Last updated on November 29, 2016
Restaurant Two has been a stalwart of Brisbane fine dining for many years, and the recent news of its coming closure is likely to be a surprise for many. In light of that, it seemed fitting to reminisce..or catch up with a long overdue review of our visit there.
It has a prime location in the city, across from the Botanic Gardens. It is clearly signed, and the warm lights through the large glass windows easily catch the eye as you come around the corner where Edward and Alice Street meet. The entrance is almost like that of a hotel lobby, with a statement light descending from the ceiling. Shelves of books line a foyer-like area, as if you are in someone’s expensive living room.
We were greeted, and after our reservation was confirmed, showed to seating in a sort of mezzanine area. It all looked very formal, tables draped in white tablecloths and set with shining silver cutlery lined up in parallel, and dark wood chairs pulled up alongside. The high, curved ceiling made the space seem even grander. Jazz music played softly in the background, and the lights were low. All rather swish..although it made for not that excellent food photos.
You have the option of ordering dishes a la carte off the menu, or a degustation. We had the degustation, of course, as that notionally shows off what a chef can do, and saves you the trouble of deciding what to order and the risk of FOMO. It was a ten course menu. We were prepared.
It all began with a dish that wasn’t even on the menu. Brought out on a Salvador Dali-esque curled spoon, it was described by the waitstaff as a duck sausage roll with truffle mayonnaise. The aroma of truffle did indeed waft up from it. The pastry was delicately flaky, and the sausage meat it enshrouded had a very fine texture. It was accompanied by creamy truffle-scented maynonnaise, with a couple of slivers of truffle on the surface. It was a far cry from your standard sausage roll, in a good way.
We then launched into the menu proper. The first course was Corn consomme, buttermilk chicken, shitake mushroom, and black garlic. The corn consomme was sweet and light. It changed flavour once the dollop of black garlic at the bottom of it was mixed in, becoming richer, tasting almost like brandy. The baton of chicken meat was tender. The shitake mushroom was also soft. Disguised with a coating of batter was a small clump of enoki mushrooms. These were presented atop the shitake mushroom, which lifted it out of the consomme, so that the outside remained crunchy. There were also little leaves of thyme for extra punches of flavour. It was a gentle start to the degustation.
The next course was Beetroot textures, liquorice, walnut, and acidulated chocolate. It was interestingly presented, with some of the ingredients in the base of the dish, and some sitting separately on the side of the dish. On the side was a wine-coloured soft jelly, with a thin slice of beetroot atop it. These were mildly flavoured, and were indeed quite different textures. In the base of the dish was a piece of golden beetroot, stewed so it was soft, and a piece of the more typical merlot-coloured beetroot, richly flavoured as if it had been poached in a stock. There was a crumble of walnuts and wafers underneath this. The acidulated chocolate was brushed across the bottom of the dish. While it wasn’t particularly acidic, it did add a base note of dark chocolate flavour to the dish. This one seemed like two separate dishes rather than one. It did definitely demonstrate different ways to do beetroot though.
It was followed by Tartare of sea scallop, avocado, compressed cucumber, and yuzu dressing. This was quite like a ceviche. The scallops were cut into good sized cubes. Rather than being turned into slivers or chopped up, they were about bite size, so that you could appreciate their texture. Some of the pieces had seared edges, so they had a caramelised flavour. The dressing over them had slight tang and spice. There were cubes of compressed cucumber among this, about the same size as the cubes of scallop, but giving a different texture. There was smooth avocado in the centre of the mound, and crunchy pickled daikon. Accompanying this mixture on the side of the dish was a slightly sweet cracker. While nice in itself, the rest of the mix didn’t really need it.
The fourth dish on the menu was Tempura soft shell crab, chevre, apple, cucumber, orange, and smoked avocado. It was theatrically presented, with the piece of tempura soft shell crab standing up in the middle of the shallow serving dish, and the wide edge of the dish again used to display other elements. The batter layer around the soft shell crab was light but crunchy. The smoked avocado puree at the base was smooth and tangy, with, indeed, a hint of smoke. There were apple gel dollops in the arrangement on the side. They were like a transluscent, smooth apple sauce, mildly sweet, and fragrant. Columns made out of pickled cucumber held different contents, one containing apple gel and the other chevre, so although they looked similar and were close in texture, you had quite different flavours.
