Asian flavours of Brisbane at Spicer’s Intimate Urban Retreat

The Balfour Kitchen & Bar at Spicers Balfour Hotel is a dining experience in harmony with its leafy, heritage streetscape and the bounty of the Brisbane region. Under the leadership of new Head Chef Lachlan Horstman, Balfour offers award-winning modern Asian dining in an expansive, elegant Queenslander. Guests can sit either inside or alfresco on the veranda or leafy courtyard, and enjoy drinks before or after in the hidden gem of a rooftop bar.

Horstman showcases sustainably sourced seafood, ethically farmed meats and hero vegetables with beautifully balanced Asian aromas and the distinctive sweet, hot, sour, salty flavour of Vietnamese cuisine. While respecting the traditions of French and Asian cuisines, he brings an edgy and stylish flair to the fusion.

Rising from The Balfour Kitchen & Bar sous chef in mid-2019, Horstman has helped Balfour achieve accolades including a Chef-Hat in the Australian Good Food Guide and the Reader’s Choice Award for Vietnamese; and Best Asian Restaurant in the 2020 Queensland and Northern Territory Restaurant & Catering HostPlus Awards for Excellence.

Best local produce, modern Vietnamese flavour

Spicers Balfour Hotel is only one of two Spicers Retreats that bring their signature emphasis on locally sourced produce and naturally sustainable practices to an urban landscape (the other is Spicers Potts Point in Sydney), with the same sense of place and connection to the local environment, complete with roof top garden, green waste recycling and beehives.

“The dishes I enjoyed creating the most are ones which play a little twist on classics, those dishes people know so well but don’t expect to taste, such as the octopus with cassia and anise crème, katsuobushi, finger lime, lonza and micro coriander. It has many of the essential elements of Takoyaki, but with a colourful and balanced Vietnamese twist.”

“Our pho spiced brisket with shao hsing jus, jackfruit, cabbage, bean sprouts, mixed herbs and bone marrow butter is the classic dish at a different level. I really enjoy heading out to Inala or Sunnybank to hit up some great authentic pho after a night out, and our pho has all the flavours of what you would expect from a great bowl of pho, but in a completely different format.”

Horstman’s cuisine balances produce from small scale, quality focussed producers and lean, more humble cuts of meats with premium local seafood and Vietnamese flavours to create flavourful dishes, which are delicate, but deep and rich.

“I do a lot of slow cooking, roasting and cooking with fire,” says Horstman, “I love the influence of wood smoke and charcoal, and making the most of the primal heat. For instance, we cook cabbages whole in the coals, they are effectively self-steaming in their own charred cocoon, and when cut open, the flesh inside is so sweet and juicy and full of flavour.”

“By using the exact same ingredients with a different cooking technique can change a dish’s flavour and texture dramatically, and still allow the ingredients to show their true flavours.”

With this in mind, at The Balfour Kitchen & Bar, aromatic whites and light red wine feature on the wine list, which is unashamedly focusses on Australian labels, but like Vietnamese cuisine, there is a strong French influence, and cameos from around the globe. Perrier-Jouet is Balfour’s Champagne house, and you’ll find plenty of crisp fragrant styles made from riesling and pinot gris, the minerality of Sancerre and Chablis, and careful selections of gamay, pinot noir and grenache blends for the lighter reds.

Working with nature

The Balfour Kitchen & Bar values the freshest ingredients, including citrus and herbs from a rooftop garden, and even maintain beehives on the property. Their food philosophy is to ‘keep it simple’ by making the actual produce the hero of the dish, and minimise wastage by allowing every part of an ingredient to play its role.

“For an event we sourced ocean trout from a sustainable fishery, and although the flesh, skin and pearls are the heroes, the frames were roasted then we added soy, sake, mirin and peppercorns to create a strong, intense flavour.”

Before coming to Spicers, Horstman spent nearly a year honing his seafood credentials as head chef at The Fish Factory in Morningside, Brisbane, the restaurant of the well-established wholesale providers to hospitality and the public.

One of Horstman’s favourite local suppliers is Thai Hoa, who provides Balfour with sensational fresh produce like green mangos and herbs from local farms around Inala and Boon Luck Organic Farm near Byron Bay.

“Any scraps go into a green compost, which we use in the rooftop garden or provide to local farmers, like the one we source our pineapples from. Our pineapples are picked later and therefore riper and sweeter. In our pineapple ice we use seconds, pineapples with blemishes or rough skins, which would not be acceptable to most shoppers.”

Inspiring young talent

Spicers give their chefs opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge, and Head Chef Lachlan Horstman says, “Balfour has a really warm, friendly and inclusive work atmosphere that is so rare, and I get to draw from the great experience and skill of the other chefs throughout the Spicers retreats.”

Horstman spent 2018 and 2017 as sous chef the high-profile The Summit Restaurant located at Mount Coot-tha, where he had completed his apprenticeship in 2016. He began his chef’s apprenticeship at Che Asado in Brisbane’s South Bank at the end of 2014, which specialise in chargrilled and woodfired steaks and all forms of meat and game.

“I learned valuable skills in breaking down of whole animals early on in my career at Che Asado. It opened my eyes to the gruelling demand of high-end, high-volume dining, but also the camaraderie created between colleagues.”

That sense of working together to produce great food, every day, started young for Horstman, who grew up with four siblings on acreage, miles from any takeaways. Horstman says, “My family played a huge part in my cooking development, as my parents were very good cooks and one of my sisters loves baking, and I learnt all that I could.”

“In my early days I drew inspiration from cookbooks by some great Australian chefs, like Thai Food by David Thompson, MoVida by Frank Camorra, Banc by Liam Tomlin, Rodney Adler and Stan Sarris. I loved the common-sense cookery books, Larousse Gastronomique and Silver Spoon.”

“For their passion, ingenuity and unbelievable drive to be the best in their field,” says Horstman, “I follow great chefs like David Chang, David Thompson, Pierre Poulin, Jason Licker, Thomas Keller, Uwe Spaetlich, Ming Tsai, Massimo Bottura and Rene Redzepi.”

A foodies’ journey through western Europe gave Horstman many great food memories and inspiration to bring home. He says, “I love these countries where the food, drink and family culture seem so seamlessly intertwined.”

Intimate, inner-city haven

Just three kilometres from the CBD and only 20 minutes from Brisbane Airport, Spicers Balfour Hotel is hidden within the chic inner-city suburb of New Farm.

The retreat offers 17 rooms and suites, and three event spaces across two properties on Balfour Street. A heritage Queenslander hosting The Balfour Kitchen & Bar and the art deco ‘Simla’ built c1921 a few numbers down the street, provide bespoke, contemporary accommodation with an individual art deco style, in touch with its leafy, breezy surrounds.

Spicers Balfour Hotel puts guests at the heart of the best Brisbane has to offer in a very human, intimate space that’s a peaceful oasis among the life and action. Explore the thriving city and surrounds by foot, ferry, car, bike or join a scenic tour along the Brisbane River or beyond to spectacular rainforest and mountain landscapes.

Spicers Balfour Hotel is within walking distance of many of Brisbane’s best restaurants and bars, while the glorious New Farm Park and River Walk are on the doorstep, as is the nightlife and restaurants of Fortitude Valley and the Howards Smith Wharfs, making The Balfour Kitchen & Bar the centre piece of your next unforgettable experience.