6 September 2023

French chef departs after bringing five-star cuisine to Darlington Point

| Oliver Jacques
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Xavier Brambati has brought upmarket French cuisine to the Point. Photo: Supplied.

If you recently stumbled into Darlington Point’s Punt Hotel in search of pub grub, you might’ve been surprised to see items such as pistachio-crusted lamb with green olive puree, confit tomatoes and quinoa roulade on the specials board.

In March 2020, the popular establishment was lucky enough to secure the services of French chef Xavier Brambati, who had previously worked in Michelin-star restaurants and five-star hotels in his home country, Ireland and Melbourne.

“I moved here just before COVID-19 started, it was the best time to move because Melbourne was terrible during the pandemic,” he said.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Griffith home-based Laotian chef Paris Floyd

After a three-and-a-half-year stint at the Point, he is now heading back to the Victorian capital with his partner Candy – the pair has dreams of setting up their own restaurant in the city one day.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to use Riverina produce,” he said.

Region caught up with Mr Brambati and profiled him as part of our five-minutes series.

Who is Xavier Brambati? I’m a chef from Auch, a small town about an hour from Toulouse in France (Gascony region). It’s an area where rugby is like a religion. During my apprenticeship, I worked in a Michelin-star restaurant in France. I then moved to Ireland where I worked at the luxury Herbert Park Hotel in Dublin, and then went to Melbourne where I was the chef at Mayfair Bar and Restaurant and then the up-market Italian eatery Ciao Cielo.

A fancy duck breast dish

Xavier’s Brambati’s duck breast, sweet potato puree, black garlic gel, parsnip, caramelised figs and parsley oil. Photo: Supplied.

Best dining experience in Australia: Quay Restaurant, Sydney, on Circular Quay. The food was amazing and so was the view of the Opera House and harbour.

Favourite cuisine: French, of course, but I also love Italian and I love all kinds of Asian food.

Most embarrassing pantry item: Instant noodles. After a long day at work, that’s sometimes all I want.

What ingredient can I not live without? Cheese. It’s everywhere for me.

Best coffee spot in the Riverina: Outback Coffee and Gifts, a cafe which is opposite our pub in Darlington Point.

Best dish you prepared while in Darlington Point: Aquna Murray cod tartare, cucumber broth, yoghurt cream, gazpacho gel, cured egg yolk and dill oil. Where I am from, duck is also a speciality, I do confit dug leg and similar dishes.

fish dish

A popular dish: Aquna Murray cod tartare, cucumber broth, yoghurt cream, gazpacho gel, cured egg yolk, and dill oil. Photo: Supplied.

My biggest culinary influence: Andre Daguin, the chef that put Gascony (in south-east France) cuisine on the map. He’s also from Auch. My Dad worked for him, and my grandparents were bakers and knew him quite well. Gascony used to be famous for producing the French musketeer Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan, but thanks to Daguin it’s now known for its must-try cuisine.

Favourite cookbook: I don’t do cookbooks, I look at recipes online and then I experiment a lot.

Who I admire on the Riverina food and wine scene: I know everyone mentions this guy, but Luke Piccolo of Limone Restaurant. I went to a few dinners there. He’s a nice guy, he uses produce sourced on his farm. He also knows everyone.

READ MORE Five minutes with Luke Piccolo of Limone Dining in Griffith

Death-row meal: Definitely a platter of French cheese, cured meat and some bread.

My top-three cooking tips:

1. Try and enjoy yourself. The recipe might seem difficult, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go.
2. Failing is a part of cooking. Sometimes the dish might not look good but is still nice to eat.
3. We have a saying in France that there are only three ingredients that matter – butter, butter and butter.

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