Getting back to Sydney after travelling around the U.S. for three months was something I quietly yearned in the final few weeks prior to getting home. Some normality, a routine, no more flights, a regular eating pattern and food portions that aren’t abnormally over-sized. Whilst I’m happy to be back, I’m still feeling those post-holiday blues that strike me many times a day, dredging up yearning feelings of wanting to get on another flight again. I’m happy to be back, but I’m also wanting to get out of here again.
I had no plans of getting onto another aircraft this year. But that changed. When I received news of my mother having a muscular operation on her shoulder, I needed to get up to Brisbane to pay a visit. Yes she could get help from my siblings and father, but I felt I needed to drop what I was doing and get up there to put in my share. Three days spent with my parents, a lot of catching up, and a bit of a reminder that spending more time with my family ought to happen more often. When I had to cut food into bite-sized pieces because my mother couldn’t physically do it herself, it was a reminder that none of us is getting younger. My mother is ok and her shoulder is healing, but man, she’s going through some serious pain and sleepless nights.
My touch-down in Brisbane was pretty damn early. So early that I didn’t have a proper breakfast before I left Sydney. That only meant one thing. Another breakfast in Brisbane! Airtrain into town, a short walk to the mall and just before you hit it is a laneway that’s well worth venturing down. A few steps down Lower Burnett Lane and you’ve hit a bit of a caffeinated urban oasis. Brick walls, astro turf, seating area and a serviced espresso machine that takes care of the those that want their coffees in a paper cup. Turn the corner and you’ve passed the kitchen, stepping down into a dim and narrow space that’s a cafe-cum-tapas-cum-cocktail magnet for the under-40 crowd.
The breakfast menu won’t win any awards for innovative variety, but that’s fine with me, as all I wanted was some eggs. The bigger breakfast (17) sounded just the ticket. Two soft poached eggs, pan-fried chorizo, avocado, loads of bacon and toasted ciabatta. Great breakfast and excellent chorizo but the ciabatta was far from the real deal, as I could only compare the texture to toasted baguette. As for the macchiato … no complaints here.
Brew – Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane
I eventually made it out to Forest Lakes, where my parents live. A long overdue catch-up, some Croatian kava (coffee) and lunch at a new-ish place in Inala Plaza, a Vietnamese-centric shopping centre down the road.
Minh Trang can be found facing the central plaza, right next door to one of the fruit and vegetable shops. Outside on the pavement they’ve set up a counter for traditional cold drinks featuring fruits, juices, ice and coloured jellies. More colourful sweet and savoury snacks are pre-wrapped to take away, even some hot street food snacks made fresh.
The interior looks like your typical Vietnamese restaurant. Tiles, tissue boxes, chopsticks, condiments, cutlery and really bad acoustics. It’s difficult to ignore when a bunch of kids starts tapping chopsticks at a neighbouring table.
Mum goes for the pho ga (8.5), your typically enormous bowl of noodle soup. Chicken, shaved beef, herbs and bean sprouts, and a stock that’s very heavy on the cinnamon and slightly sweet.
Dad and I go for the same dish. The house special of tom rang muoi (15), a decent quantity of “salt & pepper” prawns that are lightly battered and deep-fried. They join a simple stir-fry of onion, chilli, carrot and capsicum with a copious amount of near-raw garlic. The prawns are large and juicy with tails that are crisp enough to eat. Sadly neither salt or pepper made it to the plate and the garlic left me with a lingering aftertaste I wasn’t all that keen on.
Minh Trang – Shop 3, 37 Kittyhawk Avenue, Inala Civic Centre
Another place we tried was for lunch the following day, in my brothers neighbourhood of Springfield Lakes. The Spring Lake Hotel sits hillside where the Centenary Motorway cuts a swathe through the web of Springfield suburbia. The setup is modern and club-like, sprawling inside and out with a kiddies playground for the little tackers to go wild and scream their lungs out. Inside is much more civilised with a loungy bar area, plenty of space between tables and flat-screens displaying your Keno winnings or losses.
A local XXXX beer cools me down as I tuck into some Coffin Bay oysters (15), and then the barrage of food arrives for everyone else at the table. Seven pizza’s are on offer on the menu, two of which made it to our table. A pepperoni (16.5) pizza lands in front of Mum on a slate platter, quickly sliced into small pieces with the accompanying roller cutter. Then there’s the spring lake supremo (18.5), a tasty combo of onion, balsamic infused olives, mushrooms, capsicum and cheese.
Dad goes for beer battered whiting fillets (24), a rather meagre serving of fish, chips and salad garnish for the price point. The fish is nice and flakey. I was concerned my caramelised onion gnocchi (17.5) wouldn’t come with much of the braised beef cheeks it was meant to, but the quantity of meat was far more than expected. Deliciously slow-cooked and tossed with kale, thyme and rather firm gnocchi dumplings. To my side, Big Bro quietly relishes the duck breast (31), rafting on some braised red cabbage doused in dark port jus. A light and flakey plithivier balances the plate, with a hot sweet potato filling that steams as it’s cut open.
I initially said no to dessert, but easily succumbed to the subtle hints coming from my brother. A small black forest cake for Dad, vanilla panna cotta with apple & rhubarb crumble for me, and an insanely rich hazelnut baci for the dessert instigator. All are loaded with the sweet stuff, were pretty good, but completely unnecessary. All in all not a bad feed in suburbia.
Spring Lake Hotel – 1/1 Springfield Lakes Boulevard, Springfield Lakes