There’s so much you want to hate about Gauge. It’s so pretentious and it’s so industrial — I mean no phone number, no signage and no concession to Brisbane winters. But then you eat the food — dammit it, it was the best breakfast we’ve had in Brisbane.
First the good news, it’s easy to get to it — you can bike or walk or take public transport (Gauge is located just opposite the Queensland Museum). The food is innovative (overused, I know, but I’m fresh outta words), it’s comforting (on a bloody cold Wednesday morning) and the staff are attentive (given that their wee blue hands tell the story of concrete floors and open doors). The prices are exceptionally good value – most of the meals are under $20. Baring in mind, of course, that this is essentially a breakfast/brunch/lunch menu (opening hours are 7am to 3pm). We shared three meals to gauge (stop it) the extent of the menu — smoky kingfish, sourdough waffle, muesli. Each of them was a hit, though I’ll admit $13 for a plate of museli is a bit OTT. However, as partner reminded me, it probably counterbalances the reasonable prices for the other dishes.
The smoky kingfish was a revelation to my unwilling dining companion. He’s not a smoked fish eater, nor is he into poofy stuff. But he was delighted with the theatre of this dish: hidden under a snow-like blanket of frothy white and micro-herbs oozed a gooey, maize-coloured yolk. Yep, he’d struck egg-gold. And, like a kid, he was overly pleased with the dish from then on: it’s a multilayered item that keeps on giving. Under the forest of micro-herbs (parsley and curry leaves), and below the egg white and egg yolk, is a parsley puree. Put a little of the delicately smoked fish, egg and barley on your fork and you’ve got a taste sensation worthy of an INXS song. Don’t forget to include the pearl barley — it’s subtler than Don Draper and just as nuanced.
We shared the oat bircher muesli with seasonal fruits and though I thought it overpriced, the fruit is seasonal, the yoghurt fresh and zesty, and the nuts add chew; honeycomb nuggets counterbalance the passionfruit pulp and the yoghurt zing. It’s a dish recognisable to anyone who’s had a continental breakfast in Denmark, Norway or Sweden.
Finally, we splashed out on the sourdough waffle. No regrets here. Wee dollops of artichoke custard, sugared almonds, and toasty artichoke leaves (dusted with sugar). Each flavour survived on the plate — I couldn’t easily eat more waffles but I could easily order more waffles.
I’m sure there’s plenty more to say about the owner and chefs but, to be honest, I think their food says it all. Loved their minimalist menu, the café’s clever and enigmatic title and the chirpy, but not annoying, wait staff. Gauge does it right — well considered food, reasonably priced overall, served on time by pleasant stuff. The rest is mere bagatelle.
And chef puffery.
Oh, and don’t forget you cannot book or phone or track down a website. Frankly, while it’s personally frustrating, does a place serving great food need these fripperies?
Words by Toni Johnson-Woods | Images by Tahlia Moloney