Brisbane seems to be the new 'It' location for starting a restaurant. New eating and drinking establishments are opening left right and centre every week. My long list of 'neet-to-try' locations is getting longer by the moment. I'm starting to feel like I'll never catch up! There's not enough meal slots in the weekend and space in my stomach to conquer them all before something newer pops up yet again.
One that I can finally tick off my list is Bacchus. Living in the South Brisbane area (my weekend home-away-from-home), I've been aware of Bacchus for a while. There was quite a buzz in the blogosphere as it opened in a frenzy of publicity-high launch parties. I figured it would be best to wait for the hype to cool a bit before trying the place out for myself.
Nina (from Nina Will Eat), a fellow Brisbane blogger, suggested Bacchus for a dinner night. We set the date to last Saturday and I excitedly made a booking.
Marc and I walked there and encountered a hiccup when we tried to access the restaurant. We'd walked past a dozen times before and knew from previous signage that the restaurant was around... there... SOMEWHERE on Grey Street and that it was upstairs. We did find a set of stairs but in absence of any signs indicating it would lead us to Bacchus, we opted for the lift instead. The lift light didn't come on when we pressed it and we were about to walk away in anguish when a guy heading past told us to wait because the light was broken. That was indeed correct!
At the top of the lift, the doors opened out to a surreal environment. The famed Bacchus pool lay glistening in the distance. There was an expansive open-air bar area. I felt underdressed even in my cocktail dress. The crowd here was distinctly more fashionable than your local pub or family restaurant.
If the average style of dress was on the swanky side, it was easily matched by the lush decor of the restaurant. Once we navigated around the outdoor area and into the dining area inside the building, I was instantly drawn in by the restaurant fittings. It felt exuberantly and outspokenly luxe. More Versace than elegant Chanel. I soaked up the glamor but felt a tad doubtful about whether the food would live up to the flashy furnishings.
Grissini sticks with EVOO
A glass of grissini sticks artfully arranged in a vial of layered salt and peppercorns was brought out as our complimentary nibblies. We were instructed by the waitress to dip the sticks in the olive oil provided. They were very crispy and I loved the flavor of the olive oil. Nina described these as being "like fried bread". I agreed and added the afterthought "that's why they're so yum".
Slow cooked pork croquette - with tarragon and seeded mustard, yabby and squid ink cracker and beetroot puree
For entrees, Nina went for the slow-cooked pork croquette. She said the pork filling was nice and had a good bite to it. The squid ink cracker was reportedly very crispy and the beetroot puree had a sweetness that complimented the pork well.
Chili red claw ravioli - with leek compote, bisque foam and tempura claw
Will and I both ordered the red claw ravioli. It arrived as a single, large ravioli with a delicious bisque sauce and tempura claw. The flavors worked really nicely together. I enjoyed this dish but Will didn't seem too blown away by it.
Seared scallops - with asparagus and lemon curd
Marc chose the scallops for his entree. They came as two large, fleshy scallops sitting amongst some fresh baby spinach leaves. They were cooked well and went nicely with the lemon curd but of the two, I preferred my entree.
Pan-roasted duck breast - with beets, shallots, sour cherries, heirloom carrots and peppered mascarpone
Nina's main was the duck. We all tried a piece and agreed that it was flavorsome but also too salty. I rarely find anything too salty and I like to add salt to almost everything I make (including desserts) so it's rare for me to think that but the bit of duck I tried was very salty.
Choice of steak knife
The boys predictably ordered the giant Angus sirloin from the grill menu. Amusingly, before our food started arriving, a waitress came and offered them a choice of knife from a special box of steak knives. That's right, you heard me. Choose your knife to go with your outfit I guess. Will selected a modern, sculptural metal-handled knife whilst Marc opted for what looked like a "I just killed my cow and now I'm eating it" hunting knife.
Black Angus sirloin - with olive oil mash, olive oil bernaise and fennel salad
The steaks sounded huge and they were HUGE. As well as the enormous slab of meat, the accompaniments included a generous dollop of buttery paris mash and some salad. There was also the option of selecting a mustard to accompany the meat. Marc went with the hot English mustard.
We all tried some of the steak (Nina and I stealing pieces off the boys) and thought they were very good. Nina even commented that it was on par with Cha Cha Char. It had a lovely caramel-greasiness that reminds me of just how difficult it is for fancy, new-age cooking to outdo a simple, well-cooked piece of quality meat.
Milly Hill lamb noisette - with slow-cooked shoulder, crispy potato, pumpkin mash and lemon polenta chips
My main was the lamb. The lamb itself was just perfectly cooked to a gorgeous blush of pink. Aside from the noisette pieces, there was a portion of slow-cooked lamb that was full of flavor and the two styles of cooking actually tasted really nice eaten in one bite. I enjoyed the pumpkin mash and polenta chips too (although they didn't last very long).
Chocolate and pear - with warm almond ice-cream
We were so far very impressed by the food and decided to extend our meal by a couple of shared desserts. Nina and Will chose the chocolate and pear dessert. I must say, this was a bit of a magic trick to me!
Waiter pouring the hot sauce into the centre of the chocolate sphere
It was brought out as a sphere of chocolate and the waiter proceeded to pour some hot foamy sauce (presumably the warm almond ice-cream) over the top. After being suitably amused by this, I started eating my own dessert and when I looked up at Nina and Will's plate again, there was just a puddle of chocolate on the plate. Where did the sphere go? Nina explained that it had disintegrated with the application of the sauce. She then proceeded to give the most perplexing feedback of any dessert that I'd heard of starting with "I need another bite... I'm really confused" followed by "I don't really know what I'm eating because it's all mushed together". Other comments I got include that it was hot and cold at the same time and that the pear element was refreshingly light. Will mentioned that it was very rich. This dessert also poses the deep philosophical question of whether ice-cream can still be referred to as "ice" cream when it's warm.
Apricot souffle - with lemon myrtle sorbet
I gave Marc two dessert options out of the deconstructed tiramisu or apricot souffle. I think that neither sounded appealing to him because he took forever in deciding and I ended up revoking his decision-making power and elected the souffle. I chose souffle even though I don't normally like fruity desserts because there's been a number of occasions this year where I haven't ordered the souffle at a fine dining restaurant and someone else does and it ends up being so good that I spend the rest of the night feeling regretful. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those amazing souffles. The souffle itself wasn't light and it had a very obvious egginess to it. That's pretty much all I could taste and I even forgot what flavor it was supposed to be. The lemon myrtle ice-cream lended all the flavor to this dessert and it was too tart for me.
Overall, we were very impressed with Bacchus. I admit to feeling apprehensive about what the food would be like after pigeon-holing the place as a pretentious, superficial drinking-hub for glamourzons. This was completed unfounded since the quality of food was consistently of high standards. The service was very professional and we generally had a good night. I'm happy to announce that Bacchus is a solid restaurant at heart, and not just good looks.