I hear about Chef Ben O’Donoghue when my friend Bernice Chan posts an interview she conducts with him for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. At the time, I am about to leave for Brisbane and hence, try to gather some information and have my friend get us a table for when I arrive.
A group of college friends and I gather at Billykart Kitchen on a Sunday morning for brunch. The restaurant is bustling with people hovering outside waiting for a table.
I see my friend wave to us from the inside, and we make our way to the back where it is a little quieter, and where I am afforded a view of the entire restaurant – always my favorite place to sit!
While we wait for everyone to arrive, a round of coffees: Cappuccino (AUD$3.80) …
… and Iced Coffee (AUD$7) are ordered – I think I’ve consumed more coffee on this trip than I do a whole year!
The menu is sprinkled with Asian ingredients here and there, something I notice quite frequently in Australia. The proximity to Asia definitely has something to do with it, but I also find that the regular Australian palate is more adventurous than the typical American one. Food and drink are important to an Aussie. You’ll find a “tradie” (construction workers, plumbers, carpenters etc) enjoying a gourmet cuppa while taking a “smoko” (a smoke break, although these days, it not only for a smoke) or two during their work day.
I make sure everyone orders something different, although my friend’s kids are not thrilled by any of the selections on the menu. The manager suggest a Breakfast Sandwich (not on the menu, but easily offered) for them which proves to do the trick. Essentially a bacon and egg sandwich (on a burger bun), it is topped with arugula and I’m guessing BBQ sauce and aioli. I didn’t want to ask the kids for a taste. They seem to enjoy it though.
Crispy Corn Fritters (AUD$18.50) is the first thing to catch my eye. These delicious fritters are dotted with bright yellow corn and served with beautifully scrambled eggs. Like in California, avocados are a huge staple in Queensland and here, it is grilled, leaving a nice smoky taste and a slightly soft texture. The heirloom tomatoes add acidity, and the very hot chiles bring about a dish using simple ingredients, but possessing complex flavors.
Aussie Asian Eggs (AUD$23.50) is another interesting dish comprising fried noodles as its base with grilled prawns assembled around it, then bacon and garnished with two deep fried eggs over the top. I am utterly impressed by this dish! The labyrinth of flavors, coupled with the textural components creates a plate that is not only aesthetically wow-ing, but also, absolutely stunning in my mouth!
Generally, I gauge a restaurant by its eggs Benedict, and when I see Eggs Bender ($22.50) I’m thinking that’s Billykart’s version. It isn’t until a little later that we find out that Chef Ben O’Donoghue’s nickname is “Bender,” a moniker he earns while working in Jamie Oliver’s London kitchen. Still, it is eggs Benedict of sorts with poached eggs and a respectable Hollandaise sauce paired with house smoked Ora King salmon, and a side of sauteed mustard greens. The traditional English muffin is swapped out with a thick slice of rustic sourdough bread.
Smoked Pork Hock Hash (AUD$19.50) is perhaps my least favorite dish. When compared to the rest of the dishes we eat, this is the least exciting. The smoked pork hock is a potato cake dotted with the pork, then assembled with green harissa, avocado, kefir tahini, and finished with two poached eggs.
One of my friends dives straight into dessert with Chocolate Brownie (AUD$10) accompanied by salted pistachio praline ice cream.
The restaurant is certainly busy on the weekends, but they do take reservations. I highly recommend it.
1 Eric Cres
Annerley QLD 4103
Tel: (+61 7) 3392-9275