Yea Though I Walk Through The Valley of Shadow

A casual stroll down through Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley when the sun has gone down was until recently not everyone’s idea of a safe and sensible excursion, however a considerable amount of urban renewal has transformed the BrisVegas Kings Cross into a somewhat more sociable place for dining and entertainment.

But when you get to end of the precinct, and persevere by going a little further down Anne Street you will encounter an altogether different and interesting residential/restaurant/retail development called Emporium that has a neo-Parisian vibe.

There amongst the soft neon my destination greets me. Belle Epoque.

Immediately I am taken by the surrounds. Dark stained wooden dining booths, crisp linen, red leather couches and frosted glass dividers. Rococo style wall mountings in a mandatory gaudy gold against dappled wattle orange walls and polished wall mirrors. They have gone for the late 19th century flair and achieved it – and while not the small intimacy of a petite bistro, have created something equally period on a grander scale where one can get full silver service, or something more casual.

I take my place up at the fresco laden bar and peruse the stylish bound menu.

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The choice is excellent – from the archetypal escargot in garlic and butter, rabbit rillette with toasted baguette, brioche ‘pain perdue’ & foie gras cromeski amongst the dozen or so choices.  I settle on the Air Dried Wagyu, Prosciutto and Chorizo plate with a side of aioli complemented fries.

Wonderfully presented. Simply scrumptious and savory.

Next the absinthe. Let me say that Belle Epoque is amongst a select handful of what I consider to be suitably stocked absinthe specialists.  I went safe with a glass of Kubler which I knew would not compete, but complement, my menu selection.  But the absinthe choices included: Lemercier 45 & 72, Duplais and Duplais Blanche, Verte and Blanche de Fougerolles, Nouvelle Orleans, Esprit Edouard, and of course, Mansinthe. (Any nary a Czech ‘absinth’ to be seen).

Pleasingly my absinthe was served not with flame, but with the visually pleasing signature Lemercier water fountain, Torsade glass with what appeared to be hand-pressed cubed sugar on the spoon – it is the little touches that count.

My attending barman, Fred (and it just may have been the whimsical Yann Tiersen accordian music in the background, but I swear he could be the better looking brother of French actor, Dominique Pinon), exhibited a comprehensive knowledge of the absinthe products they stocked, and his bar skills and presentation style exhibited the control and grace one would expect from the Belle Epoque experience.

I have now decided I do not get to Brisbane anywhere near as often as I want and need.  The quality of the food, the surrounds, and the intellectual infrastructure that should underpin a venue specialising in absinthe was all there.  But they are no one trick pony.  If absinthe is not your tipple, get along for their first Tuesday Champagne Club – the night I attended there was a gob smacking array of delights from the premier Champagne House of Louis Roederer, the craftsmen behind the name of Cristal.

I’m sure this is but the tip of the iceberg of Gallic delights for the adventurous.

Jonathan Aug 16th 2009 09:42 pm Bars,Cocktails,Culture,Food,Reviews,Style No Comments yet Trackback URI

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