Saturday, April 13, 2013

Brooks of Melbourne, wine and dine.

I have a confession to make: I like to "lunch". A lot. So much so that if you proposed a cushy nine to five job to me, you'd promptly the receive the 'don't be a fool' look. I like to lunch with gal pals, lovers, bosses and alone. Ideally, I'd allocate three hours, hence the no nine to five rule. These days, three hours for lunch is rarely realistic so I do mini-lunch or quickie-lunch.
stunning bar image courtesy of Brooks
I have been able to dine at Brooks of Melbourne a few times. Mostly at lunch. Please do not tell chef Nic Poelaert, but I was originally attracted to see what sommelier Matthew Brooke was doing. Always the wine with me. I really do enjoy a wide variety of wine and love having access to interesting wine lists at Melbourne restaurants. To enjoy wine at its best, however, great food is ideal and when I eat out, I like to order dishes I'd never make at home.

EVERYTHING on the menu at Brooks Melbourne is something I'd never make at home. For one, I don't think I have the right kitchen gadget to turn the humble garden pea into something resembling the foam on an early morning cappuccino. For another, Nic Poelaert and I seem to have taste buds that work in completely different ways. I will taste something (usually wine) and then try and determine each individual flavour that I can, across many layers. Brooks of Melbourne's head chef presents flavours, colours and textures under the guise of food.
assorted oysters, heirloom tomato consommé, meli of vegetables
I can't be certain, but I imagine that Mr Poelaert tastes something (like peas) and then tries to determine how he can bring out all the best nuances of the (pea) flavour. Being a regular diner, there are very few occasions when an entire menu will delight me. The menu at Brooks is such a pleasant surprise. Try these menu descriptions on for size:
  • "squid, lime leaf, black sausage, brussel sprout, leek, ash"
  • "Moreton Bay bug, seaweed, Yarra Valley roe"
  • "pumpkin nougatine, popcorn cream, frangipane, coconut"
  • "white chocolate ice cream, fig, olive meringue'
Are you swooning or totally curious? Find yourself a special occasion and get yourself to Brooks. The stark white walls are a fantastic juxtaposition to the dark-wood bar and its jaw-dropping bottled wine display. The pillar-box red sprinkler system and pipes remind me of wine drinking in older establishments along Lygon Street. The super-modern, industrial inspired lighting as well as the backlit transparency artwork, yolk-yellow napkins and smoky water glasses brings Brooks' décor into the now.

There is a bird's eye view of the kitchen from almost every seat in the house, showcasing the genius that is Nic Poelaert at work. The wait staff are fun, friendly and never intrusive. They know both menu and wine list inside out. If head sommelier Matthew Brooke is on duty.. please do yourself a favour and allow him to select all of your wines. He is a cut above.
dining room at Brooks of Melbourne (image from Brooks)
P.S. Did I mention that there is a Cheese Chariot??
make sure you leave room!
Have you dined at Brooks? What did you think?
Where else do you like to 'do lunch'?
I look forward to your tips.
tweet me @LadyOenotria

Summer of Riesling at Brooks Melbourne

Any time that my Visa card is up for it, I am up for a meal at Brooks Melbourne. So when head sommelier, Matthew Brookes, mentioned a Summer of Riesling tasting menu, my rubbery arm needed no twisting.
Eight Rieslings for Summer of Riesling at Brooks Melbourne
First up was a pre-dinner Gutswein (literal translation = house wine). A Riesling blend bottled by the litre and commonly used by local German restaurants as their house wine. You all know that I am not a professional wine critic- my notes say, "nice and dry with gorgeous flavours. As many different bits and pieces of grapes as a wine that Kathleen Quealy (Mornington Peninsula) may have crafted. Generous and delightful fruit. Light, playful and fun as a rizza gets.

The next wine gave me a hint of tomato. It could have been a carry over from the pre- pre-dinner Gin (Westwinds Cutlass) or the tomatoes in the first dish, but I'll swear it was in the wine. A superb match with the garlic flowers and heirloom tomato consommé. A total flavour explosion.

Next up was the Frankland Estate. The least floral nose so far, more minerality and if 'austere' had a fragrance, this would be it. Served alongside almost thirty vegetables and flowers that Chef Nic Poelaert forages for himself. I tasted pink to ruby grapefruit, the familiar bitterness quite morish and hunger-inducing! Matthew says the Frankland Estate is the benchmark Riesling in Australia, up there with Grosset and others. The grapes are grown in darker soils like at Bests, which is what pushes the citrus flavours into the red spectrum. It is also what helps the wine stand up to thirty different vegetable flavours.

Drum roll please.

The next wine was a super star from Mr Brooke's own personal cellar. A 1979 Trimach 'Clos St Hume' from Alsace. AKA the world's best Riesling. To be served alongside Moreton Bay Bug with seaweed, fresh water roe and pickled oysters. Very fishy. The '79 had the most minimal nose of petrol, with balancing florals and some musk. I noted a higher acidity lending itself to amazing freshness as well as a drier taste than the deep golden colour may have suggested. So, so good with the rich seafood and salt. The kind of flavour that creates a new memory.
1979 Trimach 'Clos St Hume' from Alsace
Although, I probably wasn't going to taste an equal wine on the same night, the show did indeed, go on. Lamb sweetbreads, with cherry purée and a pea mousse was up next on the menu and to match, a Paolo Gustav Riesling from the Clare Valley in South Australia. SSH- this is an "Orange Wine'. Brooks of Melbourne is the only place in town pouring this all natural wine. A cloudy, yellow colour, it breaks all the white wine-making rules. An unfiltered wine that spent three weeks on skins. Barrel fermented. Sommelier Matthew introduced this wine as "interesting and fun, the bruised- rather than fresh- apple flavour is to match the dominant smoked maple glaze of the sweetbreads." The Paolo Gustav was a perfect match.

Kicking on, I sampled a 2011 Velere, made by a David Bicknell apprentice with fruit from Dixon's Creek in the Yarra Valley. Fruity and fun, the ideal palate cleanser. Next up was a Peregrine, (Central Otago) Late Harvest Riesling served alongside white chocolate ice cream with fresh fig and olive meringue. A 2011 Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinet accompanied a sheep's milk blue vein cheese bringing my total Summer of Riesling indulgence to eight great wines.

Riesling can be, at times, an under-rated grape, but with talented wine makers and an experienced sommelier at the helm there is nothing left for the wine lover to do but drink- and enjoy! Let me know of some great Rieslings that you have tried lately.
images used in this post by
M. Brookes & C. Whelan