It’s been a particularly cold winter in Brisbane. Sure, it’s nice to rug up at home, but it’s also the perfect weather to hunch over a hot bowl of noodles or perch yourself at a kitchen counter by a woodfired grill. We asked some of Brisbane’s best chefs where they head in winter and what they order. From a roast chook showered in black truffles to piping hot saganaki smothered in honey, here’s what they’re eating to offset the chill.
Will Cowper, Otto
When Will Cowper’s family comes to visit from Sydney, he always takes them to Taro’s Ramen in Ascot. He says his family hasn’t found better ramen in Sydney yet. “I’ve always been a massive fan of Taro’s – his noodles are the best in Brisbane,” Cowper says. “I [usually] order the Fire tonkotsu ramen. It definitely warms the soul on a cold winter’s night.”
Cowper also likes heading to Agnes in winter. He says the smell of the woodfired grill brings back childhood memories of sitting around an open fireplace. “[The team has] created an incredibly warm dining room that lets you watch the action,” he says. “I always have the fish. [Chef] Ben Williamson always uses the freshest local-caught fish, and the way he treats it over the open flame is outstanding.”
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Similarly, a seat at Essa’s kitchen counter by the woodfire grill is the perfect spot to keep warm. “[Chef] Phil Marchant’s cooking is definitely some of the best in Brisbane,” Cowper says. “You can get a great half roast chook, and the best part is that it’s winter and they shower it with black truffles.”
Katrina Ryan, Golden Pig
In winter you’ll find The Golden Pig’s Katrina Ryan tucking into a bowl of pasta at Fortitude Valley pasta laboratory Ripiena. “It’s small, cosy and serves the most authentic handmade pasta in Brisbane,” Ryan says. “As soon as you walk in the door, you can smell the pasta-cooking water.”
Ryan usually orders Ripiena’s house specialty: tortellini di Bologna. An original recipe from the Dotta Confraternita del Tortellino (“Brotherhood of the Tortellino”) in Bologna, the dish features tiny tortellini – filled with a mixture of pork loin, prosciutto, mortadella di Bologna, parmigiano and nutmeg – cooked in chicken broth. “It’s hard to go past the [tortellini], it’s a winter classic,” she says. “Although the beetroot pasta filled with gorgonzola and served in a walnut pesto is also a family favourite. The owner, Nico [Campagnari], will recommend an Italian wine to accompany the meal. Just don’t expect any salads or sides – they don’t have any.”
Louis Tikaram, Stanley
Stanley chef Louis Tikaram reckons the saganaki at Greca can make any wintry day feel like summer. “The bubbling cheese with smoking hot honey, oregano and lemon soothes the soul and puts a smile on my face every time it’s dropped off at my table,” he says.
You’ll also find him escaping the cold at Cafe O’Mai in Annerley. “My wife and I will order a large beef pho and a pork banh mi and then go halves,” he says. “The pho is hot, aromatic and so flavorsome, while the banh mi is crispy, spicy and the perfect complement to the pho. I will finish off with a traditional Vietnamese coffee.”
On a rainy winter day, Tikaram heads to vegetarian Indian restaurant Mirchh Masala in Woolloongabba. “My favorites are chole bhature – a beautiful fried bread pillow – and the saag paneer, the ultimate spinach and cheese curry,” he says. “After lunch, you can do all your shopping downstairs at the Indian grocery store, where you will find everything you need for your own Indian feast at home.”
Emily Yeoh, Emily Yeoh Restaurant
Ex-Masterchef contestant Emily Yeoh doesn’t need to venture far for one of her favourite winter meals. A three-minute walk down the road from her restaurant in Paddington is Nota, where she likes to order the tempura fish sandwich and the mushroom risotto. “[I’m] not [usually] a big fan of vegetarian dishes, but the mushroom risotto … I swear I have two servings each time I visit,” Yeoh says. “This dish is definitely a winter dish as it warms my heart and soul.”
Further away from Paddington, Yeoh likes heading to Sunnybank to visit Toktok Korean Cuisine. She warns that the restaurant doesn’t take bookings, so you may need to wait outside for a table on busy nights. Her favourite dishes are the seafood Korean pancake, the spicy kimchi and fish roe soup, the cheese and spicy rice cake served on a hotplate, and the extra spicy Korean fried chicken. “You will not regret waiting outside the restaurant for a table while your face and hands are freezing,” she says. “[Just] make sure you [take] an extra jacket.”
Like Tikaram, Yeoh is also a big fan of Greca in winter. She loves sitting at the bar, watching the chefs and bar staff in action while taking in the river views. “[You] can’t go wrong with the saganaki and the lamb shoulder in winter,” she says.
Jason Margaritis, Same Same
For Jason Margaritas, the perfect winter dish is Rosmarino’s culurgiones alle castagne. The dish is one of chef Dario Manca’s specialties – ravioli stuffed with noisette chestnut puree, served in a burnt butter and sage sauce with truffle paste. “The [venue’s] dark wood and exposed brick create a warm and cosy space,” Margaritis says. “It’s the perfect winter date-night spot.”
When Margaritis feels like something more casual (and spicier), he heads to Beijing Noodles in West End. “This busy little restaurant serves up a range of hot and numbing delights,” he says. “[They are] bound to warm you up from the inside out. I like to start with the spicy mung bean noodle salad and then onto a spicy Sichuan beef or fish fillet hotpot. The fried clams with chilli and the mapo tofu with pork are equally as delicious.”
Rejoice Thomson, Dovetail on Overend and Dovetail Social
For a quick winter meal, Dovetail’s Rejoice Thomson heads to Ramen Danbo in South Brisbane. She normally orders the miso tonkotsu ramen and adds house-made chasu pork, nitamago ramen eggs and nori. “Their pork broth is so full of flavour and the miso [adds] umami,” she says. “I also like that you can choose how you want your noodles cooked, which is firm for me as I like a bit of bite.”
When dining with her family, Thomson looks for restaurants with a gluten-free menu to accommodate her husband and daughter, who have coeliac disease. One of their favourite spots is Brisbane Phoenix Chinese Restaurant in the CBD. Thomson likes traditional yum cha dishes such as chicken feet in black bean sauce, while her family likes to order the green beans with preserved olive leaf, and rice noodles stir-fried with duck meat. In winter, she likes to have tea with the meal. “Chrysanthemum tea is best paired with steamed dim sums,” she recommends.
Whenever Thomson feels like Korean barbeque, she makes a beeline for Maru in Cannon Hill. She usually orders the Wagyu and pork combo with extra Wagyu chuck flat tail, beef rib soup and black rice. “The delicious aroma of meat curling on the grill over hot charcoal is just magic,” she says. “And the warmth from the grill is just so nice, especially in winter.”