We recently headed into Brisbane CBD with good friends for a relaxed weekend lunch. The area along the river is packed with restaurants of all styles and price points and on a sunny day, which lets be honest is most days in Queensland, it really is a stunning outlook.
We were in the mood for Asian cuisine so thought we’d try out Madame Wu which inexplicably hadn’t made it to the top of our list until now. The location is top-notch with a massive covered balcony area boasting extensive views out over the river and down to the Story Bridge.
The decor is modern and we chose to sit out in the fresh air to enjoy the summer day and appreciate the view. The seating was comfortable enough for an extended afternoon and the tables were big enough to cater for share platters. Inside was pleasantly air-conditioned with a modern style creatively carving the space into several distinct areas.
We did notice that it was quite loud inside even though it wasn’t at capacity over lunch. The interior set-up had plenty of windows and stylish cocktail bar seating towards the front with views of the river or city lights in the evening. Further back it was a little more intimate and there was an area set aside to cater for a larger group.
The menu offers plenty of variety that I would describe as higher-end Asian fusion. There wasn’t anything we didn’t like the look of from the menu and we all wanted to try a variety so we choose between the banquet options.
We had been warned that the lunch menu version was a little on the small side so opted for one from the main menu. The menu offers two banquets priced at $65 and $85 per head. We went with the first option as one of our group didn’t eat shellfish but both options sounded and looked exceptionally good.
The wine menu was a little pricey but offered reasonable variety to pair with the foods on offer and most tastes. The only downside was that the wait staff insist on taking your bottle away from the table to a central area and we found it could be a bit difficult to get someones attention to get glasses topped up. I do prefer to have an open bottle left where I can see it but it seems to be increasingly common in Brisbane at least to have them taken away and fetched for a refill.
Review of Madame Wu banquet
Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos, I had no camera in my handbag so they were taken on the iPhone which is never a good thing, especially sorry if you’re on a retina display.
The first dish out was the smoked trout, fennel, green chilli mayonnaise and fennel. Technically a salad but I enjoyed the flavour profile of the dish, the dressing wasn’t applied too heavily and the crunch of the fried scallions was delicious. Definitely a good start.
Always a big fan of dumplings I was super excited when these pretty parcels came to the table. Steamed pork dumplings laying on a bed of corn puree, they’re topped with chopped fresh herbs and chinese black vinegar. They tasted every bit as good as they looked, I could have done with a plate of these to myself.
Tang sui chicken ribs came out next. Fried food isn’t usually my jam regardless of the cuisine but the wings were juicy and tasty with a solid crunch. The men at the table were particularly enthusiastic. I’d have to say that tang sui sauce with its touch of sweet was pretty darned good.
With a good lashing of XO sauce and touch of lime the Morton Bay bug dumplings were a taste sensation but the bug aspect was slightly overpowered by the more dominant flavours. Still exceptionally good and perfectly steamed.
The Guilin style Piyu Yu (beer fish) was snapper in Tsingtao beer. I was surprised at the strong fishy taste to the snapper which is normally quite understated. This wasn’t our favourite course of the menu and I would have preferred a slightly milder fish to showcase the style and flavours from the beer because that sauce was on point.
Both the vegetable dishes were perfectly cooked. The stir-fried wok greens were topped with Madam Wu house-made oyster sauce (how much would I love that recipe!) and crispy shallots while the steamed butternut pumpkin with yellow bean dressing was equally good with roasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of texture and freshly chopped herbs.
The crispy tea salted duck with king brown mushrooms, taro cake, soy and black vinegar was my stand out dish. Very interesting and unusual presentation and I’m always a sucker for duck in it’s various forms.
Others at the table preferred the beef cheeks braised in rock sugar and soy with black bean and chilli sauce. They were full of flavour and gelatinous and fell apart at the slightest suggestion of an implement moving towards them.
And finally to finish, a sweet-tasting platter. The dishes clockwise from the top are:
- Mascarpone panacotta, rosella and sesame snap
- Crunch nut cornflake with milk ice cream and strawberries
- Cold pear, chocolate and gingerbread crumble with honeyed cream
- Steamed white chocolate and green tea bun with green tea icecream.
All individually very good and hard to pick a favourite. I didn’t really need dessert but the combination of tastes and textures on the tasting plate are definitely the way to go.
Aside form the minor issue with getting the wine poured the service was OK but nothing standout. Orders were taken and delivered in a reasonable time and there was nothing wrong with the service although staff were a little abrupt given they weren’t unusually busy. It wouldn’t stop me going back but it could be improved to bring it the experience into line with the food and setting.
Overall Madame Wu is an excellent example of Asian fusion dining at its best in an exquisite location on the Brisbane river. The food is prepared with precision and balance, I’m convinced it would be difficult to make a bad choice from their menu. If you’re visiting Brisbane this is a beautiful location to enjoy the best of the city right on the river. If you’re local and hanging out for the tastes of Asia done exceptionally well, this could be it. The price is at the higher end for both food and wine, propped up partially I’m sure by the prime location but well worth a visit to judge for yourself.
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We really enjoyed our meal and afternoon spent overlooking the river and that’s reflected in our review of Madame Wu. Great company and conversation can never be totally separated from the dining experience so everyone’s experience will be a little different. We’d love to hear your own experience in the comments below or recommendations for other great Asian style restaurants in Brisbane or your own city?