Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bewilderingly good bar food

An impromptu girls drinks night with some work colleagues brought me to the Euro unexpectedly one Thursday night (181 Mary Street, Brisbane).  What started off as a low key catch up turned into a booze fest of epic proportions, fuelled by some of the most delicious bar food I've ever had.

A little over a year ago, Brisbane food scene stalwart Urbane reopened as two long narrow restaurants and a laneway bar.  The Euro was intended to be the more casual dining option to Urbane, with a staircase leading up to the Laneway Bar (which after suffering one long hot summer is being made over with retractable windows and air conditioning!).

The Euro, apart from having super funky bright red female toilets that make you think you're in a German surrealist film, amazingly still has that brand spanking new wood smell which reminds me of Ikea.  And I love Ikea!

We kicked off our night by sitting up at the bar and starting off slowly with some tasty beers.  As we were starving, we quickly pounced on the bar menu (which is technically the Laneway Bar menu) and were intrigued. 

We began by munching on warmed organic olives and shoestring fries with aioli but quickly moved on to something more substantial: mini hotdogs

These were $18 so that is $6 per hotdog which is a little steep.  But can I just say - YUM!  Each one is different: cheese kransky, onion confit, dijon mustard and tomato chutney; Merguez chipolata, choucroute, gruyere and seeded mustard; and pork, fennel and white wine, braised red cabbage and apple relish.  The only downside were that these babies were gone in only a few bites. 

We progressed to wine and I chose a GSM (Grenache Shiraz Mourverdre) which I am just obsessed with at the moment.  It's so rich, inky and delicious with a slightly sweet aftertaste.  It went perfectly with the meaty hotdogs.

Things really started going downhill when we cracked the cocktail menu which features such favourites as the Burnt Orange Flip, Clover Club and my very very favourite: the Espresso Martini.
What a diabolical cocktail: vodka, coffee liqueur and a shot in the arm of good black espresso.  After a few of these lethal hits, I was wired to say the least.

With fires in our bellies we knew we needed something more substantial to soak up the alcohol and we progressed to the ragu of pork cheek, confit fennel, black olives and chilli with parmasan gnocchi

This was fucking sensational.  Aniseed and pork are an obvious and classic combination, but they have never made more sense together than when I tasted this dish.  It could be the copious amount of booze I had consumed influencing my judgment, but I swear that this was the best gnocchi I have ever tasted.  The pork cheek ragu was melt in your mouth, the rich red tomato sauce was big, brash and spicy and the confit fennel was succulent, soft, anise and yet piquant.  It was $26 and was worth every penny.  I WANT IT NOW!!

While I am still basking in the afterglow of the most agonisingly delicious gnocchi of all time, there was one disappointment with the Euro and that was the hams tasting plate

There are a number of these on the menu to choose from, ranging from $24 to $36, and when you're paying that kind of money for four small piles of meatstuffs accompanied by some anemic looking bread sticks, you can't help but feel ripped off.  I love suckling on delicious cured meats as much as the next person, but really and truly, you just can't charge that much for such a small amount of food.  Plus it's liable to contribute to people not eating enough while drinking and then getting horrifically pissed by accident.

Although the charcuterie lets down the Euro, everything else about this place makes it my destination of choice for city drinks and bar food.  With such a fabulous cocktail menu it is not surprising that I stumbled out of there on a school night at almost midnight, bewildered at my level of inebriation, but at the same time elated.  While I suffered for it the next day, I certainly did not regret my night out at the Euro and I will be back soon enough, demanding the delicious pork cheek gnocchi.
The Euro (Urbane) on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 8, 2010

All that glitters...searching for El Dorado

Every time I go to a Mexican restaurant, I feel like I am on a quest.  Like a Spanish Conquistadore, I am searching for the El Dorado of Mexican dining - the perfect most delicious plate of spicy, tomatoey, corny, cheesy, goodness.  It's like I ate this perfect meal once in my childhood and I'm trying to recapture it, and this is what keeps me trying every Mexican place I can find.

It was this sick desire that drove me to Pepe's Coorparoo (433 Old Cleveland Road) in search of the holy grail of the Americas.

I arrived one quiet Sunday night brandishing the obligatory bottle of cheap red wine to accompany my scrumptious South American delight and was shown to a table in a room tackily decorated with terracotta tiles and kitschy Mexican furnishings.

After beginning the El Dorado quest in earnest and scrutinising the menu like Columbus scouring the Atlantic for the New World, I settled for the chimichanga.  I just love that word - it sounds like a party in your mouth where everyone is doing a special dance and singing "quando quando quando quando!" while shaking maracas.
That's right people, it's a deep fried burrito.  Now most Mexican food does tend to look like a deranged artwork created by a 2 year old on your plate, and this dish was no exception.  Not that it's a bad thing - looks aren't everything in Mexican cuisine in my opinion.

Looking at the dish, it was hitting all the right notes: the iceberg lettuce (being used in the only context that it should be ever be allowed - well that and san choi bau, oh and on a Maccers burger when you're hungover), the lashings of carbolicious refried beans, the red chilli sauce, the grated tasty cheddar and of course the crunchy fatty burrito filled with shredded beef stewed into oblivion.  I'm actually salivating while writing this...

But unfortunately, El Dorado eluded me again and my quest ended in disappointment.  The lettuce was wilting, the refried beans were tasteless and the burrito was bland. 

My husband ordered the chicken enchiladas.
It pretty much tasted the same as the chimichanga but with rice. 

All in all I was a crestfallen with my experience at Pepe's.  I think if all of the meals were about $5 less pricey I would have loved it though.  I just don't think you can conscionably charge over $20 for this stuff and they should cut that out right now.

But never fear, I will valiantly continue my quest for the fabled city of gold and maybe one day the shimmering mirage of Mexican food perfection will be MINE!
Pepe's Coorparoo on Urbanspoon