It is a quieter part of town certainly, that which is the North-eastern corner of Carlton and away from the bustle of Lygon St. Some would say one for the locals, for in that immediate precinct, there is arguably none better. b&v is easily missed from Nicholson St due to the obstructed frontage, and passes you by due to the lack of a distinctive signage. What might give away it’s location would be the trio of small tables decking the pavement, and a glimpse of the wine bottles on display immediately behind the glassed entrance. So you don’t actually see the tables located beyond the bar, which is tricky for customers in unfamiliar territory. Ok, but you’ve easily found a park in the surrounding residential streets, you’ve navigated to b&v and worked out the abbreviation instead of the spelt out name, now let’s start your dinner.
Bramble and Vine is only open for dinner, not surprising due to the lack of pedestrian traffic during the daytime. In the evenings, this part of the suburb is essentially filled with people returning home rather than those out on a hunt for food. So it is certain that a prior reservation is perhaps non-essential. However, that said, calling up ahead of your visit is probably courteous on the part of the customer. The establishment is simply furnished, tables might be on the smaller side, but that works in creating a more cosy feel especially once the lights are dimmed. The kitchen is embedded to the rear of the dining area, and is partially hidden but the white lighting offers you glimpses into the wordless action.
Leila is such a friendly and warm host, and is terrifically passionate about the choices of ingredients and cooking styles. It is Melbourne’s fortune that she decided to seek the southern pastures down from Graceville QLD after her success with Kis cucina . The menu is a simple one-pager, with well-priced entrees ($18), mains ($33) and desserts ($14). They offer a couple of nice wines, and corkage is $15 per bottle. The small pizzas ($14) are a good way to start the table off, and amongst the four on offer, the Sardinian gorgonzola garlic pizza is my pick of the crop. It is moderately thin, with a good crunch factor, and the sharp flavour of the gorgonzola mingles nicely with the soft mushed garlic cloves.
The red wine braised pork belly is a visual treat. It is by no means a dish you’d attempt in your home often by any measure. So it is easy to appreciate the rich melt-in-your-mouth layer of fat, the tender threads of meat, and most impressively topped with a cracking crackler of a pork crackling.
The eye fillet (rare, how else?!) is cooked well, although I do think the polenta serve is overly generous. An offering of mustard would also be preferable. The Kipfler chips are well-prepared, and I wonder whether a steak-frites approach might be entertained? A touch more greens might be nice too, served separately. We had a side of kale with tahini, which was prepared to perfection, except for the slightly off-grey colour of the tahini. Tasty no doubt, but visually… I’m unsure about this aspect?
The snowegg dessert is a smashingly fantastic way to round off your meal at Bramble & Vine. Creamy pavola-like folds excited by the crunch of nuts, brought together with a rich sauce. hmm.. would a brandy sauce work with this one?
Bramble & Vine is a classy humble restaurant that is rug-snug in this corner of Carlton North and Brunswick East. It is perfect for the locals, but I’d encourage the trip to check out this classy non-fuss restaurant and its offerings. Service is warm and friendly. The menu is precise and ideal for an establishment of this size. Well-stocked for wine glasses, perfect for pulling out one of your well-cellared bottles. As I did.