Review Des Houghton
Would the Buddha have ordered the cappuccino or the macchiato?
This was one of the deep questions I pondered as we entered Timmy's restaurant at South Bank, where two Buddhist masks look down over the serving counter and its glinting espresso machine.
Such cultural juxtapositions are reflected in the menu, which attempts to marry Thai with classical French cuisine. I often dismiss fusion food as confusion food, but not when executed by a kitchen diva of Timmy Kemp's skills.
Hers is a small, odd-shaped little restaurant but there is much to like. There I was, munching on a trio of Oriental delicacies while the lad across the table, a schoolboy coxswain of note, was making short work of a filet mignon. The hefty hunk of cow looked spectacular on a potato galette (potato cake), adorned with wilted spinach and a glistening red wine jus. It contrasted with my delicate crab cakes, prawn fritters and smoky little roasted quail.
Sitting next to me was the cox's dad, a lowprofile crimebuster, contentedly chowing down on his pork crépinette on top of which rested little surfboards of toast smeared with foie gras.
Then there was the duck. And love a duck it was. The two women in our group who ordered it were drooling for a week. No wonder. Kemp knows all there is to know about the web-footed birds: she was raised by her grandmother on a duck farm in the Gulf of Thailand where the creatures roosted under the floorboards of her home. Her gaeng phed ped yang .- hot, sweet roasted duck cooked with coconut milk - is the stuff of legend.
This night, however, she presented the duck with cumquat and ginger marmalade on a raft of roasted polenta. A stack of steaming asparagus sat to one side of the plate. Delicious. Timmy's has a fairly restricted wine list, so we were happy to take bottles from our own cellar - a fruity Robert Channon verdelho and a lively, tangy Ballandean Estate semillon sauvignon blanc. Corkage is $7 a bottle (phew!).
The eclectic Thai-French themes featured again on the dessert menu with pear tarte tatin listed alongside black sticky rice with fresh mango and coconut ice-cream. Both were a knockout. It was really, really good cooking all round, stylish and thoughtful without recourse to culinary hysteria or betrayal of the essential purity of the ingredients.
After stints in Sydney and abroad, Kemp has cooked at Baguette, Harveys, Indochine and Cha Cha Char in Brisbane. David Pugh from Restaurant Two, who worked alongside her at Baguette in the '80s, says she was responsible for his "gastronomic awakening".
Her cosy restaurant is secreted away from the road, with views of South Bank parklands and the Picnic Island pool. It is also a popular place for breakfast and lunch. Right now there is a $10 luncheon special, and I'm told a new summer menu is about to be launched.
ADDRESS Shop 4B,
Galleria Complex, cnr
Grey &Tribune Sts,
PH 3846 0322
HOURS Tuesday-Friday from 11am,
Saturday-Sunday from 8am,
PRICES Entrees $15, light meals $25, mains $28-$35;
sides (rice, bread, potato, greens) $2-$9; corkage $7 a bottle.
NEED TO KNOW
Street parking and underground car park, takeaway available, all major credit cards, wheelchair access.
THE SCORE 15
1-9 STAY HOME