The Chelsea (at the Barracks, Roma st)
Muesli, I love you but you’re fired. Cold weather demands hot, calorific goodness, especially at breakfast. Relatedly, Sunday was fucking cold.
This was even more awesome than it looks. In fact, it was borderline erotic. The addition of a side of haloumi to the most perfectly herbed roast tomatoes was a masterstroke that you should totally emulate. It had that charcoal-grilled taste, very rare but amazingly well-done (pun not intended). The feta also now haunts my dreams with its soft creaminess. The coriander scrambled eggs with chorizo were a bit more psychedelic, but in a good way – the mix of cumin, coriander and chorizo had me tasting the rainbow and smelling the universe. Although, maybe part of the wonder of the experience was, well, relief…
The slight downside of our visit was how that adjectival cold weather really nailed us. The Barracks is a bit of a wind tunnel and while dining on the street is usually good times, it’s just hit that point where waiting an hour for breakfast is painful unless you’ve brought a good jacket. The wind is strong enough that it made the heaters useless. I think they were short-staffed too, so things took quite a while to come out. In between my epic breakfast chats and shivering, I failed to notice this:
Yep, a pile of fuzzy warm blankets for diners to use. Keep an eye out for these.
My recommendation is simple: DO go to this place and receive your sensual breakfast reward, but remember to grab a jacket, and your most interesting friend(s). The wait pays off bigtime; this is quite possibly Brisbane’s best breakfast this side of a Smokey Breakfast Lager.
French Twist at The Barracks
In a few short years, The Barracks has become the finely manicured hand on the long, grubby arm that is Caxton street. Clever pedestrian design and the exclusion of cars make for attractive public space, and the inevitable onrush of high-end retailers and restaurants reflects the reality that most people are prepared to pay a premium to occupy good spaces.
The drawback of the clever redesign of this precinct is that it now throngs with Brisbane’s haute-bourgeoisie on a Saturday morning, and in the scrum of celebrity urologists and construction billionaires it can be hard to get a seat for breakfast at any of the best restaurants. This is doubly the case since Peasant stopped doing breakfast – they used to a thing with mushrooms and salsa verde that bordered on erotic.
After being jilted from The Chelsea by the owner and his crazily thick-rimmed tortoiseshell specs, our rumbling tummies led us to compromise and go the ‘chain food’ option. In spite of being a franchise, French Twist looks really damn good – the food is cleverly displayed and very alluring, and the old-world eurokitsch is endearing but not too over-the-top. The team that did the interior design worked hard, and is probably set for life. Hopefully these individuals opt to purchase yachts, and sail them on Saturday mornings (instead of joining their demographic compatriots at The Chelsea).
Now, if you’re not on the budget of the average celebrity urologist, then the menu of French Twist will have added appeal. Two decent brekkies for $24 is normally unheard of for a place that looks this impressive, and their coffee helped The Mistress prove that even soy can be made to taste good. Service was a mixed experience – the counter kids were friendly enough, but then I got snapped at for taking photos of the cakes. At least two of the waiters had the haggard look of one who has to go to work after an all-night amphetamine-fuelled orgy. For one this manifested as confusion, the other rage. It was a pleasure to watch the angry one eavesdrop unsubtly as we critiqued our food…
While our criticism successfully inspired thin-lipped fury in the waiter in question, I think our comments were actually pretty mild. The Mistress opted for haloumi, roast tomatoes and avo on sourdough. It was quite patently dull, in spite of the cheese which usually can bring wonder to even the most modest of meals.
Sadly it was a bit cool, rubbery and lacking in flavour – I’m increasingly convinced that the best haloumi has a slight gorgonzola tang to it and should crunch ever so slightly as you bite it. It should also be served very hot. While our hosts largely missed these points, they did have the good grace to provide a large wedge of lemon – the juice was very tasty on both avo and haloumi.
My dish was quite impressive, in spite of fairly simple ingredients. Fetta cheese on a bed of balsamic caramelised onion and rosemary really worked as a topping to the fingers of bread they served up. Whoever designed this dish understood how tastes can work well together: the salt of the cheese and crumbly texture was beautiful in how it contrasted the slight acidity of the onion, and the rosemary on the finish offset the whole dish perfectly.
Although the feta wasn’t particularly good, and both dishes were quite small even for breakfast, I enjoyed my meal enough to for it to mitigate the downsides of French Twist. For a relatively modest rate, they do alright. In scoring them a 7, I also take into account the fact that we didn’t try their incredible-looking chocolate treats – I regret not being able to show you these as much as I regret not being able to photograph our enraged waiter.
Who is this artist? Their stuff crops up here and there and it always makes my day. I hope our council lets it stay.