Express Lunch: Ben Williamson
Finding his way through restaurants across Perth, Sydney, Bahrain and Brisbane, Chef Ben Williamson is no stranger to travel and immersing himself in the cultural delights that inspire the culinary traditions and great cuisines of the world.
From completing his apprenticeship in Perth and relocating to Sydney, the turning point in his young career was accepting a role with Gulf Air to create and deliver the in-flight menu for first class passengers. Based in Bahrain, the role with Gulf Air gave Ben the rare opportunity to broaden his horizons and explore the fundamental passion and spirit Middle Eastern cultures share, resulting in fantastic food and culinary creativity.
Returning to Australia after several years abroad, Ben finally settled in Brisbane working with some of Brisbane’s most highly acclaimed and awarded chefs and restaurants alike (Enotecca 1889 and Urbane/The Euro). When the occasion aroseto create a menu and dining experience that would combine the flavours of the Maghreb and Middle East with classic technique, offering a modern, youthful take on elements of classic dishes from ancient lands, in 2012 Gerard’s Bistro was launched and is an homage to Ben’s travels, love of the region and its immense tapestry of cuisines.
2019 saw Ben depart Gerard’s to build his own restaurant, Agnes, co-owned with Tyron Simon and Frank Li of Longtime/sAme sAme and Hôntô.
Occupying a late 1800’s warehouse in Fortitude Valley, Agnes would transform into an homage to natural methods utilizing wood burning exclusively as it’s medium for cookery. After some delay and with the covid crisis disabling the restaurant’s forecasted opening Ben was able to pivot and transform Agnes into a pop-up Bakery to critical success. With lines around the block and sometimes a three hour wait for Agnes’ wood fired baked goods it quickly achieved cult status within Brisbane’s public.
Continuing the trend Agnes opened in August 2020 with a huge demand for reservations becoming Brisbane’s most hard to get into restaurant.
With critical acclaim for its wood fired contemporary Australian menu, Agnes was firmly established as one of the strongest players in the Brisbane dining scene.
This year has seen Ben, Ty and Frank open Bianca, a modern Italian trattoria on Ada Lane within the Calile Hotel complex and finally Agnes Bakery will find a permanent home in a heritage cottage on James Street late 2021.
2021 also saw Ben buy in as co-owner of sAme sAme and Hôntô further solidifying the group’s cohesion.