'Genius' ... The Bistro One Eleven scotch egg. Photo: Natascha Mirosch
In 1988, hair was bouffy, skirts were pouffy and Le Bronx, in the then down-at-heel suburb of New Farm, was making its mark. In the kitchen was a young owner/chef recently returned from London, bringing with him experience from places such as Menage a Trois and The River Cafe.
Six successful years later, Philip Johnson sold Le Bronx, opened e'cco Bistro and set about showing diners and chefs there was no need need for the stacking, OCD saucing and petal-garland garnishes we'd come to expect on our big white plates.
Instead, long before the produce-driven menu became part of chefs' rhetoric, Johnson espoused the idea of simply prepared food based on quality produce.
Delicious fare at Bistro One Eleven. Photo: Natascha Mirosch
Fast forward more than 20 years, we come to his third venture where those same values are still entrenched. Bistro One Eleven in the Cox Rayner-designed office development on Eagle Street opened quietly two weeks ago. It's hard not to imagine the head scratching and copious coffee-fuelled meetings that would have been involved in designing an open plan restaurant in the lobby of a building with massive ceilings, tiled floors and enormous walls of glass, but kudos to Cox Rayner; while the space is undeniably (and appropriately) corporate it still feels stylish and intimate.
Floor staff seem to have found their groove already and service is smooth, fast and friendly. In double time we are seated and buttering our complimentary bread.
Damien Draper (ex Moo Moo) heads the kitchen, while e'cco's long-serving sommelier Alan Hunter is in charge of beverages and has crafted a wine list with seasonally changing features. Currently it's highlighting natural, organic and biodynamic wines. It's broad, interesting and diner-friendly list, divided into character and weight ("aromatic, delicate, citric"/"lean and grassy”) then varietal. There's a decent selection by the glass and (hurray!) even the half glass.
Pretty and spring like ... Slow-cooked ocean trout, leeks, sprouts, celeriac puree and champagne veloute. Photo: Natascha Mirosch
As per the fashion (and long may it reign) the menu is divided into plates of different sizes from small snacks ($7) to charcuterie and oysters ($16), 'more than a bite' ($19) to 'meats, fish and poultry' ($32-48).
Given the current trend for shorthand menu descriptions designed to surprise, you might be expecting some cheffy wizardry from 'Radish and Reggiano' from the 'Bites' menu but that's exactly what it is; lightly crushed baby radishes in a bowl with substantial chunks of Regiano, with a dusting of fine black pepper-perfect with one of the craft beers on the list. The scotch egg from the same part of the menu is genius; lifted above its humble station by light crumbs surrounding pork mince pressed gently over a duck egg with a perfectly runny yolk and accompanied by a silky-sweet slightly smoky curry aioli. Our onion rings were missing in action, but I suspect the dish was better for it, giving the egg top billing. A main of slow-cooked ocean trout, leeks, sprouts, celeriac puree and champagne veloute ($32) is pretty and spring-like. The fish has a typically firm sous vide texture, the veloute has been enriched by stock made from scallops. Garnish is sweet al dente Brussels sprouts leaves and glistening spheres of salmon roe. It's a rich dish and well proportioned for it.
Gippsland lamb rump and neck with a Nicoise salad is far less interesting. It was under-seasoned (although to be fair, there is salt and pepper at the table) and frankly a little boring with the best produce mantra temporarily abandoned for cherry tomatoes that were under-ripe and flavourless. Why not some lovely heritage tomatoes instead? An accompanying quail egg, replacing the usual hen's egg wasn't integrated into the dish, and sat forlornly on it's own at the side of the plate; served whole rather than cut to show off its sunny yellow yolk.
Inside ... Bistro One Eleven. Photo: Natascha Mirosch
Doughnuts may well be the 'crème brulee' of the noughties, but you won't see any complaints from us. Here, they're served with with blood orange and almond ice cream but we chose to forsake them for a more restrained shared piece of lemon and ricotta cake with candied walnuts and lemon and a scoop of milk gelato. Moist and pleasant, the lemon in the cake was, however too subtle, requiring more tang to contrast with the very neutral milk gelato.
We finished with an excellent cup of Allpress coffee (also served in the One Eleven Espresso Bar upstairs).
It's tough on a restaurant to review it just a couple of weeks in but One Eleven has an experienced kitchen and I don't doubt once some glitches are taken care of, it will be as enduring as e'cco.
- (07) 3220 2557
- Chef(s) - Damien Draper
- Opening Hours - Breakfast: Mon- Fri 7am – 10.30am, Lunch: Mon-Fri 11.30pm – 2.30pm, Dinner Mon-Sat 5pm-late
- Author - Natascha Mirosch