I do love a new try and even more so when the establishment itself is new to the area! Francie Mays at 720 Brunswick Street (taking over the old Alibi Room space) has only been open a few months but if my experience last week was anything to go by there is a good chance this modern Asian fusion bar and restaurant is settling in for the long haul.
Credit: Francie Mays
After arriving and waiting for my friend to arrive before ordering I was greeted warmly by the barman/waiter/sommelier/all-hands-on-deck Ben. After listing off the beers and ciders on tap, he then explained the dishes on the A la Carte menu and the components of the special sticky tasting plate (one look and I knew we’d be ordering it!). He kindly shared his favourites and suggested dish combinations to get a bit of a taste of all the specialties. The service was completely relaxed and laidback but incredibly informative and helpful…and we hadn’t even ordered drinks yet!
After my dinner companion arrived we both ordered two James Squire Ciders – refreshingly light and crisp for a balmy evening – and quickly agreed on our dinner choices. A “sticky” tasting board for two, Lime and Chilli Pepper Calamari and two serves of Grilled Corn on the Cob.
The calamari arrived first and could not have been a more perfect start. A crisp outer layer of slightly spicy batter coated luscious and oh-so-tender calamari that was bliss to eat. With a small squeeze of lime and a dollop of the sriracha aioli it was the ultimate take on a classic dish.
The corn was next and was bursting with flavour – literally. So juicy and sweet which harmoniously with a sprinkling of sharp pecorino cheese on top it epitomized the fusion of cuisines Francie’s is all about. Then we moved onto the tasting board for 2…
When the large grey slate platter arrived I simply didn’t know where to look! Each component had been artfully arranged without looking at all pretentious. Grant’s sticky ribs, Chicken Wings in Sticky Plum Sauce, a chicken Yakitori Skewer, a Palm Sugar and Sweet Chilli Prawn Skewer and slices of Sticky Lemongrass and Tom Yum Sushi with Pulled Pork…it was like the ultimate Asian x Southern USA BBQ!
I dived in for the Yakitori first and was blown away by the sweet and slightly smoky marinade that covered the moist and succulent chicken breast pieces (it remained my favourite element on the platter). I then swiftly tore off a Sticky Rib, which were equally as juicy with the pork falling off the bone and savoured the chinese bbq style sauce with hints of szechuan. The sweet and syrupy Chicken Wings then followed, as well as a plump prawn tail (my dinner date got the head – I think I got the better ‘end’ of the deal) which maintained a lovely salty-sea note underneath the sweetness of the palm sugar and chilli. And lastly the Sushi Roll – which has got to be one of the best meat-based sushi rolls I’ve ever tasted thanks to a wonderful blend of flavours from the lemongrass and slow cooked pork.
My friend and I continued to rattle on into the evening well after we’d finished our meal and our plates were cleared. We paused and had a fabulous conversation with part-owner Robert (who is originally from Singapore) and were inspired by his approach to the the Brisbane food scene. They clearly did their research because this place fills a serious niche – a take on Asian fusion cuisine that’s fun, sharable and slightly unusual in flavour combinations served in a completely welcoming and laid-back atmosphere. The style of service delivery is spot on – attentive without the pester factor, casual (questions re elements on the menu are most welcome) and sincere. It genuinely feels as though your being welcomed into your Nan’s house…”You hungry? Of course you are, come sit and eat”.
A grandmother, mother, wife, best friend – a cook and glorious host. She ‘tells it like it is’, is politically incorrect and gives what she demands – only the best.” – Francie Mays
We finished our evening with a lovely surprise from the Robert – Coconut Crème Brûlée. Wowzers. With a perfect “knack”, the spoon broke the surface and creamy, coconut-y, custard goodness oozed out. It wasn’t too sweet which I loved and the caramelisation on top was an absolute winner. Thanks again Robert!
Francie Mays I give you an easy 5T’s on the Must Try Scale! I’ll be calling in again soon…
If you haven’t been yet I wholeheartedly recommend dropping in – they have also started a fabulous breakfast menu on the weekends from 7-11am. Think big, bold and traditional Asian flavours ready to help cure the worst weekend hangover. I for one am certainly looking forward to trying Struggle Street (although it’ll be without the hangover so I can savour each and every bite!)