Ready your forks and loosen your belts. The Brisbane Times 2017 Good Food Guide is set to be released on Tuesday.
Edited by Fairfax Media's national food and drink writer (and new Brisbane resident), Callan Boys, the Guide showcases the best places to eat and drink in Queensland with more than 300 independent reviews, as well as the hats and the winners of Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year, Citi Chef of the Year and Best New Restaurant categories.
Drum roll, please, for your five Restaurant of the Year finalists. The winner will be announced at the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide Awards, presented by Vittoria and Citi, on Monday. You can follow all the night's action via Good Food's Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Good luck to all the finalists!
Aria Restaurant, Brisbane. Photo: Murray Fredericks
Chef Ben Russell is a bloke who knows how to work a grill. This is evident in properly seared and caramelised Rangers Valley oyster blade (go easy on the bearnaise and let the steak's flavour shine), grilled King George whiting that's sweet and earthy thanks to a sherry dressing and romesco quenelle, and pork belly baked for 12 hours, finished on the grill and topped with mustard and pear chutney to cut through all the wobbly bits. The dining room is immensely comfortable, the staff en pointe, and with those booming river views, Aria is a Brisbane classic. (Check out that wine list from sommelier Ian Trinkle, too. Phwoar.)
Esquire restaurant on Eagle Street. Photo: Michelle Smith
Ryan Squires' produce-driven cooking zaps you from the moment and drops you in a rockpool, river, forest, barnyard, a Parisian bakery or eating bacon with your nan in front of the telly. It's also bloody delicious. Ribbons of dried and fried pink lady apple are twisted into a wild rose that provides real estate for Manjimup truffle jam and mascarpone chantilly. It's not dessert - that comes later with sweet and blackened grapes next to fresh Guernsey curd dressed in fennel oil, tarragon and native pepper syrup. World class. All class.
Gauge, South Brisbane
House-made silken almond tofu with eggplant, caper leaf and elderflower at Gauge. Photo: Supplied
The Scando-chic room sure looks like a cafe, and you can drop in for coffee, but to call Jerome Batten's Sourced Grocer follow-up anything but a restaurant is a disservice. Chefs Cormac Bradfield and Phil Marchant are serving high-voltage dishes while keeping deliciousness top priority. Blood tacos are brilliant, bursting with bone marrow, native thyme and mushroom duxelles, while house-made cavatelli pasta, fat like witchetty grubs, mixes with smoked celeriac and apple. With a big, juicy wine list full of dirt-under-the-fingernails drops to ride shotgun, and service a notch up from the standard how's-your-day-been tropes, Gauge is a winner for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Gerard's Bistro, Fortitude Valley
Long lunching at Gerard's Bistro. Photo: Supplied
Adventurous pairings that hark back to the familiar yet catapult us into southern Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa is the magic evoked in these designer digs. Oysters arrive on a plate of pebbles and the sea theme continues in a samke nayeh (raw fish) dish with high notes from chamomile oil and fresh grapefruit, the kingfish mingling with green almonds and the unmistakable lilt of walnut milk. Ben Williamson's cooking has never been more focused and any old wrinkles in the service have been ironed out. Gerard's fire is burning bright.
Urbane restaurant manager, Andy Buchanan. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Without fanfare, Urbane has continued to carve an exciting presence in the local progressive food scene under Argentinian-born chef Alejandro Cancino. Omnivore and herbivore degustations offer nuanced dishes with a focus on the white-hot trend of vegetables as superstars and transcending both menus are pickled onion boats with a delicate cargo of tapioca pearls and macadamias, floating in dill oil and smoked beurre blanc. With Andy Buchanan maintaining an excellent level of service, the good ship Urbane is firmly on course, spinnaker hoisted, keel slicing through the water.
The Brisbane Times 2017 Good Food Guide will be on sale for $9.99 in newsagents and bookstores from July 19, with all book purchases receiving free access to the new Good Food app.