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.