A new speciality gin bar has settled on Alfred St, but it’s not just the cocktails everyone is talking about.
When you walk into Dutch Courage Officer’s Mess (or DC for short) you’re immediately transformed into another world. With the old-school leather suitcases at the door, and what looks like the sails from ships being used to partially conceal what’s going on inside the clear glass walls, this is not just another bar.
As the name suggests, DC is an intimate setting inspired by the brave explorers of the past. Owner Matthew Hilan is adamant that his new venture will bring back to life the classic G+T, serving a multitude of specialty gin cocktails.
Explaining his vision for DC, Matthew says, “We were inspired by a period in history where military formality during the day would give way to carefree partying, socialising and unwinding at night in campaign tents and mess halls.”
But it’s not just the drinks that have had the crowds swarming since their opening last week; head Chef Paul Riley’s share plates are a major reason to venture to Alfred Street and immerse yourself this whole new world.
Considering Dutch Courage has drawn inspiration from all the lands the British Empire settled in the 19th century, Riley isn’t restricted to just one theme when creating his dishes. From simple sweet potato crisps to complex camel dished it doesn’t matter what you feel like, you will find something you want to try on this menu.
“I think we’ve created a menu which is a lot more sophisticated than something you would get at a local tavern. We haven’t gone along the Spanish style tapas; I think that’s been a little bit done to death here in Brisbane. We’re trying to create something unique – something new and exciting for Brisbane,” he says.
Although the theme of DC is to create somewhat of a time-warp, and transport gin-junkies back to a when explorers ventured across foreign and exotic lands, the items used in the menu are sourced from Australia, and showcases Riley’s passion for the use of native and iconic Australian ingredients.
“I think Australia has got some of the best ingredients and best seafood in the world. Our waters are clear and blue, where a lot of other countries struggle with their pollution issues,” he says.
“I love Australian bush herbs and spices, I think Australia has got a lot of offer in that way and other countries can’t offer those particular [things] like lemon myrtle, that’s in our barramundi dish, and very native to Australia. I lived in Tasmania for a couple of years and there was a lemon myrtle tree outside my window basically, it’s that sort of fresh and natural approach.”
It’s not surprising given one of his food heros from when he started cooking 30 years ago is Stephanie Alexander. Her philosophy using fresh and seasonal produce particularly for health benefits is something that resonates throughout the DC menu.
His signature dish? The camel. Yep… Game meats are a thing at DC and are a must try. It’s been the most talked about dish on the menu given it’s unusual protein and as Brisbane get’s more modern in terms it’s developing food scene, seeing interesting ingredients like this is sure to become more regular that the typical beef-and-three-veg diner would like to admit. This particular dish is one that Riley has taken with him from his previous posts at places like the Shangri-La and Rydges. He loves the flavours and by using ingredients like the camel and quail, it adds a fine dining element to what it a very special pub menu.
“Brisbane was always five years behind Melbourne and Sydney with the trends, and what’s changed particularly in the last three to four years is that Brisbane has started to get some very good restaurants, and bringing chefs from Melbourne and Sydney up to Brisbane,
“I believe the standard in Brisbane is going through the roof. We’ve really breached the gap in the last 5 years, and I think that’s excellent,” he says.
Whether you’re looking for a hump-day treat or a new Saturday night hang-out, Dutch Courage is sure to become one of your regular spots.