On the rainy drive to the very hilly Miskin Street in suburban Toowong, I asked my parents; “What is the difference between a restaurant and a dining experience?”
We came to the conclusion that Brents is taking a different approach and had chosen a unique name to set it apart from other restaurants. That is why I like Brents… it’s different… and in a good way!
Mum spoke of earlier days in Toowong and prior to Brents, the famous international chef Bruno Loubert had a restaurant in the same place called Bruno’s Tables. Regrettably, Mum said although it was her plan, she did not make it to Bruno’s Tables.
We entered the left side of the charming Queensland cottage style house which is home to Brents. We passed the owner and head chef Brent Farrell’s cabin of trophies with awards such as Apprentice of the Year (QLD) and later in his career Chef/Owner of the Year (QLD).
Once at the table we were given a choice of sparkling or still water and presented with the menus. Mum and Dad decided on the Romantic Package consisting of an Appetizer, sorbet and dessert with their choice of entrée and main. I chose from the a la carte menu.
A white-gloved waitress returned to our table and set out a many rows of cutlery.
The Amuse Bouche of Persian feta with tomatoes and a crisp wafer was served. I thought it reminiscent of bruschetta although served in a mini shot glass and so cold it made the glass frost. Unfortunately this was not conducive to a good photograph. I found it a fresh and vibrant start.
The Appetizer I really had set my mind on was the wild mushroom cappuccino, truffle oil & Iberico (dried ham) crumb, but Mum and Dad were given it as a part of their set menu. This meant I could share it and instead ordered the Pasta Dura Bread (which my Mum had been keen on trying) with a selection of butters, which on this day consisted of an earthy truffle butter and zesty chive butter. This, dear readers… is quite possibly the best bread I have eaten even better - it is made in house! I had quite a bit of Mum and Dad’s cappuccino and it was a rich dark brown/black mushroom soup with nice airy foam and a hint of truffle and touch of prosciutto-like crumb.
Next, the entrees, mine was a venison Carpaccio with anchovy mayonnaise, red grape sorbet, Parmesan and rocket. I loved the cold component to the dish because it provided a nice sweetness and created a refreshing sauce at the end of the meal. The Carpaccio was sliced so finely that it was easy to cut and wasn’t chewy. The edible flowers beautifully decorating the plate were most likely grown in the garden at the back of the restaurant. Every component on the dish complemented each other to perfection.
Dad’s entrée was a prawn and cerviche of scallop with herb crème, melon & radish salad and lemon oil.
Mum’s entrée was one of the dishes of the night! It was Toolango delight gnocchi with mushroom, blue cheese, compressed pear and burnt butter.
On Brent’s website they said that they have an edible flower garden out the back which could be viewed by asking a waiter. Of course we wanted to see where some of the food we just ate came from, so we walked up a flight of stairs to another dining room reminiscent of the design of Two Small Rooms (also in Toowong).
We were given a heads up by a waiter that we would be walking through a loud hen’s party as we set out on a walkway leading to the garden. We were surprised at how elevated Brents is because we felt like we had walked quite a steep incline. Outside the greenhouse were a couple of gardens, containing some edible flowers like borage, garlic flowers, nasturtium and marigolds to name a few. There were also rhubarb and tomatoes. Inside the greenhouse were rocket, chervil, snow pea tendril and others.
We returned to the table to find the palate cleansers had arrived. I had a strawberry and black pepper sorbet and Mum and Dad had the mandarin and poppy seed sorbet. I absolutely loved mine, as there were nice strawberry slices at the bottom of the glass that added to intensify the strawberry theme. I didn’t really taste the black pepper on top. I loved the idea of a palate cleanser on the menu and wish many more restaurants should do the same.
Mum and Dad’s sorbet had the problem of getting poppy seeds stuck in your teeth but nevertheless it did its purpose of cleansing.
Mains arrived and I had opted for the crispy confit duck with butternut pumpkin, eureka lemon and licorice. The meal was neatly plated on a slab of slate with a splash of colour from the bright yellow lemon curd and the orange pumpkin puree. You would expect to see a plump leg of a duck or two sitting on the plate, but no, they do things differently here. Instead there were two rectangular prisms that when broken, separated into strips of meat. I think Brents may have confited the duck pieces then separated the meat, packing it in a terrine dish and then slicing it. What a great technique of serving confit duck as it looked great and a different version to the rustic ones we see elsewhere. Anyway, on to the taste! The curd was an interesting option and tasted great with the sweetness it added to the dish. The duck was dry as suspected, as it is hard to retain the juiciness when it has been cooking for a long time. It did have a nice meaty taste though. The puree had a strong pumpkin flavour that took the dish to a new level. I am not a fan of licorice but I gave it a try by itself and it still didn’t float my boat so I gave a piece to Mum and Dad. Dad tried it with the rest of the meal and said that he didn’t like it by itself but with the rest of the dish it was great. There was one last piece and it went fantastically with all the other components. I wished I hadn’t given the other pieces away!
Mum’s main was the market fish of the day which was barramundi with a saffron and vanilla bouillabaisse, beetroot and broad beans.
Dad had the crispy skinned pork belly with sautéed scallops, cauliflower, chorizo tapioca and oxtail jus.
A waiter came into the dining room carrying a balloon glass with an intriguing looking dessert and placed it on a neighboring table. It looked amazing so I had to order it for dessert.
It was a champagne marshmallow with roasted strawberry ice cream, strawberry granita and flowers. The champagne was subtle at first and then became more pronounced as I ate more of the dish. The granita was so cold that it set off the nerves in my teeth, so for those with sensitive teeth I would approach with caution. The roasted strawberry ice cream was fabulous but I couldn’t discern the difference between roasted or fresh strawberry . The flowers would have been from the garden at the back and added a splash of colour to the otherwise predominantly red and white dessert. All in all it was a fantastic cold dessert with creative presentation.
As part of Mum and Dad’s “romantic package” (which wasn't that romantic considering they were taking their 14 year old son to dinner!), their dessert was an assiette of chocolate. On it was (from left to right) a chocolate cone filled with parfait, chocolate tart, biscotti,chocolate creme brulee, raspberry sorbet and chocolate pudding with extras.
On our way out to pay we were reminded once again of how successful Brents has been with the Diner’s Choice Award standing proudly in a cabinet awarded to them by the QLD Good Food Guide. Considering that a large number of people voted for this restaurant, it seems Brents has a large fan club that loves its creativeness, uniqueness and understanding of modern French techniques and I'm happy to be one of them!