The Italian job: Ben O’Donoghue to helm Valley’s new steak restaurant Establishment 203

This November, Fortitude Valley will welcome a brand-new restaurant that’s looking to take paddock-to-plate dining to its peak. Establishment 203 will see a top-flight chef bring the best out of premium Queensland-sourced protein, served alongside Italian-style pasta dishes and a wine list flush with rare Italian reds. Here’s what we know …

While a sample size of two isn’t necessarily enough to establish a definite trend, the recent transformations of a pair of once-iconic Fortitude Valley nightclubs into upscale dining destinations hasn’t gone unnoticed. A few months ago The GPO unveiled the results of a substantial rejuvenation process, which included the launch of its high-end eatery TAMA. In November, 621 Ann Street – a site familiar to late-2000s and early 2010s club goers as the home of Monastery and Oh Hello – will officially become Establishment 203, a luxe restaurant with a Euro lean.

Owned and envisioned by a generational cattle-farming family boasting Italian heritage, Establishment 203 will serve some of Queensland’s best beef alongside traditional Italian pastas. The fit-out is underway, which will look to create a sense of elevated refinement that’s softened by an approachable, fun-focused atmosphere. Guests will be able to slot into booths and watch the action unfold in comfort, with lighting and styling from Tamsin Johnson adding distinctive elements right down to the little details.

At the helm of the Establishment 203 kitchen is Ben O’Donoghue, a renowned culinary figure famous in Brisbane for founding cafe institution Billykart Kitchen. Here, Ben is being given free rein to steer the menu in a direction of his liking and, so far, he’s relishing the prospect of utilising the best produce Queensland has to offer.

“When I heard about the project – the opportunity work within a business that is so vertically integrated, from the growing of the produce right through to the processing and then the final quality control of the ageing – I thought being able to immerse myself in that and then bring it to plate, was pretty exciting,” Ben says. At Establishment 203, Ben will be wielding kitchen technology that mixes the best of old and modern cooking.

Anchoring the restaurant’s culinary engine room will be a Michelin-quality MKN induction cooking suite, a Ferrari-like piece of gear that will be the first of its kind in Queensland. The kitchen will also feature a large woodfired Mibrasa parrilla and charcoal oven, which will use Gidgee wood charcoal (sourced sustainably from North Queensland cattle properties) to impart a unique flavour on each flame-caressed morsel.

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As for the menu itself, beef will undoubtedly be the star. Expect eight to ten cuts – including four on-the-bone options – to be available at any one time. “There’ll be some signature Italian styles like bistecca alla Fiorentina, tomahawks, sirloins on the bone, rib fillet on the bone,” says Ben of Establishment 203’s steak offering, which will be backed by a suite of generously portioned pasta dishes.

“We’ll have a combination of filled pastas – from cappelletti to agnolotti and ravioli – some hard pastas and some fresh extruded pastas as well. One feature will definitely be a lobster-based, aglio olio e limone, which will be really fresh and vibrant.” The steak and pasta assortment will be supplemented with well-sourced seafood, poultry and game from across Queensland and Australia.

The restaurant’s beverage menu will include a solid Italian-leaning wine list (featuring some rare reds), Brisbane craft beers and a collection of trademark cocktails. If the culinary talent, high-quality produce and world-class amenities aren’t enough of an indication, the Establishment 203 team is vocal about its goals. The crew has admitted that breaking into the ranks of the top 100 steak restaurants in the world is a benchmark it will strive for, which can only mean good things for Brisbane diners.

Establishment 203 is on track for a mid-November opening, with bookings expected to launch in October. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.

This article was written by James Frostick from The Weekend Edition. 

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