Second ventures seem to be a bit of a current theme, and The Priory Kitchen is a second eatery for the owners of the well-established Pablo. The restaurant is located in Trafalgar Lane, alongside others like Ribs and Burgers. The residential units above likely provide a captive audience. You will see the restaurant’s sign as you walk down the Trafalgar Lane corridor and come to the Stanley Street side.
After a brief perusal of the menu in the window (a good idea, as it means that people going by can get an idea of what food is on offer there, and even if not hungry at the time, can keep it in consideration for later down the track, as opposed to other places where you can’t get to the menu without running the gauntlet of walking all the way into the restaurant and staff assuming that you have already decided to eat there), we went through the doors. The first thing you come to is the service counter. Waitstaff soon showed us to seats, and water (not quite cold, unfortunately) and menus followed.
Despite being named The Priory Kitchen, there wasn’t anything particularly religious about it. The décor instantly made us think of Melbourne, with its modern, industrial aesthetic. It has concrete look walls (actually plaster with a concrete-look finish), gleaming polished concrete floors, and warm wood tables and chairs. The black metal shelves hanging over the service counter had rows of glasses and boxes of tea, much like Hash in the Melbourne CBD. Under the front of the service counter is also a shelf with board games like Connect Four, Scrabble, Dominoes, and Trivial Pursuit, giving patrons something else to do while either waiting for their food or through their meal. No need for awkward silences. Newspapers by the side provide an alternative for solo diners. The music playing over the speakers, 90s pop rock, while easy enough to listen to, was a touch loud, as the space was quite echoey.
We had once again arrived at that optimum middayish time on the weekend when both breakfast and lunch items were available (breakfast available until 1430, lunch available from 1100). The items are different from what is offered at Pablo. From 1430 to 2130, they offer a range of small and share plates instead. We were warned by the waitstaff that they had run out of ice cream and pesto, as it had been busy earlier in the morning. Not being set on milkshakes, that wasn’t too much of a worry. We ended up choosing the Bubble and squeak bhajis and the Eggs priory with the sticky baked Christmas ham.
Coffees arrived after not too long. The soy iced latte had plenty of ice, so it was nicely cold. It had a good roasted, nutty flavour. They use Bear Bones Espresso beans, and until we realised that Same Same But Different by the Bare Bones Society team didn’t use Bear Bones Espresso beans, we were surprised at how what we thought were the same coffees tasted so different.
The flat white was also thought to have good flavour, once mixed, with no bitterness. The milk could have been better textured though, as the microfoam didn’t go through enough.
The Bubble and squeak bhajis came with maple baked bacon, smoked tomato compote, poached eggs, toasted flatbread, minted labne, and cumin dukkah. The dish was cleanly plated, components tidily arranged. The bhajis had a pleasant curry flavour, with bits of cumin seeds and capsicum mixed in to the soft potato inside. The outside skin wasn’t quite crunchy, but did have curry puff pastry-like density. The maple baked bacon slices were a generous couple of millimetres thick, just cooked so that they had the slightest bit of crispness on the outside, but weren’t chewy. That thickness of meat cut meant that you actually got flavour and a little juiciness with it. It was savoury, but not too salty, and you could taste the hint of maple sweetness. The flatbread pieces had a grilled and toasty outside (with the grill marks to show for it), so they were crisp on the outside, but not overcooked and actually had a layer of softness on the inside. The eggs had appropriately runny yolks. The minted labne was smooth, and had yoghurty sourness. The tomato chutney also added a little punch of tartness, but not so that it took over the dish. Altogether, it had a good variety of flavours, with each element cooked just as it should be.
There was the choice of sticky baked Christmas ham or beetroot cured ocean trout with the Eggs Priory, which also had homemade herbed muffin, poached eggs, watercress, shaved radish, and lemon hollandaise. As mentioned, we picked the sticky baked Christmas ham, as we figured it was in limited supply, and would only grow scarcer as we got further away from the season. As it turned out, the ham was thinly shaved, and was a little on the dry side. Thicker slices might have worked better. It tasted..like ham, but had no perceptible Christmas glaze or spice flavour. The herbed muffin looked the part, with visible flecks of green through it, but tasted simply like buttered bread, and had the same sort of texture, rather than the denser, moister texture one would expect of a muffin. The poached eggs had runny yolks, as before. The hollandaise was creamy, and also buttery, but lacked the promised lemony flavour or tanginess. The pickled radish slices on the side actually provided the greatest flavour punch in the dish, crisp and tart. Although it was a prettily plated dish, it fell disappointingly flat in the flavour stakes. For something that took the name of the restaurant, it really should have been better.
Service was fine, cheery and efficient.
Overall, The Priory Kitchen has a more polished feel than Pablo. The restaurant is a space one could spend lots of time in. The food was uneven though. One dish was masterful, a great combination of flavours. The other was quite bland, and a let-down. It is hard to know if the standard is closer to the first or the second. It would be worth a return visit to find out though, based on the first and the coffees.
Price point: Breakfast items $12 to $19 for dishes more substantial than eggs and toast. Lunch items $17 to $20.
Value: Alright for one dish, not so alright for the other.. Taking into account paying for the ambiance though, maybe it evens out.
Address: Shop 4, 855 Stanley St, Woolloongabba
Phone: 07 3162 5395
Website: The Priory Kitchen