The days of the long, languid – and often liquid – lunch are long past. Gone are the days when businessmen and women would linger over a business lunch, often on a Friday, with no real need seen to go back to work. We saw it often a decade or more ago, but today everyone’s in a rush.
Enter speed lunching. That’s not what they call it at the NEXT Hotel Brisbane, but the promise is that – if you want to be – you’ll be in and out of the restaurant in 60 minutes from the time you place your order. And if you’re not, there’s 50 per cent off the $35 price.
I’d been to the NEXT before, when it first opened late last year as the latest incarnation of one of Brisbane’s most famous old hotels, Lennons. The flagship brand of Singapore-based SilverNeedle Hospitality, the 304-room Brisbane hotel was the first to carry the NEXT brand.
I found a lot to like about it, from the location just an escalator ride from the shopping heart of the city in the Queen Street Mall, to the outdoor pool high above the mall’s bustle, the city views and the “smart” technology. Then there were the sleep “pods” for travellers in transit…and oh did I mention four free items from the mini bar each day? Yes, I really like this hotel.
So it wasn’t hard to resist the invitation to test out the promise of a quick lunch in Lennons Restaurant & Bar, so named in honour of the old hotel.
Executive chef Todd Adams has a set three-course lunch menu, with a choice of main course. We ordered drinks and mains, and when the order had been delivered to the kitchen a card with a clock – the hands marked at our time of order – was placed on the table.
Needing to go back to work, most of our table of 10 decided to forgo the matched wines on offer and choose “mocktails” – mine was cleverly named a Nojito. Then to start we tucked into steaming bowls of smoked ham hock and pea soup, with crusty sourdough baguettes.
Mains were fish (gold band snapper, with fregola, chilli and garlic, and cherry tomatoes), meat (chermoula spiced spatchcock, with green beans, olives and anchovies) and vegetarian (pumpkin, walnut and ricotta agnolotti with broccolini pesto and reggiano). I chose the spatchcock and it was perfect.
Dessert came out as the clock ticked on. A beautiful strawberry and poached rhubarb tart, with pistachios and vanilla bean ice cream, that tasted as good as it looked and was just the right size.
We were done with three minutes to spare on the clock, and Lunch Timed was declared a success. It’s just the thing for busy people, but with no sense of being rushed. In reality you need to allow more than an hour, given that it takes time to order and you might also want a coffee later – but certainly 90 minutes will do it!
Then again…it would be good to come back without the timer ticking and relax with a crisp white wine and just soak up the city atmosphere at leisure. That definitely sounds like a plan.
A Glass Half Full was a guest of NEXT Hotel Brisbane