Although I'm obviously a very active supporter of the culinary arts in Perth, my early to mid-20s were more focused on the performing arts. Studying Fine Arts at university, working on music projects and knowing a lot of performers meant I went out a lot to shows, happenings and exhibitions around town, and one of those semi-regular haunts was the Brisbane Hotel. Having friends in comedy and friends who had friends in comedy saw many a Tuesday night at the Hotel's Lazy Susan's Comedy Den for Shapiro Tuesdays, seeing new comedians performing for the first time or experienced comedians testing out new material all for an affordable door fee. Its been quite a few years since last seeing a show, so when Alissa and I were invited for a dinner and show at The Brisbane, we immediately jumped at the chance to take a nostalgic trip as well as try out dishes that we had heard good things about.
Having not been to the Brisbane in years, it was interesting to see their courtyard again as it made me realise how much Matisse Beach Club looks like a hyperreal version of the Brisbane by way of the 1980s.
The interior looked much the same as I remembered it, and the place seemed relatively well patronised for a Tuesday night.
As with many of these events, it was nice to meet and put a face to many of the food and lifestyle bloggers Alissa and I may have read or followed for a while, and it was a nice surprise to discover that Christina - the blogger behind Sprinkling of Spice - was actually a high school friend of Alissa's! After introductions, we perused the Brisbane's wine list and were impressed by their by the glass options. We were particularly pleased to see our favourite food friendly wines of Riesling and Pinot Noir well represented, with a few to choose from of each. Equally impressive was the fact the venue offer a dedicated menu of dishes to cater for all dietary requirements. Even though we personally tend to eat just about anything, we have a lot of friends and family who are vegans or gluten intolerant so this was another tick in our books.
The first round of food brought out was a selection of the more share plate, grazing and/or entree style dishes. First to arrive was Chicken Liver Parfait, Fig and Pear Chutney, Baguette. Liver Parfaits are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in Perth, and the Brisbane's example was a pretty good example of this dish. Having made Heston Blumenthal's Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait-filled Meat Fruit just a couple of weeks earlier, the lack of the ethically contentious (but immensely delicious) Foie Gras meant the Brisbane's Parfait simply could not compare to the sheer richness and decadence of Meat Fruit, however they did a commendable job working only with Chicken Livers as it was very tasty indeed. Combined with the Fig and Pear Chutney and toasted Baguette slices, this was a very good start to the meal.
The next dish of Mushroom and Mozzarella Arancini and Sugo kept the impressive standard going, being excellent examples of this classic dish. Oftentimes Arancini can be overly gluggy, oily and flavourless, however these were prepared beautifully, with a crunchy exterior encasing a filling that was of a perfect consistency and a rich, mushroom taste. With some Sugo to provide some additional umami and acidic brightness, these were addictively good.
Alissa and I tried the Beef Cheek Tortilla, Guacamole, Salsa Rosa next, and were again very impressed by the standard of cooking on display. Beef Cheek is one of my all-time favourite cuts of meat (from an animal I don't usually enjoy eating), and its melt in your mouth soft texture worked a treat in Tortilla form. With Guacamole to add fatty (but fresh) creaminess, corn to add pops of sweetness and the Salsa Rosa and Squeeze of Lime to balance it all out, this was a good take on Mexican food that was better than expected, even if it paled in comparison to dedicated Mexican restaurants like el Publico, and needed a bit more heat to truly satisfy a chilli junkie such as myself.
I love a good Sausage Roll, however most varieties tend to have a consistency closer to foam than anything resembling meat. To this end, I've found that the best, most meaty Sausage Rolls tend to be made by butchers rather than bakers, and the Brisbane's Homemade Sausage Rolls were definitely more in the meat-first butcher tradition. The deliciously meaty sausage mince wrapped in flaky pastry may have been simple compared to the other entrees, however their sheer quality left a lasting impression as my favourite entree of the night. I appreciate when simple things are done well, and these were seriously impressive.
Next up, we had our choice of any of the mains from their menu. Having agreed to try different dishes to get a broader sense of the Brisbane's menu, Alissa was disappointed when I decided to go with the Confit Duck Egg, Homemade Mushroom Tortelloni, Porcini Brodo as it would have been her first choice too. This was a superb and superbly generous dish, with every component executed well and contributing to the overall dish. The Confit Duck Leg had a lovely, unctuousness and fall apart texture, and was seasoned perfectly. The Tortelloni filling had a rich Mushroom flavour, with the pasta encasing it well made, with the toasted edges a nice crispy touch. The mushroom flavour was bolstered by the Porcini Broth, with its intensely earthy and umami flavour bringing it all together. With some wilted spinach leaves providing a slight bitterness and vegetable crunch, this was pub grub that kept to its roots while also displaying cheffy finesse.
Alissa choice of the Grilled Tasmanian Salmon, Beetroot Carpaccio Seasonal Greens, Celeriac Remoulade was less showy than my Duck dish, however it displayed a similar level of thoughtfulness in its composition. Alissa ordered the Salmon to be cooked to a medium level, and cutting through the fillet revealed fish cooked to the perfect level - all the more impressive considering the criss-cross grilling on the outside could have easily seen the fish horribly overdone. The grilling gave the fish a nice, charred roastiness, that paired nicely with the earthiness and sweetness of the thinly sliced Beetroot and the classic combo of Salmon with Asparagus. The well seasoned Celeriac Remoulade gave the dish a nice creaminess and a depth of herbaceous flavour to complement the Salmon. This was a smart dish in the sense that it balanced sweetness, creaminess crunch and meatiness very well, and served as a nice healthy option while still being a very satisfying and generous plate of food.
After our mains, we were invited upstairs to our show at Lazy Susan's Shapiro Tuesdays. As previous regulars of Lazy Susan's, Alissa and I knew what to expect. Being an experimental night of first time comedians given a leg up and a testing ground for more experienced performers to try out new material, Shapiro Tuesdays can be a mixed bag of seriously funny moments, ho-hum near misses and the occasional immensely entertaining train wreck, but for a $5 door fee it makes for very affordable entertainment. It was good to see that Shapiro Tuesdays has obviously become even more of a success and a Perth institution since our last visit, as the comedians on the night were performing to a largely full house. Who says there is nothing on in Perth on a weeknight?
The Verdict: Excellent
I have to admit we weren't expecting very much coming into the Brisbane. Alissa and I are not big fans of most Pub Grub since it so often sacrifices quality for quantity, however Alissa and I were suitably impressed by the quality of the food we were served on the night. The Dude Food style of the dishes and the large serves showed a restaurant that was respectful of the Working Man's Pub origins of the Brisbane Hotel while elevating this kind of food to a much higher level of finesse and skill than is usual for such a venue. The Sausage Rolls and Confit Duck Egg, Homemade Mushroom Tortelloni, Porcini Brodo in particular were real standouts, however there was not a bad dish amongst the lot we tried. Combined with the clever idea of marketing Tuesday nights as a Dinner and Show, The Brisbane and Shapiro Tuesdays makes for an affordable night out on the town.