Great ingredients in good hands
Small plates, large plates, from the grill, dishes to share, something on the side. It’s the new entrée, main and dessert formula that is now the norm all over Brisbane. The casualisation of dining out is a global trend, and one we Queenslanders practically invented. And straddling the great laidback revolution and the upper end of the spectrum are restaurateurs Brad and Angelica Jolly.
Alchemy in the CBD put chef Brad on the map with his upscale cuisine, formal service and withering price tags. The couple then opened G-Doggz, a gourmet hotdog bar in inner-north Fortitude Valley, and now the Palms Mediterranean Bar and Grill has popped up in the newly expanded Westfield Garden City in southside Mt Gravatt. The centre’s dining zone surrounds a water feature and is packed to the gunnels with outlets from fast food joints to yum cha, and this curved and colourful addition sports a Josper charcoal grill and some serious talent in the kitchen.
It’s standing room only when we arrive late on a Sunday and we’re directed to the bar to have a drink and wait for a table. There’s a lot of noise – yelling kids, the bubbling water feature and choral music punctuating multiple conversations.
Once seated, we sample some of the small plates – burrata with salt-baked beetroot and truffle honey, porchetta with fennel pollen and apples, and crispy duck in a mesclun salad all tempt, but not as much as the tuna escabeche and fried fried baby calamari ( above) with shallots and fresh red chillies and a pot of squid ink aioli on the side. The calamari is piping hot and super-tender – and the fried shallots and chillies form a light coating that draws out the flavour. The escabeche is a little clunky – chunks of tuna in a sauce of white wine and peppers with an additional heavy layer of mayonnaise. We have questions about provenance but our waiter tells us he knows nothing about seafood because he doesn’t like it, so we’re none the wiser. King prawns finished on the Josper with chilli and lime salt are perfectly cooked, still plump and nicely seasoned. We want to keep testing the grill so decide to share the chicken, which is golden and crunchy, served over slightly spicy harissa with baby carrots and an almond purée. The clams are also delicious – creamy and honeyed as saffron-scented dishes can be, with plump clams and a faint redolence of the ocean.
The overall impression of the food at The Palms is one of quality. The bubble has certainly burst in the foam/soil/dirt/ smoke fad, but this was never a place for that anyway. Great ingredients are in good hands, service is speedy and friendly and, while it’s certainly formulaic, it is bound to be popular.