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Essa Is the New Locally Focused Fortitude Valley Fine Diner From Ex-Gauge Chef Phil Marchant

Nestling into a striking split-level space just off James Street, Brisbane's latest culinary addition takes a harvest-driven approach and focuses on raw, pickled, smoked and wood-fired dishes.
By Sarah Ward
August 24, 2021
By Sarah Ward
August 24, 2021

Ever since Gauge opened its doors in South Brisbane back in 2015, Brisbanites have been talking about its black garlic bread, tasting menu and stripped back yet still luxe feel. Before August is out, you'll be able to turn your chatter to Essa, too. Opening on Robertson Street, the new Fortitude Valley restaurant is the latest venture from ex-Gauge chef Phil Marchant, who is bringing a focus on local produce and harvest-driven dishes to a striking split-level space just off James Street.

Launching on Friday, August 27, Essa sees Marchant take up head chef duties, while also co-owning the new eatery with entrepreneur Angela Sclavos. Marchant's aim: to highlight the work of the farmers, hunters and providores he's sourcing his ingredients from, to give classic techniques a modern twist and to give diners a multi-sensory experience.

On the menu, that approach translates to dishes that endeavour to pair the familiar with the surprising, as well as a big focus on raw, pickled, smoked and wood-fired meals. So, you can expect to tuck into pickled and fire-burnt kohlrabi, wood-fired beetroot, and wild venison tartare paired with toasted buckwheat and hibiscus. Or, from the grill, organic pork chops come served on the bone, or there's the spatchcock quail with brown butter, caper leaves and salt bush. And, for dessert, mandarin sorbet and Jerusalem artichoke cream buns will tempt your tastebuds.

Essa also does set menus for $92 a head, which is a requirement if you're dining in a group of eight or more. Drinks-wise, wine and cocktails sit pride of place. Both lineups have been curated to pair well with the restaurant's dishes, but if you're particularly keen on something light but inventive, The Love Bird — which combines rose, strawberries and white chocolate, and uses a milk wash technique — provides a handy indication of the types of beverages on offer.

Enjoying the surroundings is also part of the Essa experience, with the decor skewing industrial but relaxed. A brass mesh window sits at street level, exposed brickwork and steel alcoves are a feature, and seating includes leather lined banquettes. The dining space on the building's middle level features a bar decked out with green Verde Alpi stone, too, while the upstairs space uses a leafy garden as a background.

Essa will open at 181 Robertson Street, Fortitude Valley on Friday, August 27 — operating 4pm–late Tuesday–Saturday.

Published on August 24, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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