The Smug Fig caught our attention not only because of its interesting and unusual name, but also because it had popped up on a number of brunch recommendation lists. It has stuck around for a couple of years now, and we thought it was about time we checked it out.
Co-located with a nursery (for plants) and other shops that sell trinkets and homewares, the entrance to the eatery section is, fortunately clearly signed. A white doorway with “The Smug Fig” painted on it in black indicates where patrons can walk in. Helpfully, there was also an A-frame on the sidewalk to direct attention to it.
A sign just beyond the door indicated to wait to be seated, and staff soon showed us to a table. It is a surprisingly large space, covered but open at the sides, like an expansive deck. There is plenty of greenery around, keeping with the garden theme, with potted plants at the sides and hanging from the eaves, and vines weaving in the grilles of the windows.
There was a variety of seating configurations, from smaller wooden tables fitting two to eight, to larger concrete-topped tables to accommodate larger groups. Matched with these were painted metal chairs in white, turquoise, and yellow. Festoon lights zigzagged across the ceiling above, and though they were not on when we were there, one imagines they would create a lovely garden party atmosphere when they were. Large fans kept the air moving, and there were heaters on the walls in preparation for cooler weather.
We were soon brought water, glasses, and menus. Their menus are presented as sheets of paper clipped together on a clipboard. The problem we found was that each of the menus we had was missing a different page. Because the pages were not numbered, a diner might not realise that they were missing out on options at all. Fortunately, by putting ours together, we (probably) got to consider all the possibilities.
There were a few dishes that looked tempting and were in contention, but we eventually managed to narrow it down to two, the Bacon Mac and Cheese Croquettes, and the Buttermilk Chicken Waffle. As advised when we were given the menus, orders and payment are taken at the blue container near the entrance. It feels a little odd to leave the table when the only thing to let people know the seats are already taken is partially drunk water in glasses, and you are trusting waitstaff to remember which tables have actually been vacated and which just have patrons temporarily away. Street savvy says you don’t leave your bags or valuables unattended. It feels less of an issue in a smaller space where you can actually keep an eye on your belongings while you are at the service counter, but much less so in a large place like this where they will be out of line of sight. For comparison, HWKR had a clever way to address this.
We didn’t have to wait too long for our coffees and food, and only had time to read a few pages of the newspaper before items were brought out.
The iced latte was strong and had a good, rich, nutty flavour.
The flat white was also strong and had pleasant roasted notes.
The Bacon mac and cheese croquettes were listed on the menu as coming with two soft poached eggs, pumpkin purée, rocket, shaved parmesan, balsamic, and dukkah. When presented, the dish was much less impressive than anticipated. The croquettes were a similar size to the poached eggs, which didn’t look to be jumbo eggs either. The croquettes were crunchy on the outside, and cheesy and creamy on the inside. There were little bits of bacon mixed in with the macaroni and cheese, but they didn’t really deliver the salty flavour hits we were looking for, and on the whole the filling was underseasoned. The pumpkin purée swoosh they were sitting on was also quite mildly flavoured, just slightly sweet. The poached eggs had runny yolks, as they should. The rocket, parmesan, and balsamic vinaigrette that took up most of the plate space was alright, but not anything special, seeming like space filler more than anything else. It was also an odd taste combination with the croquettes, in fact overpowering them with the sweet and sour tang from the balsamic. The Mac and cheese croquette dish at Vertue of the Coffee Drink was better by far, and we had been hoping for something similar, but were sadly disappointed.
The Buttermilk Chicken Waffle had buttermilk fried chicken, chilli maple syrup, citrus slaw, Belgian waffle, and a sunny side up fried egg. The chicken had a crunchy, crumbed outer crust that was spiced and little peppery. Wisely, they served it with slices of the chicken rather than a whole thick chicken breast, which has proven to be a downfall at other places, where the chicken has turned out to be overcooked and dry as one worked through it. The Belgian waffle had a bit of crunch on the outside edges, and wasn’t too doughy. There was additional sweetness from the syrup, but not to the point that it was cloying. It helped that most of the syrup was actually drizzled on the plate, so you could decide how much you wanted to have with each bite, rather than the waffle just being saturated with it. There was a bit of heat in it, but not too much. The slaw had crunchy vegetable strips and a creamy dressing, but was not too tart, despite being called a citrus slaw so it didn’t add clashing flavours. The fried egg had a runny yolk, adding some moisture to the dish. This was certainly the tastier and more substantial dish of the two.
Although it was quite busy when we were there, staff were efficient and friendly.
The Smug Fig has a pretty setting, that in not too hot weather was quite comfortable. There are a couple of hiccoughs that could be ironed out with the menus and ordering process. We found the food to be hit and miss though, literally one hit and one miss, and given the importance of a delicious feed to us, it probably isn’t quite enough to get us racing back.
Price point: $13 to $21.
Value: Variable, depending on which dishes you get.
Address: 999 Stanley Street East, East Brisbane
Phone: 07 3392 2033
Website: The Smug Fig