Maeve: Hiding in Plain Sight

I couldn’t say how many times I have walked past the doorway without even noticing it, and it’s never appeared in a Google search of restaurants in South Brisbane, so it was only when a friend asked if I’d been there that I discovered Maeve Wine Bar. I thought it must have been new, but when I asked the waiter, she said they’d just had their third birthday. I need to lift my local dining game!

Obviously plenty of other people know about Maeve because it’s not easy to get a table, but on Saturday night we managed to get two seats at the bar.

Maeve is located in a ninety-six-year-old building that was formerly a bank, on the corner of Melbourne and Grey streets near the dining precinct of Fish Lane. The space is dominated by Starbucks, and although they have an unmissable sign on the street, Maeve was denied permission by the council. Something to do with the building’s heritage listing. It’s the same reason they were denied permission to install a lift, which is a problem for anyone with a disability, because the only way to Maeve is up a staircase to the first floor.

Sticking with my usual go-to white wine, I ordered a glass of Pinot Gris. “Have you had a skin contact pinot before?” the waiter asked. I hadn’t. Actually I had no idea what they were talking about. “It’s pink and a little spicy. How about I give you a taste first?” It was pink and, frankly, tasted like a rosé, but was delicious. Pinot? Rosé? I didn’t care. It was from somewhere in NSW, I liked it, I drank it.

First up, fresh oysters from Tasmania, served au natural with a wedge of lemon and their own tiny bottle of Tabasco. Next, chicken liver parfait served on a perfect rectangle of toasted focaccia with a citrus gel. We almost ordered one each, but the waiter warned us it was quite rich so maybe we should start with just one. I could have happily eaten half a dozen, but we halved the one serve and I used my finger to clean the plate.

Next, Saganaki, a Greek cheese like halloumi, with fermented garlic honey and oregano. We were given bread to mop up the liquid. Rich, sweet, aromatic, cheesy. Divine! This was followed by Hiramasa Kingfish, King Brown mushroom, and an improbable puree of capers and raisins. The fish was meltingly fresh and perfectly cooked. The mushroom was a little chewy, but again I used my finger to make sure none of that strange puree was left. This was accompanied by a Caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes, stracciatella, basil and pickled garlic. Fresh, tomatoey, and creamy.

There were just two choices for dessert: a crème caramel and a chocolate tart. I chose the crème caramel to which had been added sweet vermouth, giving the caramel sauce depth and a slight tang. It was a dish of silky, blissful delicacy.

My husband ordered his usual after-dinner long black coffee, only to be told there was no espresso machine. One of the other problems with a heritage-listed building is the wiring. I mean, electricity, don’t you just turn things on and they work? I guess in the “olden days” there weren’t as many things to turn on. For whatever reason, there isn’t enough electricity to stretch to operating an espresso machine. And yet, downstairs is Starbucks…

Anyway Maeve, your secret is out.

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