Atmosphere and friendliness are what I really want when I spend my money on eating out. Sure, I like the food to be good too, but I want to sit somewhere cosy, relaxed, yet busy – where I can watch life and its moments of magic over a drink or two before things start. Fortunately, this is what I experienced at the Creole Soul Kitchen restaurant in Brisbane’s Spring Hill. In addition, the Creole food took me quite by surprise.
Co-owner Marc greeted us warmly and directed us to a seat just outside the bar. Moments later we were staring at the vast drinks menu while Brisbanites laughed, clinked, scraped, chewed, sipped and chatted around us. Soon I, too, was sipping on a pint and participating in a quiet celebration of my own, watching the influence of Creole hospitality take hold over a small corner of my city.
Creole food – a (very) brief history
Creole food comes from the southern gulf region of the U.S. – specifically New Orleans – where residents of European origin in the 18th century were referred to as ‘Creoles’. Historically, Creole cooking combines French, Spanish, Mediterranean, Caribbean and African cuisine. Other types of food in the region are ‘soul food’ – which is more African in origin – and Cajun food, which is less refined than its Creole cousin and stems from Louisiana. Today, the three types often cross over and Marc told me and my partner his food has a strong Louisiana influence.
Even though he was busy, Marc always made time to pop over to our table, have a chat and see how we were doing. To me, as an ex-chef who’s seen all types in the industry, Marc is a hospitality natural.
Creole Soul Kitchen Restaurant – The food
Soon the Soul Kitchen Prawns and Crocodile Cake arrive on our table. The prawns were sauteed in ‘Soul Sauce’, which I’d best describe as tomato-based with a liberal dash of Worcestershire sauce. This tangy experience gives it its southern flavour and the prawns were tender, this dish was served with dipping bread and I had fun mopping it all up. My partner is gluten-free so I had to wait while she attacked the Creole experience with her mound of rice, which they kindly added on the side.
I’ve had crocodile several times before and this was a unique experience – less chicken-like than my past experiences (that’s a good thing). The cake was crispy on the outside, softer in the middle and heaped with crab remoulade. This was certainly a pleasant and novel experience that didn’t linger on our plates for very long. I wondered why it wasn’t called an ‘Alligator Cake’, although besides not having the same ring to it, the meat – while more authentically southern – would undoubtedly be more expensive to import.
The last two dishes on our list were the eggplant sticks and the clams in white wine. The eggplant sticks were definitely a favourite. Interestingly, Marc said he wasn’t originally sure how the eggplant would be received, as it’s fried, dusted in icing sugar and served with ‘American Cocktail Sauce’, which has a distinct, tangy tomato flavour not unlike the ‘Soul Sauce’. We found this sweet, tangy, fried combination both novel and tasty! I think it’s safe to say this dish is now a success at the Creole Soul Kitchen restaurant.
The clams were also tender, a welcome textural change-up and it was another dish I mopped up with dipping bread, which apparently is a southern gulf thing. As my dad was British, like so many other Aussies here, I’m used to dipping my bread in soups, my biscuits in tea, etc. I’m a regular dipper/mopper – you don’t have to ask me twice!
It’s clear that the Creole Soul Kitchen restaurant has taken off as it was busy the whole few hours we were there. Marc told us he’d had hardly any bookings that night and most of his customers are regulars, which is always a good sign, particularly as the business survived Covid and they’ve been open for the past seven years.
While I gather Marc runs the front of house, Marc’s wife Leena, who I saw briefly (and who put up with me taking a photo of her, with a smile), is co-owner and the head chef at Creole Soul Kitchen. Marc told me they don’t really trust anyone else to pump out their standard of food from such a tiny kitchen, which Leena does admirably. Subsequently, they are closed on weekends, although they happen to be one of the few restaurants in the area open on a Monday night, which is apparently a busy night for them.
The Creole Soul Kitchen bar looks like a fun place to hang out and I’m keen to do that next time I’m in. As you can see, there are intriguing pictures in the background, warm light and a welcoming atmosphere. As the Creole Soul Kitchen restaurant is my favourite place reviewed to date, I’ll most certainly be back. Actually, I plan to bring my friends as this is a restaurant/bar combo.
Vibe – laidback, informal, friendly.
Go for – the atmosphere, food and service. This place has the whole shebang!