satisfy.  Downstairs, there’s also the bar at The Euro, perfect if you’d prefer to chat with the witty and good looking staff and dine on more sophisticated cuisine.

Cru Bar and Cellar

Some say it’s Brisbane’s best spot for people watching.  Even if you don’t agree, the food is reliably good and there’s some pleasing things by the glass or half bottle.  Don’t stay too long though or the cougars might come for you.

Il Centro

A Brisbane institution that still has plenty of appeal, earlier in the week you’ll certainly not feel out of place as business travellers regularly take a table for one here.  With an open kitchen, a view of the passing parade along Eagle Street Pier, and a handy by the glass list of domestic and Italian gems, you’ll wonder why you don’t dine alone more often.


Sit up at the bar and watch the talented Shinichi Maeda at work.  Plenty of small plates, sake flights and polished service along with clever ways with quality local seafood add up to a very pleasant way to dine.



A little dark and feisty like its Fellini film muse, this recently opened Paddington bar gives you plenty to look at both on and off the menu.  The atmosphere is just right for an hour or two sampling small plates, a few of the 50 wines by the glass and the shucked to order oysters.


It’s not often that hotel dining can be recommended, but this new venue at Brisbane’s Hilton offers moody lighting and enough intimacy to nicely cosset a solo diner along with a pleasing menu of simple, classic dishes.


Pull up a timber stool at this Spanish inspired Southbank newcomer and work your way through quality tapas, raciones and a few sherries.  People watching here runs the full gamut of humanity.  Large, dark sunglasses recommended.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on solo dining.  All submissions for your favourite table for one venue gratefully accepted.

Table for One voyeurism.

Archive Beer Boutique Bistro, West End

This is a very enjoyable venue to spend a few hour sampling some of the finest craft beers Australia has to offer.  A short walk or a bus ride from the CBD, Archive Beer Boutique Bistro has been operating for a year or two now and occupies the large ground floor space over the road from The Hi Fi (formerly The Pavillion) and below Uber in still-a-little-bit-bohemian West End.

I’ve heard people in Brisbane complain that there aren’t as many good wine bars as we ought to have for city of our size.  This makes it even more remarkable that a venue as large as Archive, a craft beer specialist bar, no less, has made it past its first birthday.  It occupies an expansive place, open kitchen facing the deck at the entry, large wrap around bar, seating at the bar, at high stools, on couches, pool tables, dart boards, more pool tables and another function area through the archway.

I don’t know anything about the ownership behind Archive, but given the fact their beer list is long and fiercely independant, you’d have to assume this place is not propped up by rebates and kickbacks from multinational brewers.  There are no soggy bar mats, no corporate sponsored beer posters and coasters and no Lion Nathan/CUB branded uniforms.    The distinct lack of ‘tat’ makes you feel like your having a beer at a really cool mates place, who just happens to have on hand a few pints of really great beer.  The fitout is pitched to match this vibe, and cleverly combines beer crates, retro preloved uphostered couches, newspaper plastered walls and a bar lined in book spines and light shades made of the yellowed book pages.  They bathe the room in a warm beer toned glow, much like the patrons as they contemplate their pale ales and stouts. It adds up to a very clever way to fitout such a large space and a credit to the clever persons who designed it.

The food is a notch or two above your standard pub fare, with some nice tasting plates, soft shell crab, good chips and decent steaks and burgers.  But really, you’re here for the beer and the food’s good enough to compliment it without stealing the show.

My picks on the day were Lord Nelson Three Sheets Natural Ale and Holgate ‘Mt Macedon’ Pale Ale.  The beers are well stored, served in matter befitted the care with which they were created and priced keenly to have you planning your next visit before you’ve finished your first beer.  The staff at Archive will give you as much or as little assistance with choosing a beer to suit your tastes as you need and know their product.  Really a must for a specialist venue like this. 

In light of the recent demise of Platform Bar, you further appreciate the commitment to independant brewers shown by Archive Beer Boutique Bistro.

As an added bonus, you’ll find Next Door Cellars out the back where you can take home some of the beers you’ve sampled, if you’re still in a state to carry them.

Archive Beer Boutique Bistro

100 Boundary Road

West End

Phone: 07 3844 3419

The Indirect Route to the Appreciation of Simple Things

Like just about every other person in Western society, I entered the New Year with plans to become healthier, wealthier and wiser.  Oh and perhaps a tiny hangover too.

Those that know me will understand the various reasons why health was a key part of my plans for 2011.  I’m interested in the ideas and exploits of Tim Ferriss of Four Hour Workweek fame, and my Kindle buddy had his new tome ‘Four Hour Body’ downloaded faster than you could say “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun”.

So, despite being an avowed foodist and advanced eater and drinker I have now been eating a restricted high protein, slow carb diet for almost a month.  Here’s a typical daily menu:

Breakfast Three scrambled eggs (no milk or cream), herbs, sea salt flakes, smoked salmon, black coffee.

Lunch Braised lentils with tomato, cumin and coriander, chilli con carne, sour cream, guacamole, black olives, fresh coriander, boiled egg.

Dinner Steak, cannellini beans, green vegetables. Glass of dry red wine.

This is far from my usual diet of flat whites, toast, pasta, rice, vegetables, minimal meat and maximal beer, wine and whisky.

Other tenets of the Four Hour Body are short, sharp bursts of exercise and a weekly day long binge.  I’ll let you read the book if you are interested in the philosophy behind this, however I’m happy to say we are on our way to achieving some of our health goals and as an unexpected bonus I am far more mentally alert and focussed than I have been in many years. 

Today being our Binge Day, I headed out to Brewbakers and Chocquette at the crack of dawn to acquire sourdough and pastries.  The Danishes from Chocquette were magnificent. Crispy edges, flaky layers of pastry and exquisite pear/custard and rhubarb/custard fillings with a thin layer of glaze.  The sourdough was just out of the ovens at Brewbakers, and owner and baker Richard Cotton selected one for me, along with some chocolate croissants. 

One interesting side effect for me has been a heightened appreciation of flavour and texture.  As I write this, I’m snacking on Richard’s sourdough, lightly toasted and smeared with French butter and some J. Friend & Co. White Clover Honey from Manuka, NZ.  Granted, I’ve assembled this snack from three very fine component ingredients, but it is just as enjoyable as the myriad fine dishes I’ve eaten in restaurants anywhere in the world.  The flat white I enjoyed at Chocquette this morning was nutty, creamy and delicious.  I savoured it.  Last Saturday I devoured the larger part of a wedge of Cabot clothbound Cheddar from Jasper Hill Farm, Vermont, via Black Pearl Epicure, crumbly, earthy and caramel with a just enough sharpness and a properly long finish.  The new-found laser mental focus and expecation means even simple foods are savoured.

Booty from Brewbakers & Chocquette
White Clover Honey on Brewbaker's French Sourdough
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

There’s really nothing ascetic about the Four Hour Body way of eating, because as much as you restrict your diet six days a week, the anticipation and heightening of senses delivered by your weekly free-eating day compensates ten-fold. Any cravings or desires during the week and be jotted down ready for organising into an agenda of indulgence for your binge day.  It’s a way of eating that supports extreme productivity, and for me this in turn supports higher order eating and drinking adventures.  A good result.