Brews and Bacon would like to welcome Rohan Woods as a new contributor! Rohan is one of the most critical people I know when it comes to food, and he will be reviewing and giving his take on dishes he tries in Brisbane’s beer establishments. I’ve given him full liberty to pull no punches, and give his full and honest opinion. If you would like to contact Rohan, it can be done so at email@example.com
After spending a delightful Sunday morning soaking up the sun at Albion Park raceway, previewing what you can expect from the Beer InCider festival (hint – it’s 130 different beers and ciders from over 30 different brewers, along with food and entertainment), Jason and I decided to head to the Valley for some lunch and wound up at Brunswick and Ann, the latest of the Valley’s attempt to jump on the craft beer bandwagon. Cynical derision aside, from a craft beer perspective, they seemed to have gotten it right, with an extensive array of taps and a reasonable, but not extravagant bottle list (I figure if you serve a saison, you can legitimately call yourself a craft beer bar. No barley wine in sight though). But I will let Jason harp on about the beer at a later date; I’m all about the food.
Getting there a few minutes before they opened at 12, we grabbed a seat outside in the lovely spring weather and watched the always intriguing foot traffic that the Valley never fails to provide. We were the first customers of the day, and the friendly staff didn’t seem to mind us heading to the bar seconds after they opened the doors. There was a variety of interesting looking food on the menu, with a distinct American style theme. In fact, there were enough unusual looking combinations on offer that we decided to get three starters instead of sticking to the mains. At $9 each, two of the starters make a decent sized lunch, provided you are not super hungry.
First up, there was the Mac and Cheese arancini with Succotash. Now the only thing I knew about succotash was that Sylvester the cat used to say it all the time, but I am a big fan of arancini. The menu helpfully suggested that I Google it and it turns out to be a corn and lima bean based dish, which in this instance was served more as a dipping sauce for the breadcrumb coated spheres. This was definitely the stand out dish of the three we tried. Now I normally get upset when people breadcrumb and fry whatever they feel like, leave out the rice, and call it arancini, but with these I was impressed with the pasta substitution, giving the whole ball an enjoyable consistency and texture. For anyone out there that has ever thought about what you can and can’t deep fry, this is the dish for you. Up there with the deep-fried Mars bar, you wouldn’t think it would be possible to deep fry macaroni and cheese and have it work, but it does. The only slight disappointment was that the centre was just hot, not steaming hot like the breadcrumb shell, but overall it was a very solid dish that I would highly recommend.
Next up the wings. Now Jason has a very lofty standard when it comes to wings, but even from my non-North American perspective these wings were a failure in almost every aspect. Advertised as a chipotle-cola wing, the interesting combination caught my eye on the menu. To be fair, the sweet with a hint of spicy sauce on these wings was the best part of them, but it was only slightly above average and to say they were lightly coated in the sauce would be exceedingly generous. A good set of wings should use up all the serviettes on the table, leaving you seeking out more with sauce coated hands, but these were barely “one serviette” wings. They were served with celery that looked like it had spent a lot of time in a dark room and only heard of chlorophyll as a general concept, not the life-blood of every green plant. The quality of the meat also left a lot to be desired. I read somewhere that dark meat comes from the chicken exercising a particular muscle a lot. If this is the case, these wings may have come from the latest in flying free range chickens. This was served with a side of brutally overpowering blue cheese sauce, that would have been an excellent pairing with some extremely spicy hot wings, but overrode all the flavour of the mild chipotle-cola sauce. Jason reckons they had only been fried, instead of also being baked, but I can let that slide as the dark witchcraft of preparing Canadian style wings hasn’t quite made it to Australia yet. I’m holding out for poutine anyway.
Lastly, there was the Cheeseburger Coquettes, which were a solid, but not mind-blowing dish. Paired well and appropriately with mustard and tomato sauce and squirting meat juices when you picked them up, these beef filled morsels claimed to be the full cheeseburger, with onion, cheese and pickle all mixed in. While the beef was done right, the rest of the ingredients were so understated I could hardly tell they were there.
So we have a good dish, an average dish and a sub-par dish. The Valley always has lots of exciting food options, but if you are already at Ann and Brunswick for a few drinks, you may as well grab a bite to eat. Just choose wisely.