Last week I was invited to dinner at Alfred & Constance Restaurant in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane. It’s just a stone’s throw away from the Ekka (think American county fair on steroids) and the restaurant was showcasing their use of locally sourced meat and produce.
As I walked up to the front door-ish (ish because there isn’t really “a front door” to Alfred & Constance) I couldn’t decide where to look first. No matter where I looked, something in the corner of my eye wanted me to look there. The restaurant was built by connecting the main floors of two lovely old timber homes on the corner of Alfred and Constance streets. The idea is brilliant.
Owner Damian Griffiths created Alfred & Constance and with famed Brisbane chef Jocelyn Hancock centered the kitchen around a big wood-fired oven. Jocelyn likes ‘clean food’ or food that hasn’t been played with or tricked up. I call that low human intervention and it’s the way I like to eat. They also don’t waste anything. Whether it’s a pig or a cow, it’s all fresh and it’s all used.
I was met by Marci Turrisi from Lucid Media who told me about Damian Griffiths and his growing empire. She explained that the restaurant was several “micro venues” with different themed areas over the two buildings which is really one building now. She spent a lot of time explaining how the wood fired oven was designed and built and how it’s not like turning on the stove and popping a pan on and dinner gets cooking. It takes skill to slow cook in the oven to retain flavour and moisture.
The oven was built by Dennis Benson who honed his skill in California as a founding father of the artisan bread baking movement. The oven has arches like you’d find in a cathedral and a high flue so that the smokey flavour makes its way all the way to my plate.
The menu can be described as Australian soul food but I’d describe it as delicious. I did wonder if it would be like so many restaurants where the flavour is all in the menu and not on the plate.
It took me ages to decide but I wasn’t the only one who kept going from suckling pig with crackling (sold by weight) to steaks or chicken or salads. The menu descriptions made me want to order one of everything – not practical. The table decision was to request tasting plates and everyone order a main and we’d put them all in the center of the table and share. Brilliant.
The pork was moist, the crackling was so crispy you could hear it snap across the table and the whole roasted garlic and home made applesauce were the perfect accompaniment. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks – or better.
Then there was the beetroot salad with feta and maple spiced pecans. I could have eaten all of this and two more just like it. Absolutely my favourite. It was a special of the night and it deserves pride of place on the menu. I also liked the lentil salad.
We all chose something for dessert and shared those too. Here’s a molten chocolate pudding and sticky date pudding in the back. I didn’t have room, I swear, but somehow I managed to taste everything and enjoy a lovely cup of coffee.
I thought about this peanut butter cheesecake and figured it would be really heavy so decided against it. I was wrong. It was mousse-like and delicious and I would have eaten the whole thing but I wasn’t the only one who liked it.
How about a lemon filled polenta cake? This was good too. Okay, I’ll have to admit that there wasn’t anything I didn’t like and frankly, I can be a picky eater at times.
After we finished eating I was eager to take a tour of the restaurant and the adjoining pizza restaurant, Alfredo’s. The American part of me felt so at home at Alfred and Constance. It’s delightfully quirky and goes from Grandma’s parlour complete with fireplace, to a cafe and then upstairs there’s the Hemingway Room and the White Ligntning Tiki Bar and the balconies and then all the way down to the cellar there’s the Air Raid Shelter. There are bars everywhere so you’ll never be far from a drink.
I enjoyed a lovely “Jumbled Julep” that was just sweet enough and filled with muddled mint. I could have had a “Ginger Ninja” or a Sailors Swizzle” but that’s for next time – and there will be a next time.
Jamie, who’s on the staff at Alfred and Constance took us from the Air Raid Shelter in the basement and then up through the Black Room which is a private dining room and on up the stairs. Photos provided. By the time we took the tour it was too late to shoot without flash.
At the top of the stairway is an old light from a surgical theatre. I offered to do heart surgery but nobody was interested. Upstairs is the Hemingway Room. I’ve been to Hemingway’s place in Key West a few times and the old man himself would have been happy in this room. It’s even got a balcony. On the other side of the Hemingway Room is the White Lightning Tiki Bar. The only thing it lacked was torches. It’s an Australian Tiki Bar with surf boards and no torches.
Back downstairs we stopped for a moment in the Tunes Bar where music was playing and happy people were drinking and having a good time.
You know I’m all about orgasmic food experiences and I really enjoyed the food, the friendliness of the staff and the quirkiness of the decor. You can’t go wrong at Alfred & Constance. It’s not a cheap night out but all the food is top quality and grown locally and that counts for a lot in my book.
I ate as a guest of Alfred and Constance and I thank them for their hospitality.