Finding it hard to keep up with Brisbane’s never-ending succession of restaurant openings? You’re not alone. Here’s a quick primer on the new venues worth your cash and time this month.
Restaurant Dan Arnold
Dan Arnold has returned from an extended stint in France – where he cooked under renowned chef Marc Meneau at then three-Michelin-starred L’Espérance, and did a six-year stint at two-Michelin-starred Serge Vieira – to open his own restaurant, Restaurant Dan Arnold, in the Valley. Arnold has brought with him from Serge Vieira the idea of short set menus – he’s offering a three- and a five-course option. Both change frequently (returning diners will not eat the same dish twice, Arnold says) but so far dishes have included flank steak with roasted celeriac, horseradish sauce and potato “Lorette”. Or charcoal duck breast with braised leg, pumpkin and baby leek. Combined with a concise bar offering, wine-matching and a slick interior, it’s a compelling new contender on Brisbane’s busy French scene.
The Golden Pig
Katrina and Mark Ryan have converted The Golden Pig, their immensely popular Newstead cafe and cooking school, into a pan-Asian restaurant. The Ryans looked at a few different venues for the refreshed concept but ultimately decided to stay put in Newstead, running the restaurant at nights and retaining the cooking school on Sundays and Mondays. The venue’s fit-out remains much the same, although a bar now sits at the entrance looking out over a casual space of vintage couches and coffee tables. The new menu was put together by Katrina and is being overseen in the kitchen by Sarah Hockings. You might eat betel leaf with tea-smoked Ora King salmon, fresh coconut, tamarind and grape. Or Sichuan-spiced half duck with mandarin, miso, black vinegar and star anise. The wine list leans toward French varieties as well as lighter drops that pair with Asian foods. It’s backed by an Asian-inspired cocktail list and an array of craft beers.
King Crab Co
They keep it simple at Bulimba’s new King Crab Co. First, you pick a crab; there’s Alaskan king crab, Alaskan snow crab, Australian blue swimmer crab and Jonah crab. Then you add a sauce: classics such as Singapore chilli, Old Bay butter and Zatarain’s Cajun, or maybe a Japanese-inspired miso butter and lime. The crab and sauce are mixed in a bag and served to you with a bib, a mallet and a pair of gloves. Head chef Michael Conlon (ex-Blackbird, The Survey Co) also serves a number of non-crab options, such as ribs, burgers and rolls – plus there’s a chippery that offers seven different types of chips. Drinks cater to the seafood-heavy menu; there are plenty of spritzes and cocktails, a concise wine list, and a number of beers on tap. The restaurant itself on Oxford Street hasn’t changed too much from its previous incarnation as a surf-and-turf-inspired eatery called Seavine. The space is decked out in lots of timber and brick, with a splash of blue paint.
After many delays Hôntô finally opened last month on a gritty Valley backstreet. Co-owners Tyron Simon, Frank Li, Bianca Marchi and chef Nathan Lastevec are best known for their work at freewheeling Thai restaurant, Longtime. Hôntô is a different beast, smaller in capacity and slightly more refined. Simon handled the fit-out himself, leaning heavily on shou sugi ban – a traditional wood-burning technique that leaves most of the walls and hard surfaces charred black. The result is a darker-than-dark space; the barest of light is cast by hanging chandeliers. The Japanese-inspired menu is split into four sections: Raw, Bites, Bigs and Greens. Raw dishes include scampi ceviche with ginger, crushed macadamia and finger lime. From Bites you might try prawn doughnuts with yuzu curd. Bigs are designed to share and include whole snapper karaage with sweet and sour cucumber and papaya pickles. And there’s a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with sesame yoghurt and Japanese flatbread. The wine list includes more than 130 bottles, and there’s a lengthy list of sake and Japanese beer and whisky.
After numerous delays, Ghanem Group’s spectacular 120-seat modern-Chinese restaurant Donna Chang opened last weekend in a 1920s-era bank in the CBD. It joins the group’s diverse portfolio of restaurants and bars, which includes Blackbird Bar & Grill, Byblos and Lord of the Wings. The former bank features high ceilings with intricate carvings, and bathrooms you enter via the old vault. The fit-out is light and spacious, with hanging chandeliers, plenty of pastel colours and some greenery. In the kitchen group executive chef Jake Nicolson and head chef Jason Margaritis have broken down a large dinner menu into a number of sections. Starters include stir-fried egg noodles with lobster and XO sauce. Dim sum features chicken and caviar siu mai. For something larger, you might order roasted half duck with Davidson’s plum and five spice, or whole giant grouper roasted in paperbark. Group sommelier Penny Grant has compiled a 100-bottle wine list with plenty of riesling and light reds. There’s also a number of beers on tap and by the bottle.
Brisbane restaurateur Nick Pinn (Malt Dining, Drum, Vaquero Dining) has teamed up with Sridhar Penumechu (Saffron Restaurant) and Michelin-star veteran Manjunath Mural to open Heritij. The massive 788-square-metre venue at Brisbane Quarter is split across a bar, dining room and outdoor terraces overlooking South Bank. The restaurant’s design has a whimsical opulence featuring coloured velvet, brocade wallpaper and moody lighting. Mural’s menu of elevated Indian fare balances the contemporary with the traditional. Mains include slow-cooked lamb that is flambéed on serving, and sambal barramundi served with charred silverbeet and masala caviar. At the bar, guests can order from a smaller street-style menu.
Goodbye Customs House Restaurant, hello Patina. The heritage-listed Customs House in the CBD has always had a well-regarded in-house restaurant, but an August refurb, rebranding and change to a more share-plate-driven menu is an attempt to give the riverside eatery its own identity. The renovation includes a $40,000 light installation; a marble bar top; and a blue, gold and black colour scheme. Executive chef John Offenhauser’s menu features smoked-brisket steamed buns, chargrilled octopus, scallop ceviche and grilled oyster mushrooms with shiitake cream. Larger plates include duck breast with pumpkin, slow-cooked lamb shoulder and a one-kilogram OP rib with chimichurri. What hasn’t changed is the winsome riverside terrace and its views of the Story Bridge.
Ben’s Burgers at Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall
This is what happens when Brisbane’s best burger joint opens a new outlet inside one of its best bars. The menu is much the same as Ben’s Burgers’ original Valley store; you can still get the Classic, Cheesy or Veg, plus sides. Making a return, though, is the fried-chicken sandwich, a long-lost favourite from the West End outlet. You’re free to eat anywhere in the venue – with Ben’s is available during ticketed Lefty’s shows via the front bar and upstairs Mermaid Lounge. An 11.30pm closing time is a nice little bonus for late-night munchies.