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HOT: Urbane Restaurant, 179 Mary St, Brisbane

Finally Brisbane’s laneways are starting to see some action.

Melbourne is renowned for its utilisation of the funky laneways that branch from main streets of the CBD: bars, clinic cafes, boutique shops…you name it, in the laneways down there they’ve got it.

Brisbane, however, has been a little slow on the uptake.  We have plenty of laneways, but there’s not much doing aside from rubbish bins and maybe a few groggy party goers late on a Friday night.

So I was driving down Margaret Street a few weeks ago when to my surprise I noticed a street sign labelled The Laneway.  I did a lap of the block and came back to see that Spencer Lane (across from the Stamford Plaza) has indeed been Laneway-ed!!  Sure, there are the alleyway rubbish bins, but beyond that is a funky new entrance, giving way to a cool, very Melbourne-esque bar (The Laneway), bistro (The Euro) and exclusive restaurant (Urbane).

I had heard rave reviews about Urbane, so decided to sample the goods on a balmy Saturday evening with my other half and another couple.  Designed by local architects Arkhefield, the features of the long, narrow Urbane dining area are very modern with clean lines and simple, classic colours amongst the timber floor, shelving and entry way.

Urbane Mary St BrisbaneWhen MM and I entered we were watched closely by the patrons, which was a little unnerving – perhaps it had something to do with my Steve Maddens making a right racket on the wooden floor?  The majority of diners consisted of couples looking dreamily into each other’s eyes (when they weren’t gawking at us) and having quiet, intimate conversation.  A little clinical and sterile was my immediate impression.

Our friends joined us shortly after and finally we were able to get a bit of laughter and ambience into the room.  The wait staff greeted us promptly and reminded us that we had signed up for the 6 course degustation menu.  We glanced over the set menu and all gave nods of approval.  We chose to have the wine degustation as well – why not let the experts chose the wine for us?

No one at our table had tried a degustation experience before.  Most of the courses on the set menu sounded mouth watering, but I had my doubts on how sufficient the portions would be. In the back of my mind I was flashing dollar signs – the degustation experience isn’t cheap, and this meal wasn’t on behalf of anyone’s corporate expense account.

The first tasty morsel was lobster, almond gazpacho, capers and lime meringue – very small, but a flavour sensation and it was served in the most fascinating conical shaped glass.  The second sample was one of my favourites – yellowtail kingfish with Japanese inspirations.  Again the serving was quite small but the fish was fresh, light and melted in your mouth.

Urbane Mary St Brisbane

The third plate was questionable….but perhaps my palate’s not cultured enough for this sort of experimental cuisine – it was foie gras in a white chocolate bonbon, with gingerbread, carrot and dark chocolate.  To be honest, the rich flavour of the duck pate didn’t mix well with the sweetness of the chocolate.  This dish didn’t really work for any of us at the table and it was too rich for me to finish (more dollar signs flashing).

Urbane Mary St Brisbane

From there, we were served slow cooked pork belly with apple, onion and rhubarb – another taste sensation with not a scrap left on the plate, except for my crunchy crackling (which I would have loved to pick up with my fingers and shovel into my mouth – not the kind of behaviour this establishment would encourage so thought it best to let go).

Urbane Mary St Brisbane

Now that we were into the main dishes I was really starting to enjoy the degustation experience – the portions were more liberal and the combination of flavours was unusual and delicious.  Next on the bill of fare was the stand out for me – venison with raspberry, beetroot, cocoa and hints of liquorice.  This was my first taste of venison and it fell gracefully away as I cut into it and melted in my mouth; the liquorice and cocoa worked well with this dish which really surprised everyone on the judges panel.Urbane Mary St Brisbane

Onto the dessert items and the first was lightly poached peach with jasmine flower, lychee, sesame and almonds with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream.  MM thought this sort of food was best served at breakfast, but I thought it was a perfect balance of fresh and light with a little bit of sweetness.

Urbane Mary St Brisbane

Following this was a tray of petite fours which included a chunk of creamy aerated milk chocolate (MM thought perhaps they had sampled an aero bar from the local 7-11?!), compressed watermelon and a green tea sponge cake.  All in all a very nice, light finish to our meal.

Urbane Mary St Brisbane

The wines that complimented our meals were very well matched to the food that was presented.  There was a mix of

aged French red, white and sparkling wines as well as some locally grown and bottled.  We imbibed sufficient wine to warrant a taxi home, but with no hangover the next morning.

Would I return to Urbane?  Yep, no risk – but next time I will be dining from the a la carte menu.  The degustation was a great way to sample a range of items from the menu, but the portions are small and it’s a bit of a tease.

Unfortunately by the time we had finished it was almost midnight and we were feeling the pinch from a late night and full stomachs, so we chose not to have a night cap at The Laneway.  Its décor and ambience looks fresh and exciting for Brisbane and I can’t wait to sit at the bar and sample a fruity summer cocktail.

As we wandered back down Spencer Lane there was an old black and white movie being projected onto one of the laneway walls – very cool . I can’t wait to see more of this in Brisbane.

Urbane on Urbanspoon

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Discussion

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  1. Hi CAZM. How much did you pay for the degustation(food only)? Seems like a place to go for a little indulgence or special occasion.

    Posted by mumkwok | February 8, 2010, 9:18 am
  2. Hi MumKwok.
    It wasn’t exactly cheap – $85 per head for the food, but on par with any degustation menus around town…definitely a special occasion venue!

    Posted by CazM | February 8, 2010, 9:45 am
  3. Wow $85 is a bargain compared to the $120ish prices in Melbourne for a similar sort of fine dining experience.

    Restaurant got good reviews from John Lethlean in The Australian’s Weekend Magazine too.

    Jetsetting Joyce

    Posted by Jetsetting Joyce | February 8, 2010, 10:59 am

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