A regular contender at Taste of Auckland, Bracu’s elegant dishes are celebration of quality local produce. Bracu has always been foodie destination on my “one day” list. They also do weddings and even though we visited on a wet spring day, it’s easy to picture a glorious sunny day in the micro-climate of the Bombay Hills.
Bracu (pronounced brah-KOO) is set within the 96 hectares of Simunovich Olive Estate who produce olive oils and olive-based beauty products. You can enjoy claybird shooting, archery or even knife throwing if you prefer, before relaxing over food and wine in the idyllic setting of Bracu. Think rolling hills, thousands of olive trees, and country luxury.
Last week, I was invited to sample from the new spring menu at Bracu. Spring must be a dream for chefs, especially when there are items that are so fiercely seasonal. You get to play with these bright and delicate flavours for just a short period of time and if you’re lucky, you get suppliers that have all sorts of weird and wonderful offerings to delight your diners.
Our table of 6 food-loving bloggers, I’d met all but one, although by the end of the weekend, I’d eaten with all of the bloggers at least twice. Eating with like-minded foodies is a hard life but someone’s gotta do it.
We started with a delicious glass of bubbles from Bourgogne, huge warmed green olives with sourdough, and of course, Simunovich Olive Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Terrine of tender spring leeks, slipper lobster (AKA Moreton Bay Bug) and free range chicken liver served with a brioche soldier with pickled walnuts and truffle cream. Head Chef Mikey Newlands explained the unusual process of pickling walnuts which are harvested young and pickled whole. The black, thinly sliced result is unlike any walnut I’ve had before. It was great to see onion weed flowers used, they pop up all across Auckland every spring. I have hundreds in my own backyard. I should use them more in my cooking this spring!
We are right in the heart of whitebait season and the crispy South Island whitebait dish was both delicate and robust. Twirled with fresh angel hair pasta and home grown Meyer lemons, this was a lovely way to showcase this highly seasonal spring treat. I would have this over a whitebait fritter in bread any day. The whitebait paired with a South Island Sav (of course).
Our main was lamb two ways and nothing says spring quite like lamb does. Rolled loin of lamb was tender and delicate and the lollipop made of rib of lamb and cooked in balsamic and garlic was smokey with a hearty lamb flavour. The world’s tiniest tomatoes hidden in this dish: a teeny tiny tomato per person. I guess seeing something so adorable tucked into this smart plate of food was unexpected. Served with white asparagus tips, Mikey explained the growing process for white asparagus. What a treat! The flavour is mellow and being only a recent green asparagus convert, perhaps I should have tried white asparagus first, I may have been converted a lot sooner.
The lamb was paired with a very serious Awhitu Syrah which played well with the strong flavours of the lamb. A red wine girl myself, I savoured this dish right down to the very last bite and the syrah to the last drop.
We finished the meal with fresh lemon madeleines and Guanaja chocolate tart with pumpkin seeds. The chocolate was dark, rich and earthy. Not too sweet and perfect way to end the meal.
Head Chef Mikey Newlands introduced each dish with passion and humour. It was a treat to be able to ask questions and gain insight into the menu, ingredients and process. Check out an insightful conversation with him by Taste of Auckland here.
It was refreshing to see playfulness on each plate. Even though we were eating quite sophisticated food, things like the soldiers, the lollipop and tiny tomato gave these that extra bit of squee. Each mouthful was a delight and tasting each component in each thoughtful dish was like opening another layer of pass the parcel.
Michael Wenzel the F&B Manager, showed us through their wine library, which is essentially a fancy name for where they store their wine. The Bracu Wine Library has in-built shelving with an elegant table setting and opulent decor. Wine storage: boss level.
This space can be booked for private dinners. The room was kept slightly chillier than ambient dining temp, but Michael assured us that when they had diners, the temp was raised for an enjoyable experience.
After our meal we had a quick tour around the olive estate and enjoyed a olive oil tasting and viewing of the factory where they make skincare products and press olive oil. We left feeling impressed, satisfied and delighted. If you’re looking for authentic local food with an elegant country setting, this place is the real deal.
Getaways, wine tours and activities
Bracu have getaway packages which represent fantastic value starting from $199 per person.
For example, the Alison’s Lodge Package includes accommodation in the Honeymoon room, a 7 course Degustation with a glass of wine from the Bracu Wine Library, transport to/from the accommodation, and breakfast. A great idea for an anniversary or special occasion and only 40 minutes away from Auckland.
They also have a $99 wine tour with Villa Maria, $99 per person for pick up and drop off from CBD, tour and wine tasting at Villa Maria and a 2 course lunch at Bracu.
For the more adventurous, there’s always archery, claybird shooting, knife throwing. Activity packages start from $59 per person.
Bracu will be present at Taste of Auckland next month so if you can’t get out to Bombay any time soon, make sure you check them out there.
We dined as guests of Bracu. A big thank you to Mikey and his staff for looking after us and humouring our questions. Looking forward to seeing you again soon!