Joy restaurant review

Seasonal chawanmushi (this version is capped with shaved truffles).
Seasonal chawanmushi (this version is capped with shaved truffles). Photo: Paul Harris

694 Ann St Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006

View map

Opening hours Dinner from 6pm and 8.30pm Wed-Sun
Features Bar, Accepts bookings
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)

The Good Food Guide's Best New Restaurant busts all the rules of fine dining.

Honey, I shrank the restaurant. When times are tough – which they have been for restaurants this year – you either go very big or very small. You spread costs such as wages and rent to create economies of scale, or you get rid of those costs altogether.

For their first restaurant, Tim and Sarah Scott have gone small, and it's a trend seen across the globe as the restaurant industry searches for more sustainable ways to exist.

Venison tartare spring rolls.
Venison tartare spring rolls. Photo: Paul Harris

So this tiny 10-seat counter-dining space in Brisbane is a signpost for industry observers. But can just two chefs deliver a fine dining experience that's memorable for all the right reasons?

With no other staff, the pair do everything: greet guests upon arrival, discuss pre-dinner drinks orders – gin and tonic, sake, tea – then pour drinks, clear plates, chat with every guest and give an informed rundown of the paired beverages list. And cook. And do the dishes.

The Scotts have industry form, having done time at Sydney's Sepia, Automata and Sixpenny, as well as Urbane and Gerard's Bistro in Brisbane. They arrive at Joy at 9am to start prep, stopping to serve coffee to locals.

Mont blanc made with roasted artichoke caramel, Italian meringue, crushed savoiardi biscuits and salted chantilly.
Mont blanc made with roasted artichoke caramel, Italian meringue, crushed savoiardi biscuits and salted chantilly. Photo: Paul Harris

"The prep during the day is work," says Tim. "And the cooking and serving is the fun part." How nice to dine with chefs who view their work as fun (and to meet a married couple who can cook for 10 without having a marital).

The dining counter and wall of graffiti are bathed in light, but the kitchen itself is dimly lit – it's their backstage to our on-stage. We watch as Tim removes 10 bowls of lightly steamed chawanmushi from the combi oven, and Sarah sprinkles toasty fried quinoa over the top, followed by rounds of sour pumpkin, a good spoonful of smoked Yarra Valley caviar and a dust storm of scallop floss. Squish, crunch, tang and pop. We're off to a flying start.

Moving like two fish in a small pond, our chef-hosts keep up the momentum. A textural dish of dry-cured scallops and finely diced jicama (yam bean) in a dashi broth, topped with a tangle of kohlrabi noodles.

The tiny 10-seat counter-dining space.
The tiny 10-seat counter-dining space. Photo: Paul Harris

An electric-green dream of a dish with zucchini emulsion studded with tender squiggles of confit squid, under mossy chervil, dill and coriander. Lush, buttery, peppery poached prawns with fermented chilli, white turnip and peanut plant, a type of ridged gourd. A crescendo of sorts – well-rested Rangers Valley wagyu rump cap – that's like eating your own tongue, seasoned with wagyu fat vinaigrette and an umami-intense fermented mushroom sauce.

Bread comes, with a malty, developed flavour, smelling sweetly of buckwheat. I'm not such a fan of the relentlessly natural and rather challenging drinks pairings, running from brown rice sake to a high-acid Basque txakoli. A tight wine list is also available that includes a nicely serious Adelaide Hills syrah from Sigurd.

Some diners are doing eight courses, others five. The only real FOMO time for the fivers is when the raw venison tartare spring rolls arrive, encased in tubes of daikon on a puddle of sesame cream, hit with fragrant garlic chips and matched with a citrusy sake. The fivers don't even notice that the eighters get a pre-dessert of almond, mint and melon granita, and a granular soft cheese and white chocolate dessert with mandarin, matcha and puffed rice.

Joy restaurant in Brisbane is run by chefs Sarah and Tim Scott.
Joy restaurant in Brisbane is run by chefs Sarah and Tim Scott. Photo: Paul Harris

Luckily everyone gets the star of the show, or there would be a riot. Joy's take on Mont Blanc is made with worms of roasted jerusalem artichoke caramel that squirm their way around Italian meringue, crushed savoiardi biscuits and salted Chantilly, and it's so, so good.

Do the eight courses. It's only $110, for heaven's sake. Reward these two for building something so personal, meaningful and highly engaging that it busts all the rules of fine dining. Being privy to the step-by-step assembly of each dish isn't off-putting at all, but feels deliciously like being an insider and collaborator. What a joy.

The low-down

Bookings: online only joyrestaurant.com.au

Vegetarian: Available, enquire when booking

Drinks: Includes German riesling trocken and single malt whisky. A wine list is also available.

Go-to dish: Venison tartare spring rolls

Pro tip: Don't be late. Service always starts on time, whether you're there or not.

The Good Food Guide 2020 celebrates 40 years as Australia's authority on restaurants. Available in bookstores, newsagencies or at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 (free delivery when ordered online).

https://www.joyrestaurant.com.au/