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Brisbane is Steak city

Story Therese Hall

Brisbane is Steak cityHotels all over the Queensland capital are undergoing million dollar upgrades, more often than not incorporating a contemporary steakhouse. "The pub steakhouse market is on fire in Brisbane," says Glen Burke, Business Development Manager, Queensland, for Meat & Livestock Australia. "Pubs used to be dirty and smelly, now they are destinations for families."

The city's ample servings of laid-back culture, tropical climate and proximity to some of the country's best beef producers have given it the edge over its southern sisters in the increasingly popular grilled steak experience.

Brisbane was always considered to be not quite as sophisticated as the southern states," says Rob Forbes, manager of the Regatta Hotel. "But in the past five to seven years, the alfresco dining environment has arrived here and we've kicked it ahead by taking advantage of our climate."

Many of the Brisbane eateries serving quality beef are landmark hotels, often of historical significance, generally in inner city or riverfront locations. The iconic Breakfast Creek Hotel, built in 1889, on a riverfront site at Albion, is renowned for introducing beer garden style dining to Brisbane. According to venue manager Andrew Ford, "Brekky Creek barbecues are an institution in Brisbane. Everyone has fond memories of barbecues in our Spanish Garden Steakhouse". Recently refurbished to create a theatre-style open-air kitchen, the Breakfast Creek Hotel pushes a beef culture with a huge butchers' cabinet from which diners select their cuts of meat. Like most of the meat served in Brisbane's signature steakhouses, Breakfast Creek's beef is branded. A range of grain fed and grass fed cuts of beef, including eye, rump, t-bone and fillet, from Central Queensland supplier Australian Agricultural Company's 1824 brand, are served with the quality assurance backing of the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) scheme.

Driving the revival of red meat has been the establishment of MSA, a government and Meat and Livestock Australia initiative. This comprehensive scheme involves total trace-back capability and meticulous quality evaluation from pasture to plate. "Beef is going down the wine track," says Glen Burke. As tenderness is deemed the most important characteristic of a ‘great steak', the MSA grading system uses scientific methods to judge the tenderness of each cut of meat so that eating quality is guaranteed. After being successfully trialled in Brisbane six years ago, the MSA scheme is being gradually implemented across the rest of the country. "As it takes two to four years to get all the participants, from the growers to the retailers, on line, Brisbane is now the leader in the field," says Glen.

The riverside Regatta Hotel's Boatshed Steakhouse and Beer Garden has taken the pasture-to-plate concept to heart in its quest to be "all things Queensland". Steak is the "hero" item on the Boatshed's menu and diners are informed about what they are eating with huge wall posters and room partitions giving the story of the steak. Two quality brands of meat from two leading suppliers are featured on the menu: Diamantina Beef from Stanbroke Pastoral Company and Stockyard beef from North Australian Pastoral Company (Napco). "Buying straight from the producers gives us a direct line from breeding the cattle in the bush, through to selecting, slaughtering and butchering the meat," says Rob Forbes.

The Pineapple Hotel, circa 1864, is five minutes walk from the Gabba in the riverside suburb of Kangaroo Point. Their steakhouse, catering for up to 300 in an indoor-outdoor setting, has a focus on steak and service. According to Tanya Harper, marketing manager of this family-owned hotel, the success of the steakhouse has been underpinned by the MSA scheme. "We use the 1824 product, which is portion and quality controlled," she says. "Because there's no quality fluctuation, we know that if there's something wrong with our steaks, it's got to be the way we've cooked them."

The 110-year-old Lord Stanley Hotel in East Brisbane, is preparing for a major renovation, which will include an overhaul of the Garden Bar. This is considered one of the best barbecues in Brisbane, with open-flame grilled steaks taking pride of place on the menu. Sourcing meat products from Kerwee Farm Foods on the Darling Downs, hotel general manager Stephen Clarke claims the tenderness guaranteed product has "taken the headache out of serving steak".

Wellington Point Hotel, which features a waterfront setting half-an-hour east of the city, also sources MSA quality meats from Kerwee Farm Foods. Trade has tripled since the hotel restaurant's recent renovation. Now called Hogan's Wellington Point, the eatery was gutted, opened up to overlook the bay and quadrupled in seating capacity. Hotel manager Scott Hogan, the third generation of the Hogan family at the helm of "The Wello", believes the new look was needed to capture a changing clientele. "We found that people weren't interested in coming to a tired hotel restaurant," he says. "Looking around Brisbane now, the good hotel restaurants all seem to be the steakhouses."

Top of the range steakhouse, Cha Cha Char Wine Bar and Grill at Eagle Street Pier, continues to take out culinary awards as Brisbane's finest. Proprietor John Kilroy initiated the concept of labelling beef products for the diner. Cha Cha Char's menu denotes the age, the feed, the flavour and the place of origin of the animal. There are also photographs of exactly what ‘rare', ‘medium rare', 'medium' and ‘well-done' mean.

All of these steakhouses make great meeting places during Brisbane's nine-day Ekka in August. The Breakfast Creek Hotel is planning a country muster theme to coincide with the Brisbane Exhibition while other venues are readying themselves to be showcases for the beef products profiled at The Meating Centre, Meat and Livestock Australia's Ekka pavilion. Story end

Full story: Issue 30, Aug/Sep 03

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