I was overjoyed when I first heard that the Bresolin boys were taking over the old Bodega: if anyone had the skills and reputation to make a slightly fringe location successful, it was them. My only disappointment was that the original concept was a relocated Crazy Horse, and I doubted that an upmarket steakhouse would attract the sort of liveliness that this stretch of Willis Street desperately needed.
But the concept evolved, and The Bresolin is far more eclectic and approachable than I initially expected. It keeps Crazy Horse’s premium steaks for the cigar, suit and expense-account brigade, but adds Loretta-esque vegetable and grain dishes for the kale and quinoa contingent. They serve massive meaty feasts for large groups, à la Duke Carvell’s or El Matador, and the now ubiquitous burgers and fried chicken to satisfy the soul-food scenesters. There are fusion small plates to suit the quasi-fine dining ambience upstairs, craft beer on tap to turn the courtyard into a garden bar, and take-away coffee and counter food for the 7am commuters. Is it possible to be all things to all diners?
I’ve previously enjoyed most of the casual options, and apart from some inconsistency in the quality of the fried chicken, my experiences have ranged from satisfactory to excellent. For this review, my guest and I decided to explore the more elegant regions of their menu.
I’m a regular by now, but the staff are just as courteous to everyone. That professionalism rapidly made up for the initial confusion, when it took ten minutes before anyone could even tell us the wait for a table.
Eventually, we sat down to a gout-inducing combo of calamari and veal sweetbreads. The former were lightly crumbed, nicely seasoned and reasonably tender, served on a Japanese-inspired bed of wakame, daikon, sweet mayonnaise and pickled cucumber. The latter were impeccably airy, with a tangy, crunchy salad of thin celery and red onion slices. The accompanying hot sauce almost overwhelmed the delicate sweetbreads, but somehow the salad’s blue cheese dressing tempered that. We also demolished a bowl of what may be the best fries in Wellington.
Then we shared $50 worth of Hawke’s Bay wagyu flank steak, served perfectly rare. Wagyu’s reputation rests more on its tenderness (and, let’s be honest, its price) than on its taste. The flank cut has the opposite qualities, balancing things out and resulting in meat that was silky without being melting, with a distinct but not intense beef flavour. The Bresolin’s grill added smoky overtones, and the provision of horseradish and a wedge of lemon helped enliven the dish.
We complemented the meat overload with two vegetable dishes. One combined pearl barley and black rice with cavolo nero and fried kale, which was sweetened with currants and pine nuts. The other was based on butternut pumpkin and heirloom carrots, their hearty texture given a toothsome, peppery kick by almonds and rocket, and enlivened by the sweet–sour flavours of a caper and raisin dressing.
The small plates look inexpensive, but rapidly add up, though for us that was exacerbated by cocktails and the restaurant’s penultimate bottle of 2009 Mountford Liaison Pinot Noir. Roast feasts and high-priced steaks end up good value when shared, though that won’t help solo diners. Overall, The Bresolin manages to be jack of all trades and master of most.[warning]
Address: 278 Willis Street, Te Aro
Phone: 04 801 5152
Cost: Small plates $12–17; Feasts (for four or more people) $50–85
Open: Tue–Fri 7am–late, Sat–Sun 8am–late
Drink: ParrotDog DeadCanary $9.50 pint; Trapiche Malbec $8/glass, $46/bottle[/warning]