SheSociety loves supporting our local restaurants wherever we are, so I was very excited when I heard there was a new Head Chef at Pony Dining – Brisbane.
Head Chef – Tom Swapp invited an eclectic group of locals to an intimate tasting experience at his beautiful restaurant on a balmy Brisbane evening. Opening those heavy doors, our lovely waiter Jack, ushered us to our table with a view, before steering us through one of the most delightful and inventive menus I’ve tasted in a long while.
It’s not surprising that I loved the food as Tom has worked at one of my Sunshine Coast favourites, the hatted Spirit House Restaurant, leading a team of 14 chefs, including my friend Tina, for 4 years.
More recently Tom’s been manning the kitchen as Interim Chef at E’cco Bistro before taking the reins at Pony. Well– loved Chef Michael Crosbie has moved back to the Gold Coast to spend more time with his young family but is still very much a part of the Pony family.
About Tom Swapp
Tom’s kitchen credentials are impeccable as prior to his stints at E’cco Bistro and Spirit House he was Stagier at the 1 Michelin starred restaurant- Bo Lan in Bangkok. He opened another of my favourites- Chop Chop Changs with consultant Paul Bain and was Sous Chef at Maze and Maze Grill by the one and only Gordon Ramsay.
All of these amazing experiences have ensured that Chef Swapp is a culinary all – rounder who describes his cuisine as, “ seasonal, eye catching and considerate.”
His vision for Pony Dining is , “ To focus on being consistent, serving dishes that look and taste great and are produce driven, with a focus as always on local flavours and building a creative and sustainable kitchen culture. My dream is to take Pony to its first Chef’s Hat! “
Did I mention that affable Tom is also a devoted Dad and all round good bloke?
So what did we eat? Well, let me tell you it was more than just a taste!
To start Tom whipped up some moreish sourdough with a caramelised and smoked butter, served with glistening, fat olives and a glass of champagne. Our palates were soon ready for the feast to come.
Starters to share included beetroot cured kingfish, smoked creme fraiche, dragon fruit, wild rice and my favourite dish of the night- Zucchini Salad. This dish sang Spring on a plate with goats curd, pickled zucchini, broad beans, smoked almond and green olives.
For the seafood lovers fat, grilled king prawns were next with macadamia, saltbush and fermented chilli emulsion. Chef paired the entrées with a delicious Alsace “ Hugel” Riesling which was super dry boasting a tangy citrus flavour with hints of honey. I’m calling it now, for me , this year will be the summer of Riesling.
In our party of eight there was a fifty/ fifty divide over which was our favourite main course. For me you just can’t go past a great lamb dish in Spring and Chef Tom agreed that his lamb was one of the most popular dishes on the menu. We savoured lamb rump with smoked chickpea, watercress purée, anchovy cream and hazelnuts. The smoky Angus flank with muntries, cabbage, smoked beetroot and red wine sauce was a carnivore’s delight. Pony has long been known for its meaty fare and tonight’s options were sensational.
Seasonal sides added to the fresh and local quality of the meal and we all enjoyed the wood fire asparagus, confit yolk, cured yolk, sheep’s yoghurt and sunflower. The freshest of heirloom tomatoes, pickle shallot, fennel pollen and tomato consommé added freshness and sunshine. We were served a full bodied red to accompany our meaty feast.
Two yummy and well balanced desserts were on offer to finish. First was the quintessential Queenslander, an ode to our strawberry farmers, an offering overflowing with QLD strawberries, pink peppercorn meringue, strawberry sorbet and buttermilk gel. This delicious dessert is probably one that most people couldn’t go past. Second was the most controversial dish of the night – yuzu and mint granita, green apple, cucumber, finger lime and smoked yogurt. It came with a surprising sprinkle of dill.
A citrus and not too sweet lover like me loved it but the sweet tooths at the table preferred dish number one. Chef you had me at Yuzu! I have enjoyed many delicious and inventive desserts like this in New Zealand and Asia and the Yuzu Margarita at Libertine is a favourite. I loved the coolness of this dish and the balance of flavours melded beautifully.
For a produce driven and fresh new menu head along this Spring/ Summer to Pony Dining, upstairs at Eagle Street Pier. Pony has a quirky and handsome fit out with views to die for and this is one Brisbane Restaurant which is sure to cross the finish line first every time. Chef Swapp is bringing his years of experience to take diners on a flavour filled journey which begins when you enter and smell the heady wood fired aroma and see the theatre of chef and his team working their magic in the kitchen. For dining that is sophisticated yet cool and a little on the irreverent side giddy up to Pony.