Gauge is the sister venue to Jerome Batten’s popular Sourced Grocer, and there’s a palpable buzz about the South Brisbane newcomer. We go early in the week and our party of three is easily accommodated in a cosy nook that overlooks the small, light-filled room with bespoke furnishings, including handmade leather chairs and pale blue metal stools. The menu blurs the lines between breakfast and lunch and features every food trend you could name, including the current chef obsession with pickling, curing and all things Scandinavian. At the helm are chefs Ollie Hansford (ex-Stokehouse) and Cormac Bradfield (Sourced Grocer) who are also teaming up at newcomer Maker, around the corner.
I’ve brought a couple of mates whose palates tend towards the traditional and I’m watching their eyebrows ascend as a neat slice of jet-black bread arrives with a quenelle of what looks and smells like vanilla caramel. After the burnt toast jokes, we discover the incredible flavours – some gentle, some punchy and sweet, and then a mild, fermented finish brings it back into the savoury realm. This is black garlic bread with burnt vanilla and brown butter, and it’s possibly the best bread and butter I’ve eaten.
Line-caught squid sits under charred cos lettuce, which is surprisingly delicious – I must barbecue my lettuce more often. Gently poached chicken breast beneath translucent slivers of pumpkin and nashi pear – there are piles of toasted buckwheat and blobs of a rich chestnut cream – is a gentle combination that won’t set the world on fire, though the house spaghetti, thin, sticky and green, just might. A generous tangle is arranged in the centre of a heavy black earthenware bowl (in front of us are custom-made plates that look like rounds of cement, the sort of swoon-inducing ceramics you’d see in hipster paradises such as Melbourne’s Fitzroy or Brunswick East). A light parsley and whey sauce coats the pale green pasta, which is rich and dairy redolent. Shards of dried cabbage crumble over the dish, adding texture, but I’m back into that bowl for more soft, just-made and perfectly cooked spaghetti.
Mussels in a creamy veloute with raw smoked kohlrabi, chicken fat and rocket oil is an inspired dish. Gentle flavours and “ocean accessories”, sea herbs and a sprinkling of powdered bottarga (fish roe), bring the beach to mind, or at least lunch very near it.
Gauge is a glimpse of how we will eat out in future. Artisan decor and a pared-back aesthetic house clever food, which is technique-driven but not so experimental that it resembles a science project.