Chester Street

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For someone who is intolerant to most wheat flour, I have a bizzare obsession with bread. After several months of looking six months pregnant every time I ate bread (eight if it was Turkish bread) and spending the rest of the night rolling around in pain, I finally gave in and gave up bread several years ago. Giving up the bread and pasta was relatively easy (as long as I didn't frequent Italian places too much) and after a while I didn't miss it. Occasionally I opted for gluten-free bread but found the majority of it incredibly inferior to regular bread and unsatisfying. I also resented paying up to $3 extra to substitute amazing sounding in-house baked bread for a smaller slice of nothing that appeared to be straight off a supermarket shelf. The other thing was that most gluten-free breads don't absorb sauces and egg yolks as well as standard bread so I'd end up with a soggy mess. Ok, that's probably enough of a rant...#firstworldproblems Anyway, more recently I've become a lot less stringent with avoiding gluten-ised bread and have tried sourdoughs and non-wheat-flour (e.g spelt and rye) breads after hearing that some intolerant people can handle them and have had mixed results. I've also started regularly making my own rye, spelt and buckwheat breads which I seem to be fine with. And when faced with amazing sounding options (hello oatmeal stout sourdough) taste sensation opportunity beats potential pain. So now with so many amazing artisan bakeries popping up around Brisbane, I'm not as inclined to straight out avoid them as I once was.

Which (finally!) brings me to my recent visit to Chester Street, a bakery by day and bar by night, in Newstead which opened late last year. The concept was developed by Damien Griffiths of Alfred & Constance (and several others) and Jocelyn Hancock of Jocelyn's Provisions fame. Jocelyn's involvement was enough to get me interested. A year later, after planning a breakfast date with my old friend C, I finally got there. Chester Street is located on its namesake street, which is a quiet street not far from James St but in an area which is rapidly growing in popularity for new and upcoming food and bar spots. From the front, the building looks rather nondescript with a large parking lot out front, with the exception of the large sign placed up high. We parked in front of a lovely hanging wall garden of herbs, which I was instantly jealous of when I compared it to my half-dying lot at home.

We arrived around 9am on Sunday morning and there were already several customers enjoying breakfast but it was hardly busy. Ordering is done at the counter so after marvelling at the delicious looking baked treats on the counter, we picked up a menu from a nearby table and perused our options. The Chester Street brunch menu is split into four sections: cooked, griddle, just baked and cereals. The savoury mince with poached eggs ($19.90) off the cooked menu sounded particularly appealing given that it was a chilly morning and the ricotta, cinnamon and buckwheat pancakes ($16.90) sounded like a great sweeter option but then I saw the  in-house hot smoked salmon ($5.50) on the extras menu and was sold. I'm a sucker for anything smoked in-house, especially salmon. Then it was a matter of deciding whether to pair it with the avocado toast ($12.90) or poached eggs ($13.90). I've been eating avocado on toast every morning so I opted for the eggs and was happy to discover that the gluten-free bread (which I assume is baked in-house) was no extra charge. Although the somewhat surly looking waiter who took my order answered that 'today it appears to be no extra charge' so it sounds like that may change sometimes.

Long black with milk on the side

C and I took a seat in the adjoining room at the long communal table after deciding that it was too cold to sit outside. About ten minutes later our coffees arrived. My long black was nice but nothing to write home about. C asked for some water and then realised that it was self-service but the waiter was kind enough to bring it to us anyway. Very soon afterwards C's savoury mince arrived and was a generous serve of rich looking mince with two poached eggs, two pieces of slightly charred toast and with some sprigs of parsley.

Savoury mince with poached eggs & Chester Street toast

Poached eggs with herbs, cracked pepper & GF toast

In-house hot smoked salmon

About five minutes later my poached eggs and side of salmon arrived. Standard poached eggs generally aren't the most visually exciting meals and this was no exception but some care in plating up had been taken with the bread arranged to fit two poached eggs, a large pat of butter and some parsley with a drizzle of oil around it. The salmon arrived separately in a small bowl and slightly flaked. After shifting the butter to the side and adding some of the salmon to my plate, I went to split the poached egg with some trepidation. As I mentioned in my rant before, poached eggs and gluten-free bread are generally not a good combination and yet my love of a poached egg yolk makes me forget this every time. The first egg was perfectly poached and the yolk oozed over the salmon and the bread. Amazingly the bread, which was a multi-grain and perfectly toasted on a grill, didn't turn into a soggy mess immediately and I immediately dug in. The salmon was perfectly cooked and soft, although colder than I expected after waiter told me it was served warm. It's possible it was warm initially however and it was purely the weather which chilled it. It was delicate in flavour and while delicious with the egg and toast, it needed seasoning so I hunted down some salt and pepper shakers. The second egg was slightly undercooked with some clear egg white running out when I split it. Still, with the salmon and remaining bread to soak it up, I wasn't too concerned. The serve of salmon was so large I really only needed about half of it with the amount of egg and toast but I still managed to finish it! C didn't quite finish her meal but commented afterwards that it was lovely.

Delicious treats on front counter....including rocky road to sample!

By the time we went to leave, the place had really filled up and there weren't many free seats. We went up to the counter to pay and I was tempted to purchase one of the delicious looking sweets to go. The array of options included salted caramel donuts and Portuguese egg tarts and there were also some beautiful looking cakes in refrigerated cabinets which were available for purchase as whole cakes. I refrained but vowed to return for coffee and cake one day.

In-house baked breads available to purchase

Overall, my verdict is that Chester Street is a nice spot for breakfast but with a relatively standard but more expensive menu. The food is well done and the portions are large however - I was full for hours afterwards which is rarely the case! Personally I prefer a more exciting menu but I would love to return to try their cakes sometime. And I do rate their gluten-free bread and was happy to see several gluten-free options on the menu, including the pancakes.  Also, although I was driven on this occasion, it is quite accessible by bike so I'll have to try riding there next time.

Chester Street on Urbanspoon

Long communal table

Baked goods & salads cabinet

More delicious looking sweet treats

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