Taste eclipses ex­pec­ta­tions

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - RESTAURANT - LIZZIE LOEL

Communal Bar & Eat House, over­look­ing Red­da­cliff Place at the very top of Bris­bane’s Queen Street Mall, sounds straight­for­ward enough, but isn’t it tau­to­log­i­cal? If it’s a public “eat” house, restau­rant or cafe, it’s by def­i­ni­tion communal. Any­way, swoop­ing in for a late lunch, we’re greeted by a cou­ple of side­ways glances from aproned staffers who keep mo­tor­ing past us. Communal? Not just yet.

It’s a colour­ful fit-out that’s con­ducive to both drink­ing and eat­ing. As we sit, groups of work­ers ar­rive pock­et­ing their ID cards and set­tling in with pints and bar snacks, while oth­ers gather for a chat over cof­fee and some­thing sweet. We even­tu­ally make eye con­tact with a waiter and are told to or­der and pay at the bar.

De­li­cious More­ton Bay bug slid­ers ( right) and buf­falo wings ar­rive promptly with a pint of Stone & Wood ale and a glass of French rosé. When you’re stand­ing at a bar order­ing food and the server asks if you want chips and salad or mash and veg, it’s fair to say you’re not fine dining. I’m think­ing surf club, or sim­i­lar, and ex­pect prices that re­flect the down­grade from ta­ble ser­vice. We or­der the snap­per from the “Communal Crumbs” sec­tion of the menu and steak from “Grill”, opt­ing for salad and chips with the fish, and mash and veg with the steak. Two per­fectly cooked, crunchy fil­lets of fish ar­rive with a re­ally good house-made tartare, a fresh lit­tle salad, and a plump cheek of lemon. The chips are okay, but the fish and tartare are the stars.

Ditto the steak, which tastes of smoke, char and juicy, grass-fed good­ness. It’s per­fectly cooked to medium-rare and the “house gravy” is ac­tu­ally a re­fined bone re­duc­tion em­bold­ened with Madeira or some sim­i­lar booze. Tomato chilli sauce also ar­rives and it’s spicy, full and rich. And then there’s the mash, re­ally Paris mash. Passed lov­ingly through a fine sieve, it’s so loaded with but­ter it’s al­most drink­able.

There are some in­ter­est­ing sal­ads, such as roasted beet­root, kale, quinoa, feta, pomegranate and the Mid­dle Eastern spice mix­ture, za’atar; pro­sciutto with roasted pump­kin, rocket and parme­san; and smoked chicken with av­o­cado and crispy ba­con. There’s also a line-up of piz­zas, burg­ers and “Communal Crumbs”, where my snap­per is listed along­side a chicken schnitzel with chilli and mayo.

There isn’t time for the crispy meringue with pas­sion­fruit curd or the hot caramel sun­dae on this visit, but I’m wa­ger­ing that both would be rich and in­dul­gent. Communal seems like an­other mid­dle-of-the-road CBD venue, un­til you taste the food. The ser­vice could be tighter but the place is airy, bright and multi-pur­pose.

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