OK, I’ve been holding out. I was through the door at the Tinderbox pretty much when they opened in November last year and have been a regular ever since. Tinderbox is the noisy baby brother of PJ McMillan’s Harveys and sits just behind it off James Street.
Tinderbox doesn’t take bookings, except for large groups, which means it can be hard to squeeze a table out of them on the weekend, giving me an incentive to reduce traffic. On a recent Friday, however, the swarms have moved on. So I invite you all to enjoy the delights of Tinderbox.
The restaurant is bright and breezy with seating outside and in and is set up for casual dining. Close to the Palace Centro, the restaurant is a good place to meet up on the weekend for a glass of wine and dinner. The centrepiece of the inside space is the wood-fired oven, around which the menu is based.
A lot comes out of that oven with roasted meats, creative vegetables and pizzas as the basis of the menu. You can go a couple of ways. Order the roast or one of the Italian inspired pasta dishes with some sides from the Market Garden part of the menu or head for the pizzas. The last couple of visits I have not been ale to go past the pizza with Mooloolaba prawns, chili, zucchini, fior de latte and cherry tomatoes ($23). This pizza is guaranteed a crisp base from the woodfired oven, though on the right side of chewy, with fresh and flavoursome toppings. For the gluten adverse, gluten free bases are available.
The stars of the menu are the vegetable dishes. The wood-roasted leeks are soft and silky and at the moment they come with capers and goat’s cheese ($12). There is also a William pear salad with rocket and parmesan ($12) and fire-roasted mushroom with balsamic onions and blue cheese ($12).The menu is seasonal means recent favourites can suddenly disappear.
The same happens with the small, though carefully chosen wine list. The staff sold me on a marsanne roussanne, a style I had never tried before, and after enjoying it a couple of times, it went the same way as some vegetable favourites. None of this I think is bad. The philosophy is to deliver produce driven and seasonal food which means sacrificing some preferred choices as the seasons turn.
The one source of anxiety at the Tinderbox is occasional difficulty in flagging down the wait staff. The staff are under pressure on busy nights and can sail right past. It is not the sort of place to dither about ordering. Yet despite, the pressure, everyone who turns up seems to get settled, receive a drink and a feed.
The Tinderbox serves fresh food, particularly great vegetables, and has a creative and evolving menu. Just don’t get too attached to your favourites.
7/31 James Street, Fortitude Valley
Open: Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner
Phone: (07) 3852 3744 (for bookings over 8)