Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bruno's knows how to party, Hunky Dory style

It's already been a year since Hunky Dory Social Club (HDSC) and downstairs restaurant Bruno's opened their doors on Sydney's Oxford Street, bringing something different in a open rooftop bar made for lazy weekend afternoons.

A year later Bruno's has a new menu and chef, Daniele Trimarchi (formerly of Fratelli Paradiso and Icebergs, and heavily tattooed). A lot of my favourites from my last visit are still on the menu but gone are the indifferent pastas.

Pleasingly, the cow hides are still on the restaurant ceiling and the crocheted black tablecloths remain beneath the glass-topped tables.

Dinner tables for the "degustation" dinner at Bruno's, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Following icy Tommy's Margaritas and Honey Daiquris on the HDSC rooftop with a side of live music, a crowd of media/social media types were herded down the dark stairs to Bruno's where seats were taken at mostly communal tables in anticipation of a 15-course "degustation" dinner.

Not that Bruno's offers a degustation, it was more a sampling of almost the entire menu, share platter style as I'm sure nonna would approve.

While the restaurant walls are decked out in religious artworks (owner Christopher Cinerari calls the images "powerful"), the back of the menu features Botticelli's artwork 'The Birth of Venus' which also happens to be tattooed on Cinerari's calf (Venus is the Roman goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and military victory).

Olive misto - Pork & fennel stuffed green olives, Sambuca Gaeta olives and fennel &
chilli Sicilian olives
After the few drinks on the rooftop, most were starving and ready to rip into the 15 courses, starting with a selection of olives. While I nibbled on the fantastic grissini, I missed out on the stuffed olives which were apparently amazing. The small Gaeta olives were sweet with a light hit of Sambuca with nowhere near the flesh of the fat Sicilian olives.

Affetati misti - selection of Italian cured meats with an almond skordalia
The skordalia was the first of a few Greek hints on the menu, but the cured meats were a highlight of the evening. Truffle and fennel salamis shared the slate with bresaola, prosciutto and mortadella, all of which were superb (but granted I'm a cured meats fiend).

Nduja di casa - spicy cured pork paste, goat cheese, homemade wood-fired bread
I was super excited to see nduja come to the table, in a more presentable form than I last had (and listed in my favourite eats of 2011). This time they were three squat cylinders, garnished with almond flakes and served with the semi-soft goat's cheese and wedges of wood-fired bread.

And, as I warned those around me, it was just as spicy as I remembered and not something to be eaten while inhaling air, that's for sure. All the dishes so far were from the cicchetti menu, designed for sharing and snacking.

Insalata di lenticchia - blue lentils, goat's cheese, wood-fired baby beetroot, mint,
parsley, basil, Spanish onion, tomato
Salads made their way to the tables, starting with a lentil salad combining the classic partners of beetroot goat's cheese and an array of herbs and vegetables for a hearty side, all under squiggles of aged balsamic vinegar.

Insalata Primavera - Brussels sprout, walnut, parmesan, lemon, oil, balsamic
But I was most taken with the raw Brussels sprout salad, featuring the maligned vegetable shaved and tossed with lots of parmesan cheese, lemon and olive oil, scattered through with chopped walnuts. I don't think anyone would have trouble getting kids to eat Brussels sprouts this way.

Insalata Caprese - torn basil, buffalo mozzarella, tomato, Novello olive oil
The small Caprese salad featured diced tomato, big leaves of basil and what looked like melted mozzarella cheese. I don't know if it was a skilled hand in seasoning, but this was about the best buffalo mozzarella I've had in Sydney. I would have eaten this entire dish if it didn't seem rude in a share plates situation.

Ortolana pizza - tomato, eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, rocket, pesto
Having previously had and loved the pizzas at Bruno's, especially the bases, I think these were on par although admittedly, this was when I was starting to get distracted by the seemingly bottomless glasses of a New Zealand pinot noir.

The Ortolana pizza featured eggplant, capsicum and zucchini under a forest of rocket, and wasn't quite the best vegetarian pizza I've ever had.

