Review: Les Bubbles

by - March 09, 2016

It was always my intention with this blog to transform it into a bit of a city guide that would grow and grow as I explored my adopted city of Brisbane. But, as you may have read, the whole ‘settling in’ thing hasn't quite gone to plan and I'm ashamed to say my blog ended up an early casualty of the move while I tried to piece my new life together.

Things are starting to look up though, I'm beginning to feel more comfortable in my new town and I’m finally getting out and about to some of the places that have been on my radar for a while.

One of these is the Damian Griffiths-owned Les Bubbles - a restaurant that specialises in one of my favourite dishes of all time, steak frites; in fact that’s all they serve. The fact Les Bubbles is a one-dish establishment means you kind of expect it be pretty good. After all, if you’re only cooking one thing, you better be good at it.

Les Bubbles is housed in a building notorious in Brisbane’s underground history. Once a sleazy bathhouse and casino, it was the at the centre of the Fitzgerald inquiry into Queensland Police Corruption in the late 1980s.

The notorious Bubbles bathhouse and brothel on Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley
And what the building looks like today.
The inquiry resulted in the deposition of a premier, two by-elections, the jailing of three former ministers and a police commissioner who was jailed and lost his knighthood. It also led directly to the end of the National Party of Australia's 32-year run as the governing political party in Queensland.

Today, Fortitude Valley, is a very different part of the city than it was thirty years ago. A little like Darlinghurst in Sydney, the area has been cleaned up and is now home to some of Brisbane’s most talked about eateries and bars. This is thanks, in part, to Griffiths who has made no secret of his intention to attract a different kind of demographic to the suburb.

But Les Bubbles isn't ashamed of it’s shady past, in fact it embraces it with a cheeky neon sign taking pride of place in the dining room and a host of black and white photos of the venue’s previous life jostling for space above the tables. On the outside of the building a sign proudly proclaims "Quality meat served here since 1982'.

Downstairs, the fully-tiled Bathhouse Bar still has a 15-person spa bath in one corner (and a strategically-placed pile of towels) for customers who are feeling particularly brave.

But back to the food, the steak comes with a choice of three sauces and bottomless fries (that’s BOTTOMLESS fries ladies and gentlemen). It’s preceded by a tasty salad served with a tangy vinaigrette and walnuts and a basket of bread for the table.

You don’t get to choose your steak cut and, unless you specify otherwise, it comes served medium rare which suited me and my dining companion perfectly. The serving size is huge so even though the promise of bottomless fries was one of the main things that put Les Bubbles on my radar, we didn't need to take our waitress up on her offer.

I chose the Cafe De Paris sauce which is a butter-based concoction with notes of garlic and Dijon mustard while my companion chose the restaurant’s signature sauce - green peppercorn and cognac. Both were thick and flavourful and tasted just as good with our steaks as they did when we dipped in our fries (or in my case, my finger).

Our steaks were juicy with a good amount of char while the fries were super-crispy which suited my tastes perfectly. We opted out of dessert but the French-inspired list of eight options including Chocolate Fondant and Crepes was very tempting.

Last week, Griffiths announced his plans to sell his interests in Limes Hotel, Alfred & Constance, Alfredo’s Pizzeria and Kwan Brothers, leaving Les Bubbles as his flagship eat-in food venue in the Valley. His plans are to expand his Doughnut Time and Mister Fitz franchises and concentrate on reinvigorating the real estate around Les Bubbles.

If you're a fan of good steak, a trip to Les Bubbles is definitely worth it and, at $29.90, the price beats a lot of pub grub offerings around town too.

Les Bubbles
144 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3251 6555

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