Behind a long glass-façade and slate-grey entrance, the first thing to notice about Gauge, tucked away on Grey Street, South Brisbane, is its striking simplicity.
With a sleek, minimalist fit-out of Australian-made timber, sky-blue metal and leather, the clean lines of Jerome Batten’s venue signals the carefully curated menu ahead.
That menu hinges on fresh, locally-sourced produce and is a peppered with unexpected combinations – think dinner of barbeque pork collar, rhubarb, black pudding and hibiscus; tomato tartare, quandong, sesame and salmon roe. Brunch is slightly pared back, but modern touches remain. Avocado toast is bolstered with macadamia and green harissa; bircher muesli with lemon myrtle and honeycomb; ice-cream is roast kelp flavoured with caramelised banana; raw beef sambal is paired with toasted wheat.
Such dedication to fanciful produce isn’t unique to Gauge. But its Brisbane location, meaning a milder climate more conducive to year-round quality of produce, is.
“When overseas chefs come to Brisbane,” says Gauge head chef Cormac Bradfield, “the produce we can get here – even in winter – absolutely blows their mind. I still try to think of what’s best in any given season. So for example in autumn and winter that means great pears, chestnuts and mushrooms. It helps direct the menu.”
Though the Brisbane restaurant scene is less flush with experimental fine diners than Sydney or Melbourne, restaurants that do dabble are less reliant on trends. To be popular here, you have to be offering consistent quality. Suburban success stories, such as Cafe O’Mai and Billykart in Annerley, Neighbourhood Pizza in Kenmore or Southside Tea Room in Morningside, show Brisbane supports great food outside an expensive inner-city lease. Visitors willing to explore are greatly rewarded.
Batten’s latest vision for Gauge has seen the rise of monthly dinner events, dubbed Gauge X, which feature five different chefs each cooking a course in a progressive five-course dinner. While guests buy tickets without knowing the menu, previous dinners have featured dishes of beef tongue, wattleseed and beer; kangaroo, pepita and egg yolk; Jerusalem artichoke tart; and blueberry and oat crackers. Every Gauge X dinner has sold out in advance, and reservations are now recommended for dining at Gauge any night of the week.
“Jerome has a vision,” says Bradfield. “He wants to do something in Brisbane of high calibre and show off what can be done. All of my chefs want to be part of that. Everyone in the kitchen really wants to be there and that makes the team super strong.”
Still, Bradfield knows that not everyone is going to want a progressive dining experience. “We get a crowd who definitely love it,” he says, “but for some people, it’s a bit too much. But we still care about everyone enjoying themselves so we offer different kinds of dining experiences.”
Casual diners are able to try a few different plates, perhaps before catching a show at QPAC across the road. But whether it’s a five-course dinner or a pre-show visit, the same incredible attention to detail comes across in every aspect of Gauge.
“I think that’s what sets Gauge apart,” Bradfield says. “From a plate of scrambled eggs at brunch to a perfectly prepared and cooked piece of protein in our degustation, the care is obvious.”
Here’s five more dining options worth seeking out in Brisbane:
Gerard’s Bistro, with its laid-back take on Middle-Eastern inspired fine-dining is one of the city’s best.
Enjoy a French dining experience with all the trimmings at King Street's Montrachet, or grab one of the city's best pastries at their attached boulangerie.
Explore Woolloongabba's antique stores before dinner at 1889 Enoteca for award-winning Roman cuisine in a heritage-listed building.
Check out Happy Boy in Fortitude Valley for their unbeatable take on modern Chinese and accompanying wine list.
Detour's vegetarian or omnivore native-focused degustation menus shine in a sleek industrial setting.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Visit Brisbane.