“86 That, Chef?” Dining at Braddon’s Brash, New Kid.
by The Editor
We burst through the doors from the darkness of a chilly Autumn evening and into the warmth and hubbub of a busy restaurant on a Saturday night. The last thing one might have expected was to be grabbed in a headlock and taught a stern lesson before being turned out on the street.
At least, that’s kind of what happened…
Welcome to EightySix – l’enfant terrible of Canberra’s dining scene born not more than one week ago. You’ll spot the new restaurant thanks to its yellow neon sign that glows from within. We’d barely noticed anything else upon our entry for a 7.00pm sitting but it was the beardy, beanied and bespeckled bartender that demanded the attention of our party as he swooped us up into the maelstrom of energy that an opening weekend brings.
Before we knew it we were at the bar with Sean Royle – co-owner with Gus Armstrong and lead Energizer Bunny. “Champagne? Wine?? Pale-ale??? Tinny of XXXX Gold????” These were all available options, delivered with machine-gun staccato. Champagne it was – and some Pommery lands in the blink of an eye. “Quick!” yelled Sean, “We’ve got your table. Let’s go!”
Waiters are dodged and diners evaded as we make our way through the unfamiliar and snug space. A vacancy is revealed within a row of stools lined up on the kitchen pass – one surely too small to fit us in. “Move over, move over,” directs our host at the stool dwellers nearby. They obey; either familiar faces or simply caught up in the in-you-face-but-you’re-okay style of service. At this point we are almost part of the kitche – if tempted we could reach over and help ourselves. “CHEF!” hollers Sean over our heads at the frenetic scene within the kitchen, “Sort these guys out with some delicious food!” Chef Michael Carey stops, flashes a smile and asks simply, “Are you ready?”
“In your hands, Chef,” we reply – somewhat disoriented. At this time resistance appears futile.
Chef seems to recognise the sitting ducks before him. “Great! we’ve got a few things we’re really excited about. Let’s start with the Bream Ceviche – lemon, chilli, coriander, and a few diced capsicums. You’ll love it!” And without further discussion we were in.
Once our heads stopped spinning we could take in the restaurant and its surrounds. Lots of wood with dark fabrics define the space. The beauty of EightySix is the local elements weaved in to the fit-out. The stools upon which we sat are by Tom Skeehan while uniforms have been developed by Luke Chiswell. The tableware comes from Bison (and looks divine) while the winelist plays a clever trick by strictly offering product from the Canberra region or overseas. Along the long wall the food menu is scrawled in chalk advising diners of what’s on offer, and it’s here that the idea behind 86 comes into effect: To ’86’ a dish is to cross it off the menu due to the kitchen selling all examples prepped for service. As the night progressed we would hear the occasional shout from a member of the kitchen staff. “Shall I ’86’ the cheviche, Chef’?” with approval granted, a quick sortie armed with chalk struck the offering off the list.
The food comes thick and fast, usually in lots of two dishes. We watch from our perch on the edge of the kitchen as the sous vide swirls, grills are fired and dishes are assembled before our very eyes. It’s a wonderfully engaging process – and if something being cooked catches your eye you simply ask if you can have it. The only waiters we saw whisked away our plates and replenished our drinks – everything else was handled by the chef.
Starters are typically around $14 and are designed to share. Meanwhile, the main courses stretch up to $40 or $50. However, we’re not looking at overpriced pastas here, rather these dishes are lamb, beef and chicken meals slow cooked to perfection.
We indulged in the aforementioned ceviche ($19), a pork and parsley terrine ($16), steak tartare (served with prawn crackers! $19), a palate cleanser of radish, baby rocket and butter, salmon fillet with pickled salad ($29) and the rare ‘ghetto’ beef ($40). We could trawl through a forensic analysis of this onslaught of dishes, but know this: The ghetto beef, although the final meat dish of our meal, caused one of our party to rise from the stool, stare at the plate in disbelief and simply say “Wow!” – It was revealing that a dish could still inspire that sort of response after such a sustained attack on the senses.
After polishing off a desset dish consisting of a fine goat’s cheese served with beetroot and liquorice jus ($14) – simple and stunning, providing a creamy sweetness to finish off our meal – it was time to go. Not even the offer of a martini made in a beautiful, stemless crystal glass and served with capers could tempt us to stay any longer. We were overloaded and overstimulated and ready to call it an evening.
Making our way to the till to settle the account, we realised the time: it was 8.30pm and we were off into the night, wondering what the hell happened. It’s true, though in reflection, we were taken hostage, shown what a bunch of enthusiastic operators can achieve and fed a fantastic series of dishes all within 90 minutes.
So, were we really placed in a head-locked, taught a lesson and sent out onto the street? Well, kind of – but in the most wonderful way.
Have you been ’86’d like we have? Let us know what you thought in the comments below.
Lunch and Dinner (evolving menu): 7 Days
Breakfast: Saturday and Sunday