One of Brisbane’s hottest tickets, the restaurant at Agnes is built around Ben Williamson’s intense pure flavours and the wood-fired oven. Book a table and take in the compelling wine list to get the full effect, or lodge in the wine bar for snacks and a glass or three.
The nuts & bolts
Function spaces: 24 guests
At the moment, it seems that some of the best restaurants in the country have built their kitchens around the coals of a wood fire. Agnes is housed in an old brick warehouse turned dimly lit dining room – a moody sanctuary in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. The restaurant acts as the fourth milestone for the group responsible for Honto, Same Same and Los. With the recent addition of Bianca Restaurant, business partners Frank Li, Ben Williamson, Tyron Simon and Bianca Marchi are building momentum in Brisbane for their smart venues, each with their own strong personality.
Agnes is bold. The dining room is an extension of the kitchen, with wood-fired ovens and caged chimneys acting as the engine room for the venue – and a spectacle for guests. Narrow steps take you down to the wine bar with low, charcoal-coloured tables and floor-to-ceiling glass windows leading to the wine cellar. It’s a more casual room where you might accidentally spend the entire night.
Lilly Heenan, head sommelier, has hit her stride with the list at Agnes, balancing the demands of varied clientele while surrounding herself with producers of a lo-fi leaning, those dedicated to natural farming and sustainability. Subheadings like “mineral & energetic” and “concentration & finesse” comfortably guide guests around styles, as opposed to varieties, leaving open the possibility of trying something new.
“I’ve found it wildly exciting that our guests are curious and intrigued about stepping outside of the conventional wine realm when they visit,” says Heenan. “We have a section titled ‘the wild ones’, which is dedicated to… the skinsy, the funky, the cloudy… and that page, without a doubt, has the most views.”
Heenan frequently finds herself directing guests, especially those with “inexperienced palates”, to the rosé section. “It has a subheading called ‘weighty & playful’… Every guest raves about these wines when opened; that they are complex and supple, the perfect pairing for wood-fired cooking”. As with each of the group’s venues, the lists are overseen with a thoughtfulness and eye for quality by group sommelier Rani Parish, known for her stylish work at Melbourne institution Embla.
Agnes sets a relaxed tone with a friendly and dedicated team that show profound knowledge in their fields. That, along with the finesse and powerful flavours of Ben Williamson’s cooking, makes for one of Australia’s top modern eateries. The menu is constructed of progressive share plates – smoked lamb ribs with mountain pepper and lime, or maybe wood-roasted duck with blood orange glaze and rosemary oil. It’s likely you’ll savour more dishes than you bargained for, and perhaps wash it down with the likes of the 2019 Barbacán Chiavennasca Rosato. Heavenly.