We started dining at e’cco bistro as young newlyweds, not long after Philip Johnson’s iconic restaurant opened in the CBD, and it has remained one of our favourites for more than 25 years. We were a little sad when the restaurant moved from its original century-old tea warehouse in the CBD to its modern home in Newstead, but we have grown to love the new venue and still think of this restaurant as our beloved ‘local’ even though we now have to travel across town to dine here.
The first thing we always notice in this contemporary dining space is the delicious smoky aromas from the Scheer Parilla grill that greets us the moment we step inside. The grill was shipped over from South America and is the driving force behind the menu which offers a more progressive style of dining with a focus on coal-grilled meats and vegetables.
Unlike the original e’cco bistro, which was housed in a historic building, the Newstead restaurant and its kitchen has been purpose-built for the restaurant. Owner Philip Johnson hasn’t missed a thing in the large open-plan space, especially in the state-of-the-art kitchen. We love watching the chefs as we wait in eager anticipation for each delicious course.
The main dining room seats 65 and is a light and bright multi-space affair, with a secluded sunken dining area for up to 12 diners partially hidden behind sheer curtains. There’s also bar seating and an eight-seat chef’s bench, which provides a bird’s eye view of the kitchen. If you’re dining solo, you’ll get dinner and a show from a seat at the bar. Solo corporate diners take note: this restaurant should be at the top of your list if you’re visiting Brisbane and feel like stepping out for a meal.
In the past, we mostly saved our visits to e’cco bistro for special occasions such as birthdays or wedding anniversaries. But these days we’re dining out more frequently, and also prefer locally sourced and sustainable food. E’cco has always been ahead of the game when it comes to this, and it’s one of the things we love about dining here. We dropped in for a mid week meal recently, and the maître ‘d had us seated with menus and sparkling water in moments.
An a la carte menu is available from Wednesdays to Fridays, but we were sold on the choice of a chef’s tasting selection with either four or five courses and opted for five. There are separate vegan and vegetarian menus if you have dietary requirements. There’s also an option for wine matching with Australian or world wines. We decided to take a vinous trip around the globe and were glad we did.
One thing that hasn’t changed over time is the service which, as always, was excellent. Even if you’re an experienced diner, it pays to ask the waitstaff for guidance. We perused the five course tasting menu that incorporated some of the a la carte selections. Handy if you find a favourite dish and want to return to eat the full-size version from the main menu (like the delicious duck!).
Our tasting menu was packed with highlights like Yellowtail kingfish with ricotta, cucumber, basil and Davidson plum, e’cco classic potato gnocchi, and an aged duck breast with beetroot. I could have easily eaten a dish of the refreshing sorbet that was served with the pre-dessert. This was followed by the ‘real’ dessert featuring poached rhubarb served with matcha and pistachio sable. As with most degustation menus, some items like the potato gnocchi and duck were sublime while others weren’t our cup of tea, like the rather chewy rhubarb.
The wine pairing was impressive, with not a dud wine to be had and the generous pours had a glad that we had decided to take an Uber to and from the restaurant. If you would prefer to order a glass or a bottle of wine, the list showcases a boutique selection of Australian winemakers offering some new wines as well as classic international wines. Overall, our trip to e’cco bistro proved that this restaurant continues to be a Brisbane dining institution that has stood the test of time. Long may its great food and service continue.
Disclosure: The writers dined as guests of e’cco bistro and are already planning a return visit at their own expense.
If you’re looking for accommodation in Brisbane, we have reviewed the Treasury Hotel, The Calile, Ovolo The Valley, W Brisbane, Capri by Fraser Brisbane, Hilton Brisbane, The Johnson, NEXT Hotel Brisbane, Sage Hotel James Street, The Westin Brisbane, Oaks Brisbane Festival Suites, Royal on the Park, Ibis Styles Elizabeth Street, Sofitel Brisbane, Crystalbrook Vincent, The Inchcolm by Ovolo, Alex Perry Hotel & Apartments, and Pullman Brisbane Airport.