Housed in a classic Queenslander tucked in the quiet streets of New Farm, The Balfour Kitchen is an intimate dining destination with all the serenity and charm you would expect of a Spicers Retreat restaurant. Set on a wide, wrap-around verandah and in an intimate frangipani-shaded courtyard, The Balfour Kitchen serves a modern Australian cuisine with European influences created from seasonal Queensland produce.
French chef Jordan Clavaron has devised a new winter menu that is a modern interpretation of traditional comfort food. Using winter favourites such as forest mushrooms and seasonal vegetables, and surprise additions such as charred octopus and pomegranate, the menu is a fresh take on conventional winter dining – perfectly suited to the not-quite-cold winters of tropical Brisbane.
On arrival, we indulged in a few glasses of champers (because how could we not?) while appeasing our hunger with freshly baked epi bread smeared with smoky butter. These soft, doughy buns were the perfect appetisers to arouse our hunger as we perused the menu and tried to decide how we would start our meal. Pappardelle with forest mushrooms? Fresh beetroot with goat cheese? We finally settled on two entrées: charred octopus with chorizo and saffron whipped potato purée and the chicken liver parfait with pear chutney and crispy lavosh.
As we waited for our dishes to arrive, we took a second to appreciate our surroundings. The wide, home-style verandah was secluded from the street and surprisingly quiet considering the building’s central location. The weather was dreary and stormy, but we were cosy and comfortable as we settled in for a spot of people-watching while the other diners enjoyed high tea and late lunches.
Sooner than expected, our entrées arrived. While we were desperately eager to tuck in, we stopped to appreciate just how beautiful the dishes were. The charred octopus was a romantic medley of pinks and reds, with tentacle and chorizo draped carefully over mounds of rich, smooth saffron potato purée. Scattered pomegranate seeds added bursts of fresh, juicy sweetness to the otherwise deep and smoky dish. My lunch date, who can never go past a pâté, was particularly smitten with the second entrée. The silky and rich chicken liver parfait was piped on to the dish and adorned with architectural sheets of crisp, seasoned lavosh, sweet pear chutney, and a picturesque dusting of vibrantly coloured parsley crumb. We consumed the entrées greedily, all but licking the plates clean.
For our next course, we chose the duck breast with pumpkin purée, kimchi and yuzu cucumber, and braised wagyu brisket with garden vegetables and beef jus. I’ll be honest. I struggled to keep my cool as the server approached the table with our meals. The duck breast was perfectly cooked with just a delicate blush of pink. Oriental flavours shone through with fragrant kimchi arranged into flowers, and yuzu pickled cucumber cutting through the richness of the dish. The braised wagyu brisket brought together baby carrots, brussels sprouts and radishes, gently seasoned to allow the garden-fresh flavours to take centre-stage. The beef brisket was cooked to tender, juicy perfection, with a single crunchy onion ring delicately resting atop. Why was there an onion ring, you ask? I’m not sure – possibly to contrast with the soft texture of the vegetables, or to cut through the richness of the fried, seasoned batter. Regardless, this single ring was a highlight of the meal in my opinion, and I happily would have eaten five more.
After our mains, we had eaten so much we weren’t sure we could move, let alone fit in dessert. I regret not finding the willpower to order dessert – I will have to wait until I return to discover if the chocolate brownie with Snickers ganache and pear sorbet is actually as incredible as it sounds (my suspicion: it’s even better).
As we dined al fresco, we discussed how uncommon it was to find a restaurant in an inner-city suburb that still felt secluded and peaceful. Shaded from the quiet street by a courtyard buffer and long-limbed frangipani trees, The Balfour Kitchen is an honest reflection of the Brisbane attitude that prioritises lifestyle and relaxation above all else. For a respite from the daily grind, this intimate and quiet dining destination is equal parts charm and romance. I am eager to return as soon as I crave a leisurely dinner that doesn’t sacrifice quality or sophistication. After all, I still need to get my hands on that chocolate brownie.