Μια γιορτή στο Brika, Northbridge
Opening only a couple of months ago close to my work, Northbridge newby Brika caught my eye in the early days of construction - and I can't believe it took me this long to finally go there to eat! Serving Greek share food, this restaurant has been a pulsing hotspot, with tables hard to get and the vibe happy and relaxed.
Catching up with three of my closest friends Vee, Linda and Jay, we decided to give Brika a go. The weather was wet outside and even for a Wednesday, the place is packed at 6pm. Thankfully we manage to get a table inside and dive straight into analysing the amazing sounding menu.
The fit out is really quite funky - bare walls with "graffiti" scrawled across it and another feature wall full of shutters in all different colours. Immediately I feel transported to Greece in the summertime where that bright blue paint colour is completely commonplace. The lighting is low (thankfully my new camera seemed to cope okay), with a solo candle doing most of the handwork at our table. The space inside is big but it's jam-packed - though we're not willing to brave the rain and howling wind and sit outside!
The menu is meze style, broken into smaller and larger share items, plus a selection of salads. Though we order everything at the same time, our food comes out in two 'courses' - the first being the smaller items.
We start things off with a serving of warmed pita bread ($4.00) with hummus ($6.00).
The pita is soft and has just the right amount of oiliness. I love that it's lightly grilled, toasty on the outside and fluffy inside. The hummus (a dip made of chickpeas and tahini) is delicious - zingy and with that grainy texture that this dip is known for. The serving is a little small but given the price it seems justified - I'm definitely keen to try their tzatziki next time I return!
Definitely one of my favourite items for the dinner, the Saganaki ($12.00) is incredibly simple but my god it tastes good. A cheese reminiscent of haloumi, kefalograviera, is panfried and served at the table with just a slice of lemon to squeeze over the top.
I know I love cheese a little more than a normal person so let me preface my own reaction with a direct quote from Jay: "ho-ho that cheese is ahhhhmazing!". And yes, he was right! Having just a single item on the plate means there's nowhere for the food to hide, and I'm pleased to say that the flavours in this saganaki are just wonderful. Salty, cheesy and having the right salty and creamy balance. I definitely wish we'd ordered more of this!
The spanakopita ($14.00) comes in a serve of three, but our waitress was quick to offer us the option of adding a fourth for an additional $5.00. I like that they have this flexibility and naturally none of us wanted to miss out so we were a definitive yes please!
Spanakopita is a dish I make often at home and is a spinach, feta and ricotta pie encased in flaky filo pastry. Brika's version is a great variation on a classic - instead of slices of pie, they make their spanakopita more like ladies fingers with spinach, leek and 3 cheese.
The spring roll looking pastries are completely crisp and encasing molten hot filling. It's so moorish and addictive - I could have easily polished off several more of these, they were easily my favourite dish of the night. Yum!
The final smaller dish to come out is the patates ($8.00) which are hand cut chips, sea salt and oregano. I love chips with their skin on and these definitely don't disappoint. They're crunchy but fluffy on the inside, with a good kick from that sprinkling of salt. The sauce on the side is a rich and creamy accompaniment that allows the chips to really shine as the hero.
After our empty plates for the smaller dishes are cleared we all sink into conversation and that happy feeling that follows when you've had delicious food. However after around 15-20 minutes we realise that the rest of our food hasn't arrived. Asking our waitress she tells us she's broken the meal into smaller meze first then the larger, which is fine but it's still another 15 minutes before the rest of the food comes out. Thankfully it is worth the wait though!
The panfried barramundi with skordalia ($20.00) again is three slices of fish as a standard serving but we add an extra piece of fish for $7.00. It immediately catches my eye as it's laid down on the table and I'm excited to try it.
Skordalia is a potato and garlic mash - Brika's version is silky smooth, complimenting the delicate flesh of the fish. The skin is so satisfyingly crisp, working well with the tender meat. Since coming home from Taiwan I've really felt the absence of seafood in my diet so this is a real treat.
Slow cooked lamb
Slow cooked lamb
The slow cooked lamb ($24.00) is the dish I've been told by everyone who has visited Brika as a must try. Two hunks of fall apart lamb that's been slow cooked over charcoal and served with a simple house marinade and slide of lemon.
When Linda first goes in for a piece she has to cut it off the segment which initially worries me - is the lamb tender?
Thankfully yes! Seeing her cut into the meat I immediately dive for the tongs and pull from the centre to see just whether all that slow cooking has paid off. The meat breaks apart with ease, tearing off into chunks that smell absolutely mouthwatering.
The flavour is simple but punchy. I can definitely see just why everyone speaks so highly of it - a perfect dish to share with for dinner.
The bean salad ($9.00) is a delight - made of fava beans, chickpeas, tomato and herbs. It's garlicky and cool to the palate, the ingredients cooked to the point where they're still firm but easy to chew. There's not much else I can really say about this dish, it was yummy and something I think I might try to replicate at home for an easy midweek salad.
The octopus ($18.00) is our final savoury item for the night and again like most of our dishes for the evening is simple but tasty. They really know how to celebrate the produce here - utilising traditional cooking methods that really bring out the natural flavours.
Not feeling completely full we decide to order some desserts. We pick two servings of the loukoumades ($9.00 each) and two servings of baklava ($9.00).
Loukoumades are greek doughnuts which come soaked in a rosewater syrup and topped with peanut powder. They're a huge serving, and we realise quickly that perhaps just one order to share between the two of us who wanted the doughnuts might have been a better idea.
Jay and I swap bites of each other's and so trying his doughnuts I am pretty amazed at how good they taste. They're incredibly sweet but the texture is crisp on the outside and airy inside. The rosewater syrup isn't overpowering and a nice deviation in the flavour profile to your standard desserts.
The baklava is filo pastry filled with honey and walnuts. Sprinkled on top is crumbled pistachio nuts and on the side is halva ice-cream with walnuts inside.
Like the loukoumades, the baklava is sugary sweet - they definitely are not shy on finishing on a diabetic note! But despite this they taste amazing. The texture is perfectly on point, the ice-cream having a lower sugar content and surprising me with the hidden walnuts inside. Yum! What a great touch.
With our desserts Jay and Linda each enjoy a coffee which I take a sneaky sip of. I'm not a coffee drinker though I like the idea of getting the caffeine hit. Jay's long mac is too bitter for me but I actually quite like Linda's latte - it's creamy and the flavour is nutty and not overly 'coffeeish' (my bad attempt at articulation).
So what did I think of Brika? Brilliant. Special. And just the thing Perth has been crying out for.
I'm not a person who eats Greek food often, but I do recognise the parallels between this cuisine style and Lebanese. There's a lot of similarities, with some distinct differences. I really did enjoy the food and I know now that I've experienced it, I will definitely be back soon. And when I do - I will be all over that saganaki and spanokopita again!