After six years as a Spanish-ish tapas-style venue, Gerard's Bar in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley is about to receive a modern Middle Eastern makeover. From March 19, the reboot will see European cheeses and charcuterie replaced with the likes of mezze and man'oushe, bringing the bar into sync with its flagship Gerard's Bistro.
Head chef Adam Wolfers, who joined the Gerard's team last year after wrapping up his celebrated Sydney pop-up Ételek, says the revamp will reshape Gerard's Bar into a more food-focused, albeit casual, venue.
"I've always wanted to open a cool kebab-shop-slash-bar, and this is the perfect opportunity to do it," says Wolfers. "If you want a falafel and pita you'll go to the bar; if you want to sit down and have a longer meal, you'll go to the restaurant." The restaurant sits just metres from the bar, meaning diners can visit both venues in one night. "You can go to the bar for a snack and then come to the bistro for dinner."
At Gerard's Bar, a mezze for two takes top billing on the new menu. It will come with house-made woodfired laffa, the Israeli flatbread that's like a fluffier, plumper version of pita; house-smoked labne and shanklish (a soft, aged cheese found in Levantine cuisine) made by Salwa Moubarak, mother to Gerard's Bistro owner Johnny Moubarak; air-dried wagyu basturma; and salty soft-boiled eggs, brined for several days in spices including coriander, black cardamom, cinnamon and fennel.
Local camel's-milk feta from Queensland's Scenic Rim region, bowls of miso-boosted chickpea hummus and pickles like fermented cabbage, baby chilli and gherkins will also be in play. Middle Eastern sauces such as Wolfers' aged tahini, toum and a fermented chilli-fuelled zhoug are in the mix, too.
Snacks could range from hand-rolled cheese börek served with zhoug and labne, fried kibbeh with gherkins and a spicy red pepper muhammara, to plant-based dishes like grilled beans dressed with Gerard's "special sauce" (aka toum spiked with ras el hanout).
The Gerard's Bar reboot will also bring Wolfers closer to his target of zero food wastage across both venues. Offcuts from swordfish skewers on the Gerard's Bistro menu, for example, could morph into swordfish falafel at the bar; leftover raw lamb could be minced and used in man'oushe or kebabs; while leafy carrot tops will be dried and mixed with sumac and sesame seeds to create a no-waste za'atar. "At the bar there will be lots of specials," says Wolfers. "There are no limitations."
The interiors will receive a light refresh; the drinks list is also redrawn by sommelier Dalila Katia Leo (formerly of London's The Clove Club). "It will be more wine focused, with more fun cocktails," says Wolfers. "There will be wines you can't get at the bistro – some cool, funky stuff." Additionally, those sitting at the bar will be able to order from the full wine menu at Gerard's Bistro.
Above all, Wolfers is looking forward to having the two venues complement each other. "It's exciting for me. It's the sort of food I'd like to eat three or four times a week. Nowhere in Brisbane is doing it, so I'm glad to be able to bring it here."