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 February 15th 2013
Get Out And Eat At The Brook
In the more than two and a half decades that I have been a professional food writer I have seen The Brook have marvellous owners, talented chefs, beautiful decors, swift polite servers, delicious menus and efficient staff.
Unfortunately these admirable qualities were almost never there all at the same time.
But they now are, and have been since the present ownership. Over the years the restaurant has morphed from Jane Brook Garden Restaurant to The Brook, its present incarnation.
Always a charming location on the banks of the Jane Brook, The Brook is part indoors, part garden - each with their own attractions. Inside is cozy, relaxed and rustic, outside is open, just as relaxed and with all the advantages of living in the Hills.
In the outdoor gazebo, frequently used for weddings, Michael Day softly played ballads and instrumentals as a perfect backdrop to luncheon.
A professional musician, his warm style is much in demand at weddings, parties and functions.
The menu is just about to change, as it does pretty much seasonally so I won't bother to quote from it, but I will tell you what we found on our plates.
The service is swift, polite and friendly without being matey. Asked for an opinion on a wine or the food, you get a thoughtful reply, which is all I ask. I don't even care if they're wrong, I really hate it when you ask 'What do you recommend?' and the server replies 'I dunno, It's all good', which is manifestly unlikely and not helpful.
Same with the wine - if I ask what they have that's 'light, fruity, suitable for fish' I expect a suggestion, not just the most expensive white on the menu.
Salt and Pepper Squid at The Brook
The Brook do this rather well, and have a small but serviceable beer and cider range.
James ordered salt and pepper squid, for which he has developed a particular fondness. The portion was very large, perfectly cooked and seasoned, with a very superior aioli indeed. In fact all the portions were generous
I ordered, as an entree, prawns with sun-dried tomato and feta and got eleven prawns - that's almost as many as one might expect of a main course - and were magnificent, richly flavoured and piping hot.
For main I had a steak, cooked exactly as requested - 'medium rare, on the rare side' - pinkly perfect on the inside crisply seared on the out with a most magnificent jus based on red wine and a perfect complement.
Now, that's a steak ...
This came balanced on a low tower of hand-cut crisp chips stacked jenga-style underneath - delicious.
James ordered one of my favourites, gnocchi, served with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. These were tasty and the flavours and tastes delicately balanced although not in the slightest traditional in shape and texture, none the worse for that.
Home-made gnocchi with cherry tomatoes
We were far too sated with good food, cider and music to think about a dessert, although there is a range of truly delightful home-made cakes, served with cream and ice cream. These change frequently depending on the whim of the baker and as the spirit moves her.
However we did have an excellent coffee. And I didn't have to ask for more sugar, always a big plus for me.
One can list the advantages of The Brook and they are many, but the reality is that the sum is greater than the parts.
One leaves The Brook feeling well-fed but more than that one feels restored, the original intent of the restaurant, which derives from the French verb restaurer, meaning "to restore".
At roughly $40 to $50 a head, The Brook is not expensive, and incredibly good value for money. It is licensed and if I were you I should allow two or three hours on a Sunday for luncheon.