To celebrate the completion of term two, Grade 12, I was allowed to choose a restaurant for lunch. I had heard a lot about a newly opened eatery called Catbird Seat Bistro on Stanley St, East Brisbane, and I was looking forward to giving it a try.
A husband and wife team leads this quaint bistro with Chef James Guldberg heading the kitchen and his wife Erinn controlling the floor. James has plenty of previous restaurant experience having led numerous Brisbane restaurants including The Survey Co., Piaf (now closed), Aquitaine Brasserie and Sardine Tin (now closed).
Fascinated by the name ‘Catbird’ I did some research and found it is an old phrase describing someone in an enviable position, someone who is ‘sitting pretty.’ We were seated in a snug corner of the bistro looking out to the pedestrians and cars on lively Stanley St and I felt sure we were ‘sitting pretty’ compared to those outside.
Mum and I arrived first and while awaiting our guest, Mum told me of some of the history of the location. My Dad had worked there while a student when it was the function room for the Cloak and Dagger. A restaurant with a Scottish menu, loved by many Brisbanites especially for its Mushrooms St Andrews. This dish consists of large mushrooms which are stuffed with crab meat and cheese, crumbed and deep fried – we have been known to replicate them on occasion. After the Cloak closed it became a Chinese restaurant, the owners enticed by the auspicious address of 888 Stanley Street. My Dad had his 30th birthday in the very room we now sat exuding charm as a quaint French bistro.
Mum, our friend Christopher and I kicked off the meal with Peasant bread, beetroot glaze, hung yoghurt while we pondered our next move. There was a great range of food with a specials boards, casual lunch board and a la carte menu offering customers plenty of options. We wanted to enjoy a more leisurely lunch so chose from their a la carte menu. Mum and Christopher enjoyed a lovely French sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley served by the glass. The bread was rustic, lovely and warm. It was great to see something different served alongside the bread and found the yoghurt and glaze a welcome change to butter.
For entrée I chose the beef tartare, parsley & caper purée, horseradish, yolk and potato crisps. I loved the punchy garlic flavour that emanated from the finely chopped raw beef in combination with the horseradish cream, yolk and purée. The crisps on the side provided a contrast in texture to the delicate meat.
Mum enjoyed the classic duck pâté with lavosh, which showcased James’ classical techniques, as the pâté was rich, unctuous, and moreish.
For main I ordered an interesting dish – a rare kangaroo loin, bunya nuts, buttered salt bush and lily pilly. Recently I have taken an interest in Indigenous foods so I was thrilled to see this dish on the menu. The kangaroo loin was cooked perfectly, caramelised outer and a juicy red interior. I loved the buttered salt bush underneath the kangaroo soaking up the gamey jus. The lily pillies provided a sweet pop and the bunya nuts an interesting texture, I’d say similar to a just cooked nutty flavoured potato.
Mum and Christopher ordered the special of the day, which was Tasmanian Salmon, orange braised fennel, parsnip puree and pomegranate dressing. They said it was a very filling dish due to the cream and butter in the purée and the rich salmon but nevertheless enjoyed those full flavours.
On the side we had a dish of pomegranate, corn and barley. It was a great combination which we copied at home the next day to have as a side with a roast! Mum loved her greens and they were cooked to perfection.
On the waiter’s recommendation I felt obliged to order the Cannoli, banana & toffee crème, whipped ricotta and cacao dessert. It was how a cannoli should be with crispy pastry and the subtle banana flavour through the crème was just enough. The little cacao nibs were bitter and balanced the sweet elements in the dessert.
It is easy to see that this quaint bistro is already making a name for itself in the Brisbane food scene having recently won the Best New Restaurant Award and awarded one chef hat in the 2016 Brisbane Times Good Food Guide. While the bistro is small (the kitchen even tinier), it is big on serving dishes showcasing classical techniques to tempt and tantalise diners with less common ingredients and flavour combinations. With a thoughtful menu to tempt every appetite and a dining room packed with charm, it is easy to see how one can ‘sit pretty’ in Catbird Seat Bistro.