HATCHED IN BEACHSIDE SYDNEY, THREE BLUE DUCKS STRETCHED ITS WINGS AND LANDED IN BRISBANE – AS A FULLY FLEDGED FLAGSHIP RESTAURANT.
The Three Blue Ducks have crossed the border. The six mates behind the cafe famous for simple, locally sourced comfort food that first opened in Bronte in 2010 then moved slowly north to Byron Bay in 2015, have finally made it up to Brisbane. And their new home could not be any more different from beachside Sydney or a farm in Byron. Instead, it’s the flagship restaurant of the W Hotel, the first new five-star accommodation in the Queensland capital for 20 years.
“To be honest I didn’t want to do it,” says co-owner Jeff Bennett of the decision to open a space inside a hotel in the CBD. “We took a vote and I was like, nope, it doesn’t feel right. I had stayed at another hotel not long before with a celebrity chef restaurant – where they use someone else’s name to get people through the doors – and it was just terrible. It felt so fake and it felt like it was part of the hotel. I didn’t want to do it and I don’t want that to be us.”
But Bennett changed his mind when he met key people from W Hotels and they left him seriously impressed. “They said to us ‘you have to make this a Three Blue Ducks restaurant; if anybody walks in there and they don’t know they are in a Three Blue Ducks, then we have failed’, he says. “That gave me a lot of comfort.” And so Three Blue Ducks at W Brisbane was born and the team opened at the beginning of June.
They won’t do room service but will do the classic breakfast buffet (“it’s a pretty epic buffet”), through to brunch, lunch, dinner and of course, cocktails.
The Brisbane premises features favourites from Three Blue Ducks in Bronte, Byron and their third venue in Sydney’s inner south, Rosebery (think avocado on herbed sourdough toast for brunch), as well as the use of local produce and the newly installed charcoal pit, rotisserie and wood-fired oven. There’s roasted whole fish, fermented chilli-glazed chicken cooked on the grill, and a cold seafood menu featuring oysters, Moreton Bay bugs, tiger prawns and crab.
“It all feels part of the same restaurant but it’s different because there is a local angle,” Bennett says of the food. “Moreton Bay bugs is already the No 1 dish here.”
Bennett was one of the later additions to the Three Blue Ducks team, joining the original trio (Chris Sorrell, Sam Reid-Boquist and Mark LaBrooy) a year after they opened the first restaurant in Bronte. “I had a pizza place next door,” he says. “We sort of got on from the word go; we did heaps of stuff together. I had a garden out the back – I intended to grow herbs for the pizzas because I had similar philosophies as the guys on food. It was about a year in and I was sick and I wanted to make chicken soup, so I went next door and asked Mark for a recipe. About 2½ hours later we had redesigned the whole space. We [later] knocked down holes in the walls, built a deck between the buildings and created this little magical space.”
Bennett also brought experience and expertise with alcohol, which the original Three Blue Ducks didn’t have. LaBrooy looked after the food, Reid-Boquist was responsible for service and Sorrell was in charge of coffee. Andy Allen came on board later as a co-owner and chef in the Rosebery venture.
“It’s home cooking, its comfort food,” Bennett says of Three Blue Ducks. “There is also a lot more refined stuff. It is whatever we want to do – there are no rules. It’s whatever the guys feel like doing.”
The Three Blue Ducks team, from left, Chris Sorrell, Sam Reid-Boquist, Andy Allen, Jeff Bennett and Mark LaBrooy