Taste eclipses expectations
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.