TA­BLES

Ju­dith Elen sam­ples the catch at a Bris­bane seafood spe­cial­ist

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

EL­LY­FISH is the new­est in the cake­walk of restau­rants along the Bris­bane River on Ea­gle Street. This easy­go­ing prom­e­nade is restau­rant cen­tral and Jel­ly­fish, which opened at the end of July, is at its heart. Steak prince John Kil­roy, whose car­ni­vores’ mecca, Cha Cha Char, is a short jog away, aims to do for fish fanciers, here, what Cha Cha Char does for meat eaters: that is, source and of­fer the best that’s avail­able.

The river is in­stant re­sort for the city-bound worker, so Jel­ly­fish is cer­tain to be a busi­ness favourite. I’m here with a lo­cal friend for lunch on a Thurs­day and there are sev­eral ta­bles of suits, women and men clearly fur­ther­ing deals. At other ta­bles, there is more fun afoot. A party of 10 women, de­signer-booted, flash­ing gold, at a long ta­ble along the back wall, look as though they have never had an of­fice to go to.

The Storey Bridge is on our left and Kan­ga­roo Point across the nar­row stretch of wa­ter. A pad­dle­boat passes, and the lit­tle blue City Ferry plies the river, back and forth be­tween the banks. It is al­most like be­ing out fish­ing with al­ways some­thing to watch, but lazily, with no de­mands.

The ser­vice here, too, is easy­go­ing and, as the meal pro­gresses, also turns out to be rather desul­tory. As we ar­rive a waiter of­fers us the menu and drinks list and then an­other of­fers bread (fresh rolls, $2.50). Chef’s herb but­ter ar­rives. We or­der a bot­tle of min­eral wa­ter (Voss sparkling, $9.50). The wait­ers and wait­resses are in long grey aprons, with striped blue and white shirts, a look that per­fectly suits the open, light-filled space.

The menu first lists the eight line-caught choices of the day, its sell­ing point and fo­cus, with the chef’s rec­om­men­da­tion of cook­ing method and sauce for each. But the menu is mul­ti­ple choice. As well as the chef’s list, each of the day’s fish can be done in any of five bat­ters (saf­fron, tar­ragon and star anise, for ex­am­ple) or five crumbs (se­same, parme­san, cit­rus and dill), and can be or­dered singly or with a choice of two fil­lets (400g, $38).

As well, there are 10 en­trees and eight mains, in­clud­ing meat dishes, plus sides and a sep­a­rate list of tomato sal­ads, a nice touch and a hint that Bris­bane is not as de­prived of good toma­toes as some re­gions (ox­heart toma­toes with an­chovies, capers and olives is one, $6 each).

I choose a reef fish ravi­oli for my en­tree, with chive tomato beurre blanc ($24) and de­cide to try a two-fish com­bi­na­tion of the chef’s dishes for my main: oven­roasted barramundi with lemon and shal­lot sauce and grilled rud­der­fish with cher­moula emul­sion ($36). My friend set­tles on the blue swim­mer crab and mus­sel con­somme with saf­fron tomato con­casse ($22) and goes for the ba­sics for her main: beer-bat­tered bluenose served with re­moulade ($28). (My friend wants to know what bluenose is and a young waiter tells us it’s a typo and should be blue-eye cod. Why not fix it? we won­der. A later visit to the in­ter­net re­veals a New Zealand fish, bluenose sea bass.)

Looking for a light, slightly fruity white wine, we ask about the 2006 Spring Vale Gewurtz­traminer from Cran­brook, Tas­ma­nia ($55; $11 a glass) and, ad­vised it is not at the dessert end of the traminer spec­trum, we or­der two glasses. It is per­fect with the ravi­oli, which are del­i­cately rich in their light tomato-tinged sauce. Equally fine is the con­somme, which just sub­merges the shred­ded crab­meat and mus­sels ar­ranged around the plate.

Sur­pris­ingly, the mus­sels are smoked rather than fresh as we had an­tic­i­pated, but then the dish’s fo­cus would have been on the shell­fish rather than the sub­tle con­somme. In sev­eral dishes, the chef uses hints of clear but in­tense tomato, giv­ing a nice point of dif­fer­ence for seafood cui­sine.

My friend’s main course fish is ten­der, the bat­ter im­mac­u­late. We’ve also or­dered a side of steamed baby veg­eta­bles and one of Paris mash ($6 each), per­fectly al dente and creamy, in turn.

My rud­der­fish — which the waiter has rec­om­mended, say­ing most peo­ple have not heard of it and want to try it for that rea­son; it is now listed on the menu as but­ter­fish — is melt­ingly sweet and moist. The barramundi, though, comes in a cou­ple of small seg­ments and is rather dry.

Go­ing swim­mingly: Jel­ly­fish Restau­rant on the river­side board­walk has been an in­stant hit with lunchtime and evening din­ers

Dainty dish: Oven-roasted barramundi

The two sauces with my dou­ble-dip dish are served in small sep­a­rate bowls and both are beau­ti­ful. I be­gin by fol­low­ing chef’s match, then try each fish with the other sauce. But it’s the fish served with lus­cious cher­moula emul­sion of fra­grant but sub­tle North African spices and herbs that I would come back for.

It’s a long lunch, so desserts are in or­der and the list fea­tures sev­eral temp­ta­tions. I choose chocolate tart and my friend, ap­ple tart ($16 each). The chocolate is fine, with barely a hint of sweet­ness, and the ap­ple a gen­er­ous round of thin, over­lapped slices in true Nor­mande style, lightly caramelised and atop the thinnest layer of pas­try, so that it’s dif­fi­cult to tell what’s crust and what’s ap­ple.

Both desserts are a great deal more than their

Pic­tures: David Sproule

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