Given Terrace & Dowse Street Paddington, QLD 4064
Once an ice factory, abandoned and covered in graffiti, stood on this corner. It was picturesque in its own way, but in 2008, was demolished to make way for a flash apartment block, bar and restaurant.
Iceworks launched with a formal diner called "Peak" at the rear of the building and a large open bar facing the street. The timing for a fine diner probably wasn't ideal and neither was the location, with many people not even being aware of its existence.
In early 2011, Peak was mothballed; transformed into a function space, while another restaurant was installed next to the bar on Given Terrace. While the Iceworks Lounge Bar is popular, particularly on game days when fans on the way to or from Suncorp Stadium call in for a few drinks, the restaurant never seems to be busy.
In fact, on a recent Wednesday lunch, we were one of only two tables of two. I have a theory or two as to why this is, but can say with absolute certainty it's not the food. The menu, under chef Shannon Batten, reads exceptionally well. The presence of accompaniments like pommes mousseline and Bordelaise sauce, vegetables en papillote, game jus and confit tomatoes point to a classical training.
Indeed, Batten started his apprenticeship in hotels, specifically the Sheraton in Auckland. He then went to Scotland and worked at the Michelin-starred restaurant at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. Back in Brisbane four yeas later, he joined Russell Armstrong at Seasalt at Armstong's before taking an executive chef position at Clear Mountain Lodge. In 2011, when the then chef James Williams moved on, he took on the head chef position at Iceworks.
The restaurant itself is a pleasant space; overlooking the street, bright and contemporary with clean lines and white-clothed, paper-overlayed tables. The menu features half a dozen entrees, as well as oysters au natural or served with pink grapefruit and salmon pearls. Our roasted baby onion tart is beautifully plated, the onion glistening and caramelised on a flower-shaped, crisp buttery pastry. A little quenelle of goats curd offsets the sweetness of the onions and a swirl of soubise.
Even the "petite salad" is a well thought-out, both pleasing to the eye and properly dressed with a well-balanced sherry vinaigrette. A rectangular platter of sashimi is generous, with two opposing, neat ying-and-yang arrangements of salmon and delicate disks of scallop between a tangle of sesame-dressed daikon radish along with pickled radish and wasabi mayonnaise. Fresh and lovely, the sole jarring element is the disposable chopsticks in their paper wrapper – such a simple, elegant dish deserves better.
Both the generous portions and a firm grasp of technique continue with mains. A rather busy-sounding "pork cutlet with celeriac remoulade, slow-cooked apricot, parmentier potatoes, apple brick pastry and seeded mustard" definitely didn't need a side order of anything. The pork cutlet is perfectly cooked, juicy with just a blush of pink, the remoulade is delicate enough to be able to taste the celeriac rather than just mayonnaise, and the slow-cooked apricot is a perfect sweet-tart partner for the pork. The thin rectangle of brick pastry is a nice touch, sandwiched with a herb (chervil?) before being cooked, although we couldn't taste the promised apple. In all, a pleasing dish in which everything works together, despite so many elements.
Our other main, a roasted duck breast, could be a minute or two pinker for my taste but is gorgeous paired with a tart plum puree, the wintery colours continuing with accompaniments of pleasantly bitter red endive, baby beetroot, both whole and pureed, and a grilled fig. There's also a garnish of little clusters of cinnamon oat crumble, which sounds odd but just worked.
We press on with dessert, not because we're hungry after those hefty helpings, but because we are curious to know if they will they will be as accomplished as the rest of the menu.
From the description of a peanut butter parfait it sounds like we have a 50/50 chance of going out on a high-note. This combination of the parfait, with chocolate brownie, butterscotch and espresso caramel could be a horror story of sickening proportions, but again the chef has nailed the flavour-texture balance: the brownie is just a thin chocolatey base, sweetness is perfectly countered by a slight saltiness in the peanut butter and the bitterness of the coffee in the slightly burnt (purposely so) caramel, as well as in the crunchy little cocoa nibs. A petit mandarin cake with white chocolate ice-cream and a dark chocolate ganache with a dried sliver of candied mandarin are equally good.
If this is the kind of food Iceworks puts out all the time, it's one of Brisbane's culinary secrets and you might want to run rather than walk there.
Wine All the usual suspects, plus a reserve list of top-shelf wine. About 25 by the glass.