Review: GOMA (Brisbane, QLD)

Gallery of Modern Art
Stanley Place
South Brisbane QLD 4101
+61 7 3842 9916
http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/visiting-us/Places_to_Eat

As a self-confessed wanker, two of my favourite things are food and art. So when an army of fellow food bloggers descended upon Brisbane for the annual Eat Drink Blog conference a few months ago, I decided that they would be the perfect victims to accompany me for lunch at GOMA Restaurant, the award-winning restaurant tucked inside the Gallery of Modern Art. Food and art? Together? Oh hell yeah! At that point in time, I had been struggling to find people down on the Gold Coast that would be willing to stray away from dude food and chicken parma (sorry, parmi) AND trek up to Brisbane for ‘wanky food’ so I knew a group of camera-toting and quinoa-appreciating food bloggers would be the perfect people to dine with.

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It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Brisbane. Our table of eight or so bloggers sat by the window in the beautiful contemporary restaurant filled with tables draped with white linen tablecloths. Our view may not have been the best – our table overlooked the Pauls Milk trucks parked beneath Kurilpa Bridge – but given how large our group was, I suppose beggars couldn’t be choosers.

GOMA’s menu, designed by Head Chef Josue Lopez, ‘complements the contemporary artistic surroundings’ of the museum. Essentially what you get are whimsical works of edible art made with local, seasonal and sustainable produce (with a focus on native ingredients) that look like they belong in the walls of GOMA itself. For lunch, an a la carte menu is available as are set menu options of two courses (entrée and main, $50; main and dessert, $45) or three courses ($60 for the trifecta). For each course, there were three dishes to choose from with both gluten-free and vegetarian options available. Most of the table went with two courses; me? I went for three, naturally.

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To kick things off, we dug into some free-flowing warm white bread accompanying by some beautiful house-churned butter topped with a sprinkling of salt.

2013 Mt Langi Cliff Edge Riesling ($13)
2013 Mt Langi Cliff Edge Riesling ($13)

I decided that it was a white wine day so I ordered a glass of Riesling from the Grampians because Victoria represent, yo.

Seared emu loin, native spiced black pudding, smoked potato, Illawarra plums
Seared emu loin, native spiced black pudding, smoked potato, Illawarra plums

I won’t detail what everyone on the table ordered – just the people sitting around me. First up, Teresa ordered the seared emu loin for her entrée. I’ve only had emu once – in sausage form and in Cairns – and didn’t particularly like its extremely gamey taste and the smell it gave off. However, this emu loin definitely changed my mind about the bird. Sure, it was still gamey but the taste was more refined and all the trimmings worked well to complement the bird, especially the smoked potato.

Moreton Bay Bug poached in churned butter, saffron broth, seaweed and broccoli
Moreton Bay Bug poached in churned butter, saffron broth, seaweed and broccoli

I had the Moreton Bay Bug as my entrée. Seriously, I can’t think of a better polygamist marriage than fresh bug meat, butter and seaweed – except maybe Bill Hendrickson and his three or four wives (depending on what season of Big Love you’re watching). The entire dish was refined and delicate, yet still came out strong with the flavours.

Roasted Holmbrae chicken, textures of corn, sorrel, winter leaves
Roasted Holmbrae chicken, textures of corn, sorrel, winter leaves

It was time for our mains. Teresa had the beautifully roasted chicken – crispy light skin enveloped a moist and tender piece of meat with the velvety corn puree complementing it with ease. Chinese chicken and sweet corn soup, you have nothing on this.

Seared Murray cod, potato emulsion, fresh peas, salted lemon myrtle thyme, malt vinegar
Seared Murray cod, potato emulsion, fresh peas, salted lemon myrtle thyme, malt vinegar

In an all seafood affair, I went for the Murray cod for my main. I likened this dish to a modern interpretation of the classic Friday night meal in suburbia: the humble fish and chips. This was another dish where all the elements blended effortlessly while allowing the star of the show, the fish, to shine. I also appreciated the subtle flavours of both the malt vinegar and salted lemon myrtle thyme.

Wattle custard, Daintree chocolate paint, Daintree vanilla curd
Wattle custard, Daintree chocolate paint, Daintree vanilla curd

And then it was time for dessert. Teresa chose what sounded like the most pedestrian dessert of the lot. ‘What is wattle custard?’ she asked the waitress. The waitress simply smiled and gave Teresa a mysterious ‘oh, you’ll see’ response before walking away… and coming back with this.

I had taken a photo of this dessert, posted it on Twitter and had a mate tweet: ‘All I can see is a brown plate, where is the dessert?’

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It turned out the brown plate was, in fact, the dessert itself. A thin layer of Daintree chocolate mist was spray painted onto the plate, meant to represent Aussie desert sand. And when Teresa dug into the ‘sand,’ a gooey stream of wattle custard came out – it had a lovely caramel flavour with a hint of honey. As for the little white dots? They were made from Daintree vanilla curd and paid tribute to indigenous art. Seriously, how cool was this dessert?

Newstead Brewing ‘Johnny’ apple cider porridge, apple sorbet, caramelised milk foam
Newstead Brewing ‘Johnny’ apple cider porridge, apple sorbet, caramelised milk foam

My apple cider porridge did not generate as many ‘such pretty’ and ‘so wows’ around the table, but it was nevertheless delicious all the same. The porridge, a comforting bowl of apple-y goodness, may have been better suited to a Melbourne winter/spring menu but still hit the spot for me. The tangy sorbet injected a bit of refreshing lightness to the dish while the milk foam kept things as pretty as a picture.

Magnum Opus – Valrhona chocolate, violet ice cream, honey comb, cocoa nib
Magnum Opus – Valrhona chocolate, violet ice cream, honey comb, cocoa nib

Ashley had the Magnum Opus, another beautifully presented dessert. It was pretty much a toffed up Magnum ice cream bar, minus the preservatives and the nasty bloating sensation you get from eating one. A smooth layer of rock-hard Valrhona white chocolate covered a slab of violet ice cream. On top were little pieces of broken honey comb and edible flowers, making the dessert almost too beautiful to eat.

In my opinion, this lunch at GOMA was perfect from the word ‘go.’ The food was incredible, the setting was perfect and the service was impeccable – it’s not easy having to deal with a large group of foodies who asked for the bill to be split eight ways nor is it fun having to deal with me ringing the restaurant up several times to add/subtract people, but the team dealt with it with a smile and with grace. Kudos, guys.

In a country where even the best restaurants tend to mirror each other in style, presentation and food offerings, I think that GOMA offers something completely different. Sure, there are many gallery and museum restaurants up and down the eastern coast of Australia but I’ve yet to come across one that celebrates native Australian ingredients and uses both classical and modern cooking techniques to effortlessly present magnificent dishes that deserve to be showcased as art in the gallery it is housed in. Inject a bit of Queensland sunshine and boom, the scene is set for an incredible meal.

Well done, GOMA; this wanker loves you.

GOMA Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I eat too much.

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