Elska restaurant in Brisbane: surprising, creative, floral…but light

Brisbane is full of excellent restaurants, but you still have to manage to find a seat when you make a reservation a few days in advance. Handicapped by a recalcitrant leg, I didn’t want to anticipate my reservations until I knew how well I could walk and when I finally decided, many of the restaurants on my short list were full.

Fortunately I was able to get a table at Elska’s which was high on my list.

You will find the summary of the articles about this trip in Australia at the bottom of the page.

Booking

It is not without difficulty that I will end up finding a table at Elska. The restaurant was sold out for a long time and I watched daily when I was in Sydney to see if a table became available, which was the case the day before I arrived.

I make a reservation but due to a failure of the online reservation system I find myself without a table. The restaurant immediately contacted me by Whatsapp and after many exchanges they miraculously managed to find me a table the day after the planned day.

Thanks to James for his availability and his efforts to find me a table when they were full.

The concept of Elska

In Danish and in many Scandinavian languages Elska means love. To put it simply, Elska’s concept is to share their love of local and natural products.

This is a very small (12 seats) intimate degustation restaurant that focuses on Australian, local or indigenous products. The restaurant works closely with local farmers, growers and producers to create a sustainable and ethical farm-to-table experience.

Why a Danish name? Freja Dunnell, the owner is Danish. She and her husband were already in the restaurant business before and she ran the “Freja Café” at the same place where Elska is today. One day she wanted to move up a gear, closed her property and two months later reopened this degustation restaurant with her husband.

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And as you will see, the Scandinavian influence on the restaurant is real and, for the natural side, most dishes will have some floral dimension.

Basically it reminds me a little bit of Koka in Gothenburg. Let’s see if it’s as good in reality.

The setting

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Elska is a small and intimate gourmet restaurant with 12 seats. The setting is warm, the design simple, in brief scandinavian!

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As it is more and more fashionable, it has an open kitchen.

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The menu

No menu at Elska but a single tasting menu.

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The dinner

No dinner without my usual Negroni as an aperitif. The menu proposes an original creation, a rhubarb Negroni which will prove to be excellent. Not very strong but good with the subtle but real presence of rhubarb.

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It will be accompanied by appetizers.

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One will be beet, one will be pumpkin and the third…I don’t remember. Everything can be eaten, including leaves. It is light, fresh, subtle and very good.

The first course arrives: freshwater crayfish.

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I forgot the long description I was given but it was very good. However, the portion was a little too minimalist.

Coral trout and fox tail.

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Fine and nice but I’m still looking for the fox tail.

Peas, cream and …. wood ants.

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The peas and pea cream are good, I didn’t find the taste of the ants. It’s beautiful, it’s good but no wow effect.

White rabbit and spring flies

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In fact it is a rabbit mousse. Good and I’m still looking for the flies without being disappointed that I didn’t find them.

Awassi Hoggit

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It is in fact a kind of sheep tartar. Fresh, fine and tasty. But I am looking for the utility of the plant…

New season asparagus

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The asparagus is anecdotal and insignificant. On the other hand, what accompanies it (chocolate?) and the sauce are self-sufficient: a real explosion of flavors.

Sunflower Koji and preserved honey

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I will learn from the occasion that Koji is a ferment resulting from the fermentation of mushrooms on cereals. Ok.

Danish potatoes.

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There is bacon, English bread sauce, cheese and the whole thing looks a bit like a gnocchi. Really fine and delicious.

Veal and strawberries, cream.

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The veal is matured for a week, there is onion butter. It’s visually beautiful, the cooking is perfect and with the strawberries it’s a killer.

A taste of spring.

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It is a kind of lavender pana cotta with a pea sorbet, accompanied by rhubarb, geranium and green blackberries. Very good, fresh and original.

Persimmon custard

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A delicious fritter!

I will finish with a homemade green tea and a cognac.

