The succinct, simple descriptions (“pork”, “fish”, “lamb”) on the Wooden Horse menu belie the dedication to produce and provenance behind the scenes. Executive chef Nick Alba sources ingredients exclusively from South East Queensland suppliers – among them is Firebreak Farm, which provides Alba with organic, pasture-raised pork and, soon, beef. He’s also working with Matt Hubbard at Prestige Fishing, who supplies them with line-caught Queensland fish.

“Matt and his crew have a huge passion for their craft and the fish they supply is the freshest, best quality I’ve come across since being back in Brisbane,” says Alba. “I also really like working with Amanecer Fresh out of Deception Bay, who supply us with all of our micro-greens. Jason and Hiro are top blokes and their little greens pack so much flavour.”

Alba and his wife Ruby Alba took over the long-running neighbourhood spot last July, bringing a bit of modern Euro flair to the Clayfield restaurant. Alba, who grew up on Brisbane’s north side, cut his teeth in London at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill before spending time in New Zealand where he trained in Nordic and contemporary European cuisine.

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At Wooden Horse, he blends traditional French techniques with global and contemporary elements to reflect the melting pot of modern Australian food. See: the crowd-favourite watermelon rounds filled with macadamia cream and topped with bee pollen; his eight-hour-smoked short rib with mashed potato, celeriac and jus; and the crisp-skinned market fish served with plantain, prawn and cauliflower in brown butter.

But where does the chef dine when he’s off the clock? Broadsheet caught up with Alba to find out his local go-to for a woodfired pizza, his favourite pub and the place he takes visitors to “flex the Brisbane scene”, which serves “one of the best bites I’ve had in recent memory”.

Where is the best coffee in town?
The Maillard Project, CBD. My head chef Nathan took me here a few months back to show off their skills. They take their craft very seriously and offer a wide range of pours. I’m not the biggest coffee drinker and usually only order piccolos, but even I can tell that their quality is next-level.

What’s your go-to for a long lunch?
Mosconi is fantastic Italian restaurant just off James Street. The pappardelle osso bucco with handmade pasta is particularly delicious, that – paired with their extensive wine list – makes it a perfect excuse to park up for a few hours during the day.

What about the best place for drinks and snacks?
Wineism, Albion. This is a great little wine bar with a really well-cultivated list. You can not only tell that the staff are super passionate, but they also pair their wine with a really fun and tasty food menu; their pickled octopus skewer is a new personal favourite.

If it’s a special occasion, where are you headed?
Exhibition is arguably the best restaurant in Brisbane at the moment; what Tim and his team have done is world-class, the service is next-level and getting to sit at the chef’s table and interact with the team was a highlight of our time there. Every dish is amazing in its own right but a personal favourite was the first dessert course of apple sorbet and wasabi snow. It was an intricately flavoured dessert that I think about often.

How about a meal with a big group of family or friends?
The QA is hands down me and my mates’ favourite pub in Brisbane; we have put a concerning amount of beer away at this place. With their range of tap beers coupled with some excellent woodfired pizzas, you can easily turn an hour catch-up into an all-day event.

What’s your favourite dish on the menu at Wooden Horse?
We are just about to bring out our new menu at the start of May and we are super excited for our fish’n’chips. We’ve been working on our batter for over a month now and have come up with an insanely crispy finish. Accompanied with a malt vinegar mayonnaise, tartar sauce, pea puree and hand-cut chips, this dish is a nod back to my time living in London.

What about the best food close to you?
Pizzalunga Da Carlo, Nundah. This has to be the best pizza in the Clayfield area. You can really tell the owner, Carlo, is ardent about northern Italy-styled woodfired pizzas and the dough they make in-house is some of the best in Brisbane. They do metre-long pizzas that are great for a night in with some friends or family.

Is there a hidden gem that you think is underrated but great?
Balfour Hotel, New Farm. This is a really cosy restaurant in a converted Queenslander that speaks to the history of the city. It has an awesome view of the skyline and its Asian-influenced menu is exceptionally flavoured, the Saigon Sando with slipper lobster being the standout.

And if you’re looking to impress?
Agnes, Fortitude Valley, is a really good choice if you want to flex the Brisbane scene. The minimalist dining space really puts their hearth into the forefront of the entire restaurant, which makes it a really unique space in Brisbane. The cheddar gougere was one of the best bites I’ve had in recent memory.

Is there a local producer you want to shout-out?
Firebreak Farm, Neumgna. We are lucky to work closely with Ace and Kylea at Firebreak Farm. They supply us with pasture-raised, organic pork that’s unmatched quality. The flavour profile that their regenerative farming produces is some of the best I’ve ever tasted, and we are super excited to have their beef on our menu in the near future.