COOKING WITH GAS
Dining on the back veranda with the smell of charred meat and the music of a cane toad symphony is a quintessential Queensland pleasure. It takes on a whole new meaning at Gaslight Bistro on Brunswick St at New Farm, where the veranda is out the front.
Guests are seated on a wide, comfortable deck close to the footpath in the shade of a huge tree. There is the obligatory fringe of latticework; ferns spilling from hanging baskets, a set of lovely potted palms – and lamps styled like old-world gaslights, hence the name.
Instead of spying possums up a tree, Gaslight Bistro’s veranda provides a ringside seat to the tribes of Brisbane emerging after dark.
The passing parade includes a bloke on crutches with a beard, a bloke with a beard carrying a pizza box, a bloke with a Rastafarian headdress and a tattooed girl with a large dog and a painted lady in a Superwoman costume carrying a bottle in each hand and obviously heading to an “interesting” party. Then there are the naked men. From my table, I spy Magic Mike posters on the wall of the New Farm cinema across the road – a movie about male strippers. The menu offerings are equally spicy. We skipped the “Nibbles” section (Mount Zero olives, potato wafers and crushed kipflers and shallots) and headed straight to the tasting plates.
Gaslight Bistro turned out to be a little oasis of flavour and fun. Some of the combinations were quite novel.
Charred broccoli came with simple shards of hot-smoked salmon ($16) and the right touch of parmesan and lemon juice. Equally rewarding was a dish of roasted carrots and mussels ($14).
Simple ingredients, perhaps, enlivened in this case with a buttery bagna cauda dip of garlic and anchovies working a treat with the sweet roasted carrots and the briny mussel juice.
The biggest disappointment of the evening was the braised octopus ($19). The octopus itself was delicious, but the accompanying cotechino sausage and sauce was hideously oversalted, in my view. However, the duck breast (no longer on the menu) with a perky dukkah, celeriac and a lovely spinach “butter” was a pure joy and made up for all that.
Another informal yet richly rewarding plate came at the end: Roasted pineapple ($14, pictured) served on a burnt sponge with dark chocolate. It was perfection from entirely unpretentious components.
Service was mostly first rate. The waitress was jolly and accommodating, although she seemed to be run off her feet as the crowd swelled later in the evening.
The desserts were slow arriving and, by way of an apology, she treated us to a plate of lovely, brittle, homemade salt and vinegar potato shards.
From a small but interesting wine list, we chose a sprightly Printhie pinot gris from Orange. Regrettably, there were no Queensland wines on the menu.