First, a warning: you may fall in love with the sound system at Ruby, My Dear. You might even consider buying the same set of speakers by the end of the meal. Hand-built in Tasmania by Pitt and Giblin, the bronze waveguide sparkles in the dark, polished space. Then the sound hits you. Detailed, balanced and pure. You’d be forgiven for zoning out.
Listening bars are popping up across Australia at a rapid rate. Modelled on jazz kissatens (jazz cafes) found in Japan, they typically involve plenty of vinyl records, a neat set of speakers and a room with ideal acoustics. Ruby, My Dear is Brisbane’s first after opening in Newstead in April.
When we visit, the room is packed with smiling, foot-tapping diners and hustling wait staff. In the corner, a DJ pulls vinyl from sleeves and lays them down on vintage twin Technics turntables. Tonight it’s Balearic beats; other nights it may be jazz, funk or soul, depending on the rotating roster of DJs.
While music is a focus, the food and drinks aren’t overlooked. There’s a bunch of Japanese-inspired cocktails – like a smart take on a white Negroni with junmai sake instead of Lillet Blanc – and an expansive wine-list traversing Chablis to the Granite Belt. An izakaya-style food menu hits the brief: food that pairs with whatever you’re drinking.
Take the deep-fried chicken skins. Generously dusted with togarashi powder, the puffed, crackling-like skins are accompanied by a tobiko mayo for dunking. The saltiness of the snack works perfectly with a Sapporo or glass of Riesling. You’ll be tempted to order another serve, and perhaps another drink.
Things get more serious with a plate of glistening, lightly-seared bonito tuna. The clean, fresh flavour of the fish is accented by a tangy citrus dressing and bursts of punchy yuzu kosho. It’s followed by vegetable dumplings, which surprise upon arrival with their bright green hue. They are topped with a Lao Gan Ma-like sesame and chilli sauce, giving the steamed dumplings a fiery, salty kick.
Next, a brioche roll filled with a large panko-crumbed prawn topped with a generous dollop of gribiche sauce. It’s the sort of thing you want to be holding in one hand, while you clutch a drink in the other. Ditto a classic katsu sando with a crisp and unctuous crumbed pork cutlet sandwiched between pillowy milk bread.
We’re tossing up between the large plates when co-owner Bonnie Shearston recommends the koji-rubbed wagyu rump. It doesn’t disappoint. With a 9+ marble score, it is succulent and singing with umami and comes served with kombu and soy butter, and a silky carrot puree.
Named after a love song by legendary jazz musician, Thelonious Monk, Ruby, My Dear is a love letter to music. But it’s not just a spot for audiophiles; it’s also for those looking for a fun dining experience. After all, nothing brings people together like good food and music. Plus the right speakers, of course.