In Fortitude Valley’s restaurant mecca of James Street, Gerard’s Bistro has been turning out its take on the flavours of the Middle East since 2012. The more formal dining arm of the Moubarak family’s Moubment Group (Laruche, Hatch + Co., Gerard’s Bar, The Defiant Duck) – whose Gallic-feeling name might make one think more of steak frittes and crème brûlée – takes in inspiration from The Levant, as well as from as far afield as Morocco and Afghanistan, in elevating traditional dishes, while canting them towards modern sensibilities.
Calling Gerard’s more formal perhaps is also a tad misrepresentative. The mood is distinctly relaxed and casual, even if the food ups the ante in the sophistication stakes. Founding chef Ben Williamson has moved on as of 2019 to open his own venture, but he has been replaced with Sydney wunderkind Adam Wolfers, who is working in the same general brief, but is weaving in elements from his Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, as well as threading in native Australian ingredients – think malabach (a bread from Yemen) with matbutcha (a Moroccan cooked tomato and pepper salad, which is hugely popular in Israel) with pepperberry dukkah.
With an offering of 200-odd bottles, the wine list focuses largely on Australia and New Zealand, but with frequent excursions to Europe, too. The glass roster runs to 20, with regular rotation to keep things interesting. The philosophy is built around wines that express a sense of place, and those that work well with the spice-laden menu – there is a solid representation of ‘classics’, as well as somewhat less-familiar bottlings: “We want to highlight some of the great regions and varieties of the world, but also provide you with the opportunity to explore new things. We want to introduce you to some new winemakers, some new styles, whilst always referencing the great history that we have both in this country and abroad.”