THE brainchild of former MasterChef contestant Con Vailas and his lifelong mate Ben Korkmaz, both from Hobart, Born in Brunswick was conceived in Melbourne and born in Hobart less than three weeks ago.
Like many other recently opened Hobart food establishments, it’s been an instant success, with the team cooking up a storm for more than 100 breakfast, brunch and lunch customers each day.
And it’s little wonder. With Vailas meeting, greeting and directing traffic, casual but flawless service and a kitchen under ex-Stillwater chef Joshua Retzer at a very busy midweek brunch, the place was running like clockwork.
Vailas gained his hospitality experience at Hobart’s Charcoal restaurant and bar and Wrest Point Casino before moving to Melbourne’s hip inner-city Brunswick East where, he says, he got inspiration from eating at a different cafe every day and from watching Heston Blumenthal on TV.
“Without living in Melbourne, this would never have happened,” he says.
And, with a large open kitchen and servery, a couple of communal tables plus window bench seating and scattered tables for two, an abundance of white marble, timber and plants, the whole flooded with natural light through the perspex ceiling, the interior is wonderfully light and bright with a real buzz of activity.
The interior of Born in Brunswick is bright and breezy, with a chicken burger on the menu in a nod to its previous use as a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.
Vailas and Korkmaz have created a slice of Melbourne in Hobart while chef Retzer and his kitchen are adept at combining ingredients and a diversity of culinary influences from Korea, Japan, South-east Asia, Germany and elsewhere and in employing the latest sous vide, fermentation and pickling techniques to create up-to-the-minute dishes that, in their multicultural complexity, are full of surprises and exceed expectations at every turn.
Sous vide, half-cooked salmon mi cuit, for example, comes with garlic cream, seaweed crisps, pickled wakame, slow-cooked egg and sourdough. Cuttlefish is accompanied by daikon, pickled fungus, compressed apple, cucumber, laver (seaweed) and apple dashi while another dish partners heirloom tomato with compressed watermelon, olive streusel (crumble), pickled fennel, fermented tomato and Meredith feta. The beauty is, despite the complex array of ingredients and flavours, such dishes hang together well and work.
I tried a slab of slow-cooked pork that was still nicely moist and textured partnered with onion and maple jam, dabs of clear tomato gel, a clump of oyster mushrooms, slow egg and sourdough. A smoked and slow-cooked brisket had been shredded, filled with short macaroni and cornichons, reformed and crusted and served with mustard creme fraîche, house-made kimchi, puffed amaranth, bean sprouts and fried egg.
A crispy chicken burger — a nod, Vailas says, to KFC, which used to be on its site — came with pickled daikon, mayonnaise spiked with Korean chilli paste, coriander, mint and lime. It was fine, but not up to the standard of the other dishes and might better have been left to KFC. But the knockout dish of the day — both for me and the restaurateur at the next table — was the mango and lemongrass panna cotta with passionfruit gel, pineapple and chilli syrup and macadamia topped with snow-like flakes of condensed coconut cream.
The mango and lemongrass panna cotta with passionfruit gel, pineapple and chilli syrup was the stand-out dish for reviewer Graeme Phillips — and a restaurateur at the next table.
“Panna cottas are the hottest breakfast ticket in Melbourne,” Vailas says.
Maybe so, but I doubt any could better Retzer’s delicious creation.
There’s an attractive kids’ menu and, if you’re not in for the food, there’s a selection of smoothies, pressed juices, kombucha, coffees and teas as well as cocktails and a short list of wines, beers and ciders.
Sourdough with berries and elderflower jam or grapefruit and yuzu marmalade $8; eggs your way with peach, tomato and pepperberry relish $14; mains $19 to $25; desserts $16 to $22.
Born in Brunswick
410 Elizabeth St, North Hobart