A freelance editor and feature writer, also fond of quilting, reading, yoga and tea. Visit me at ellwords.com.au
Published April 29th 2017
Update October 8th 2019
Sadly, Nest closed permanently in mid-2019 as a result of the Cross River Rail project works.
Contemporary Asian dining with lounge bar and 68,173 bees
To all the homeward-bound commuters who stream into Brisbane's Roma Street station via the overpass from George Street, barely seeing the unobtrusive little bar at the end of the walkway: you don't know what you're missing. Seriously.
That unobtrusive little bar is Nest, an excellent restaurant and cocktail lounge that offers a vibey but relaxing after-work meeting place, plus amazing Asian fusion dining. If only you knew.
Part of the Hotel Jen at the Brisbane Transit Centre, Nest is up on Level 2, so walking along Roma Street you wouldn't know it was there. But from the overhead walkway between George Street and the Transit Centre, you'd spot Nest, with its ever-changing blackboard outside the entrance.
Inside you'll find a cocktail lounge with 'vintage Asian' décor, and seating options that include high-backed booths and continuous benches with low-level coffee tables. You might prefer to perch on a stool by the front window to watch the harried commuters rushing home while you relax with a leisurely glass of your choice. Try the house special, a Honey Collins – made with honey from Nest's own hives, located on their rooftop garden (along with a herb garden that supplies the venue's needs).
On Fridays from 4pm, you can unwind to excellent live music from Alex, a talented singer-guitarist who covers classics like 'Ain't No Sunshine' and 'I Shot the Sheriff' as well as contemporary acoustic numbers. I know it's not cool to actually listen to and acknowledge the bar guitarist, but we couldn't help it: this young man is really good. He's better than 'background music' and deserves a listening audience.
While you can order snacks from the bar if you're hungry, I strongly recommend you opt for dinner. Nest's restaurant area, towards the rear of the venue, serves fantastic Asian fusion cuisine, with gluten-free options readily available. The chefs will do their best for other dietary requirements, too – on our visit they were able to suggest a pleasing number of dishes that accommodated my companion's 'no garlic or onion' needs.
Most of the restaurant feels quite separate from the bar thanks to design and décor features, and the lack of noise from the bar area was surprising. The Nest team are all welcoming and friendly as well as 'witty and ridiculously good looking', and their service, both bar and restaurant, was spot on – we lacked for nothing the whole evening.
And our meal was superb. We opted to share the Salt and Pepper Calamari with Vietnamese mint and green chilli nahm jim ($14.50) to start, followed by the Broken Chicken and Prawn Salad with caramelised coconut, lime and macadamia ($21) and the Tea Smoked Crispy Half Duck with caramelised mandarin sauce ($33.50). All were gluten-free, beautifully presented, and sooo good!
Happily, Nest's version of salt and pepper calamari wasn't the heavy crumbed-and-deep-fried type, but lightly dusted, and so beautifully tender. The zingy nahm jim dressing was a perfect complement to the spices and tender meat.
The flavours in the chicken and prawn salad blended exactly, with no one ingredient dominating. And the tea-smoked duck was divine! The meat was delicately flavoured and beautifully complemented by the gentle sweetness of caramelised mandarin. We noticed many plates of this wonderful dish leaving the kitchen, and no wonder – it really was amazing.
We decided we just had time for a delicious Vietnamese Crème Caramel ($13.50) before heading to our train – a whole four-minute walk from table to platform, quite achievable even after a couple of Honey Collinses.
Possibly one of the city's better-kept secrets, Nest won't disappoint. Pop in for coffee or a drink, make a dinner booking online or talk to the team about your next function. See you there!