Sneak peek: take a look inside Establishment 203, the new Italian-inspired steak restaurant gunning for the title of Brisbane’s best
Equipped with a Michelin-level cooking suite, premium Queensland-sourced protein from a nationally renowned beef and cattle company, a wine list flush with rare Italian reds, and a seasoned chef at the helm, Establishment 203 is shaping up to be one of the biggest openings of 2023. When it officially opens on Tuesday November 28, Establishment 203 will look to raise the standard of Brisbane’s steak scene, with lofty ambitions to not only claim the title of Brisbane’s best, but one of the finest steak spots in the world. We scored a peek inside – come and take a look with us …
When news emerged that generational family-run cattle-farming operation Stanbroke was entering the dining game with Italian-inspired steak restaurant Establishment 203, it piqued the interest of beef buffs everywhere. Then, when renowned culinary figure Ben O’Donoghue was tabbed as the executive chef in charge of the Establishment 203’s kitchen, hospitality lovers stood at attention. When the Establishment 203 team announced its long-term goal was to break into the ranks of the top 100 steak restaurants in the world, it put everyone on notice. “It was a bit ambitious, wasn’t it?” says Ben O’Donoghue, with a grin. “But that’s the goal – and why shouldn’t we be there?” As we sit with Ben in one of Establishment 203’s spacious booths a week-or-so ahead of its official opening on Tuesday November 28, it’s easy to believe in the vision. Though bits and pieces are still being put in place, Establishment 203 is already visually impressive. The restaurant’s home at 6 Marshall Street in Fortitude Valley looks markedly different from when it housed nightclubs like Monastery and Oh Hello. For instance, the sticky dance-floor has been replaced by polished timber floorboards and a colourful mosaic of pink and terracotta tiles. The bar – an eye-catching focal point of fluted marble and mirrored surfaces – is in a new location too, close to the entrance near an informal seating area. Banks of blush-hued banquettes and a strip of booths add to the sense of comfortable opulence that Establishment 203 exudes. All of this is to say that if excellence was judged on style alone, Establishment 203 would score top marks from the jump.
But Ben would be the first to tell you that it takes more than looks to be considered a top-tier restaurant – and he’d know, having made his bones at venues like The River Café and Monte’s Club. Ask him, and he’ll tell you aesthetics don’t mean much unless what’s on the plate matches in quality. No stresses there – with the full might of Stanbroke’s vertically integrated operation (which spans breeding, farming and processing to ageing and quality control) at his disposal, Ben has access to some of the best protein you’re likely to find in town. “[Stanbroke] is a company that produces some of the best beef in Australia,” says Ben. “It has full control over the [production] process and we have full control over our process.” Those processes come to a head in the kitchen, which mixes the best of old and modern cooking techniques to bring out the best in not only the beef, but a bevy of other proteins and veg. Anchoring the restaurant’s engine room is a Michelin-quality MKN induction cooking suite, a Ferrari-like piece of gear that is the first of its kind in Queensland. The kitchen also features a large woodfired Mibrasa parrilla and charcoal oven, which uses Gidgee wood charcoal (sourced sustainably from Stanbroke’s North Queensland cattle properties) to impart a unique flavour on each flame-caressed morsel. “I’ve worked in one other kitchen before that was on this level and that was designed by Alain Ducasse,” says Ben. “Now I find myself, some 20 years later, back in a situation where I have a kitchen that mirrors that, which is pretty exciting.”
With the fit-out nearly complete and the kitchen operational, Ben and his team are itching to debut its share-style menu, which will be the true yardstick by which Establishment 203’s globe-conquering bona fides will be evaluated. With that in mind, we asked Ben what he would steer us towards if we were dining at Establishment 203 for the first time – after all, he’s the one that knows the menu inside and out. “I would have chicharrones to start with, which are puffed beef tendons,” offers Ben. “Then between two or three people you could order some little snacks – I think the Sommerlad chicken-liver parfait is excellent – and some of the more antipasti style stuff, like the simple Piedmontese-style peppers.” Ben then goes on to suggest ordering one of the homemade pastas, which include classic spaghetti alle vongole and tonnarelli with wagyu sirloin bolognese. Or, perhaps, a main to share, like the herb-and-salt-crust baked Glacier 51 toothfish or the bone-in rib-fillet crumbed cotoletta. From there, well, you’ve got to get into the steaks. Ben recommends ordering two steaks divvy up amongst a crew. As for which cuts to pick (Establishment 203’s From The Fire menu is divided into Angus, wagyu, pure wagyu and grass-fed categories), the chef suggests mixing it up. “The bone-in tenderloin with a marble score of nine-plus is sensational,” says Ben. “You could order between four or five people and then have a smaller profile steak – maybe a flat-iron, an eye fillet or a sirloin. That way you get to experience the top end of what we do with the more accessible stuff.” To finish, we’re recommended a spirally serve of Establishment 203’s soft-serve gelato, an affogato or a slab of tiramisu.
Back over at the bar, a lengthy wine list of predominantly Italian drops (curated by sommelier Aleks Balodis, formerly of Stokehouse Q and Siffredi’s) are available alongside a suite of specialty cocktails crafted by bar manager Michael Woltmann, which live in harmony with Ben’s menu. “There’s a synergy between the cocktails and the food,” Ben explains. “Michael’s doing a lot of alcohol washes with our fats and he’s doing garnishes and pickling things – so there’s a little bit of a gastronomy in the beverage side of things.” With all that said, Ben believes that Establishment 203’s biggest selling point is its sense of grounded approachability. “The idea was to keep it fairly centred and fairly focused,” says Ben. “We’re not trying to be tricky here and do modern gastronomy. It’s 100-percent just solid cooking techniques with great produce. That’s what you should expect here – good honest flavours, strong cooking techniques and elevated simplicity.”
Establishment 203 officially opens to the public on Tuesday November 28 and bookings are live! Head to the Stumble Guide for reservation info and other important details.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.