Buy first, invent later. That’s how Ryan Squires assembles each menu at his riverside fine diner, Esquire. If the fish is extra fresh, he’ll take it. If the eggplant is super glossy, he’ll take it. It’s only after he leaves the market that he figures out what to do with the produce.

He can do plenty.

As an ambitious youngster, Squires worked at Level 41 in Sydney; Per Se in New York; El Bulli in Spain; and French Laundry in London and the Napa Valley, California. He was so ambitious he overstayed his UK visa, got deported and landed back here in 2008.

All the better for Brisbane. At Esquire you’ll sample everything from croissants with molasses butter; to smoked mussels with nasturtium; or flame-grilled Wagyu presented solo.

Unless you head next door to the more casual Esq, you’re committed to five to seven courses for lunch. At dinner, 12 to 25. To accompany, there’s matched wines or a hefty bottle list.

Squires isn’t a stickler for presentation or local produce or sustainability. Just taste. You might try something backed by laboratory-like techniques, but mostly it’s about letting good produce shine.

This philosophy is reflected in the stark Hassell Architects fit-out, which was meant to invoke a classic Queenslander but ended up elsewhere.

The floors are polished concrete; the chairs American walnut wrought into mid-century Scandinavian form and polished to a high gloss. When you’re not eating or chatting, you’re here to admire the Story Bridge, which is spectacularly lit by night.

Contrary to popular belief, the restaurant isn’t named after Ryan Squires. The site was once owned by a merchant who held the title of esquire. Some time after 2018 it’ll be something new again, when Squires’ lease is up. He’s already plotting his next move.

Updated: April 12th, 2018

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