Sporchino pizza - tomato, tallegio, asparagus, prosciutto, chilli
The Sporchino pizza was a simpler affair of salty prosciutto, tallegio cheese and thin rounds of asparagus. To be honest, I'm not sure if I liked the asparagus on pizza as it seems to develop a very particular, not subtle aroma.

Salmone curato con vodka - vodka & beetroot cured salmon, pickled beetroot,
watercress & horseradish cream
Almost unbelievably, the food kept coming. Thin slices of salmon cured with vodka one couldn't taste was an unexpected dish, livened by cubes of pickled beetroot and lines of mild horseradish cream.

Vitello tonatto - slow braise veal with an in-house tuna dressing
Pulling us straight back into classic Italian was the vitello tonatto: ridiculously tender braised veal smothered in a creamy, tin tuna-spiked sauce much like mayonnaise. It was so well executed that even the first-timers were nodding their heads in approval.

Calamari fritti - calamari, aioli, lemon
The convivial sharing continued as plates were passed up and down the table. The dish of lightly battered calamari strips were pleasingly soft, with a unique addition of round sweet potato crisps thrown into the jumble.

Haloumi grigliato - haloumi, roasted red peppers, salsa verde, olive oil, lime
The other Greek (technically Cypriot) touch of the night was the grilled slices of haloumi cheese, which is completely unexpected on a menu of salami and pizza. Even with salsa verde I struggle to see its place on the menu but I just can't say no to the firm, squeaky cheese.

Funghi della nonna - field mushrooms, gorgonzola, pine nuts, spinach
Grandma's mushrooms were definitely one of the more unusual dishes of the night, in a very good way. The grilled mushroom cups barely held melted gorgonzola cheese, sweetened with aged balsamic and ably supported by roasted pine nuts and wilted spinach. A vegetarian cheese-lover's delight.

Pancia di maiale - Twice cooked pork belly, braised moscato pears, pomegranate fennel
salad, crackling crumble
If the final dish wasn't pork belly, I might have said "no". However, it was pork belly so I had to manage at least a bite. The sweet, braised pear was a lovely match to the soft, fatty bricks of pork and a nice evolution from apple sauce.

Pomegranate fennel salad, served with the pork belly
At this point I barely even glanced at the pretty-in-pink pomegranate salad, and thanked my lucky stars that dessert wasn't on our menu.

The endless pinot noir continued, as did the conversation around the table, leading me to think that this was exactly what the HDSC boys had in mind.

Wining and dining at Bruno's
Tonnes of food to share amongst great company and wine, and perhaps topped and tailed with a few drinks upstairs while taking in the live music - that sure is a hunky dory night out.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Bruno's Restaurant relaunch party courtesy of Hunky Dory Social Club, with thanks to Bang PR.

 Bruno's on Urbanspoon


Minh said...

Interesting about the Sporchino pizza, we had a meatball variation on our side. Loved the Nduja! Could eat that every day :D

Paul said...

Umm I really want Friday night to arrive now!

joey@FoodiePop said...

Has it really been a year? Wow time flies. The food looks great and the joint is quite moody-looking.

Detective Chow said...

Have to agree on the veal -- I was a first-timer, and a convert. Yum yum yum.

And the share-plates help create a great atmosphere. Reminds me of Table4Twenty (or however you write it. You know, the place in Surry Hills?). A fun night chatting with foodies over food.

And endless glasses of kiwi wine. :)

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Don't question the presence of haloumi - just enjoy it haha!

But seriously, I can't believe how much food was served to you guys.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Sounds like there are some real hit. I adore nduja and just cooked with some of it today!

Tina said...

Hi Minh - The meatball one looked good! And that nduja is near unbeatable (but SO spicy)

Hi Paul - Here now!!

Hi joey - Time flies when you're having fun ;) Great, simple food.

Hi Detective Chow - Lovely to meet you; though shame the wine eventually had to end...

Hi Rita - Yes'm, I always enjoy my cheese ;)

Hi Lorraine - Ooh, cooking with nduja. Will look forward to the recipe post :)

JasmyneTea said...

That brussel sprout salad is intriguing! Bruno's is definitely on my list :)


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