Agnes Restaurant’s pop-up bakery may have gotten us through lockdown, but we knew all along that the decadent carb-loading was only temporary—a taster while we waited for restrictions to ease so the restaurant could officially open. And while we are definitely going to miss those crispy kouign amann pastries, we are more than a little excited to finally be able to sit down to Agnes’ wood-fired feasts—especially since THAT basque cheesecake is still on the menu.
If this is the first you’re hearing of the place, let us bring you up to speed. Agnes Restaurant is the third venue from the crew behind Same Same and Honto, with Ben Williamson—ex-chef of Gerard’s Bistro—heading up the kitchen. Considering Same Same and Honto are arguably two of the best restaurants in Brisbane right now (along with Gerard’s Bistro), you can expect good things from Agnes, and as the venue was originally scheduled to open back in 2019, they’ve certainly had time to perfect every last detail.
First up, there’s the space. Taking over an old warehouse that’s been stripped back to bare bones and refitted, the team have created a moody, sophisticated venue that combines sleek black furnishings and hanging pendant lights with exposed brick and polished concrete, while shelves holding an impressive number of wines line the walls. The open kitchen and its roaring fire pits sit alongside the dining area, and just up a flight of stairs, you’ll find a rooftop terrace overlooking the Valley—though this won’t be open as intended until COVID restrictions are fully lifted. While you wait for your table you can enjoy a glass of vino in the downstairs wine bar, which you may recognise from your bakery visits—the entrance to the restaurant itself is now the next door up Agnes Street.
We know it’s the food you really want to hear about though, and we’re here to tell you that Ben Williamson’s fiery menu doesn’t disappoint. Just like the bakery, everything here is cooked over coal and fire, with glowing flames and embers you’ll be mesmerised by from your seat in the dimly lit space. And when we say everything is cooked over fire we mean it—from the charcoal pits used for meat and seafood to the woodfire oven, with different woods used to add different flavours, and specialty iron pots and tools employed to allow for smoking and boiling. Fun fact, the team had to enlist a local blacksmith to help create the kitchen equipment—who even knew Brisbane had blacksmiths, right?
What you’ll find on the menu is heavily dependent on what’s in season and locally available, and doesn’t really stick to one cuisine or style, though inspiration has been taken from the Middle East, Asia and beyond. You can kick things off with snacks and starters like malted sourdough with smoked cultured butter, scarlett prawn doughnuts and clams with kipfler potato and onion butter but try not to go overboard—you’ll want to leave room for the mains.
Meats are all dry-aged in house, before getting the fiery treatment to bring out intense flavours. Currently you’ll find the likes of smoked lamb neck with ancho mole and flatbread, aged duck with bread sauce and cumquats and 260 day dry aged Wagyu on offer, to pair with sides like roast Andean sunrise potatoes and radicchio with smoked pumpkin pepitas and whipped almond.
As well as that basque cheesecake we mentioned, you can finish things off on a sweet note with treats like smoked potato ice cream with brown butter and a cocoa crunch or blood orange sorbet with goat’s yoghurt and olive oil cake. We don’t blame you if you haven’t left any room for dessert, but if you want a little liquid treat to end the night, there’s an innovative cocktail menu with a few sips that also manage to incorporate smoke and fire.
If you weren’t quick enough to jump on a booking when they first opened this week you might be waiting a while—the restaurant is currently booked out until November, and we suggest you snap something—anything—up soon. Get all the details on Agnes Restaurant here.
In the meantime, check out the Mexican restaurant that just landed in Teneriffe.
Image credit: Grace Elizabeth Images