Don't be surprised if the southern end of the CBD has the distinct smell of wood smoke in the air. It's been a long, long time in the making, but Pony Brisbane has finally opened.
It's headed by Brisbane-born chef Damian Heads, who moved to Sydney and worked his way through the kitchens of some of that city's best restaurants including Bennelong Restaurant (Sydney Opera House)and Milsons where he was awarded the SMH Josephine Pignolet Award for Sydney’s Best Young Chef in 2003.
He opened Garfish, then left the country for six months, doing stages with renowned European chefs then on his return opened Pony Lounge and Dining at The Rocks, followed by Steel Bar and Grill in Sydney’s CBD.
Then, in December 2010 he opened another Pony Lounge and Dining in Neutral Bay. And now he's (ahem) ridden back into town, to establish Pony Brisbane at the Eagle Street Pier (fast becoming the favoured spot of restaurateurs who chose Brisbane for their second venue).
In the space where McDonald’s was, there are uninterrupted river views and a variety of distinctive dining spaces including small booths, communal tables, bar seating, a private dining room and a bar which opens onto a specially built terrace garden overlooking the Brisbane River.
The architects are Woods Bagot, also responsible for Sydney’s Ivy. Their brief was to create a distinctly Brisbane feel. Their design is based around raw materials, exposed brick, raw steel, rough-sawn timber and exposed roughneck copper pipework and leather upholstered furniture.
But it's the open smoke pit that's the central feature of the restaurant.
The menu centres around food prepared on a rustic wood fire grill and open coal pit-a brick pit with a horizontal spit, set at 40cm above the charcoal, allowing fire to flash through.
The meat turns over on the rotisserie for two to eight hours, the natural juices baste the meat as it turns and the charcoal releases a subtle aroma which absorbs into the meat.
The a la carte menu also offers share plates such as seared and sliced wagyu with tamari marinade and pickled shimeji mushrooms, blanched asparagus with salted ricotta, pinenuts, salsa verde and lemon, and a sashimi tuna roll with green soy bean, coriander and chilli sauce. In rustic banquet style, diners can also share an open coal pit roast of succulent duck, chicken, lamb, pig or an O’Connor 1kg Dry Aged T-Bone.
Pony’s Sommelier, Marco Taddeo, has constructed a small but well thought out list of Australia’s classic and well known wine regions, as well as some small producers in addition to international labels with a selection of natural old world wines, with a focus on Italy.
There's also a bar, which will be a central feature of the venue., offering a mix of new and traditional cocktails, craft beer and high-quality spirits.
Expect cocktails utilising seasonal produce and a bit of magic, engendered by smoke machines and dehydrators. Some of the cocktails will be matched with specific bar food, some actually utilising food, such as a jamon infused cocktail.
House made tonic and triple frozen ice-cubes are another feature. There's also a list of boutique craft beer with a rotating tap offering and a number of seasonal bottled crafts beers from small producers in Australia and around the world.
Pony, Upper Lever Eagle Street Pier
18/45 Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane QLD 4000
Phone: (07) 3181 3400
Service (Daily): Lunch noon to 3pm; Dinner from 6pm; Bar from noon to late