Restaurants

Meet Essa, A Slick New Valley Restaurant From The Ex-Head Chef Of Gauge

By Ranyhyn Laine
24th Aug 2021

dining area with a window overlooking a garden
a plate of quail
a potato dish with chevre on top
a cocktail in a stemmed glass
a pink cocktail topped with botanicals
bar and interior of essa
dining area with a window overlooking a garden
a plate of quail
a potato dish with chevre on top
a cocktail in a stemmed glass
a pink cocktail topped with botanicals
bar and interior of essa

It’s been a long time coming (about eight months since we first heard the news, to be exact), but James Street’s ESSA is finally ready to open its doors, officially welcoming diners from this Friday 27 August. If you haven’t heard about it, the slick new restaurant comes to us from Phil Marchant, ex-head chef of South Brisbane’s iconic Gauge, and Angela Sclavos, co-owner of The Green, another James Street newbie set to land soon, so you know you can expect big things.

Just off the bustling main strip in Robertson Street, ESSA is moody and atmospheric but almost completely austere, providing the perfect blank canvas for Marchant’s creative plates. The split-level venue features dark wood paneling, exposed brick walls and windows offering a view to lush greenery, with industrial-style elements throughout. It’s ideal for an intimate date night or a relaxed group dinner—though you may prefer the latter so you can sample more of the menu. 

exterior wall of essa, white and covered in vines

Focusing on all things raw, pickled, smoked and wood-fired, the eats coming out of the  kitchen here showcase local farmers and providores, with their seasonal produce transformed into simple dishes heroing the ingredients themselves rather than fancy cooking techniques. Think kohlrabi burnt in the fire then pickled and served with fresh curds, bay leaf, pistachio and nasturtium; wild venison tartare with bergamot, buckwheat, hibiscus and grilled sourdough; and fried chickpea beignets filled with caramelised scallop cream. 

bar area inside essa

For the larger dishes, you’ll find options like hand rolled pasta with Fraser Island spanner crab, nduja and carrot; grilled spatchcock quail with brown butter, caper leaves and salt bush; and Black Angus short rib with Wagyu fat jus gras and fresh green peppercorns. Pair them with fried kipfler potatoes with comte cheese sauce, sour onion and chives and make sure you leave room for a Jerusalem artichoke cream bun for dessert. 

plate of kohlrabi with a glass of wine

As for the drinks, you can work your way through a wine list that has been carefully curated to match the kitchen’s ethos and the dishes, or a refined cocktail list featuring sips like the Love Bird, which combines rose, strawberries and white chocolate with a milk wash technique. 

Bookings for ESSA are open now, and you can bet this is going to be the restaurant everyone will be talking about for the next few weeks, so we’d suggest getting yours in now. Find out everything you need to know here

More into breakfast than fine dining? Check out these six new cafes instead. 

Image credit: Supplied

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