Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A wonderful, maaagical animal

Venue: Breslin Bar & Grill
Style: Steakhouse, Rotisserie, BBQ
Address: 3 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank [Google Maps]
Phone: (03) 9455 8855
Hours: Lunch and dinner / 7 days
Prices: Starters $19 / Mains $20-40 / Tasting menu $80
Bookings: Accepted

With its antler chandeliers, varnished surfaces and statement Laguiole cutlery, the Breslin Bar & Grill brings to Southbank a steakhouse with the look of a high-gloss hunting lodge. Billed as an ‘in your face’ temple where the carcass is consecrated, diners can choose from wood-fired steaks and ribs to sharing feasts that revolve around utilizing every part of one magical animal.

In their first week of trade, the restaurant is doing a reasonable number of covers on the Monday night we visit, though with the noise and light level low, the atmosphere is rather serious and does not have much in common with the traditionally raucous New York steakhouse, from which the Breslin takes its inspiration. However, the chef has organized for us a menu showcasing the cuts from a Flinders Island lamb and the eating proves to be in the spirit of joyful, carnivorous abandon.

Shredded lamb neck croquettes w/ pepperonata salsa

Shredded lamb neck croquettes fall apart beautifully beneath our forks and each mouthful reveals salty treasures within, including capers, olives and smooth goats cheese. The accompanying 2010 Alsace Gentil "Hugel" offers good body and a little spice, with the easy-drinking characteristics of pinot gris.

Lamb burger sliders

Across the entire table, lamb burger sliders are a hit. The pattie is exceptionally flavoursome and not at all dry, finished with sweet relish and a generous helping of thick tzatziki.

12-hour braised lamb ribs w/ mint verde

Unfortunately, a distinct lack of seasoning on the lamb ribs is very noticeable, after the things the lamb burger did to our mouths. The ribs are well cooked, with a satisfying distribution of fat, but the finish is too rich and we find ourselves wanting for citrus or gremolata, something to brighten up the taste of the meat. The mint sauce sounds as though it should work but it's unremarkable. We also note the lack of a finger bowl in which to dip our greasy digits.

Pan fried lamb brains w/ salad of cos, green beans, peas, broad beans and truffle oil

Upon arrival, I did note that our little menus made mention of an entrée of lamb brains and I took a breath: my last culinary frontier. In spite of having grown up happily chowing down on tongue, neck, cheek and liver, there is something about the notion of dining on brains that has always given me a headache, almost like psychic pain, leaving me with a desire to clutch at my scalp.

Verdict? A fellow diner likened the texture to pudding and he's not far off; it's very soft and yielding, while holding its shape. It practically melts away in my mouth, but nevertheless, I can't resist piling the salad of beans and peas in after it, to neutralize the sensation (the salad is delicate and pleasing in its own right, but as it turns out, the rest of the table is offended by the dish - not by virtue of the creamy little brains but the truffle oil).

I switch to merlot in readiness for the main course, a trio of Flinders Island lamb consisting of:

- Rotisserie saddle with anchovy and seeded mustard filling,
- Leg of lamb deboned and flame cooked, and
- Pink rack of lamb point.

Trio of Flinders Island lamb...

...with luxurious jus, borlotti beans and baby potatoes

Accompaniments include bitter greens, a marvellously buttery jus that I wish to swim in, fresh borlotti beans, very good herbed, baby potatoes and a selection of mustards, horseradish and sauces. This is a beautiful product that has been cooked flawlessly; the colour is enticingly pink and each part is tender and comforting to eat, everything you hope for with lamb.

Recognition that I am full has no bearing on my appetite for dessert. We presume we'll be seeing a quintessential New York cheesecake. Rather, the star of the sweets selection is a tall, enticing trifle, with oodles of rhubarb and vanilla custard, with a brûlée lid. You don't eat it so much as excavate for it with a long spoon and it's not the ideal dish for sharing, but we've grown comfortable with the feel-good food and no-one begrudges anybody else the mess they make as they obtain their share.

The bread and butter pudding is warm and gratifying, with ample dried fruit and a dollop of exceptional clotted cream. I also enjoy the plush carrot and walnut cake, though others are underwhelmed. When we attempt to section off the tart however, the pastry proves to be extremely hard and the lemon filling is too thick to be called curd.

Lemon meringue tart and bread & butter pudding

Carrot walnut cake w/ Chantilly cream and trifle

The essential components are there, in spite of a few missteps. Our lamb menu was pleasurable and varied, with dishes that were at times flawless (slider, trio) and challenging (I still could not bring myself to order brains of my own volition).

The Breslin is a welcome injection of personality to the Southbank dining precinct and I am hungry to see what they do with beef (hold the testicles).

Breslin Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon


  1. I understand what you mean about brains, though I do like the idea of no part of the animal going to waste.

    A "frontier" I couldn't get within 500 kms of let alone cross, however, is eyes (I know sheep's eyes are a delicacy in some places).

  2. Thanks for the heads-up on this place! Certainly looks interesting, though pity about the desserts...and also looks that all things American is becoming the new "in" thing.

  3. @Luke: Nicely done, you've reminded me of a few other things I'd have difficulty with. I've seen photos from South East Asia of containers full of fresh eyes. I think the closest I'm getting is Eye of Sauron cupcakes...

    @momoandcoco: I've since heard from the chef that he will endeavor to fix the lemon tart. And yes, if this is the new trend, I'm hopeful will see some new spins on Creole and Cajun!