Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published August 14th 2015
I'll have what she's having
We are singularly blessed in the Hills with the proliferation of good restaurants. In some cases the building and the fabric of the restaurant is also part of the attraction.
The brook in question is the Jane Brook that runs through Parkerville, which is such a feature of the outdoor area of the restaurant.
By the Brook's famous gluten-free carrot cake (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
I first ate there way back in 1991, when it was owned by Greg Sutherland (no relation) and run by his then wife and a French chef.
Since then we have seen styles and management change as the restaurant has gone through various incarnations from simple and family, to the most chic and elaborate of fine dining.
Deep fried Camembert and chili jam (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
One of the more popular was during the management of Jill and Daele Dobson, which I think was two or three years back.
I am now thrilled to be able to tell you that the two are now back in By The Brook and spreading their brand of charm and food styles through the neighbourhood.
They have made few changes to the building, but the menu is a reflection of their thought and approach to dining.
Honey Chili chicken (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Their 'mission statement', says "We hope that our passion for quality food, friendly service and this beautiful place will be the reason you return."
By The Brook offers breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as specials, such as the soon to be introduced 'Seniors Meals'.
Breakfasts include (which I am sure I would enjoy) the Big Belly Breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausage, homemade baked beans, tomato, mushrooms and a hash brown on toasted Turkish bread - $22); Omelettes ($16-$20), Classic Bacon and Eggs ($16) a Kids Belly ($16), Vegie Belly ($22), and Pancakes and Eggs Benedict.
The luncheon menu is aimed more at lighter, easy to digest meals, such as the CBLT (chicken, bacon, lettuce and tomato) or the CCA (chicken, camembert and avocado), a combination I haven't tried, but am quite keen to sample. Homemade gnocchi; Moroccan Lamb Salad; Melanzane (Italian for eggplant) served as parmigiana with a goat's cheese salad.
But we were there in the evening to have dinner.
There is a move towards a more sharing style of eating. Tasting Plates are becoming common, and the Spanish Tapas style of small, shareable portions is no longer a stranger to our tables.
By The Brook has a "Brookboards: Build Your Own" series of entrees, for example - Marinated Olives ($8); Deep Fried Camembert with Chilli Jam ($12); Marinated Sardines ($8); Tempura Coconut Prawns ($14) and the like.
The idea is that you order six or so for a table of four and mix and match, sampling the range available.
The menu has a large proportion of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and organic foods.
But there was just the two of us so Angela ordered a serve of the Deep Fried Camembert, which she really enjoyed and I had an entree sized Prawns in a creamy garlic sauce ($19).
Prawns in a garlic cream sauce (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Very tasty, the prawns were well cooked, although they came with the tail shells on, which is a pet hate of mine for prawns in any sauce. The only reason to leave that shell on is as a handle for prawns eaten as finger food, which is never the case for prawns served in a sauce. I'm not picking on By The Brook here, it's a common practice in many eateries now.
For her main, Angela had Honey Chilli Chicken ($26). Chunks of meat in a spicy, creamy sauce and accompanied by Jasmine and wild rice timbales.
For myself, after considerable internal debate, I chose Beef Wellington ($39). This departed from tradition in that the beef wasn't wrapped in duxelles (a finely chopped mixture of mushrooms, onions, shallots and herbs sautéed in butter), liver paté or a crepe.
By The Brook's Beef Wellington (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Apart from the richness and flavour, this adds a protective layer to the beef so oven-baking the pastry doesn't overcook the fillet for those that like their meat rare.
Mine came with gorgeous little steamed whole baby carrots and crushed potatoes and a really splendid jus/gravy. Truly wonderful flavours.
Dessert for Angela was a slice of carrot loaf. A gluten-free specialty with a rich icing. Moist, but not too dense, it had an excellent flavour.
Sticky date pudding (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
For myself, I chose the Sticky Date pudding - delicious.
I must point out a huge advantage that By The Brook has. The best, most wonderful salt and pepper grinders. Thumb operated, the finely ground seasoning is just perfect from these sublime instruments in an elegant heavy metal casing.
Daele and Jill bought sixty pairs originally and so popular have they proved that the second order have had to be fitted with chips to prevent them being stolen.
The marvellous seasoning grinders (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)