Food and Drink

   

Brutale: Home and Heart of the Balkans

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A single clap tolled out unobtrusively as a meal was pushed under the heat lights.  The waiter marched from the kitchen to our table and set the plate down. “This is our calamari and if you don’t like it, it’s on the house.” A second serving was ordered soon after.

Although the space feels dark, brooding and militaristic – army helmets as light shades, black and white portraits of animal-headed figures, exposed brick walls and naked light bulbs – Brutale has the food and service of a family home. It’s chef Daniel Dobra’s (Aylesbury molecular Mondays and Royal Mail) return to his roots, some handy tricks from fine dining being the only remnants of his previous culinary life.

The first of its kind, Brutale offers Balkan fare with time-honoured recipes and minimal cabbage. Self-proclaimed “food for the brave”, the menu highlights (other than the soft and fresh calamari doused in olive oil with coriander and lemon, $17), include twice-cooked chips with Dobra-spiced mayonnaise ($9), spit-roasted pork basted over the charcoal of the fire ($29) and lamb from the peka, a kind of Balkan wood-fired pressure cooker ($32). Croatian doughnuts ($15) and kiflice, Croatian plum shortbread ($11), give a sweet end to the meal.

The food is reinforced by a drinks list covering Slovenian soft drinks and Eastern Bloc beers, to wines from uniquely Balkan grape varieties and plenty of rakija: quince, honey and pear. It’s no wonder they’re exhausting Melbourne’s only importer.

Two and a half years in the making, Brutale is undoubtedly a memorable experience. Don’t be perturbed by the bold veneer, Dobra’s food doesn’t quite demand bravery as much as it demands heart.

BRUTALE
18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
9654 4411
Tues to Sat 6pm til late


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