It’s been a busy old time for TIFFIN recently. The Brisbane Time’s Good Food Month (July 9 – August 9) is off and running with events happening left right and centre. Here’s a quick wrap up of a couple of meals I’ve shared with Mr Tiffin over the past few weeks, both within our eastern suburbs stamping ground. These restaurants have regulars who visit time and again. Little gems, hidden in suburbia
The Catbird Seat Bistro – World Safari Dinner
A few years back, I went to the restaurant that used to be where The Catbird Seat Bistro is now. It was an interesting night to say the least. Most of the menu was unavailable and the chef and waitress having a massive argument in the kitchen for everyone to see, before the waitress stormed off. Not surprisingly, the venue closed a few weeks later. Their loss is our gain as The Catbird Seat moved in. Just opposite the Aussie Nash and The Gabba, they are literally in the Catbird Seat.*
It’s a lovely little bistro with a simple fitout of warm wood, elegant Art Deco lighting and an open kitchen and not an argument to be seen. We were there for the month long World Safari Dinner offer of a shared classic French meal and a glass of wine for $30 per head. I told myself that I would be have been fine if the dish of the week turned out to be Cassoulet, but was secretly thrilled when we were told it was Duck a l’Orange with an accompanying French pinot.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Duck a l’Orange. How 1970s can you get?’ I’m here to tell you that your thinking is wrong. This segmented duck in a simple orange glaze was at once both sweet and savoury and packed with umami. The meat was tender and the skin crisp. Perfect! Accompaniments of simple green beans, duck fat potatoes (someone had to do it) and a scattering of spiced pecans completed the meal. There was not a skerrick left.
A whole duck should have been more than enough but of course, it wasn’t. Rounding out the evening, we selected from the small ala carte menu a cheese plate with house pickles and Black Forrest crème brulee. The brulee was a surprise. Deep, dark chocolate with a crisp burnt sugar top and a thin layer of sour cherry sauce underneath, it was a very grown up dessert that suited sharing. There may have also been some Tawny but only one, you understand as it was a school night. But what a night! Between the subtle decor, discreet but attentive service, flavoursome meals and competitive pricing, I can certainly see why The Catbird Seat recently received a ‘Hat’ at the Good Food Awards.
*’The catbird seat’ is a phrase used to describe an enviable position or advantage
The Catbird Seat Bistro
2/888 Stanley St East
East Brisbane Qld 4169
Cinco Bistro – Hat’s Off Dinner
Cinco Bistro is less than a 500m walk from our door. Even better, it’s downhill on the way home. A very attractive proposition when you’re heading to a 5 course Taste of Piedmonte degustation with matching wines ($120 pp). Hat’s Off Dinners are a chance for restaurants that received 1 or more hats in the 14/15 Guide to do a special menu that shows off their cooking chops or in this case, cotoletta.
Cinco is lucky enough to have Michelin chef Andrea Leone working with them and it was from his native Piedmont that he drew inspiration for this dinner. A region in northern Italy that borders both Switzerland and France, it’s famous for its fortifying mountain cuisine. The style of hearty food you enjoy after day of hiking the freezing alps or skiing the piste is quite different from the calorie intake you require after a 500m walk. The dishes on offer had been lightened significantly but the elements remained.
Many people would be hard pressed to tell you where Piedmont is on the map but if they had any knowledge of Italian cuisine, they’d certainly know the dishes. As part of the anti pasti, Bagna Cauda was served in a baked and caramelised onion cup. Translated as ‘hot dip’, garlic and anchovies are pounded together to create a warm, creamy, salty sauce served with blanched vegetables. Vitello Tonnato is a favourite of mine. Rare veal is sliced paper thin and coated in a sauce of eggs, tuna, capers and lemon juice. Served at room temperature, this version included slivers of pickled sardine to add extra piquancy to cut through the rich sauce.
Tiny ravioli filled with oozy regional Fontina cheese was the richest dish of the evening finished in brown butter dusted with shaved truffles. It didn’t touch the sides. The final dish was Bollito Misto or ‘boiled meat’, though there was nothing plain or peasant like about this dish with carrot top pesto, little gems of sweet mustard fruits and an almond tarator style sauce. Dessert was a cold, smooth milky chocolate pudding or budino that despite its appearance was not overly rich. A citrus sauce and candied, dehydrated orange slices provided sweetness, with a slight hint of bitterness. Paired with a moscato, it was a remarkably light dessert.
Service throughout the evening was stellar. It’s an art to serve an entire restaurant with the each of five courses at the same time. The somelliers were happy to discuss the qualities and merits of the wines being poured. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to engage in conversation with staff who really knew their product. Peter Stubbs has certainly put a lot of effort into selecting the correct staff and providing a high quality dining experience. Cinco was recently awarded BYO Restaurant of the Year by the 2015/16 Brisbane Times Good Food Guide.
589 Old Cleveland Road
Camp Hill Qld 4152