I told you this would have been the right year for trying Erba Brusca and it has finally happened. I took advantage of a sunny Saturday, last weekend, to reserve a table at this restaurant, praised by everybody, that is located at the end of Naviglio Pavese.
My expectations, besides those on food, were all about the location. I had read about a vegetables garden and about a beautiful back yard where to enjoy a lunch. I got it wrong because the garden is there but way too far from the tables that are all set on the veranda. It has been a little disappointment after the ride to get there. I liked a lot more the dishes on the menu and, generally speaking, I can assure that Erba Brusca has been one of the most interesting experiences lately. Although there are some ‘buts’.
Erba Brusca’s offer is divided in two different methods: you can choose the ‘surprise’ menu (4 or 6 blind-courses with wine of your choice) or directly à la carte. Being it my first time I went for choosing directly from the menu, which is very short (three starters, three first courses and three second courses) and quite uncommon. Particular combinations are the actual highlight of this restaurant. We were very tempted by a paté de campagne with grilled medlars and pickles, or by the spaghetti with offal ragout and olives and dry plums.
For starters we opted for a black chickpeas soup with mussels, cold yellow Salento tomatoes purée and homegrown marjoram.
And the grilled onions with Caprino cheese, egg, lemon peel and panure. The latter, a type of breaded crumbs, in my opinion wins the Oscar for the best antipasti. Amazing, well calibrated and in perfect combination with eggs. The sweet and nicely grilled onions did the rest.
For the first course we chose a risotto with red turnip cream, smoked herring, yoghurt and terragon: a daring dish with its multiple flavours and maybe so complex to be the less convincing of the whole lunch. The idea itself is good, but the preparation is not: less yoghurt could have made it less sour. The sweetness of the turnips and the savoury-ness of the herrings were not enough to cover that sour flavour.
As second course we opted for a seabeam filet with some spelt and aromatic herbs. The (homegrown) herbs were delicious, fish was extra-fresh and the flavour incredible: maybe the spelt could have been seasoned a little bit more. Overall a great dish.
We finished with a simple dessert of strawberries, crunchy wafer, ganache and garden flowers. A sweet way to finish our meal!
I appreciated the fantasy, the portions (I couldn’t believe it when I saw they were ‘right’ and not the tiny ones of similar restaurants) and the restaurant as a whole. In the meantime I would have appreciated more balance in the dishes, a balance some of the dishes were completely lacking of.
Reaching Erba Brusca is not exactly the most convenient experience, unless you are going to bike there (they even have a bike parking in front of the restaurant) or to drive there – in which case the parking won’t be a problem. We are on the right side of Naviglio Pavese, far beyond the city border marked by the Circonvallazione road. Here there used to be only fields and the situation is pretty much the same nowadays!
The atmosphere is quite informal, with a touch of radical chic that suits the country location so well. Customers vary from the young couple to the long tables of family lunches. I would define it as a relaxing environment and service is good and kind: which is not a given in a city like Milan that tends to be difficult at times!
For a full lunch or dinner the bill easily reaches 50ish euros. By choosing the surprise menu you can count on 4 courses for 34 euros or 6 courses for 45 euros (with an extra 25 euros if you are interested in wine tasting). Many say that the price is coherent with the raw ingredients that are used in the kitchen. My advice is to reserve a table on a sunny day, to enjoy the colours of the location and possibly have a bike ride along the Naviglio. The quickest way to book a table, which is the one I used too, is the MiSiedo app (or website) which allows you to book for free checking the availability, even at closing hours. Simple, intuitive and very fast!
Strada Alzaia Naviglio Pavese 286, Milan
+39 02 87380711
Open from Wednesday to Sunday at lunch and dinner
Read the original article on Conosco un Posto. All English versions are translated by Tamara Ilic.