Across from the Queensland Museum are some dark doors. Behind those doors are places turning out some interesting food.
There is no signage at the entrance, only tiny black on black lettering near the door. Gauge. (One of the lines says Nature of Business: Provision of meals.)
We had approached it, uncertain if this was our destination. We saw a couple of people ahead of us on the street go through those doors, and as we came to it, were fortunately timed to encounter one of the waiters coming to an outside table. He confirmed that this was Gauge, and showed us to seats inside. They must be used to confused would-be patrons wandering around outside..
The colours inside are tan wood, teal and white walls, and gold accent fixtures. Lots of natural light comes in the front windows, unless you’re sitting in the seats in the little corner section, which are nicely lighted from above by pendant lamps. There’s a laidback vibe here, added to by the music playing unobtrusively in the background, ranging from upbeat folk rock to chill out.
The open kitchen means that you can watch your food being prepared, or at least plated. It is a well ventilated enough space that despite you being essentially in the kitchen, you don’t have smoky food odours coming out to you. The kitchen is slightly elevated above the dining space, which means that the chefs can monitor how diners are progressing with their meals before sending out more food.
The menu is printed on a single sheet of paper, and the key ingredients of each dish are listed without much in the way of description about how they go together. Lines separate what would be appetisers, entrees, share or side items, mains, and desserts. It is the antithesis of the menus in many other places where they go to great lengths to tell you the origin of every ingredient and just how hand-prepared they are. It can make it hard to imagine what each dish might be like, so makes deciding what to order difficult, but fortunately one of the waiters was close at hand and saw us being slightly confounded by the options. He told us about each of the dishes we considered, which helped us narrow down our choices (there were a few).
We started with caffeination, a flat white and an iced latte. Both were suitably strong and flavourful, without being bitter.
The blood and marrow taco appeared confrontingly dark when brought out on the plate, like an angry zombie clam. Biting into it, however, was proof of the old adage that appearances can be deceiving. It was warm, slightly crisp on the outside, and had a good amount of creamy mushroomy filling. It wasn’t gamey at all, and the bone narrow gave it a pleasant richness.
The caramelised onion and sesame seeds were prettily tiled on the chocolate biscuit/wafer, and an interesting flavour combination of sweet, a little bit of tanginess, and a chocolate hit. The wafer had the texture of a meringue, crisp, but with a bit of give. The caramelised onion was soft but not mushy. The sesame seeds were slightly toasted so they imparted crunch.
The tea smoked raw beef was also prettily plated, with garlic flowers set on top to make it more than a pile of red. The meat was thicker sliced than for a carpaccio, and rolled as a roulade form rather than spread out in a typical carpaccio presentation. The rye added crunch. The meat had a subtle smoke flavour that wasn’t overpowering. The capsicum was cooked until it was soft, and was also present in jam form spread on top. There were smears of house-made XO sauce on it as well, which added a pungent, umami flavour.
The roasted corn kernels still had crunch to them, and their natural sweetness was enhanced by a bit of smokiness from the roasting. There was just enough chilli to impart a bit of heat without it being unpleasantly scorching. (The chilli didn’t particularly taste fermented.) There was a bit of milkiness from the bone marrow without it all being soggy.
The duck arrived with beetroot slices draped over it like folds of a robe. It was nicely cooked, still pink in the middle and tender. The blocks of cooked young plum had a texture much like cooked beetroot, without the tang. The pickled quandong was definitely a contrasting flavour, a little punch of sour and bitter, fortunately only in a very small amount.
The salted meringue hid what was beneath like great white wings. When lifted away, they revealed piped mounds of sweet potato, impossibly smooth, and slightly caramel in flavour. The sweet flavours brought out the honey’s slightly salty richness. There was a spiced shortbread crumb sprinkled over the top, but it couldn’t really be tasted over the other components. The buffalo ricotta added creaminess. The salted meringue wafer had just that bit of attenuated crunch on the outside, and then melted away on the tongue. A bit of everything on a small segment of it made for an interesting, rich mix of sweet and savoury.
The umami custard was also very smooth. It didn’t actually have umami flavour, but was chocolatey from the cocoa powder blanketing it. It was firmer than a panna cotta. The fresh blueberries underneath gave the dish a subtle sweetness.
The waitstaff were lovely. They came to the table when we appeared perplexed, and made dishes and cutlery disappear, to be replaced by new ones between courses. Our water glasses were never empty (or only briefly). They explained the dishes as they were brought to us, and were helpful when we had any questions about the food.
All in all, it was interesting food, well prepared and well presented, in a nice environment. Gauge is definitely on the list to return to to try other dishes.
Value: Very good. High quality food that doesn’t cost the sky.
Address: 77 Grey Street, South Brisbane
Phone: 07 3852 6734
Website: So hip it doesn’t have one. Even sibling store Sourced Grocer has the most minimalist of sites.