The Reserve Restaurant in Milton is located in a rare but classic 1880s Queenslander, restored to the original Heritage style with polished timber floors and elegant, uncluttered dining areas. The contemporary European cuisine mirrors the building’s nostalgic ambience, with a menu reflecting what chef Kieran Reekie recalls as the “glory days” of the 1980s when huge business expense accounts were funnelled into long lunches, keeping the restaurant industry affluent and innovative.
“Fringe benefit tax changed everything,” says Reekie, now co-owner of the Reserve Restaurant. “Government workers were unable to write off expense account business lunches, so they stopped doing business in restaurants. Now, high rises have fully staffed board rooms. It doesn’t give restaurants the creativity.”
Talented chefs who want to open their own restaurant should be “flexible”, Reekie says. “Do as much research as you can, to figure out what’s happening in your area. And just be flexible. If you open a fine-dining restaurant in a family friendly area, you must be prepared to change.”
One key to flexibility is to rent equipment rather than buying it outright, Reekie says. “With kitchen equipment, I find it is better to hire rather than buy,” he said. “I have three restaurants and I have done it with all three.” Reekie hires his equipment from Silver Chef, the hospitality equipment funding business, and he believes this has given him the flexibility to shape his restaurants around market expectations. “You don’t know where your business will be coming from. If my first idea doesn’t work, I can return or upgrade what I have, so I can change the profile of the restaurant. I can change the floor plan if necessary. You need to be dynamic with equipment in order to fit the market.”
Reekie has retained the best of restaurant dining at the Reserve Restaurant, with a menu inspired by Northern European cuisine with Australian overtones and a strong French influence. “My father was a chef, so I was strongly influenced by Northern European cookery. French cooking has been a common theme throughout my career.” He aims to make high-end dining affordable, and attracts guests in the 35-45 year age group, “who aren’t discovering restaurants for the first time, so they appreciate what we do.”
Reekie’s favourite item on his own menu is rabbit pie. “The rabbit is slow-braised and cooked in ale and then served with carrot ketchup. It’s an interesting dish and uses a few old methods. It reeks of classic cookery.”