BRIK WORKS

Brik Café: Consciously Curated

By Nikita Singh 25 October 2019

Salad including an unusual cut of meat – picanha – for juicy, tender morsels of steak. Photo: Supplied

Every element of Brik’s menu reflects the ethos of being consciously curated, in the flavours chosen, and the eco ingredients used.

On the corner of Baker Street, among Rosebank’s bustling streets and office blocks, sits a familiar piece of architecture.

Brik Café occupies a corner of Rosebank’s old brick-faced fire station. The warm rust-coloured walls and sunlit bay window create a cosy, relaxed hideout on a busy street corner.

The design was chosen to feel like you were being hugged by the warm colour. Following the monotone trend in Europe, we kept to neutrals and burnt brick red,” says owner Sasha Simpson.

Old and new merge in a carefully curated interior. A modern open kitchen sits beside ‘70s-style bamboo chairs and ancient apothecary jars from an old pharmacy.

Terracotta earthenware, crafted by local artisan Black Mobu, mirror the warmth and charm of the red walls and brick textures.

The restaurant’s ethos “consciously curated, pro-actively cooked” means they work with local suppliers, support small businesses and give thought to every ingredient that enters the kitchen.

For Simpson, “pro-active cooking” refers to reusing or repurposing as much as possible, and not just ingredients. Brik uses biodegradable rubbish bags, plastic waste become eco-bricks, and coffee beans are delivered in buckets rather than foiled plastic bags that can’t be recycled.

Brik’s commitment to eco-conscious cooking is woven through every aspect of the menu. There are breakfast jams and marmalades to make use of orange peels and fruit cuttings. Bananas, and even their peels, are used in decadent banana bread with homemade butter.

Even vegetable scraps are salvaged to make a deliciously savoury umami burger basting. “We take all our vegetables cuttings and add wakame to it, which is like a seaweed, and we roast that for about six hours in the oven.” After roasting, the mixture is placed in a pot of water to simmer like a stock, and then reduced into the umami basting.

Produce that can’t be reused or repurposed goes to a farm compost heap where the team are planting their own vegetables for the café.

Brik is open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The dinner menu is a curated mix of salads, small plates, and light comfort dishes. Salads like warm roasted cauliflower with pickled grapes, house mozzarella, smoked walnuts, homemade yoghurt, and roasted chickpeas provide smoky, sweet, tart, and creamy all in one bite.

Fresh and light calamari with roasted grapes and taramasalata at Brik Café. Photo: Supplied

Simpson’s own favourite is calamari with roasted grapes, grilled cabbage, taramasalata and brick pastry. “I think calamari is undersold as something that’s always fried or oily or unhealthy. Our version is fresh and light.” The pastry adds a crisp textural element and taramasalata makes a sophisticated tartare-esque sauce.

Simpson works closely with Joburg-based meat suppliers Bull & Bush to determine which cuts of meat are less popular in South Africa. For example, many South Africans don’t know what to do with beef brisket, which can be quite tough if not cooked correctly. Brik’s menu has a melt-in-your-mouth pulled brisket, an optional extra for breakfast, salads or sandwiches.

On the dinner menu, you’ll find another unusual cut of meat – picanha steak. “Picanha is the end of the rump. They aren’t able to get the same size and shape for steak houses so picanha usually gets cut off and turned into chuck or sausages,” says Simpson.

Simpson explains that picanha is similar to sirloin with a thick layer of fat at the top. “It’s so flavoursome, so delicious, and so tender. It’s just irregular. It’ll be the same weight but it might be a completely different shape.”

There’s an experimental nature to Simpson’s cooking. “Food for me has always been something where you step out of your comfort zone.” Across the menu, you’ll find small flavour-packed morsels such as corn ketchup, smoked walnuts, pickled grapes and fermented chilli that introduce an unfamiliar flavour profile to a conventional dish. DM

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