It was time for another catchup dinner with A and I selected Brutale as both of us had never eaten Croatian food before. Brutale is located in a laneway in the heart of Melbourne CBD in Corrs Lane – and is under Berlin Bar (where the old Eurotrash nightclub was). It is the latest restaurant from chef Daniel Dobra (ex-The Aylesbury and St Ali), and he gets to share and promote his Croatian heritage by showcasing delicious Croatian food which he grew up with.
Dobra is all about family and Brutale is his way of sharing a piece of his family with us. The restaurant could almost be mistook for his very own family living area – aside from the disco ball bomb, soldier helmet lightshades, not to mention the full pig’s carcass hanging behind the glass at the entrance as well as the interesting artwork (such as huge pictures of broads with the faces of pigs) around the room and a DJ playing records in the background.
The menu consists of appetisers, larger dishes and finishes with desserts and consists of genuine family recipes handed down to him by his father and grandmother. Dishes like his Dad’s oxtail goulash are an example, where it is cooked in the restaurant just as his dad would at home. There are also dishes such as Grandma’s Greens – which is a simple stew of vegies that his grandmother cooked with every meal- and Father’s Chips which pays homage to his family. The Cabbage Rolls and Croatian Donuts are also a recipe passed down from his grandmother. Additionally you can select the ‘Dobra Family Banquet’ and be one of the family for the night. Most of the dishes are cooked in the tailor made kitchen and are cooked over wood and coals to give it a truly authentic flavour. There are other Croatian homestyle techniques such as spit-roasting, pickling and cooking in the peka – a roasting dish with a domed lid.
For drinks there is a selection of unusual Croatian wines, including some grape varieties that aren’t grown anywhere else. The most famous is the Rakija – a spirit distilled from plum and other fruits. This variety continues with their non-alcoholic drinks with drinks such as Cokta – which is described as the Croatian version of Coca Cola. I ordered this and despite not being a huge fan of Coca Cola – this drink was refreshing and addictive (and has the added bonus of having vitamins added too!). A ordered the *orange* drink and said it was an interesting flavour.
We were told by the waiter that most of the dishes were designed to share so that is what A and I decided to do. We weren’t sure if we had ordered too little or too many dishes, so the waiter helped us out with that as well.
We ordered the Pierogi – Polish Dumplings, Soured Cream – which was stuffed with wild mushrooms. This was a really great dish and the sour cream really complemented the dish. The dumpling casing was cooked perfectly and tasted just as good. Another dish that we ordered was the Grilled Calamari with Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil . This was yet another stand out dish – the calamari was charred perfectly and the combination of the garlic, parsley and olive oil added moistness, flavour and tang. The serving was quite a huge size as well.
The Father’s Chips with Salt, Pepper and Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was really great as well, although I found that it had a bit too much salt. The Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was definitely a hit – I could eat this by the spoonful! It was smooth and creamy with a hint of spice and I think you can use it as an addition to any dish really.
We also ordered the Shopska Salad which was very colourful dish and contained Tomato, Cucumber, Pickled Onion, Paprika, White Cheese. The dish was tangy and salty all at the same time and was quite a refreshing dish that I quite enjoyed. The serving size is very generous and we couldn’t finish this dish in its entirety.
The last dish we had was an eggplant dish that had red onions with paprika and coriander on top of it. Usually I am not a fan of eggplant dishes but this was really great. The eggplant was soft and easy to eat and the flavoring complemented the eggplant.
At this point we were really quite full, but decided to share a dessert as well. I sure do love my sweets! We went with the Croatian Doughnuts – Flavoured with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Raisin, Vanilla and Served with Walnut Rakija Cream. Seriously these are the best donuts I have ever tasted. They were served warm and cinnamon, nutmeg, raisin combination was fantastic. This is definitely a dessert you have to try and after all it is Dobra’s Grandmothers recipe.
What is also quite different about Brutale is that there is no bell to let the floor staff knows that a food dish is ready, they just clap their hands and the staff know to go and pick up the food. I really like that idea. The service was great – friendly and helpful but sometimes it was quite hard to get the attention of the waiter if we needed to order something or ask something. And one more downside is that if you want bread you need to order it off the menu, it isn’t served otherwise. Overall Brutale serves delicious Croatian food that is both authentic, simple and delicious in an atmosphere that makes you feel at home.
PS The dish that is highly sought after and talked about is the free-range organic pig – hand-reared on a farm in Bendigo – which is spit roasted for five hours then served with crackling and jugs of apple purée and roasting juices. I of course couldn’t eat this dish, but is a must try for most people that have been to Brutale.
Rating : 4 Pandas
Menu – Refer to http://www.brutale.com.au/#!food/c1rcm
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting and Homely. There are also interesting pieces of artwork and objects that will keep you amused through dinner
Standout Dish: Pierogi and Croatian Donuts
Service: Frienldy and Helpful, but most times it was hard to get the attention of the wait staff.
Online Booking: Yes via http://www.brutale.com.au/#!bookings/chva
Restaurant Details and Location:
18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 4411
Tuesday to Sunday: 6pm–1am