Fire-powered eatery The Arsonist adds a spark to Manly’s dining scene
There’s something irresistibly primal about food cooked over open flame. The thought of tender slow-cooked hunks of meat, seafood carefully charred over coals and lightly roasted vegetables is enough to get our saliva glands working overtime. The group behind Manly’s overwater eatery Tide on the Jetty is indulging in some pyro proclivities with its newly open concept The Arsonist – an open-fire kitchen and bar that harnesses the power of this incandescent element to transform local produce into scorching sustenance. Throw in a bar loaded with top-shelf whiskies and some intriguingly moody aesthetics and you’ve got a must-try restaurant for firebug foodies.
There’s an exciting evolution taking place over in Brisbane’s bayside. The dining scene of waterfront suburbs Wynnum and Manly is positively percolating right now, with a host of new locales like Shucks Bar, Manly Boathouse, Mr Hibachi, Hudson Brewing and Groundhog Social turning the area into a hotbed of energised eating. Looking to cement Manly’s status as a suburb on the rise, The Consortium Queensland (operators of long-running brunch and seafood spot Tide on the Jetty) is boldly bolstering this new wave with The Arsonist – a cracking concept focused chiefly on the culinary art of cooking with fire. A multi-sensory concept at its core, The Arsonist is utilising this down-to-earth approach to seduce locals with warmth, sight, sound, smell and taste. The 64-seat restaurant, which deftly strikes a balance between casual neighbourhood go-to and fine-dining destination, sits on The Esplanade in a completely revamped space (formerly home to cafe Little and Oliver’s) within Manly Pavilions. The Arsonist’s interior, curated by The Consortium Queensland’s creative director Haidee Jackson, employs dark hues and shadowy textures to create an evocative and enigmatic atmosphere. Fire crackles from the open kitchen (offering a glimpse of some thrilling theatrics), bottles glint from the shelves of a backlit bar while pendant lights cast pools of illumination around clustered tables. Elegant touches like green-velvet stools and gold trim add a luxurious undercurrent to the restaurant’s aesthetic, resulting in a vibe that’s refined and raw, and subdued and scintillating in turn.
Any restaurant that employs fire on a sizeable scale is lost without two things – suitable cooking apparatus and skilled hands to wield it. At the helm of The Arsonist’s kitchen is group executive chef Mathew Fulford (Lake House, Stokehouse, Sirromet Winery) and head chef Kyle Bradley, who are operating on an ethos centred around respecting the paddock-to-plate provenance of the Queensland produce at their disposal. The kitchen is equipped with a custom-made fire deck, boasting a fire pit and flame grill with a moveable gantry that allows the chefs to change techniques and temperatures as needed. Shelves are stocked with various woods employed to create different smoky flavours – plum wood for brisket, macadamia for chicken and fish, cherry wood for lamb tongue and ironbark as a handy all-purpose option. All of this is used to execute The Arsonist’s menu, which is free-flowing and versatile in its construction with an array of flame- and smoke-kissed eats that can scale up or down depending on your hunger levels. Bites like sourdough crowned with smoked lardo and Ortiz anchovies, smoked beef-fat doughnuts and barbecued local king prawns with garlic and samphire are perfect for the snack-and-sip crowd or as satellite plates orbiting more substantial shares. Portions increase with the likes of woodfired figs with stracciatella, bone marrow with capers and Longreach Organic Lamb and smoked-tongue skewers, then once more with The Arsonist’s signature centrepieces. Suckling pig from The Schultz Family Farm with coal-roasted apple sauce, smoked free-roaming chicken, Stockyard brisket with local king prawn and 63-day dry-aged Stockyard OP rib on the bone showcase fire cooking at its best. Not even The Arsonist’s dessert is spared from the embers – the addition of a coal-roast banana parfait, s’mores with toasted Sunshine and Sons‘ Mr Barista-flavoured marshmallow or fig-and-walnut tart with smoked blackberry ice-cream makes for a revelatory repast.
While it might be hard to turn your gaze away from the rising flames in the kitchen or from the fire-caressed fare on the menu, The Arsonist’s drinks list isn’t to be ignored. Restaurant manager Mihhail Zavertajev has crafted a selection of libations that offers plenty of thirst-quenching quaffing material – sips that can cut through smoky flavours or elevate them further. The focal point of the beverage list is the whisky selection, which features a globe-spanning selection of close to 100 drops from Scotland (Islay, Islands, Lowland, Highland, Speyside) Ireland, Japan, Australia and the United States. Guests can elect to purchase a bottle and have it stashed away in an exclusive personal locker above the bar for return visits. Cocktail lovers can sip on classics or opt for one of Mihhail’s signatures that have been crafted using native ingredients that pair well with the food, such as the smoked chilli and mango margarita, Davidson plum and rosemary daiquiri, rhubarb and bitter-orange fizz, and the short rib old fashioned made with tallow-washed bourbon. The Arsonist’s wine list is guest friendly, with the selection sorted by style rather than grape. Aromatic whites, medium complex reds, pale and light rosés and prestige cuvées feature alongside a tight selection of tap and bottled beers.
The Arsonist is currently open for lunch and dinner, with a breakfast service expected to be added in July. Head to the Stumble Guide for operating hours and contact details.
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