As FoodMeUpScotty, Anthony Clark is one of The City's top foodie bloggers extraordinaire.
There was a moment when time stood still. It was only for a few seconds, but in those precious moments, the world around me disappeared. I’d read that Brent’s - run by one of the city’s nicest blokes - was shutting down. I wondered how could this be possible? Brent’s was my go-to special occasion spot, a place to spend birthdays and anniversaries. But the details became clearer: not closing, just changing - with a new look and a new feel. The world swam back into focus and I was able to breath again.
And so, Brent’s became 85 Miskin St, with head chef Brent Farrell deciding that a change was in order. No longer a white linen fine dining restaurant, 85 Miskin St became more than a special occasion place – it transformed into one of my regulars. With Brent cheffing for almost twenty years, he’s learnt a trick or three. So with the plan to make his well-known restaurant more accessible, the risk had clearly paid off when Brent was rewarded with a Chefs Hat for the 2014-2015 Good Food Guide. While I’ve eaten at 85 Miskin St regularly in the last twelve months, the time had come for a degustation of the ages.
A very special ‘pre-degustation’ treat was presented to kick start proceedings: a cup of his incredible scallop broth was accompanied by a cup of his famous mushroom cappuccino – a dish he’d retired with Brent’s. We were in raptures with our starters and almost crying for more. ‘More ‘came in the form of duck liver pâté with port syrup fig preserve and toasted brioche. The pâté was rich, decadent and creamy – certainly wonderful on its own - but when combined with the sticky and sweet fig preserve, the flavours went into overdrive. With the crunchy texture of the tiny little toasted brioche, it was a wonderful continuation of the meal.
The surprising appearance of cooked avocado combined with air dried wagyu and bitter cumquats was next, and presented on a polished tree log. I couldn’t help myself – stuffing the lot in my mouth in one go (and certainly a much more satisfying way of dining). At his creative best, Brent challenged us with his citrus cured salmon with edible ants (yes, real ants), rosehip sorbet, radish and a herb crème fraiche. It was beautifully presented and subtle to eat, the hint of rose contrasting nicely with the citrus cured salmon. The ants were crunchy and effective, and I ate every last one of them. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of pumpkin. A bowl of hay-baked pumpkin with paprika smoked almonds, pepitas, sour cream and chives was presented as a mountain of ingredients with pumpkin soup poured over it. While it was my least favourite dish, the rest of my table loved its sweet taste. A little palate cleanser of nitrogen frozen raspberry with rose petals and sorbet quickly (and thankfully) cleared my palate of the pumpkin and I was ready to continue the journey.
Our first main was crispy skinned pork belly with apple, fennel, mint, black sausage and Sicilian olives. Not everyone is a fan of the blood sausage but there was little to find fault with the beautiful pork and its crispy crackling. Pork and apple are a classic combination, and Brent worked them to perfection. My favourite dish of the night had to be the venison with cauliflower puree, chorizo, blueberries and sorbet. The venison was a perfect medium rare and tender as tender can be though Brent had once again united sweet and savoury. Blueberry sorbet and chorizo? Madness of the best kind, but an unforgettable combination.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and dessert was universally an exquisite beauty. The pistachio with salted chocolate caramel (steaming from a dip in nitrogen) worked wonderfully with the burnt almond crumb and vanilla bean ice cream. Spun sugar created a halo for this heavenly dish.
It had been a meal to challenge the palate, and a dinner never to be forgotten. But Brent Farrell and 85 Miskin St has that effect.
Photo credit: FoodMeUpScotty