31 Oct

                          Located just off Collins street, down the Paris side of town, is a space that many will remember housing Jamie Oliver’s former restaurant Fifteen Melbourne and then after that, Tobie Puttock’s The Kitchen Cat. These tenants have come and gone and now Gerald Diffey and Mario Di lenno from Gerald’s Bar in Carlton North have taken over the space and managed to procure Chef Nic Poelaert (from Embrasse which has recently closed for business to the dismay of many, many people) to take control over the kitchen. It would seem like a dream team with such veterans handling all aspects of the restaurant, so I decided that a visit was in order.

Walking down the flight of stairs, the restaurant is divided into two areas – the dark and moody bar area and the bright, ambient dining space.

First priority of the night was to get some drinks in us.

Negroni ($18) and a glass of Thomson Brook Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

With our thirsts quenched, we briefly perused the menu while our waiter explained that the main dishes were suitable for one, unlike the shared plates trend that is circulating the many restaurants in Melbourne. Although there were many tempting dishes, we opted to go with the chef’s selection of five courses for a tidy sum of $80 per person.

The bread was crusty and delicious but I declined further servings to save room in my stomach. Bread is always so devilishly filling.

If you have previously visited Embrasse, you may see some familiar dishes such as our first course. One of my girlfriends ordered the following dish as her main when we dined at Embrasse and for a plate consisting of just vegetables, I was astounded. Just like that dish, this was fresh, light and flavoursome with many textures and consistencies. It was fun playing around with the elements and experimenting with the different flavours.

Nic’s souvenier of ‘bras’ – Meli of vegetables with sprouts, flowers and emulsions

Our five course meal had an option to upgrade to a Crayfish supplement for an extra $10 so we thought why not! That day they had Western Australia Marron served two different ways over our second and third courses. The first of these courses was a Marron bisque. The Marron claw was sweet and succulent while the bisque encaptured, perfectly, the essence of Marron and the vegetables were firm and complementary to the flavours.

Marron bisque with the claw, squash, zucchini and carrot topped with salmon caviar

The third course featured the Marron tail and it was presented so prettily. The salmon caviar gave bursts of saltiness to the sweet Marron tail with a soft and creamy snow going well together with the sweet and tangy pickled grape jelly. The potato was firm yet gave way easily under our knives and I felt every element on the plate had a well thought out purpose – a fantastic dish.

Marron tail, cauliflower, potatoes, pickled grapes, bay leaf

To finish off our savoury courses, we were presented with a beef course that was described as a cross between Wagyu and Angus cattle. Sounded promising already! The beef was incredibly tender and flavoursome especially with the mimolette cheese sauce. I can hardly remember the last time I enjoyed a beef dish as much as this one. I was so mesmerised/busy taking photos that I didn’t pay attention to what the waiter was saying, oops! But it was seriously delectable and tender.

Rump F1 beef, mimolette, burnt veg, hay, ginger
Our waiter offered a side of Embrasse’s famous ‘Aligot’ – a combination of melted cheese and potato. Sounds simple enough but it was so rich and creamy that it can be a visual display of spun cheesy mashed potato. A very decadent and carb-laden side that seemed to consist of more cheese than potato and oh so satisfying with the beef.
Beef course served with a side of aligot (Aligot $16)

We were enticed by our waiter to add in a cheese course but Mr A did agree all too quickly at the same time. Cheese and crackers done the Brooks way was intriguing. Presented on a mound of realistic looking grass and dirt (synthetic grass, we asked after playing around with it), pillows of rye bread were filled with a goats curd mousse.

Cheese and crackers – ‘the Brooks way’ ($18)

Biting through the crisp rye pillows, it gave way to the light goats curd which was big on flavour, although sadly, I was getting slightly too full from the savoury courses to eat more than two.

Close-up view of the cheese and crackers

To finish off our degustation, another memorable dish from Embrasse’s repertoire was the chocolate forest. Made to replicate a forest on a plate, the hazelnut ‘mushroom cap’ was incredibly creamy with the crisp, sweet meringue and the chocolate pieces were fudge-like with crumbly pieces of chocolate and the sorrel mint granita refreshed the palate. I would have preferred a touch more sorrel mint granita but it didn’t detract from the dessert. A really lovely dessert to finish our meal off with.

‘Forest floor’, hazelnut parfait with sorrel mint granita

Can’t help but love an open kitchen where you can watch all the action.

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Brooks and I thought the food we were served was sensational. Definitely a great date spot as it was cosy and comfortable and the service was extremely friendly and hospitable. I can’t wait to come back and try out the other dishes I missed out on – in particular, the chicken parfait, foie gras and roasted chicken have been given high praise. I’ll also make sure I come earlier so I can indulge in some drinks at the bar beforehand, for the purposes of whetting my appetite, of course.

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