Hidden away in the depths of Austral House off Collins Street, Brooks is a destination for corporates and foodies alike, boasting modern French food in a historical setting. The site has an interesting culinary background, formerly housing Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, Toby Puttock’s The Kitchen Cat and the Middle-Eastern Momo.
Chef Nic Poelaert brings his French countryside upbringing to his food, and his training under Michelin star chefs is also evident, particularly when he describes the fish featured in a dish with sour cherries and kohlrabi as having had a nice life “free from stress.”
“You can taste the difference,” he says.
Poelaert is known as the ‘veggie whisperer’, and like many chefs of the age, has a passion for seasonal, local produce, foraging and sustainability. This organic approach, combined with a personal connection to Brooks’ meat and seafood suppliers, guarantees Brooks’ menu is bursting with freshly grown flavour.
The mushrooms with a farm egg is testament to this. A mushroom soup, fresh wild mushrooms, a sprinkling of dehydrated kale and one of the most delicious eggs I have ever eaten (definitely came from a happy chicken). Following that, the Brooks raison d’etre dish, the meli melo of vegetables, herbs and flowers, and celeriac cream was understated and delicious – although I wouldn’t recommend it on its own if you’re starving. That said, I’m not really a non-meat option kind of gal at the best of times, so don’t take my word for it!
The standout for me, however, was the starter – a Vegemite-infused cracker topped delightful drops of a creamy Vegemite emulsion, sprinkled with dehydrated kale. The most imaginative thing on the table, it stole the show, and really hinted at Poelaert’s potential, to the point where I was slightly sad he didn’t go for it a little more with the other dishes.
Brooks boasts great service, a well-researched wine list and delish food, prepared under the watchful eye of a chef that knows what he’s doing.
But as Poelaert himself said, “We don’t aim to be the best in the world, but we do aim to be well-respected in the industry.” That’s fine, but I feel like Poelaert could better own his obvious talent and push it a little more.