Monday, May 24, 2010

Brisbane or the Stix

Gaythorne may not be out in the sticks but Stix is out in Gaythorne and since he moved into the neighbourhood folks have been happy. Travis Griggs, aka Stix, is the chef and co - owner of Grub Street, a little 18 seater eatery at 440 Samford Road, 10 minutes outside Brisvegas, and he and his wife Tamara are making food so good some locals spend all day there.

Before Stix moved in to the tiny corner location Grub St occupies, local cafes came and went and went and came and went again. According to my old journo mate Pip Courtney, now of Landline fame (pictured below with Stix), when Grub St started serving up seriously good breakfasts and lunches she told her cameraman husband John Bean that he had better support the place. John took her at her word apparently and has been known to graze at Grub St all day.

Last Saturday Mary and I took our Brisbane host Peter Steele to brunch with Pip and we had a lot of fun catching up on old times while Pip devoured her GF corn cakes with jalapeno scented avocado mousse and tomato salsa. It truly was as delicious as it looks and boy what a change for a light but satisfying brekkie dish.

In food as in all things I admire people who have a red hot go and it was refreshing to see a knock about kinda guy like Stix out in the burbs but seriously in pursuit of excellence. Peter Steele, a most demanding world travelled diner, looked aghast as he had to turn the Sat Nav on his wife Linda's new 250 AMG in order to find our friendly diner in Gaythorne, but as you can see he had a smile all over his face after he and Mary had checked out the menu and the specials board.

Peter chose the green eggs, perfectly scrambled with pesto sitting atop a wedge of Gooralie free range ham carved off the bone and, for a porkstar like Pedro, accompanied by some Gooralie bacon on the side as well.

I had eggs too but with a sensational mushroom duxelle, also with Gooralie bacon, on sourdough bread and Mary chose the special, white bean and chorizo ragu potted eggs with Manchego toast ( pictured above top). She pronounced it a "dead and gone to heaven" dish.

So, next time you are in Brissie and want to escape the city for a leisurely breakfast, grab a cab and head out for a short ride to Grub St. I promise you it will repay the effort. Oh and as you leave pick up a jar of Stix's tamarind chutney!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Remi's Cave a Manger - Oh Lord Please Don't Let Me be Misunderstood

I was wondering last week whether Hobartians were really understanding what the new Remi de Provence at 252 Macquarie Street is actually all about. I said so to Mary. In fact I didn't get it myself at first. Hobart's most experienced food writers, Roger McShane and Sue Dyson tried to explain it to me. But it wasn't until I was chatting in the foyer of Remi's on Saturday evening with nationally acclaimed food legend Fiona Hoskin, formerly of Launceston's Fee and Me, that I realised that if you move too quickly up the stairs to the dining room you risk missing altogether what this sensational cave a manger has brought on to our doorstep.

What Remi's is not about is fine dining. Remi is adamant that his food is everyday food. Food so priced you can afford to drop in a couple of times a week on your way home from work for a plat du jour and a glass of wine. But you don't have to go up the stairs to the dining room at all if you don't want to. You can opt for a wine and some excellent cheese or a plate of pate, terrine and rillette with cornichons and warm bread in the elegant lounge at the other end of the wine cellar.

The charcuterie is classic French and a bottle of wine from what is Hobart's best selection of French and top end Australian wine can be very affordable when bought at what is a bottle shop price to which is added a surprisingly modest corkage.

But if you don't fancy settling in for food and drink when you have to drive home then you can pick up some olive oil and vinegar, maybe some honey and magnificent French cheese, grab a bottle of wine from the cellar and head home.

Remi's selection of French cheese is evocative and second to none in Hobart and Remi's great knowledge is personally available to help you take home what will really be to your taste.

By all means do go up the stairs to the dining room. Some people just keep coming back, treating it as an extension of their own kitchen. Is the food good - well, Mary and her favourite foodie friend Julie have not as yet stopped raving about the Squid Martegale followed by a pear poached in sauterne and served with Roquefort ice cream and my colleague Greg Melick, who has eaten all over the world and has Hobart's finest private wine cellar of over 7000 bottles, is definitely going back for more of the slow cooked lamb forequarter which he found a perfect accompaniment to the wine he had chosen to show. At main course prices from around $24 going back is very easily affordable.

The dining room itself is very elegant with one wall dominated by a massive Tom Samek mural. French food experts and commentators Roger McShane and Sue Dyson recently posted the picture shown below on Twitter, commenting that it was another fine rump steak from Remi. And it needs to be remembered that if the plates du jours are not what you fancy on the night, Remi is the only restaurateur in Hobart stocking grass fed beef from Cape Grim which he continues to dry age in his coolroom. You can also take these steaks home to cook yourself, as can you any of the complete range of cuts of Wild Clover Lamb from North Motton in Tasmania's North West.

You can also take home, at prices from about $16.50, any of Remi's other dishes, for example the Squid Daube and the Cassoulet pictured below.

In fact you can ask Remi for potato gratin and green beans to take home as well. Perfect on a winter's night. All these dishes are vacuum packed and can be re-heated in minutes in a pan of simmering water.

But, I think whatever you do you need to keep in mind the multifaceted convenience of this cave a manger. It is open 6 days a week from 10.00am until 9.00pm and offers us options not available anywhere else in Hobart. The very nature of the place is to be celebrated as Jay and Emma from Hobart's best cafe, Pigeon Hole, said to me last Friday. And it is wonderfully warm I must add.

As you can see from the signboard, Remi's is a Bistro and Grill, Wine Bar and Fine Wine Centre. But the sign board also says "Fine Wine - Good Food". Not fine food, but good food. It is good, very good, but Remi is the first to say and does say that his providor, wine cellar and dining room is not about fine dining. If you want fine dining then I would recommend Piccalilly which I regard as the best restaurant ever to grace Hobart.

I actually asked Iain Todd the chef/owner of Piccalilly, privately, what he thought of Remi's. His answer, given to me as a public response on Twitter - "We think Remi's is good. Simple food, cooked well and then presented in a rustic way. Love the wine and the concept"

And of course there's the Calvados.