Step inside Rothwell’s Bar & Grill – Brisbane City’s new home of classic bistro dining
Brisbane City’s restaurant scene is having a moment, with a number of elegant eateries setting up inside some of the precinct’s glamorous heritage-listed buildings. The newest entrant, Rothwell’s Bar & Grill, opened on Edward Street on Tuesday November 23 and immediately turned heads with its well-dressed interior and menu of sumptuous European-tinged bistro fare. It’s no wonder that this opening is causing a stir – it’s the result of a partnership between the owner of 1889 Enoteca and the former head chef of Aria Brisbane. If that’s not enough of a blue-chip pedigree to get you interested, we don’t know what to tell you. We took a tour inside Rothwell’s Bar & Grill – here’s what we saw …
There are some meals that are so good that they become permanently etched into memory. For Dan Clark (owner of lauded Woolloongabba eatery 1889 Enoteca and fine-wine wholesaler Addley Clark Fine Wines), one meal that sticks out in his mind took place at The Savoy Grill in London. Back when we could travel abroad, Dan and his family booked in a table for Christmas lunch at Gordon Ramsey’s iconic restaurant, which is known for its classic beef Wellington, dry-aged chateaubriand and steak tartare. Dan recalls the food being excellent, but it was the entire experience – from the buzzing atmosphere to the snappy-yet-friendly service – that made the outing such an indelible experience. After returning to Australia, Dan contemplated the idea of bringing the same big-city style restaurant experience to Brisbane. Successfully channelling the same polished aesthetics, percipient service and high-end culinary craftsmanship of venues like the Savoy, Piccadilly’s The Wolseley, Balthazar in New York City, or storied Los Angeles bistro The Musso & Frank Grill required two things – a space worthy of such a concept and a chef with the talent to execute a menu of that calibre. A home for the restaurant was found on Edward Street within the ground-floor level of the Rothwell’s Building, a gorgeous heritage-listed structure named after its former proprietor Thomas James Rothwell, a highly regarded tailor and, by all accounts, a man about town. Soon after, Dan secured the talents of good friend and top-tier chef Ben Russell (known by many for his heralded tenure as head chef of Aria Brisbane), selling him on the idea for the restaurant with just two words – beef Wellington. With two of the major pieces in place, Dan and his team got to work on creating Brisbane City’s newest restaurant, Rothwell’s Bar & Grill.
Those intimately familiar with the inner-city dining scene will recognise the Rothwell’s tenancy as the former home of Jamie’s Italian. The site, which boasts prime frontage directly across the road from Queens Plaza, looks markedly different on the inside courtesy of some extensive refurbishment works. When it came to crafting the Rothwell’s aesthetic, Dan placed doing justice to the building’s heritage above all else, recruiting Marc & Co and MCD Construction to assist in the detail-oriented decorative overhaul. The resulting effort has created an establishment divided into three sections – first is the 40-seat Foyer Bar, which flows inward towards the 90-seat main dining space – dubbed the Marble Bar –at the rear. A material palette of marble, timber, leather, copper and brass has been applied across both spaces, with a sense of contemporary glamour afforded by exquisite accents like the fluted marble encasing the raw bar at the heart of the dining room, luminous chandeliers that hang from the ceiling, cushy green-leather booths, polished mirrors and artwork from notable Australian painters like Sidney Nolan and Jeff Makin. In a subterranean space downstairs sits the Rothwell’s kitchen along with a 50-seat private-dining room and wine cellar, where racks of vino and a self-contained bar and function area are ensconced by the building’s foundational sandstone blocks. Overall, Rothwell’s tempers classic bistro refinement with contemporary urbanity – you won’t find white table cloths here, but you will find the same kind of snappy service. It’s Dan’s belief that people use restaurants for different purposes, therefore the venue comfortably caters to the long-lunch crowd, indulgent dinner crew and the sip-and-snack set equally.
In the kitchen, Ben is putting his talents (which were honed early in his career in the south of France) towards creating a menu that delivers quintessential bistro fare with some Mediterranean accents. Guests can work their way through a steady procession of well-executed classics, including starters such as steak tartare, niçoise salad, chicken-liver parfait, French onion dip, prawn cocktails and oysters with mignonette dressing. As an ode to Dan’s Woolloongabba icon 1889 Enoteca, Rothwell’s offers a short list of pasta dishes like tagliarini with sea urchin, caviar, butter and chives, and potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce, walnuts and celery leaf. From the grill, guests can sink their teeth into five kinds of steaks (including a wagyu rump with a marble score of 9+ and a dry-aged T-bone), which can be elevated with a side of Moreton bay bugs with cafe de Paris butter, if desired. A run of mains such as reef fish with roast fennel, duck cassoulet and roast lamb with braised lentils crescendos with Rothwell’s signature beef Wellington, a technically impressive piece of culinary construction that feeds two. Dan has relished the opportunity to curate Rothwell’s wine list, this time using the French wines that inspired him at the start of his career – think chablis, champagne, burgundy and bordeaux – as a starting point. The offering boasts a curated short list of the 2000-bottle cellar, from budget-friendly bottles to high-roller drops (there’s even some ultra-rare gear tucked away, including a 1947 Pol Roger Dan snagged from Sotheby’s when it liquidated The Ritz Club casino in Piccadilly). When it comes to cocktails, Rothwell’s sticks strictly to the classics – a nine-strong selection features a martini (served on a silver platter with an iced carafe for top-ups), a gibson, a negroni, a Manhattan, an old fashioned and a Hemingway daiquiri, to name a few. Digestif die-hards will also be pleased to know that an armagnac cart, loaded with bottles sourced from Europe and dating back as far as the 1920s, can be flagged down for a nightcap.
Rothwell’s Bar & Grill is now open to the public. For operating hours, booking details and menus, click over to the Stumble Guide.
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