Bracu : Restaurant Review
3.5 stars out of 5 (between Good and Excellent)
Chef : Logan Clarke
Bombay, New Zealand
Visited May 2017
Bracu survives !! In fact it flourishes as bright as ever, a little away from Auckland and yet producing true-to-heart dishes that would knock out much of the in-city competition. Chef Michael Newlands has left honourably after distinguished service that put Bracu on the fine-dining map, but Chef Logan Clarke who's now assumed the mantle, continues the excellent work with beautiful dishes that are again more substance than style - which is more than what can be said for many of Auckland's "top-rated" fine-dining pretenders.
Over the years , I've enjoyed three separate degustation meals here all of which left me happy and sated - a hit record that not even the excellent French Cafe could not match in terms of consistently delicious and creative cuisine.
The highlights of my meal were the fish main course and the chocolate dessert. The handsomely pan-roasted snapper was a pleasurable fortress from which Mediterranean associates positioned all around, mounted their seductive attack. Cream of tomato sauce was a deceptive moat , with arrows of savoury heft arising from little bits of chorizo and supervising from the top were soft little rings of sweetly smoky capsicum. As if all that were not enough, there was also the lovely earthiness of white beans.
Chocolate ganache was sublimely delicious, its balance of flavour amazing, and the way its flavour segued into the nearby slightly tart blueberries, was a triumph of taste-matching. Exquisitely complimenting this, was banana ice-cream made from young coolly understated fruit rather than the ripe version, with perfect contrasts afforded by the gentle citrus of blood orange and mandarins. Overall, one of the best desserts I've ever tasted in New Zealand.
(L) : Main Dessert as above , (R) : Pre-dessert (ho-hum!) : Peach sorbet, Vanilla ice cream Terrine, Champagne Jelly
Even in dishes where the core was not rapturous, as in the kingfish tartare, other elements shined by way of clear, elegantly blended Japanese notes of seaweed, pickled ginger and soy. Salmon was beautifully presented, with a beautiful tiny-pearled translucent sauce of apple and cucumber. The profoundly cold-smoked fish swam deeply and powerfully in the hollows and dells of one's palate (not that you could catch it - it dissolved from the get-go, so smooth and soft it was) the only quibble being that the extent of cold smoking, though delicious, muzzled the salmon's intrinsic flavour.
With 7 courses for $99 which includes an unlisted trio of interesting nibbles at the start of the meal along with quality bread, this is one of the best deals anywhere in NZ for luxury dining.
Amuse Bouche : Tuna tartare
And of course the whole experience - a nice drive one hour south of Auckland , past brown tilled fields and verdant farmland, to a lovely olive estate which surrounds the restaurant , with fine verandah seats as a welcome option, makes this a unique experience, not to mention a very romantic one. I've often visited in early winter, which amplifies its charms, with nice post-prandial walks amongst the rows of olive trees.
Gorgeous presentation distinguished the duck main course from the get-go, though ill-matched with a strident '07 Hans Herzog Merlot, which the otherwise charming lady sommelier tried in vain to defend. Parsnip, mashed potato, turnip, blood orange and even a spherical croquette of leg meat jousted as worthy associates, tied together by a sweet but beautifully perfumed 'purple-carrot' vinaigrette. The duck was topped by a slow-roasted exterior that had bacon-like delicious intensity but alas the meat per se was a touch overdone and dry. Gnocchi, requested in vegetarian form to replace the pork and veal version, were elegantly presented and had hearty flavours of tomato ragu and ricotta but did not have the X factor which separates fine-dining entrants from bistro aspirants.
The restaurant interiors are classily done up as a well-appointed villa. Staff are polite , helpful and hard-working but are sometimes done in by boisterous large groups who are shockingly ignorant of the basic need to avoid hooliganism in fine-dining restaurants. Their effect was so flabberglasting to those nearby that a hitherto gracious floor manager was left shaking his head at the incident when I was handling my check, instead of proffering his apologies.
But I remained enchanted by the experience. In the age we live in where wonderful lavish restaurants are steadily vanishing, Bracu strikes a most pleasant compromise. What a pleasurable place it continues to be !
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