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The service

Excellent service, rhythmic but not hurried. Very pleasant staff (once again, thank you for having gone to so much trouble to find me a table following the reservation problem), available and it’s always a pleasure to see the boss in the middle of the room with her team.

The atmosphere

Given the few customers very quiet but relaxed and friendly.

Bottom line

If I had to give my overall impression I would say that I had an excellent meal. But behind this overall impression, if I go into the details it is a bit more nuanced.

Among the positive points I will retain a very creative menu, the natural side, the will to put forward the products of the soil as well as this Scandinavian touch which I will translate by the “simplicity in creativity”. In addition, the staff is excellent.

However, there are a few shadows in the picture.

First of all I will say the quantities. Of course in the tasting menu they are smaller but I still found that many of the dishes were perhaps a little too “light”.

Then I will say that if everything was good, fine and balanced, few dishes caused me a real wow effect. Good but it often lacked a little something that makes the difference between very good and excellent. Between a very good restaurant and a starred one?

Then maybe the will to go a little too far in the concept. I really like the natural and floral/vegetal aspect of the menu but sometimes I could feel that it was put on for the sake of putting on without adding anything to the dish.

But once again the overall impression is very positive and if I make some remarks it’s mainly because I have the impression that not much is missing for Elska to change category and propose something really exceptional. It is indeed a bit the same type of restaurant as Koka in Gothenburg but the difference between the two is in many small details that make the second has a star (so to speak because the Michelin guide does not operate in Australia).

The articles of this trip to Australia

#TypeReview
1Intro and genesis of the itineraryVacations in Australia: first steps in the “Land Down Under
2HotelCourtyard Paris Charles de Gaulle Central
3FlightParis-Munich – Lufthansa – Business Class
4FlightMunich-Stockholm – Lufthansa – Business Class
5HotelSheraton Stockholm
6LoungeSAS Gold Lounge – Stockholm Arlanda
7LoungeAmerican Express Lounge by Pontus – Stockholm Arlanda
8FlightStockholm-Bangkok – Thai – Business Class
9LoungeThai Royal Silk Lounge – Bangkok Terminal E
10FlightBangkok-Sydney – Thai – Business Class
11HotelSheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park
12LoungeRex lounge – Sydney Terminal 2
13FlightSydney-Brisbane – Virgin Australia – Economy
14HotelW Brisbane
15RestaurantElska – Brisbane
16RestaurantSouthside – Brisbane
17RestaurantSpice Central Kitchen & Bar – Brisbane
18Travel diaryBrisbane jour #1 : the heart of the city
19Travel diaryBrisbane day #2: museums and lazing by the river
20LoungeVirgin Australia Domestic Lounge – Brisbane
21FlightBrisbane-Sydney – Virgin Australia – Economy
22HotelSydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay
23RestaurantNour – Sydney
24RestaurantMekong – Sydney
25Travel diarySydney day #1: the opera house and its surroundings
26Travel diarySydney day #2: around Hyde Park and the city center
27Travel diarySydney day #3: culture and entertainment around the harbor
28LoungeSalon Air New Zealand – Sydney
29LoungeSalon Silverkris Singapore Airlines – Sydney
30LoungeAmerican Express Lounge – Sydney
31FlightSydney-Bangkok – Thai – Business Class
32LoungeThai Royal Silk Lounge – Bangkok Terminal E
33LoungeOman Air lounge – Bangkok Terminal E
34LoungeEva Air lounge – Bangkok Terminal F
35LoungeMiracle business lounge – Bangkok Terminal F
36LoungeTurkish Airlines lounge – Bangkok Terminal D
37LoungeSingapore Airlines silverkris lounge – Terminal D
38FlightBangkok-Stockholm – Thai – Business Class
39LoungeNorrsken Lounge – Stockholm
40FlightStockholm-Zurich – Swiss – Business Class
41FlightZurich-Paris – Swiss – Business Class
42Travel diaryLessons learned from this trip to Australia
Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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