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Published August 24th 2014
No skeletons here - just full-bodied flavours
Pea and ham soup with a Croque-monsieur toastie and soft poached egg. Image courtesy Bare Bones Society.
It's only open for dinner on Friday nights. It's located smack bang in the middle of a sprawling suburban shopping centre carpark. And then there's the Halloween-ish name, the significance of which prompted much preprandial debate at our table. Add all these ingredients together and you'd think Bare Bones Society shouldn't work as an upmarket restaurant. But it does, and brilliantly too.
As it turns out, the 'bare bones' part of the Bare Bones Society name refers not to skeletons, or a lack of refinement, or a state of abject poverty (as in, 'on the bones of our arse'). Rather, as a chalkboard hanging on the wall of this delightful Jindalee restaurant explains, 'bare bones' refers to reducing things to their basic elements. Keeping things simple. Returning to the core or centre. Ignoring the extraneous, the superfluous, the irrelevant.
So what's all this got to do with food? When it comes to the Friday night menu, at least, we're talking about something that's distilled to its essence. Reading this menu is no page-turning experience - it's a single sheet. There are no loquacious descriptions of the food. Rather, there's a set menu, offering just three entrees, three mains and two desserts. Diners can select an entree/main ($46 per person), main/dessert ($40 per person), or all three courses ($58 per person). It reminds me of the pared-back menus in some European restaurants, which focus on doing a handful of things exceptionally, rather than trying to be all things to all people.
Greenhouse-style chic at Bare Bones Society. Author image.
There was a Gallic flavour to the food on the Friday night we visited Bare Bones Society. For entree, I selected a galette of scallops with leek fondue and lemon beurre blanc. As fans of Hell's Kitchen may recall, scallops can be a notoriously difficult shellfish to prepare (at least according to chef Gordon Ramsay's standards) but I'm pleased to report that these were done to perfection. My companion meanwhile enjoyed the terrine of free range chicken and figs, apple and radish salad with a caper and truffle vinaigrette. It offered just the right combination of sweetness and crunch.
For mains, I sampled the daube of grass fed beef, with lardons, caramelised shallots and mustard seed pomme puree. It was, as promised, melt in the mouth. My companion had the confit duck leg with a perfectly crisp skin, served with cassoulet. Desserts? With only two options, we naturally had to try one of each. The apple Tarte Tatin with vanilla bean ice cream was comforting and sophisticated in equal measure; making the creme caramel with Chantilly cream, orange, mint and strawberry compote the more edgy and enjoyable of the two.
Friday nights are not always so strongly French-influenced. Other-inspired themes also feature. For example, modern Asian menus roll around with delicious regularity - think dishes like caramelised pork and prawn rice vermicelli rolls, crispy fried snapper fillet with fragrant eggplant and palm sugar poached pear served with cardamom creme brulee.
Bare Bones Society is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, and welcomes walk-ins most of the time. But for its special Friday night menus, don't forget to book, because all tables are regularly snapped up for this special once-a-week dinner feast.
If you'd rather try breakfast, the range of menu items is more comprehensive, with breakfast burgers and bagels, "green eggs" (served with green shallots), and more, though those watching their waistline may prefer the "goodie bowl" comprised of acai berries, blueberries, blackberries, banana and chia seeds, served with paleo granola and coconut yoghurt. Lunch items are fresh and funky, and include Bare Bones-style club sandwiches, beef burgers and for the more zen among us, a "Buddha bowl" of both roasted and raw vegetables, quinoa, nuts and seeds, in a creamy cashew dressing.
One of the specials: tortilla wrapped spicy Mexican beef mince, sour cream, guacamole, black beans and salsa. Image courtesy Bare Bones Society.
Breakfast at Bare Bones is superb and now on a regular weekend brekkie roster ... try the warm salad, absolutely delicious; or the smashed avo with persian feta - a winner in my book. Weekend just past I gave the salmon gravlax a go and wow ... it does get very busy on a weekend, but tables seem to turn over quite quickly, so it's worth the wait for a table to become available.