Alan Wise stepped off a train and didn’t know where he was. That’s when he realised Brisbane had changed.
“I thought, ‘Where the hell am I?!’” he says. “It didn’t look like the same place.”
The Wangaratta-born Wise used to know Brisbane. He was last here working as a chef in 2005, “bumming around a lot of different places”. Back then, he’d just returned from London and was figuring out his next move.
“I worked at Cinco in Camp Hill,” he says. “And a mate I was living with, I did some shifts at his cafe.”
Eventually, Wise made the decision to head for New York – a move that would transform his career. He spent 12 years knocking around the city, working his way through Michelin-starred restaurants such as Rouge Tomate, Picholine, Juni and Public. Eventually, he moved into an executive chef role at the now-closed Rouge Tomate Chelsea, helping the restaurant earn a Michelin star in 2017.
“Just like a lot changed for Brisbane, it did for me,” he says. “Cooking in New York, it’s a tough world. There are 80 or 100 good restaurants in that city. Stacking up against those chefs, you realise how much you have to learn. They make sure you’re on your game and after a couple of years it becomes how you are.”
But Wise was pushing 40 by the time he was at Rouge Tomate Chelsea and felt it was time to come home to Australia. About four months ago he entered into discussions with Darkhorse Hospitality (Pony Dining) to take on what would become an executive chef position at Beaux Rumble.
Beaux Rumble opened last night in Fortitude Valley’s Ada Lane, fusing classic French Beaux-Arts design with modern Australian woodfired food. It was the conceptual drawings of the gilded fit-out – which also took inspiration from New York’s Grand Central Terminal – that initially appealed to Wise. The restaurant has now been brought to life across two storeys and 400 square metres of grand staircases, mezzanines, domed ceilings, intricate metalwork, clever feature lighting and tonnes of marble.
The fit-out may be very Manhattan but the food is ultra-Australian, leaning hard into the country’s obsession with woodfired cuisine (“there’s not a lot of it in New York at all,” Wise says) and applying it to vegetables and seafood. There are just three meat options on the 25-item menu.
“We’re cooking scampi, sardines, squid, octopus. There’s a lot of seafood. The way diners are eating is changing very quickly, and they’re leaning towards seafood and plants,” Wise says. “No one wants a 600-gram steak with bearnaise sauce anymore, but there was a time when you couldn’t have a menu without that.”
There's also a brunch menu that includes house-made crumpets, woodfired sardines with soft-boiled eggs, and French-style scrambled eggs served with oscietra caviar.
The food is complemented by a wine list that mixes older and contemporary styles from Australia, New Zealand and Europe, an ale-focused beer selection, and a cocktail list that delivers engaging twists on the classics.
Broadsheet interviewed Wise after a weekend of soft launches. "[The] real game begins now," he says. “Coming from New York, there’s that thought that some people may be looking at us quite critically. But it’s one of those things that keeps me on my toes – you make sure that every day you’re a little bit better than the day before.”
This article was published on October 23, 2019. Menu items may have changed.
AM5, Ada Lane, 46 James Street
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