A very, very special treat for my birthday – A brought me to Brae in Birregurra, Australia. A perfect farm-restaurant set around 1.5 hours drive from Central Melbourne and everything I wish that Singapore could have more of, and yet understand why it can’t be so. The trip to Brae is almost like entering another world – driving in pitch black darkness only for its inviting lights to gradually appear over the horizon…ethereal.
Some favourites from the very long, very filling and very satisfying meal: iced oyster, being oyster ice cream with seaweed dust scattered atop capturing perfectly the rich, briny and intense umami of the source ingredients, fresh pea and lemon verbena tart like pearls singing of an oncoming spring, cherry wood roasted duck (peking style) with nasturtium flowers – I love duck – and an incredibly clever and creative non-alcoholic pairing that A so wisely ordered. The honeyed lapsang souchong paired with the duck was the reason we made a beeline for the tea shop at the South Melbourne Market thereafter.
Utterly divine, and the dish we still rave about, was the lamb and aubergine course – the tenderness of the meat lends support to a beautifully braised aubergine hidden underneath, with all smoky, earthy flavours in perfect balance. Sara, one of the service staff attending to our table, fully agreed that the appropriate reaction to this would be “hnnnrgh”. We really appreciated her enthusiasm and clear interest in our experience – which is more than I can say for the restaurant manager, who was the other staff member that provided us with service. For a couple of courses he barely bothered to announce the dish; for others, a quick (and rather aloof) proclamation and he was on his way. I can’t decide which I disliked more – his service or the parsnip and apple dessert – which was dry, imbalanced and all around difficult to eat (it was so hard with the spoon to get the parsnip skin broken down into bite sized pieces).
Still, the place is beautiful in the setting sun and the food really does hit the spot. I’m not in any hurry to go back for seconds – until a seasonal menu renewal comes around, but I’ll definitely make a trip if I’m ever again in town.
4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra VIC 3242, Australia
T: +61 3 5236 2226