I’ve been putting off writing this review for far too long; putting it off not because I don’t know what to say but because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to do it justice. I’ve been putting off this review for a future Andrew with more eloquent prose and well defined pecs.
“It can’t be a regular review” I’d tell myself. It has to be a a review every bit as spectacular as my experiences at Public have been over the last year.
I now realise that what I was really hoping for is called “Magic”. I wanted to create a chunk of text so profound that on reading would give you a harry-potter-in-olivanders experience – You know, bright lights, warmth, the whole deal.
This is not that review. But consider it a noble attempt. With my unchanged prose and pecs I’ll desperately wave my twig-bearing muggle arm about shrieking “reviewus spectalarus” and maybe you can knock a vase off the shelf in pity. Deal? Ok. Here we go.
The first thing worth noting about Public is it’s location. Located up a level on the corner of Turbot and George street Public could easily be mistaken for an office building and judging from the amount of blank faces that I receive when I quote Public as my favourite restaurant in Brisbane many people have done just that. If you can find it, however, you’ll soon notice that Public’s interior design is as far from clutter and cubicles as imaginable. Public’s high-ceilings and huge windows allow you to reap the benefits of outdoor dining (spaciousness and people-watching) without facing the elements.
Now, look at the menu.
The three element descriptions – which include ingredients like Ants, Fossilised Carrot, and Worms – I’m sure operate as an organic filter to zomato-trawlers. The idea of eating a meal described as “Salmon, Manuka Honey, Black Ants” probably either has you shaking with excitement or quickly re-evaluating your booking and I think that Public knows that they’re polarising. They make no effort in selling you the concept of Ants in your meal – it’s just there, like you might find broccoli on a non-awesome menu: Black Ants. You’re either down for it or you’re not.
What makes the 3-element-menu even more admirable is that it represents a lack of pretentious that’s hard to find in restaurants of a similar standard. It’s as though the more you pay for good food the more you pay for a marketing intern to turn avo on toast into “smooshified first harvest avocados with twice-ground pepper atop fire-roasted bread”. Not so at Public. Public’s core philosophy and name-sake is that they bring the fine-dining experience back down to earth – to the general Public. This goal is executed brilliantly with an atmosphere that is neither exclusionary nor condescending.
The food at public isn’t exactly tapas but is certainly designed to share. Most meals are neatly divided into small serves so that diners can easily divide their meals and jealous foodies can vigilantly monitor that status of the Ducks Cigars.
There are plenty of restaurants that serve traditional style meals and make a point of advertising their ‘authentic, traditional family recipes’. Some of these restaurants are excellent and rank as my favourites in Brisbane (Wooden Horse is a great example of this). Public, however, has an appeal that is much harder to execute but also far more satisfying when achieved. I think the phrase that I’m looking for is elegant creativity.
I’m sure that some people will visit Public entirely for the novelty factor; to taste the Kentucky Fried Duck, and the Salmon with Ants, and I hope that this review will inspire some of you to do exactly that! But to read this review as as merely a praise of Public’s bravery to be novel would be a tragic misinterpretation. There is an appeal in Public that has kept it as my favourite restaurant in Brisbane for the last 2 years and it’s far more than just the strange items on the menu. Visit for the first time for the novelty factor, re-visit every few months for the beautiful interior, intelligent food-pairings, and staff that remember your name and favourite orders.
Review by Andrew Bloyce.
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