Confused by this? It’s art and it’s absolutely delicious
I have found a way to beat the heatwave that involves eating and drinking to your heart's content. Visit the restaurant inside the Gallery of Modern Art at South Brisbane and you'll find the air-conditioning to be as cooling and soothing as a trip to the nether regions of Tasmania.
The giant cube of a building - dug into the sloping bank that runs down to the glorious fig trees and workmanlike mangroves that line the KitKat-coloured river - is functioning like an enormous cold room, ready to soothe an overheated population with several exhibitions, and a side dish of slightly out-there food.
The restaurant, which can now also be entered through the merchandise store for the gallery's paid summer blockbuster exhibition, The Motorcycle, is spacious, with indoor and outdoor seating and an enormous, bright Christmas decoration dangling from the ceiling. Or maybe that's the sort of thing that's a regular part of the decor around here.
With the kitchen under the ministrations of Douglas Innes-Will (who can namecheck Hamilton Island's Qualia and Spicers Peak Lodge) for the past couple of the years, the menu hides in plain sight, with creative dishes that are plated such that they could work part-time as gallery installations.
Nothing is left unadorned. The oysters - Pacifics from Tasmania ($5 each) - come with a touch of soured cream, a sprinkle of herring roe and a light confetti of spring onion, and arrive washed up on a bowl of rocks. They set the tone with a flavour mix that enhances the cool, pristine molluscs.
It's ambitious food. Chunks of Mooloolaba king prawn ($26) with sticky rice, kimchi jam and smoked onion allemande sauce poured over at the table is a winning, surprisingly harmonious combo, while Fraser Isle spanner crab ($27) atop a crisp potato cake with horseradish and cured egg yolk is terrific.
Both neighbouring tables are tucking in to the chef's menu to share, which seems great value at $65 per person, with one group clearly very food-focused and discussing who's making the turducken for Christmas dinner this year.
Our waiter is warm and engaging and also able to discuss the merits of the clipped drinks list, which includes several Queenslanders, a suite of beers from Newstead Brewing and
four Granite Belt wines scattered through the global selection.
Suckling lamb belly with caramelised goat's yoghurt and fresh anchovies completely covered by a black garlic wafer ($37) is a dramatic-looking dish that also delivers on flavour. Line-caught goldband snapper with tiny cubes of merguez, crunchy dehydrated artichoke crisps and pickled mustard seeds with a hint of sweetness ($36) is not quite as successful, the fresh flavours of the fish a little lost in it all.
Ice cream to help navigate summer is the star in three of the four desserts. Hidden by an arrangement of thin slabs of meringue pushed up like errant tectonic plates, the coconut rice ice cream ($19) teams with barbecued pineapple, liquorice and muscovado in an unusual dish, with the liquorice really making its mark, while the Stanthorpe black cherries with almond croissant ice-cream and a silvery expanse of wrinkled chocolate over the top like a piece of discarded wrapping paper is more coherent.
This is a restaurant that's not afraid to take risks - around here, probably the worst thing is to be predictable.
It's intricate food, with many components, and while several of the combinations work like a dream, a couple seem to be almost trying too hard. But service is great, there's nearby parking and a few steps away lies the possibility of hours of wonderful wandering across the whole of QAGOMA - all in the comfort of temperatures low enough for you to enjoy it.
Food 3.5 stars
Ambience 4 stars
Service 4 stars
Value 3.5 stars
OVERALL 3.5 stars
Fraser Isle spanner crab with crispy potato
GOMA, South Brisbane
qagoma.qld.gov.au/visit/eat-and-drink Open for lunch 11.30am-4pm Wed-Sun
Originally published as Confused by this picture? It's art and it's absolutely delicious