There’s nothing better when something is simple, but simply perfect.
Embla, the newest venture from the team that brought you Town Mouse (which y’all know I simply adore), was somewhere I had dropped by for a drink when they first opened, but just never made it around for dinner. Until your friend Chris from Brisbane randomly drops in on a Monday night and it’s simply perfect timing.
Located on Russell Street, the wine bar (they have been quite specific in the media that they’re not a restaurant…yet) is a like a warm cavern in the distance on a cold winter’s night; candlelight flickering and casting shadows across the timber heavy interiors which give it the feeling of age, grandeur, but intimacy all in one breath. It’s cosy, and it’s easy to get lost in the selection of wine and top-notch hospitality.
I love the wine list, the wine by the glass list is punchy, selected and not too long, but with enough things on it that aren’t familiar on it - so it’s fun to get adventurous.
The food menu is quite similar, not too long, punchy, selected, with lots of charred items that enjoy some time in the scorching wood fire oven that looks like a dragon is opening it’s mouth every time the door is opened to pop something in, or on the charcoal open grill.
A plate of anchovy toast is whisked on to our table, a must, and it’s easy to see why. Hit of salt, hit of umami, hit of crunch, it whets the palate beautifully.
Duck liver parfait is something I can never go past, and Embla’s was a generous serve of perfectly smooth and velvety goodness. Loved the pickled radish on the side to offset the richness. Was also very kind of them to top up our quickly dwindling bowl of lavosh which I wasn’t expecting (otherwise I would’ve not held back!)
When I see pine mushrooms on the menu, being in season (when I visited Embla), it’s impossible to say no. Served so simply (a theme you’ll see ongoing through the night) with rosemary and soured buttermilk, my only wish was that there would be more. Perfectly cooked, the buttery and meatiness of the pine mushrooms was accentuated beautifully.
Wood roasted broccoli with sunflower seed miso is not much to look at, or so one may think, tree trunks of broccoli charred to black on the outside, but so sweet and tender on the inside. I’m also totally obsessed with broccoli (as a kid I actually drew ‘steamed broccoli, chicken and rice’ as my favourite dish for a homework task) so couldn’t get enough of this.
Ongoing theme yet again, but the half roast chicken was everything you could ask for. So juicy and delightful, but surprisingly, the roasted garlic was one of the most delightful components. Roasted until so soft that it’s sweet - it perfectly accompanied the chicken. Make sure you and your dining partners all have one (or enjoy them all and let the others suffer).
We also enjoyed the roasted celeriac, I forgot what it was served with (it’s a wine bar, sue me for forgetting), but at the end of the meal when Chris and I were trying to decide our favourite dishes, this one definitely came up for me. I loved the crisp and charred edges and how comforting, homely and filling the dish was. Reminiscent for me of Town Mouse’s roasted cabbage, and the way it makes me feel. You’ll have to forgive my vague flavour profile notes…this was one of the last savoury dishes we had after a couple glasses of wine!
Chris and I had the great honour of being one of the first people to try a new dessert on the menu that evening, a lemon curd tart made with a white sesame pastry, black sesame sugar and bananas with lemon/citrus.
Oh my goodness. So sublime. Perfectly zesty, and sweet, but also refreshing. Great smooth texture, and absolutely loved the extra level of flavour the sesame brought to the citrus palate. We were recommended a glass of yuzushu, which was absolutely perfect and highly recommended.
For only being a wine bar, the food offering is pretty solid and also solidly filling. Pretty sure I rolled out of there at the end of the night, although it’s almost tempting to never leave with the most warm and welcoming of service (always always take their recommendations - everyone there knows what they’re doing), cosy atmosphere and obviously delicious food and wine.
Embla is just making the simple, simply magic - and that’s all there is to that.
122 Russell Street