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- Ross and John get cheesy
- How to make Melbourne better
- The thief who didn't know when to quit
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Ela Carte checks out Brooks
Brooks - Basement 115-117 Collins Street, Melbourne – www.brooksofmelbourne.com
This downstairs dining room has been transformed yet again, Jamie Oliver has gone and Toby Puttock has fled the scene, two industry names have taken over the reigns and they’ve brought a talented Frenchman with them. Chef Nic Poelart was a bit of a quiet achiever at Embrasse, much lauded and yet I never got to try his wares there - so I was determined to get into Brooks.
First impressions - this joint has a doorman. A man at the door. Who opens it for you and shows you downstairs. Wow.
Once down there, the vibe is surprisingly upbeat. There’s part dark European bistro feel about it, but a brightness in the steady buzz of diners and floorstaff. A huge impressive looking bar, some timber tables in one room and leather banquettes in the other. Staff are smart looking – we’re talking waistcoats and shiny shoes, but they’re pretty relaxed and approachable too. Great knowledge of the food and wine.
So the food, and it’s a pretty eclectic menu to look at in a way. Hors d’ouerves include a variety of oysters, caviar by the 30 grams, and cheese and crackers “Brooks style”. The “seasonal” stuff ranges in price and size, I think if you can do it probably the best way to explore things is via the chef’s five course tasting menu at 80 per person – they’ll give you the best stuff they’ve got.
Meli Melo. (Photo: Kate Stevenson)
Without a doubt Poelart’s signature dish is the Meli Melo – upwards of 25 different types of vegetables arranged carefully on a big white plate. No other word to describe this but “pretty”. Seriously a stunning arrangement, but also just great fun on the palate. Some things are steamed, others sautéed, they’re boiled, pureed and dehydrated. Blobs of raspberry, chunks of broccoli, gingerly placed herbs and the odd flower.
Cray dish. (Photo: Kate Stevenson)
You’ll get the option of including two cray dishes in your five courses (we took it up at $20 extra per head), the bisque is quintessentially French – dark and rich, with soft baby leeks, and sweet marron meat. The second instalment was the marron tail, served with a cauliflower puree, potato, pickled grapes.
Forest floor. (Photo: Kate Stevenson)
There was some succulent beef in there too, but it was hard afterward to talk about anything but dessert. Staff generously brought us two different options for variety’s sake – certainly the cheesecake with tart plum sorbet, berries and beet meringue was a joy, but nothing would compare to the wonder that was “The Forest Floor”. Straight out of a Tim Burton film, it was a storybook on a plate. Chocolate soil, almond dust, sorrel granite, and chocolate ganache form the vegetation which grows underneath the main attraction mushroom of meringue stem and perfectly shaped hazelnut parfait “cap”. As fun as it was delectable.
The Brooks menu changes regularly, which I love, and you can book which makes them even more likeable.
It ain’t cheap, the $80 a head creeps up if you choose the cray and add a dish like the stunning potato with smoked hens yolk that we devoured, then include some wine. But, this is seriously impressive food, right up there with some of the best offerings in Melbourne, and definitely worthy of a special occasion.
Brook's basement might be pricey but that could be a bonus of sorts! At least you wouldn't have to run into those people who do the irritating ads and in-your-ear-drums voiceovers for the Pancake Parlour too many times a day on 3AW! Includes that harping nephew and his favourite 'Aunty' - she of the raucous voice - who've taken over from the old glutton 'Harry' whom they would have had us believe literally stuffed his face breakfast, noon and night at their PP restaurants on a daily basis. Heâ??d have been so bulbous in the end he wouldnâ??t have made it up and down the Brookeâ??s stairs anyway! Good.Cathy Friday 1 February, 2013 - 3:51 PM