18 Corrs Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 4411
You know you need to lift your blogging game up when a place that you visited two months ago has since shut down. So when I heard the sad news that the hot Croatian
guy restaurant in Melbourne has since skipped town, I was devastated. And annoyed that I didn’t get to blog about it before he left without so much as a goodbye.
Brutale is ex-Aylesbury chef Daniel Dobra’s restaurant. Okay, perhaps I should say ‘was.’ The menu celebrated all that was wonderfully Eastern European, with a few Croatian-style dishes making appearances thanks to Dobra’s Croatian heritage. The reason why we chose this place was because there aren’t many Croatian restaurants in Melbourne despite there being a sizeable Croatian population.
If Brutale’s war-themed décor was anything to go by, Dobra has a cheeky sense of humour. We’re talking a disco ball bomb on the ceiling as well as soldier helmet lightshades. And if you didn’t notice in the previous pic, Brutale’s logo is a knuckle duster.
I was really impressed with Brutale’s extensive drinks list. They had a great selection of Eastern European wines, beers and more importantly, rajika. I would have happily gone on a tasting flight of more than a couple of shots of Serbian rajika if it weren’t for the fact that I spent a good portion of the afternoon having beers and ciders with a visiting Queensland friend. A glass of wine it was for me.
We started off with a plate of Eastern European cured meats, accompanied by some seasoned pickled onions. The usual suspects made appearances: salami, speck and prosciutto, though it was the dried pork belly that stole the show.
Pierogi is arguably something that the Poles should take credit for, but they can be found in many Eastern European restaurants all over Melbourne regardless of whether they are Russian, Bulgarian or Hungarian. Thus, it’s no surprise that they were on Brutale’s menu. I’m a sucker for pierogi (or any dumpling dish, really) so we had to order a serving. Each potato, cheese and onion-filled dumpling was doughy and slightly and served with chopped dill, chives, bacon and bread crumbs. Such flavours, many textures.
Our first main dish was the slow-cooked suckling pig. We received a nice portion of free-range pork that was beautifully cooked – the meat was just so ridiculously soft. An apple Rakija sauce then completed the package, though I’m not sure if the Rakija added much to the taste.
Compared to other Eastern European food, Croatia is quite heavy on the seafood due to the country’s proximity to the Adriatic Sea. This fish dish, from the island of Prvic , was also beautifully cooked. It was served with caper sauce, roasted grapes, fried capers and parsley – it sounds like a heavy sauce but it wasn’t. It was easily my favourite dish of the night – Mark Viduka would have been proud.
We also shared some twice-cooked chips. While they were beautifully crunchy, I thought they went overboard with the seasoning. Not even the lovely Dobra spiced mayonnaise could diffuse the saltiness. Ick.
Ah, donuts. I don’t like dessert that much but I’m a sucker for donuts. These babies were spicy thanks to the cinnamon and nutmeg used. They also had hints of vanilla and raisins. They were delicious on their own, though a velvety walnut and Rakija cream was on hand if you needed that extra bit of sugar hit.
We ordered the ‘ice cake’ thinking that we were actually going to get a legit cake. Hence, we were kind of surprised to see a mound of ice cream. Not that I minded – I love my ice creams. The Mugaritz-style plating of the berries wowed us and so did the refreshing mix of ice cream and berries, effortlessly intertwined together with honey.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal so much that there were talks of a return visit. Thus, it really sucked to hear that Brutale has now turned into Brutale 2.0, ‘part diner, part bar and part dancehall.’ While you won’t find any main dishes on the bar menu, I’m glad that at least they’ve kept the pierogi, charcuterie platter and doughnuts on it. Oh yes.