Michael's birthday fell during a work trip this year, and we made sure to book a special meal out to celebrate a couple of weeks later. In the interim, we learned that Michael's chosen restaurant hasn't been paying its staff the superannuation they're owed, so we cancelled our spot and returned to Etta instead.
This second wonderful experience at Etta has cemented it as our first preference for all foreseeable special occasions! Their vegetarian 'leave it to us' spread ($65 per person) was a delight from start to finish, and an interesting seasonal contrast to the late-spring version we enjoyed there last year.
A nice little bonus is the couple of housemade seasonal sodas ($8 each) available for those of us who aren't feeling boozy. I started with the zestier grapefruit, rosemary and juniper one (pictured above right), while Michael chose the lighter spiced apple (above left).
Thankfully, no matter the season, Etta have spongey sourdough and their incredible burnt butter ready to go. These were rapidly followed by crudité with concentric pools of chèvre and watercress emulsion.
An entree of battered chickpea fritter, globe artichokes and sorrel ranked among my favourites of the night.
We learned that there's one special dish that is always, always on the menu by popular demand - the tamari roasted buttercup pumpkin wedge. While we all liked it the first time, it made a stronger impression on me on this visit - the accompanying sauce was so deeply savoury, reminding me of white miso, and the sunflower seeds were roasted to their nuttiest. It was well accompanied by a plate of Brussel sprouts, some of their leaves holding spoonfuls of labneh, and all of them seasoned with a seaweed powder.
The mains were a little more than we could handle! Eggplant a la greque (pictured above left) was impossibly sweet, served in a puddle of tofu creme and smothered in panko. Potato gnocchi (pictured above centre) were almost glazed in butter and accompanied with hearty pine mushrooms and chestnuts. Dutch cream potatoes (pictured above right) were roasted to crusty golden perfection, deceptively garlicky, and crowned with crunchy saltbush. We could barely do those beauties justice.
We asked for 10 minutes extra mercy before dessert came out, and it proved to be a magical combination of fresh, tart and comforting in a teeny bowl. A sphere of mandarin sorbet was dropped into a cheesecake of custard consistency; it's covered with a spoon of warm ginger caramel and a few vesicles of native finger lime.
This is one of the more exciting, satisfying high end meals we've experienced in recent years (only Ubud's Locavore comes to mind as an equal), and it's a bit more accessible than most. As we ate, we tried to concoct all sorts of ways to visit Etta more often. Could we just drop in for a drink after work, maybe order that
butter bread? Invite a friend and snack on the potatoes...? Just have the gnocchi and call it dinner...? Or sneak in late for dessert? Whatever the excuse, we've vowed to return when we can and keep supporting this lovely restaurant.
You can read about our first visit to Etta here.
60 Lygon St, Brunswick
Accessibility: The entry is flat and there is one step up from the bar area to the dining area. Tables are moderately spaced and lighting is quite dim. We received full table service. Toilets are unisex and spacious, but we didn't notice handrails or other mobility aids.