Brae Restaurant: a fine balancing act

It was wonderful to return to Brae Restaurant in 2017 and astonishingly Chef Dan Hunter’s menu has become even more impressive during the intervening year. Mr Levin, hard taskmaster, pronounced mid-lunch ‘forget Denmark and Spain, this is the best food in the world.’

Again, we enjoyed the unique Iced oyster, a goat’s milk sorbet flavoured with oyster brine and the dehydrated and powdered oyster on top of its half shell, with an interesting 30-month of lees pinot meuniere grower Champagne, NV Francis Boulard.

bbq-beetrootServed with the starter tastes, the Smoked eel doughnut with Barbecued beetroot seasoned with Brae farm honeycomb and rainbow trout roe was a revelation in balance. The roe, loosened with mirin and white soy, provided the saline bursts to the highly floral and waxy honey and smoky, earth baby beetroot, with the churro, with a suggestion of eel, was perfect to mop up whatever escaped from the fork. This was creatively matched to Rogue Wave ‘Cranky Mrs IPA’ from a bit further down the Great Ocean Road, with its malty, orange peel and citrus blossom notes. @roguewavebrewing

king-george-whitingKing George whiting, zucchini, leek and lemon was where the whiting was the star. It’s pristine white, flaky, springy flesh, matched to the livening zest of the lemon rind. From heritage family producer Best’s in the Grampians, their ‘Foudre Ferment’ was perfect. Wild yeast fermented in a large format, 2500L Burgundian barrel imparting a little openness, spice and honeyed texture, once again it was beautifully balanced with the more traditionally Australian citrus Riesling notes. @bestswines

summer-garden-tartSummer garden tart tartin and Wessex Saddleback saucisson was perhaps our favourite dish. Made from ‘today’s tomatoes’ (‘whatever was just falling off the vine that morning’) and a perfectly flaky puff pastry, it was glossy and savoury-sweet and together with the summer saucisson (hung in Dan’s office) felt like the world’s most sublime picnic. The 2014 Enigma Variations ‘Emptybell #1’ Rosé made by the talented biodynamic winemaker Tamara Irish just for Brae was such a wonderful accompaniment with its herbal, sweet tomato, earthy, mulberry, charcuterie notes that we asked to buy a bottle to take home. @enigmaVwine

crayfishCrayfish and shitake with Brae farm egg yolk, meat broth and seaweeds was both delightfully comforting and clean on the palate. The sumptuous, white chunks of local crayfish were sauced by the orange-est egg yolk and beefy rich stock, with the shitake and samphire offering alternative bursts of earthiness and sea spray in the mouth. 2000 Mukai Shuzō ‘Natsu no Omoide’ with its textural, honeyed, umami, pencil shaving characters was a wonderful match, apparently fermented with a 100-year-old yeast strain and aged for 14 years.

Reportedly, from tiny brewer in the Kyōto prefecture made by Kuniko Mukai who was one of the first women Master Brewers in Japan at the young age of 22 and carried on the traditions of her 260-year-old family brewery. @blackmarketsake

short-ribShort rib of beef cooked overnight, barbecued carrot, fermented and fried onions was such a decadent, gelatinous, tender beefy morsel, with a perfectly cooked smoky carrot and a thatch of fine onion curls excellently matched to the beautifully-honed, subtle and savoury 2015 Izway ‘Maurice’ Grenache from the Barossa Valley. @IzwayWine (Usually, Madame L is attuned to grenache’s raspberry confection, but was so enamoured with this wine that she claimed it had finally changed her mind after 62 years!)

red-fruitsRed fruits, lemon and lovage, wild cabbage and buckwheat was a delightful dessert course with farm raspberries and mulberries, buckwheat wafers and a white chocolate and berry ‘earth’ that slowly melted over sweet and crisp mouthfuls. It was matched with the 2015 Braida Brachetto d’Acqui, which was very much like a red, slightly drier, tannin-spicy Moscato – delicious!

We finished once again with the gorgeous Parsnip and apple, a creative homage to the cannoli and some perfectly ripe Ananas melon – a perfect Autumn lunch.

