When I go out for a special lunch or dinner I really like going to a restaurant with a view but find this surprisingly hard to find. One such restaurant that combines beautiful food with a lovely view of the Brisbane River is Customs House Restaurant at 399 Queen Street.
Queens St. entry
This is fine dining with a difference. Situated in one of Brisbane's most interesting historic buildings, the nineteenth century Customs House, the restaurant offers beautiful heritage style ambience inside and a lovely courtyard with fantastic views of the river.
Brisbane's Customs House was one of many built throughout Australia in the nineteenth century to collect customs and excise duties which were an important source of revenue for the colonies. At its peak it had 300 staff and has in its time been one of the most important buildings in Brisbane. When it was no longer required as a building for customs it was taken over by The University of Queensland which restored it and it now incorporates not only the restaurant but several public rooms used for public functions and music concerts.
View from the River Terrace
Not only do you dine surrounded by all this history but you dine in style with interesting and unusual flavours and no pretension. I have eaten here twice and thoroughly enjoyed the food, service and atmosphere each time. For lunch there is an a la carte menu with a range of great entrees, mains and desserts but the best bargain is to choose from the Signature Lunch Menu which consists of entree, main off a set menu and a glass of wine for $40.
This is incredible value for money when some of the mains are set at $40. From this menu I selected the soft shell crab, pickled cucumber and daikon salad, with mango purée followed by pan fried snapper, gazpacho, kipfler potatoes, asparagus, fennel salad. I had never tried soft shell crab before but I will again. Once I got over the slightly weird sensation of eating shell I was able to enjoy the taste and the lovely blend of flavours.
Next came the snapper, although we had previously been advised that today this would be replaced by trevally. This was also an extremely enjoyable meal with interesting flavours that complemented each other very well. I was satisfyingly full at the end of these two courses so I did not order a dessert although the options were extremely tempting. The cab sav that came with the signature lunch menu was also very good. One of my fellow diners ordered the veal off the a la carte menu and then the creme brûlée and reported that they were also very good.
In addition to lunch, Customs House is open for dinner and brunch on Sundays. The brunch menu looks very interesting - think sand crab omelette, black pudding, hot cakes, fried haloumi and figs and biscotti as well as a good selection of dishes with poached, scrambled and fried eggs ranging in price from $12 to $23. There are a range of dinner options including several group dining menus with a set price per head.
The inside dining room
Customs House Restaurant has a great selection of wine to go wth your meal or another tempting option is to drop in for a drink and try a share plate (oysters, duck, lamb, prawns, mushroom arancini and beef empanadas). I can't think of a better way to end the work day than relaxing over a glass of wine and nibbles watching the sun set over the Brisbane river.