Fine dining in an affordable and friendly setting.

In our increasingly busy lives there seems to be less time for long lunches and we are often choosing to seek less expensive dining options, fuelling a trend today towards more casual eating, and prompting fine dining restaurants to open bistro-style venues to complement their finer offerings.

Ben Williamson, the talented chef from Enoteca, Cha Cha Char and Urbane, has recently taken the helm at Gerard’s Bistro and is creating dishes worthy of many fine dining establishments but in a more casual, comfortable and relaxing setting. Gerard’s Bistro is the latest venture by the Moubarak brothers, the creators of the Lychee Lounge and Laruche and it is tucked away in an arcade behind the lighting shop on the corner of James Street and McLachlan Street in Fortitude Valley.

A semi-open kitchen, a large bar serving sharing plates and both indoor and outdoor dining provides a range of eating options. The concrete space is broken up with timber slats, fabric-covered chairs and tubular lighting, with very acceptable noise levels and a warm modern atmosphere.

The menu is a mix of traditional and contemporary flavours very suitable for sharing. For example, we shared the Sweet Spiced Fried Squid – tender squid that almost melts in the mouth with a citrus and cinnamon flavour – served with black squid ink aioli ($14). The Spicy Sujuq (lamb) sausages ($24) were juicy and full of flavour; served with puréed potato and crisp onion strips, they were well complemented with a tasty shaved cucumber, feta and pomegranate salad ($10). A more traditional char-grilled steak was served with a rosemary, sumac and anchovy butter and excellent crispy hand-cut chips. The presentation is worthy of many much more expensive establishments.

For dessert, we shared the Lebanese Donuts – a dozen small light and fluffy balls served with a dark chocolate dipping sauce ($8) and the Blood Orange Crème Catalan ($10) – a beautiful rich crème brulée containing blood orange slices – yum! There are some excellent local and imported wines by the glass (from $7.50) as well as an extensive wine, beer and cocktail list to suit every occasion and pocket.

The service is friendly, efficient and informative. Gerard’s Bistro is worth seeking out. And whilst there, make sure you stop into Scrumptious Reads next door to Gerard’s – a particularly delectable book shop specialising in food and wine – perfect reading after a perfect meal.