A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published April 7th 2014
Update April 14th 2014
Regrettably, I've just seen on Brownkorte's website (http://brownkortes.com.au/latest-news/) that they've announced they're going to close at the end of April 2014. Such a shame :(
Panna Cotta Perfection
It must be disheartening to have just one pair of diners in for lunch, in the restaurant that is your pride and joy. But that was the case when my mother and I recently visited Brownkorte's Restaurant on a rather bleak Wednesday.
Brownkorte's is an architect designed and beautifully appointed restaurant, with a delightful outlook across paddocks, rolling hills, and rows of grape vines. On previous visits, I have seen mobs of kangaroos moving lazily along in the distance, grazing as they go.
The view from the restaurant
As you may have gathered, Brownkorte's is not in the city centre; in fact, it's located (aptly, one would say) in Kangaroo Ground, which is a little over 30km (estimated 36 minutes' drive) north-east of Melbourne's CBD. Given its location, it lacks the passing trade of city, or even many suburban, restaurants. Nor is there a concentration of local companies that would choose Brownkorte's for a business lunch.
So I can't help but wonder if the menu format is the right approach for this restaurant. It's a set price menu with a limited number of food choices; you can choose two courses for $35 or three courses for $45 (lunchtime Wednesday to Friday only). For what you get, this represents good value for money, but in our time poor society, where grabbing a quick sandwich and eating it in front of the computer seems to be the norm, I wonder if perhaps this more formal approach to lunch has largely lost its place. Or could it just be the tight economy and the impact it has on discretionary spending? Certainly, that was the view of restaurant owner Martin de Korte, who was looking after us that day.
Anyway, enough of my ponderings, and onto the more important matter at hand - the food. Let me just say up front that this meal was an absolute delight, and I'm glad we got the opportunity to experience it. We chose to have two courses, a savoury and sweet course.
For my first course, I selected 'chilli salt squid, green paw paw salad, Asian herbs and palm sugar lime dressing'. The dish was skilfully moulded; the flash fried squid were covered in the lightest possible batter. The plate was artfully decorated with flourishes of squid ink. I savoured every mouthful of this dish. I remember thinking, 'I could eat this every day', it was just so delicious.
Chilli salt squid
My mother had 'twice cooked pork belly, apple, red radish, sweet and sour cabbage, crackling dust'. I've had this dish on a previous visit, and it is also amazing and memorable; my mother's experience this time was no different. The menu refers to it as a 'signature dish', and it certainly seems to meet Brownkorte's description of their culinary approach: 'Modern Australian with a hint of Asian flavour thrown in along the way'. As you can see, the presentation is also a work of art.
For dessert, we each selected the same: Kaffir lime panna cotta with Persian fairy floss and toasted coconut. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is without question the best panna cotta I've tasted. As it was placed in front of us, we could see the gentle telltale wobble, indicating it was the perfect level of firmness. And then when we tasted it, it had a perfect silky smooth texture, creamy and delicious. The lime accents meant that it was extremely well balanced for flavour and sweetness. It was truly a dream dessert.
The perfect panna cotta
Brownkorte's has a good wine list, and we had a glass each of a decent local Yarra Valley wine: the Oakridge Pinot Grigio ($10 per glass).
With a cup of coffee each to finish the meal, served with (complimentary) almond biscotti, the bill came to just under $100 for the two of us. That's up there for a lunch, although for the quality of the food, the attentiveness of the service, and the beautiful outlook, it seemed like reasonable value.
So, pencil a day in your diary to go out and visit Brownkorte's. You won't be disappointed!
Brownkorte's is also available for weddings and functions.