I was standing in the entrance of Brooks changing my sensible flat shoes for pretty high heels when I heard someone saying hello to me through the walls.
Ghosts of restaurants past?
Brooks is housed in the site that used to be Momo, then Fifteen and then Kitchen Cat.
But it wasn’t previous diners or employees talking to me, the disembodied voice actually belonged to my friend Panda, and she was in the bathrooms, just around the corner from where I was. She was drying off after getting thoroughly drenched in one of Melbourne’s infamous downpours.
She had heard me talking to the door man at Brooks, a very dashing fellow, and wanted to say hi.
After she was as dry as she could be, we were shown to our table in the main dining area, where Jonella was already waiting for us.
It was time for another degustation dinner!
Brooks is owned by Gerald Diffey and Mario Di lenno and the head chef is Nic Poelaert, from the now closed Embrasse.
The space is just lovely. The bar runs down one side and there is a second dining area up some stairs just behind where we were seated. I have seen photos of a lovely bright, well lit space so was hoping for some decent photos, but alas, someone must have turned the lights down, so bad photos it is!
We loved our view of the open kitchen and spent a fair bit of time watching the kitchen team plate up dishes. They worked seamlessly.
We stared the evening with a glass each of the De Sousa Brut. A champagne I had not heard of, but would definitely order again.
Panda was also furnished with a clean tea towel to help her dry off even more.
We didn’t really need to look at the menu, we knew wanted the five course degustation, and it was promptly ordered.
Quality olives were already on the table, and butter was soon added, along with fresh bread.
The first course was tomato, silken milk, consomme. The consomme was poured at the table.
The consomme added an amazing tomato aroma to this clean tart dish.
We had had another look at the wine list by this stage, and had placed our order of a glass each with the sommelier. He was soon back at our table and with much regret informed us that the wine list we had been given was the old one, and nothing we had ordered was available. He had been on holidays for four weeks and was still getting up to speed. The new wine list was produced, but we all decided it was too much effort and got him to choose our wine for us!
I ended up with a lovely glass of Chenin Blanc and Panda and Jonella were served a glass of Grenache, which was a bit too cold to start with. It was much better once it had warmed up.
The next course was one of Poelaert’s signature dishes, Nic’s souvenir of Laguiole: meli of vegetables.
Visually, this was one of the most stunning dishes I have seen, and none of us wanted to eat it!
It was a mix of 20+ vegetables, some raw, some blanched, some were presented as sauces or emulsions.
It was great fun trying to guess what everything was and finding our favourites. And should we try each bit individually or mix it all up?
I felt very healthy eating this dish, though it was a vegie overload.
Jonella and Panda had Moreton Bay Bug, shiso oil, mussel custard and pickled oysters for their next dish. This was Panda’s favourite dish of the evening.
I had something similar but with snow, beetroot and potato.
The presentation and the snow reminded me of the snow crab dish at Attica.
I was really feeling like some meat by this stage, so I was pleased that our next dish was the beef, beetroot, ginger wine, mimolette, butternut, oats.
Unfortunately, we all found the beef to be a bit chewy and I thought it lacked flavour. The supporting elements on this dish were the standout.
Our waiter, who was awesome, told us that we would get three different desserts, which we were happy about.
The server who brought the desserts to the table asked if we were sharing, and we said yes. But Jonella changed her mind when another of Nic’s signature dishes was placed in front of her. She didn’t want to share the forest floor, hazelnut parfait, pork crackling dish!
And I don’t blame her. This my favourite dessert as well. And yes, pork crackling does work in a dessert.
Panda’s favourite dessert was the white chocolate ice cream, figs, milk, olives.
As a woman who loves ice cream, white chocolate and figs, this dish was made for her.
The third dessert was berries, liquorice ice cream, rose, cheesecake.
Another dish where I loved the presentation, with the the rose petals delicately covering the cheesecake. I would have been quite happy with this as a dessert if I had not seen and tried the forest floor!
We loved the vibe and the staff at Brooks, but we weren’t blown away by the food. It was all nice, but nothing truly wowed. The five course degustation is good value at $80, but we were glad we had a couple of pieces of bread each, as we definitely weren’t full. There were no little extras either, no amuse bouche or palate cleanser, though we were offered a supplemental cheese course. But for the price you can’t really complain.