Adventures in Armadale

Our dinner at the newly opened Amaru (@amaru_melbourne Amaru Melbourne 1121 High St, Armadale, Melbourne) hosted by the inimitable Phil Hude (ably assisted by Aine Conran) from Armadale Cellars was such a wonderful treat.Amaru Restaurant

Clinton McIver’s background as sous chef at Vue de Monde has been well documented, as was his dazzling 14-month stint at Clayton Bowls Club, where he honed his menu and carefully plotted his next steps (undoubtedly the best food to ever grace that particular eastern enclave!).

Clinton and his partner Ali have set up close to their home in High Street, Armadale, in a strip formerly more renowned for its pret-a-porter than haute cuisine, but with this addition it’s sure to become a real food destination. Ali and Clinton have been able to create an impressive, high concept menu, but with a warm sense of welcome and dinner party ambience.

Our starters, served as canapes (chivalrously camouflaging any latecomers) each had a nod to Indigenous produce. Puffed Kangaroo tendon served in wildflower honey, caramelized roo fat & burnt fig leather, was like a very antipodean prawn cracker, the saltiness combined with a thin wafer of richness and sweetness making for a lovely mouthful. Lightly cured bass grouper with fresh finger lime, native pepper leaf & fried pigs ear was a gorgeous ceviche of deep water wreck fish on a crispy, porky skin.

Blue swimmer crab with day old bread, vinegar, brown butter & pickled nasturtiums was a delectable crouton topped with shredded crab, its richness lifted by the pickled flower. The 80:20 blend of 2011 Le Vin de LEVIN Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay, served ‘en magnum’ with fresh notes of lemon, green apple and a rounded palate complemented each taste beautifully.

After Phil’s typically idiosyncratic introduction of the wines (he always manages to include a few references to Hawthorn FC), Lynne Levin explained the some-35-year history of the domaine, the organic and biodynamic production, the vineyards and flavour profiles of each of the wines to the avid vinophile audience.1heirloom

Next, we enjoyed the deceptively simple Heirloom tomatoes stewed with marron heads & muntrie berries. The rich umami sauce created by the marron mustard was contrasted with the just-collapsing, multi-coloured heirloom tomatoes, with bright bursts from the berries, which we greedily mopped up with the Organic spelt sourdough & Tasmanian grass fed cultured butter. Such a wonderful match to our savoury, dry, tomato leaf, cool cherry and redcurrant 2011 LEVIN Rosé. Bass Groper

Next, we returned to the groper in greater proportions, Bass Groper, sauce of roasted wallaby bone & tender sea grapes, which was an ever-so-gently cooked fillet with lashes of salty seaweed and a rich reduction of wallaby. The 2011 LEVIN Sauvignon Blanc with its subtle herbaceousness, pink grapefruit, and minerality was a bright and jaunty foil to the sea grapes, though 2011 MISTER L Sauvignon Blanc with its richer, smoky layers of complexity and gentle spine of acidity was a transcendent match.Dry aged Burrawon Gaian duck

The Dry aged Burrawon Gaian duck, preserved blueberry, barbecued radicchio was where our gamays really shone. This dish’s lift of blueberry played joyfully with the more generous cherry and dark berry notes in the 2011 Le Vin de LEVIN Gamay, while the smoky duck and radicchio was a brilliant compliment to 2011 Madame L Gamay’s savoury, spicy, earthy notes overlain with violets, lavender and cherry.
Cultured buffalo milk ice cream

Finally, we were treated to the impressive and slightly savoury dessert Cultured buffalo milk ice cream, cold pressed olive oil, Tasmanian pepper berry and seasonal aromatics. Almost playing the cheese course, the curd-like buffalo ice cream had a lively twang, with the clean, savoury flavours of the olive oil and pepper berry seeming to match equally well with the 2011 LEVIN Gamay and 2011 LEVIN Noble Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc, creating a good deal of lively discussion in the process!

We were so proud that LEVIN Wines was part of Amaru’s very first winemaker’s dinner and we know that Ali and Clinton will enjoy some very deserved success at their world class restaurant. Mister & Madame L look forward to dining at Amaru again when they return to Melbourne!

Amaru

@amaru_melbourne Amaru Melbourne

1121 High St, Armadale Victoria 3143, Australia

+61 (0)3 9822 0144

info@amarumelbourne.com.au