Next was Crispy skin pork belly, parsnip, rosella, macadamia crumb, and pickled onion. This was an interesting one, with the ingredients presented in quite a straightforward way, compared to the preceding courses. The pork belly, sitting in the middle, certainly looked the part, with a good section of meat, a thinish section of fat, and a burnished layer of skin on top. Unfortunately, despite its appearance and the promise in the menu, the skin wasn’t quite crispy, and though one end did have a bit of crunch, the rest was a bit more like the resistant chew of a cracker that had been left out too long. The pork had a good meaty flavour though. Whole parsnip isn’t very pretty, but made the dish seem rustic. On eating, it was like a baked potato, so made for a twist on a meat and potatoes dish. The rosella jam on the bottom gave it a little sweetness. There was also a parsnip puree on the other side, which was smooth, again potatoey, and buttery. The picked onion definitely had bite.
Continuing the meat courses was Pan-fried duck breast, kimchi, kohlrabi, mandarin, shitake, and duck jus. This was a more compact presentation, and the colours gave it a lovely appearance. The duck breast was pink and perfectly cooked, the slices just the right thickness to be able to appreciate the texture. The mandarin gel had plenty of citrus flavour, and was a good way to deliver the classic duck and orange combination with a twist. The kohlrabi puree was so smooth and light, its mouthfeel was almost like water, the illusion enhanced by its mild flavour. Kimchi is definitely a current It dish, showing up in an assortment of non-Korean places. Here, it had heat without too much tartness. It was still overpowering for the duck though. The shitake mushroom had salt grains scattered in the gills, which gave it extra texture and flavour.
The last meat course was Cape Grim eye fillet, smoked cheese custard, onion, peppers, and red wine jus. The eye fillet was nicely done, juicy and pink on the inside, and with a nice caramelised sear on the outside. Beside it was an interesting stack of the other components. At the bottom of it was caramelised onion atop toasted bread. The onion had a sweet, roasted flavour, and was soft and cooked down. Layered on it was the cheese custard, smooth, light, creamy, and slightly sweet. On top of that was an onion ring, coated with a good, crunchy batter. Right on top of the stack was a roasted green chilli pepper. It was little, but it was ferociously hot. Only a small part of it wound up being eaten.. At the base of the dish and bringing it all together was a meaty jus, and a curling sweep of red pepper sauce that fortunately was mild and sweet instead of carrying the same fire as the whole pepper.
As a transitioning bridge course came the cheese platter. The menu listed the cheeses as Cabots Cheddar and Black Savarine. The cheddar was savoury, without being too salty. The Black Savarine was creamy, with an earthy, almost bitter aftertaste. The cheeses were presented with a variety of accompaniments on the board. There was a stack of crackers, and an architectural spiral of thinly sliced green apple. There were also a few rustically torn pieces of bread, which were a little more than really needed to go with the cheeses. Some vine-ripened raisins were also part of the platter, still attached to their branch, firmer and plumper than those you get in a box from the supermarket. Beside them, making for a little corner of sweetness, was a dollop of quince paste. It was a good range of flavours, so you never felt saturated with too much of any one.
The first of the desserts was Custard apple fool, peach, jelly, cardamom ice cream, and ginger crumb. It was prettily presented in a conical wine glass, which displayed the trifle-like layers. The custard apple pulp had a supple texture. The flavour of custard apple, if you haven’t had it, is hard to describe, but vaguely recalls mangosteen. The cardamom ice cream was on the soft side compared to what we would prefer, but it had a nice spice flavour. The jelly cubes were red, and while it was hard to identify what it was made of, the were slightly tart, which offset the sweetness of the other components. The ginger crumb right at the bottom stayed crisp enough to provide crunch. It conceptually had the right components of a good dessert, but custard apple is probably a bit of an acquired taste, and that and the too soft ice cream threw things off a little.
The last dessert, and the closing dish, was Maleny triple brie cheesecake, rye, lemon, and fresh pea sorbet. This was, as was in vogue a couple of years ago, presented deconstructed. The slightly salty brie cheese was plated as rich, creamy dollops on the plate. There was a quinelle of mint-coloured fresh pea sorbet, which taste..just like that. Peas aren’t usually something you associate with dessert, but here their delicate fragrance and sweetness was highlighted. The rye biscuit wedged between the cheese and the sorbet was crisp, crumbly, and almost like a sable. There was a lemony drizzle of sauce around the edge. Taken together, it was an interesting, quite clever combination.
The waitstaff were polite and professional.
Overall, Restaurant Two provided a pleasant dining experience. The food was mostly well done, and the degustation progressed well, although some of the combinations were a bit hit and miss. Among the good dishes were the duck and their version of the cheesecake. If one doesn’t push the boundaries a little though, we would just get the same food over and over again, and where would be the fun in that? These last weeks are the final opportunity to eat there before they close. Avoid the FOMO!
Price point: Degustation $160 per person without drinks.
Value: Not bad, for what you get.
Address: 2 Edward Street, Brisbane CBD
Phone: 07 3210 0600
Website: Restaurant Two