Many chefs today are artists and a lot of food is very creative, not only to look at but also in flavour and textures.
A degustation menu is like an art exhibition – a “tasting menu” where guests can sample a variety of the culinary artist’s work, usually in small portions. At Esquire in the city, we started with air-dried Kobi beef – crisp wafers of beef served with avocado mousse. Then thinly sliced raw scallops with buttermilk followed by raw coral trout with avocado rolled in wasabi and compressed apple pieces.
We sampled 13 dishes in all including rainbow trout with sorrel granita; wagyu beef with caramelised artichoke; black squid tentacles with nori; a sweet corn ice-cream with popcorn and a sensational curds and whey ice-cream with orange sorbet and Campari jelly. Freshly baked sourdough bread with burnt butter and beef dripping made a fine accompaniment.
Esquire’s food is sensational culinary art – beautifully presented, fabulous flavours – fresh, perhaps a little too raw at times, but brave and exciting. Ryan Squires has cooked with many of the world’s finest chefs and won many accolades while at Urbane and Buffalo Club, and last week Esquire was named Restaurant of the Year and was the only restaurant awarded three hats by the 2012 Queensland Good Food Guide published by brisbanetimes.com.au. Squires’ food is adventurous and served in degustation style with a choice of eight to 14 courses, casual à la carte dining and a new lunch offering from four to seven courses, worth trying.
Sadly, on our visit the service did not keep up with the food and was inconsistent. Our waiter knew the product descriptions but could not explain the finer details. He seemed detached, referring to the kitchen staff as “they”. The early courses were delivered quickly, indeed the first two courses of food were delivered before we got any wine, but later courses were very slow. Some tables got an iPad demonstration of the cooking techniques – we didn’t. Some tables were visited by one of the chefs – not us. No offer of coffee. And towards the end of the meal, the kitchen and wait staff started packing up and it was obvious we should leave.
Ryan’s food is exquisite but the experience is let down by the service – still, you cannot judge a painting by the gallery it’s hanging in! So enjoy the meal for what it is – culinary art at it’s best.