Rekindle the Spark at Herbert

Image source: Contributed

Herbert is a hero of creative and flavourful plant-centric cuisine, crafted cocktails and friendly service and while some dishes are definitely here to stay, the change of season brings some new flavours to warm the heart, as Deb Caruso discovers.

Since opening just over 18 months ago, Herbert has helped us all embrace plant-centric cuisine with hero dishes designed for sharing.

Some of the favourites include the delightful Herbert Dip – Smoked sweetcorn with almond, chive, chilli and rice crackers; while the Roast broccoli with spiced dhal puree, confit shallot and green chilli, coconut pachadi and puffed buckwheat has elevated broccoli from being much more than a side dish. 

The Charred roast carrots in harissa, rye and pistachio granola with garlic love and curry leaf oil are a winner every time and according to Herbert co-owner Leon Johnston, they’re one of the most popular dishes – and a firm favourite of well-known Australian food icon Maggie Beer who told Leon it was “a perfectly balanced dish”.

“She said we should never touch it,” Leon recalls. “We don’t want to anger the food Gods by going against their will. So when Maggie says keep it, it stays.”

The Charred cabbage with sesame brown butter, miso caramel, furikake and hazelnuts might be gone for the moment but I suggest we all get in there and demand its return!

If you’re looking for something meatier, you can’t go past the Crispy oyster mushrooms with coconut riata, kimchi, carrot emulsion and coriander oil; or, more literally, the Smoked beef brisket, fresh corn polenta, salsa verde, salsa taquera, yoghurt, mango and pickled eschalot.

For winter, you can expect a few changes, including the addition of more protein dishes as Leon said they’ve found it necessary to head a little bit more towards the centre rather than fully towards the vegan, vegetarian side.

“Our menu won’t change too much but we’ll deepen our protein offer for the meat lovers,” he said. “We’re looking at ingredients we can get from nearby, such as Mooloolaba King Prawns. 

“They’re meaty prawns that are cooked over Binchotan (Japanese charcoal) and basted with Cafreal, which is a Portuguese classic green masala spice mix; and served with cucumber noodles and a deliciously-savoury spiced coconut emulsion on the bottom balances the dish perfectly.”

Another new dish Leon is excited about is a Peruvian-style ceviche in honour of South American chef Luis.

“We use local Gold Band snapper and it’s prepared the Peruvian way with Tigers Milk, which is fish stock, raw garlic, raw ginger and celery juice and a little bit of lime; so it’s lighter on the acid to allow the freshness of the fish to come through.

Leon has Herbert-ised the dish with the addition of candied persimmons.

“I wanted to add in a local and seasonal twist and Persimmons are in season at the moment so I had the idea to candy them and add them to the dish for a little sweet pop,” Leon says. 

“Chef hated it because the dish was really traditional and then I changed it: ‘The Peruvians have been wrong for 500 years Leon?’ he asked me. Apparently.”

Make sure you try it and tell Leon what you think.  

“So there’s a couple of seafood options and we’ll also make sure there is something big and rich and warm and hearty, particularly for wintertime,” he said. “Think slow braised meats like ribs; cold weather dishes that are cooked long and slow and hearty; a variation on the Herbert favourites, such as the brisket, something with a Mexican flavour.

“The menu is ever evolving to suit the seasons and what we can get from local suppliers. There will be some entirely new dishes including new vegan and vegetarian options.”

It’s always nice to end on a sweet note and Herbert offers some of the best. It’s a tough decision so I recommend getting both the Chocolate and avocado cream with maple, candied cacao, berries, mint and lime; as well as the Lemon Myrtle and cashew cremeux, Yuzu gel, Davidson Plum and meringue. 

Keep an eye out for a winter pudding, something Leon says will be “warm and sticky and delicious.” 

Cocktail-wise, Pickle Rick demands our attention with the Pickle Rick tiki glass filled with pickle-infused Henricks Gin, cucumber juice, dill and citrus, it’s tiki but with a Herbert twist. Lovers of cult TV show “Rick & Morty will literally get it and regardless, everyone will love it!

Leon said the inspiration came from Alex who found the tiki cups and just had to create a drink for them. 

“The response has certainly been attention-drawing,” he said “It’a bit incongruous in the room but it’s all about having fun.”

Campbell in the Black Sea remains but we’re sure there’s another iteration of the Campbell series in the works; and the Kusama cocktail with gin, juniper, quinine, lemon, basil and chorizo oil is sure to be a conversation starter.

“Smells like chorizo, tastes like delicious,” is how Leon describes it. 

“It’s a 21 million year old fashioned that’s got old amber infusing in it; possibly with the DNA of dinosaur mosquitoes.”

One thing that is guaranteed is that Herbert is never dull! 

Herbert is perfect for intimate dinners, group gatherings or private functions. 

And while the menu may change and evolve, the warm, welcoming and witty personality of this establishment remains.

 Grab your friends and get in there!

About the Author /

Deb has 25+ years' experience providing strategic communications and brand reputation advice to clients in the government, business and not-for-profit clients. She is passionate about Noosa and is an active member of her community, providing PR to Slow Food Noosa and other clients. Her passion lies in working with small businesses to help them succeed. She is planning to release the Tastes of Noosa cookbook with Matt Golinski in 2019.

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