Executive Chef, co-owner and Esquire’s maestro Ryan Squires could never be described as an underachiever. At just 35 he has worked at some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants: El Bulli, The French Laundry, Per Se, Noma and WD-50. He opened Esquire in 2012 with Cameron Murchison on a site overlooking Brisbane’s Story Bridge. With a Hassell designed space that could be best described as Japan meets Scandinavian minimalism, the restaurant immediately had ‘buzz’.
Esquire is a degustation only restaurant. But rest assured – you are in the hands of seasoned professionals here. Squires is ably assisted by Ben Devlin (another Noma alumni) and Esquire’s head chef. The menu of 10 or 13 courses is a journey that unfolds at precisely the right intervals and is best enjoyed with the wines as selected by stellar sommelier Peter Marchant. Even if you consider yourself to have a sophisticated palate, this man knows how to enhance the whole experience with intriguing wine selections. He selected wines for our table not from a set list, but with careful consideration of our predilections.
As one of only 8 restaurants in Australia awarded 3 hats (the Aussie equivalent of Michelin stars) Esquire has both intrigued and dazzled the critics. The menu is playful but there is no room for whimsy – this is fine dining from a kitchen with the precision of a surgeon. Presentation is restrained but at times exquisite in its simplicity. The opening courses are presented on natural timbers family style and the following courses are in enormous organic earthen tableware by ceramicist David Edwards. Except the amuse bouche: Air dried Beef and Kim Chi. For those not accustomed to encountering their first course in an envelope – the presentation may seem a little odd but the contents are an amazing concentration of flavour and the oh so satisfying texture allows diners to casually dip their toe into a gastronomic tour de force.
Next the Blue Swimmer Crab with macadamia and coffee is a combo that allows the delicate crab to star with the coffee grinds, adding more of a textural element and fragrance somehow akin to an ethereal but adult Oreo. The Bonito (part of the sardine family) is presented simply sliced with ginger and a sliver of avocado that is lightly coated with wasabi dust. This dish is both bold and amazingly delicate at the same time. The Murray Cod is a dish for true lovers of fish whilst the carnivores are more than satisfied with the next two courses of perfectly pink Lamb, cavolo nero and anchovy followed by meltingly tender Wagyu braised in miso and onion. The quality of the beef is unmistakable from the first bite with just the right amount of marbling ensuring a melting mouth feel and oomph.
The next course, simply described as ‘Popcorn’ defies description; it is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before and warrants the price of admission alone. The flavours are salty and buttery just like a bowl of the good stuff but your senses are momentarily confused by the texture and the appearance: room temperature parfait that looks like pale scrambled eggs. This really is a ‘bucket list’ dish.The dessert of freeze-dried Campari, orange with curds and whey ice cream has already officially become one of Australia’s favourite dishes. The ice cream is almost savoury and is the perfect accompaniment to the pleasantly citric sherbet and the bitterness of Campari.
Dining at Esquire is the complete experience with innovative food that delights and polished service that errs on the less is more side – attentive and caring without trying to be your new BFF. This is degustation that might at times confront but is expertly designed to engage, stimulate and satisfy all the senses. Mr Squires is definitely in the right business – the business of pleasure. www.esquire.net.au