My quest to cover the majority of Brisbane whilst the international borders are nailed closed led me to Geebung in Brisbane’s northern suburbs. Yes, many have already switched off. Geebung isn’t as sexy as say, well it’s just not sexy, call it serviceable. That is in no slight on the hardworking and dear citizens of Geebung. If I didn’t think anything of the place I wouldn’t have travelled the five hours round trip (more on that later) to experience its wares. Now Geebung on a Saturday night only has a handful of places open. There is the RSL which from the outside seems to act as the main drawcard in town, the BWS which shuts at a ridiculous 7:00pm and the two places I visited. Quality over quantity is what the outer suburbs do better than their inner city counterparts.
Geebung is divided by the railway line. On one side we have Hub Brewing, a boutique craft brewer that has found a home amongst the industrial area of town. I was fortunate enough to befriend a local who was a nurse. If the “wrong side of the tracks” adage rings true I am sure she would be able to tend to wounds. Not that anything of that nature would happen judging by the community vibe of Hub Brewing. A coolish night near closing time was perfect spot for a pre dinner drink, listening to a local rehash some acoustic staples. A food truck is parked up amongst the outdoor seating area serving up Filipino food for those that are peckish. Let’s face it, you can’t drink on an empty stomach. For anybody in a ten kilometre radius, this would be the ideal setting for a Sunday session – a few glasses of suds and then head home to zonk out of the couch in front of a movie that is being repeated on TV for the umpteenth time.
You can have the nicest setting and great weather but if the beers taste like backyard pool water it doesn’t mean a thing. However the beers we sampled at Hub were more than reasonable, to the point where I was cursing the drink driving laws and their 8:00pm closing time, I could have easily drank more of their “Chocco Rox” chocolate porter. Think two parts beer, two parts chocolate, one part coffee and you get somewhat of an idea of the taste. Delicious. My friend who “doesn’t really like beer” had one and it may have changed her impression and her future. Her homework is to try their range and give a detailed report back to the website as I think a repeat visit is in order.
The restaurant for dinner was near the RSL meaning we had to scale the various stairs and lifts to get to cross the train tracks. A Sri Lankan restaurant, Ayubowan by Colombo Foodies. My recent fascination with Sri Lankan food was due to a work colleague who on a monthly basis dishes up a Sri Lankan for all those in the office. Though I haven’t tasted them yet I have heard endless love stories of unheard delights such as String Hoppers and Watalappan. My early interactions with Sri Lankan culture came via the summer cricket coverage as a child. In the 1980’s I remember that Sri Lanka was a small country and their players always seemed happy and smiling. Judging by the food they would have been munching on, it is no wonder.
The strange trading hours in Geebung meant that we performed an unwanted miracle, our expected wine turned into tap water due to BWS early closing time. I had read online that there was a 5 course banquet but for some reason, this Saturday was an a la carte affair. This meant that a few decisions had to be made with the menu feels like it was translated by a smart phone with a dying battery. T’was fun trying to work out what the mysterious words were. Sure you could ask or use your own technology but that takes the fun out of the equation. The one thing that jumped out was the roti, the famous flatbread. Rotis are like the Sri Lankan people, I have never met one that I didn’t like.
We start with the Chicken Tacos. In their defense they did mention the “s” was there for decoration only, there was only a singe taco per serve. I don’t know what possessed us to order a taco at a Sri Lankan restaurant, let alone two? We were greeted with the toppings on not a tortilla, rather the love child of a pizza base and a slab of Salada crackers. The base made it near impossible to cut, my knife sent fragments of garnish and chicken onto nearby tables while the rest of the projectiles rested on the floor. Given the sheer quantity of food to follow this was surplus to requirements but tasty none the less.
The popular street food, chicken kottu roti comes out after escaping a mould and sporting a fascinator of sprouts (ladies, a timely reminder that the Spring Carnival is just around the corner). However it was missing the vital roti, where is that beautiful sheet of carbs? If it was there I would have used it to manufacture a wrap or sandwich of some description. It was later explained to me by my Sri Lankan workmate that the roti is sliced up and incorporated in the mound. That explains the “tasty cabbage” that I was chewing on that night.
The procession continued, a vegetable curry came out followed by a plate that contained some weird and wonderful options. A stack of noodles came out that seemed to have gone through a loom, the end result being a palm sized net of noodles While looking very elegant it was still porous and curry isn’t viscous. The noodle equivalent of wearing a tuxedo to a working bee. At the end of the day they were still rice noodles so they more than did the job on the taste front. You can’t have a Sri Lankan feast without coconut sambal, the spicy coconut and chilli condiment. There needs to be an urgent Act passed in Canberra to incorporate more coconut sambal into Western cooking. The vegetable curry was the victor in “the trilogy of curry”. Packed with spices I considering switching to vegetarianism for a split second.
The rest of the public had followed the pattern of the evening by finishing up at 7:45pm. Didn’t they realise that it’s not a school night, you can stay up forever on a Saturday? Thankfully there was still enough supplies out the back to orchestrate a winning dessert. A crème brulee and half (I don’t know what fate the other half met) a chocolate ganache tart. Are they traditional? No idea, but they didn’t last long on the plate. Another plate appeared, showcasing the traditional Sri Lankan sweet, watalappan. Utilising a prominent unprocessed cane sugar, jaggery, this is mixed with eggs and other ingredients and then baked. My nurse friend described it perfectly, “a brown sugar frittata”. This is the reason they call desserts, “sweets”. I get a cavity in my left wisdom teeth just thinking about what we ate that night.
For the early birds they also dish up breakfast on Sundays, showing it’s going to take more than a worldwide pandemic to end the breakfast buffet.
And as I walked my dining friend to her car, parked strategically outside the bottle shop there was a
Mexican Indian standoff of sorts. A taxi rips around the corner and then decides to park in the middle of the road on a blind curve, parking in my friend. It was one of those environmentally friendly taxis, if they weren’t going to move I sure the two of us could have pushed it away or tipped it over. This didn’t eventuate, crisis averted – a couple of strange looks in his direction and he decided to drive off after a lengthy pause. Us left scratching our heads. Then another come and park right next to her car when there are twenty others to choose from. The family must have been either searching for the salvation of the bottle shop or getting in early for the Sunday trade of the St Vinnies outlet next store? Time for her to get in the car safely and me to find my car and head back to Toowoomba. Is it a full moon tonight?
The trip home took longer than expected due to the normal route along Milton Road being shut due to the Rugby Union at Lang Park. Ended up getting funneled past the Wally Lewis statue, swamped in the crowd who were trying to cross to road to the Paddington bars. Crossing wherever they wanted they were setting off the front and rear sensors of my car simultaneously, causing a shrill that had every dog from Toowong to Bardon howling in unison. Hard to believe Brisbane traffic is still frustrating at 9:30pm, if you know of a town planner tell them to have a good long hard look in the mirror.
As the saying goes, “Never judge a Northern Brisbane suburb without first trying its Sri Lankan food and beer options.” Now to head to the store and see if I can get some ingredients and replicate that sambal? If not I will have to put it on the wishlist for the next monthly work feast.
Drinks: Hub Brewing (Craft Brewery), Geebung
Dinner: Ayubowan by Columbo Foodies (Sri Lankan), Geebung