Brisbane's hottest new restaurant – Agnes – is dividing diners. Find out why.
For the past year, Agnes has been an emotive topic for excited Brisbane foodlovers. Early conversations centred on the frustration of an opening date that kept being pushed back. Now, 10 months since the first service, the predominant feelings are jealousy and smugness, depending on whether you belong to the “have” or “have not yet dined at Agnes” camps.
So why are Brisbanites, not usually prone to hyperbole or high emotion, so in thrall to the latest spot from the crew behind Same Same and Hôntô? Well, there’s the venue itself. In an age of somewhat look-alike dining precincts, Agnes has been retrofitted into the confines of an awkward heritage-listed site with origami-like precision and consummate style. There’s a staircase leading up to a pocket-sized outdoor space reminiscent of a European rooftop terrace, another inviting diners down to a snug bar for pre- or post-dinner drinks and a mezzanine-level private dining room.
Cleverly moody lighting gives the feel of an avant-garde performance space. And this production is faultless, executed for a highly receptive audience to a soundtrack of Afro-funk beats.
Chef Ben Williamson (ex-Gerard’s Bistro) has always been good but here he’s graduated to greatness with a menu that eschews modern cooking techniques for the primal flame, imbuing everything with a seductive lick of smoke. Woodfired cabbage with lacto-fermented koji butter shares the list with charred carrots with mandarin kosho and smoked labne plus a beetroot rosette with ricotta and coffee oil. All of this may inspire thoughts of a vegetarian future – until you strip a lamb rib painted with sesame whey caramel to bare bone, inhale the fragrant smokeand- fat of wood-roasted duck paired with sour-sweet pickled cherries and pomegranate jus gras or experience the eye-rolling bliss of hay-smoked mussels, hazelnut and buttermilk.
Nab a nanna-hour booking if you have to, take the waiter’s menu recommendations, leave the wine matches to the somm then enjoy the schadenfreude of telling your friends in the “have not yet dined at Agnes” camp all about it.