Brae Restaurant | Dan Hunter | Birregurra | Victoria Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Brae HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
Victoria country
Location: -38.346739,143.80575
Open: Lunch Fri - Mon, dinner Thu - Sun
Price: Expensive

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +61 3 5236 2226
Address: 4285 Cape Otway Rd.
Birregurra, Victoria, 3242
Country: Australia

Dan Hunter's Brae restaurant close to Birregurra in Victoria is the most exciting new restaurant in Australia. And it's not just the food. The understated room is beautiful, with the thoughtful connection between kitchen and dining room helping to contribute to a special experience.
In addition the staff in the kitchen and on the floor display total professionalism whilst helping to create a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere - no easy task. And then there are the surroundings that you drive through as you approach the restaurant with vegetable and herb gardens and orchards to set the scene for what is to come.
Opening a restaurant deep in the country where it's possible to grow much of your own produce must be both exciting and daunting. There aren't many local customers so the restaurant needs to attract people from Geelong, Melbourne and beyond. It needs to be a destination restaurant although we suspect that there will be many locals who will be captivated by the charm of this special place.
We never doubted that people would adopt Brae and Dan Hunter’s precise and innovative cooking even if it meant a long journey. When we first met Dan he was in charge of the kitchens at Mugaritz in San Sebastian when owner Andoni Aduriz was on tour. Here he was overseeing a kitchen that was turning out perfectly executed dishes that set new standards for modern cuisine. The potatoes cooked in clay and the homage to Michel Bras’ famous gargouillou dish which saw perfectly fresh leaves and herbs served in a cheese emulsion were exemplary.
But now Dan is at Brae via a long stint at The Royal Mail in Dunkeld after he returned to Australia.
Soon after being seated a cracker made from beef tendon with native pepperberry was placed on the table. This set off all sorts of associations. We have long been fans of offal and forgotten bits of animals. We usually eat tendons in Vietnamese pho. This beautifully crunchy, slippery and flavoursome morsel showed just what can be done with a lesser used part of an animal.

Tendon with native pepperberry

Other snacks were short fin eel with sea urchin and zucchini, burnt pretzel with treacle and pork and a flax cracker (made by soaking the flax seeds and then dehydrating them) with wallaby, lemon myrtle and wattle seeds (and, of course scattered with some extras such as sorrel buds and dandelion capers).

Snacks: eel, pretzel and wallaby

These were followed by some stunning calamari sitting on delicate pickles (cucumber and turnip) and a great egg sauce.

Calamari with pickles and egg sauce

Next came a salad of mussels and salt cod cream, with fennel fronds and pollen on top of a delicate wafer made from potato starch. A thin slice of fennel sat on the base. We really engaged with this dish because fennel is one of our favourite vegetables!

Mussels on fennel with potato starch crisp

Southern rock lobster with carrot, white onion (blanched then char-grilled) and sea butter which was made with sea blight and sea lettuce! Also golden purslane, mustard flowers, corn chips and sea blight. This is a good example of how Dan?s food has changed over the years. Dishes are much more free-flowing, almost seeming effortless. There are actually many techniques and layers but they are not on show. They just impact on the flavour, mouth-feel and deliciousness!

Lobster with carrots and sea butter

Another dish exemplifying the same principles was simply listed as salt grass lamb and grilled lettuce. This was an absolutely exemplary dish with the complexity hidden. The lettuce was brined for an hour before grilling. The beans are from the garden, some are tiny, picked early to avoid death by summer?s relentless heat. There is a tuna mayonnaise. There is dried oyster powder adding another invisible layer of flavour. There are also broad beans, yoghurt and hazelnuts and a second balancing sauce made by blitzing whole lemons with soy milk. And there's anchovy water in the style of ancient garum. All of these ingredients and techniques integrated into a dish of seamless flavour and texture to be the best Sunday lamb we have eaten.

Lamb with grilled lettuce

So interesting that at The Royal Mail we were always most captivated by the earlier dishes in the menu but here the dishes keep hitting new highs. Next, a dish of charred radicchio and duck offal was matched with red rice sake and was a stunning amalgam of bitter, creamy, sweet and savoury.

Duck offal with charred radicchio

The last savoury course was beef short rib with samphire and shitake, raw and braised. The richness offset by radishes, brined then compressed. Served with the perfect knife (9.47). That's reputedly the percentage of alcohol in the wine a group of friends were drinking when the idea for the knife was hatched.

Beef ribs with samphire and shitake

The first dessert was light and refreshing. Compressed watermelon, snow pea juice, rhubarb granita and quandong stuffed with beetroot custard. Also pickled young juniper berries. And here we do the disclaimer - we sell wine to Brae and this dish was matched with one of ours (Philippe Bornard's Tant Mieux).

Compressed watermelon dessert

The already-famous parsnip and dried apple dessert came next. The parsnip is slowly roasted and the flesh pur? and folded into egg and cream to make the heart of the dish. Somehow the skins are turned into a dramatic cone. Some of the freeze-dried apples served with it are grated over the top. There's a sprinkling of chamomile and it sits on a caramel sauce.

The famous parsnip dessert

And to finish - blood biscuits and berries, sitting in the bar was a fitting finish to a perfect meal.

Berries with blood biscuit

Disclaimer: Through an associated business, we import natural wines to Australia and are now supplying this establishment with some lines.

A description of the wines we are importing can be found here:

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