Brisbane’s Stafford Heights is home to a new Inn of Indulgence, or bar, as most of us might call it. Too Zero is the brainchild of veteran chef Mark Rowsell-Turner, who also runs a catering company, a cooking school for kids and a ready-made meal delivery service. It’s on the corner of a strip of shops deep in the heart of northern suburbia, but locals have found it and are indulging in its eclectic and relatively diverse menu.
We begin with fat duck pancakes: roasted Chinese duck, strips of shallots, pickled cucumbers and a drizzle of hoisin sauce. They’re warm and light, as are the lamb koftas topped with minted labne and hummus, and some warmed flatbreads. Next up, Moroccan prawns – big, plump local numbers in a terracotta bowl of mildly spiced butter and semidried peppers. They’re super-fresh, and the subtle spice enhances rather than overpowers the delicate prawn meat. Two little pieces of what tastes like cornbread help mop up the sweet-spicy juices.
The clipped menu ticks most of the current boxes, prominently American food: mac and cheese balls, chilli cheese dogs with chorizo, sauerkraut and Jack cheese, Bourbon-soaked wings in gooey gorgonzola sauce, baby back ribs in “kick-ass” barbecue sauce and black rice.
Alternatively, you can head to France, or at least a dish that sounds like its foundations are in the classics, avoiding the fat-on-carbs techniques of the Deep South. Flank steak is grilled, rested nicely, then sliced to reveal tender medium-rare beef. On top of that is a ragout of exotic mushrooms steeped in a meaty soy butter. This is the sort of dish you could eat lots of. Flank is a full-flavoured cut, but in the wrong hands it can be tough and chewy. Rowsell-Turner, however, has plenty of experience and he nails it.
He also nails the fish pie – a heavy pot filled with a creamy sauce redolent of quality stock and soft, anise-y hues. Chunks of just-cooked white fish are buried under a flaky blanket of pastry, which we immerse in the sauce and polish off every last bit, even the slightly charred bits wrapped around the edges of the dish.
The room is largely reclaimed wood, the letter “Z” a vivid green backlit feature of the bar on which bottles of spirits and liqueurs sit with numbered collars. Our waiter tells us they denote the price per nip, and tempt us to indulge – it’s the Inn of Indulgence, after all.