Since Bracken is the only restaurant in Dunedin that offers a degustation menu, it was on our ‘to try’ list for quite a while. They are the first Dunedin restaurant to be awarded one ‘hat’ in New Zealand’s premier restaurant award – Cuisine Good Food Awards.
The outside of the restaurant is very unassuming. It looks like any regular house, and the interior gives a very warm home feeling. The staff are courteous and very knowledgeable of all the dishes. They gave a good explanation of every single dish.
The restaurant is limited to just one seating per night, so make sure to reserve a table. They offer a set tasting menu of 5, 7, or 9 courses, and the menu is changed regularly, depending on the seasons.
We began with a warm amuse, a bowl of roasted butternut squash soup topped with Jersey cow ricotta & herb tortellini, and topped with walnut pieces. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the fillings in the tortellini, but the flavours were novel yet comforting. The pasta texture was phenomenal, delicate and perfectly cooked. I love butternut squash, so the soup was naturally irresistible to me. The sweetness of the soup came from roasting the butternut squash to bring out caramalised flavours. The soup was ultra-creamy, and heated to the perfect temperature. The walnuts provided a nice wee crunch.
So. Good. Both of us really loved the soup. (Too good that I forgot to take a picture).
Our second course was a cured salmon salad. A slice of cured salmon, and a deep-fried salmon belly and celeriac croquette came over a bed of kohlrabi, apple gel, sweet rocket, and Chinese artichokes. The croquette was a huge hit with my boyfriend and I. It was nicely seasoned and soft on the inside, yet perfectly crunchy on the outside. I wanted more. The richness of the salmon and croquette was nicely balanced by the sweetness from the apple gel. Finally, the rockets and Chinese artichokes completed the plate with fresher flavours and some additional crunch.
The third course was a poached fillet of fish (I forgot the kind of the fish). It came over baked yams, oyster mushrooms, watercress, and mushroom cream. The fish was really tender. On top, the watercress gave a mild peppery and bitter taste, ant the baked yams added sweetness. The mushroom puree pulled the entire dish together with earthy umami flavours. It was a well thought-out dish.
The next course was Havoc pork belly that came served over spinach, and with a fermented apple, quince and ginger broth. The dish was topped with crispy pancetta, and sesame.
In all honesty, my boyfriend and I were both a bit let down by the dish. The sweetness from the apple and quince were very pronounced, so much so that it overpowered the pork. This dish had an interesting combination of the caramelised fennel, spinach, fermented apple, and the ginger broth, which I found a bit overwhelming. However, the pork belly was cooked nicely. All in all, this dish had a lot of interesting flavours, however, neither of us enjoyed the entire dish as a whole.
Next, we had braised merino lamb short ribs, served over Jerusalem artichoke, puy lentils, sweetbreads, and red cabbage puree. The lamb was beautifully cooked, it was very soft and tender on the inside. However, we both thought the lamb was a bit over salted. The red cabbage puree did balance the saltiness with a bit of sweetness. I liked the components of lentils and artichoke, which complemented the lamb really well. The sweetbread (organ meat from the thymus gland and pancreas) was a new experience for me, I did enjoy it.
The first dessert was pistachio financier, raspberry ice cream, white chocolate, and rhubarb. I really enjoyed the pistachio financier, it was light and moist on the inside, and coated with ground pistachio. I also loved the raspberry ice cream, really light, smooth, and full of vibrant raspberry flavours. It was nice to eat it with the ground white chocolate.
The last course was lemon vacharin- lemon curd, parfait, creme fraiche, olive oil shortbread, sorbet, and crisp meringue. We were told that this is the only dish that was never taken off the menu. Rightly so. It was beautifully presented, and the bright citrusy flavours provided a super refreshing finish to the rich dishes beforehand. The textures were superb too, a mix of crumbly, crispy, and smooth.
The menu changes every few weeks depending on what’s in the season. Perhaps we will visit again to try more of their creative dishes. Thank you Bracken for the warm service and a new dining experience. We had a great evening.