by Catriona Mitchell
Australian chef Nicolas Lazzaroni is the inspiration behind Bridges’ constantly evolving menu, which features sophisticated Italian and Asian dishes. I drop by at lunchtime to find the kitchen staff frantic with a whole new menu, implemented yesterday, and on top of that: the devising of a fourteen-dish brunch menu for this coming Sunday, for a Mother’s Day celebration with around 10% of proceeds going to Bumi Sehat.
Nicko is there to greet me, and tells me about the upcoming brunch plans while feeding me slivers of chocolate biscotti, still warm from the oven. Every now and then he calls out an instruction or a question to the kitchen staff. “It’s hard for me to tell the difference between Balinese and Indonesian,” he laughs, “because the people that teach me Indonesian are Balinese. We speak what I think is Indonesian but it only seems to only work in the kitchen; no-one else understands me! Sometimes I think they just make it up to make fun of me.”
The atmosphere is bustling and above all focused; there is little time for jokes while food preparation is underway. There’s steam rising from vast, stainless steel pots; in one corner a woman is twirling liquid caramel around a stick, in another someone is peeling carrots and ginger, there’s the spit and bubble of the deep-fryer, the clack-clack of a whisk blending egg-yolks and cream, and a loud hiss as a stream of white wine lands in a pan. The staff moves around each other in a fast, seamless choreography that has apparently overcome all danger of boiling water and sharp knives; it’s pure intuitiveness. They’re alert and on top of their game, despite having started at 4am.
I turn my attention back to the man behind the dishes they’re so busy preparing.
A lot of my food is all my own inspiration. Since I finished my apprenticeship, wherever I’ve worked, I seem to have run the kitchen quite quickly and not really had a chef mentor above me. So it’s all very self-induced, it’s whatever I can research, whatever I can try. What’s good about Bridges is it gives me the freedom to try whatever I want and put it out there.
How do you do your research?
There are so many top restaurants in Sydney, I go to have a look at what they’re doing and try to find out how to change it and make it my own. If I get the chance I definitely travel to eat; it’s the best way. Then it’s Google, it’s YouTube, as much as I can.
I love desserts, refined desserts, with chocolate. I feel desserts are the best way to be creative. They have the most to do with chemistry; it’s quite technical.
Let’s talk about the brunch menu for Sunday.
There’s going to be a ridiculous number of dishes. I don’t know why I suggested it.
It’ll be a buffet with a difference, right?
Yes. It’s hard to do a refined buffet, so we had the idea of giving everybody their own personal buffet. The dishes will be mostly Italian-based – probably 90%. The concept is to ensure there’s enough so that everyone has something they like. Maybe two sauces would do, but we’ll provide five or six.
I think we’ve got fourteen side dishes. The first to come out will be a sweetbread board, while people are making their orders for their eggs, meat and drinks, like from an a la carte menu. Once they’ve finished the breads, we’ll bring out the proteins and the side dishes, and then we’ll serve a high tea – a selection of cakes and desserts, fruit salad and ice cream.
What are your picks?
One of my favourites would be the asparagus, which is baked with breadcrumbs and prosciutto and topped with a blue cheese dressing. Another one would be sautéed octopus, which is done like a salad with a preserved lemon dressing. Vegetarians have their vegetable kebabs, frittata, hash browns, balsamic tomatoes, whole roasted mushrooms…. It’s a good balance – about 50-50 so if you’re vegetarian you’ll be well compensated; you won’t be missing out.
The idea is to make people happy not hungry!
Why is Bridges linking up with Bumi Sehat for this event?
We try to support Bumi Sehat each Mother’s Day. We did it last year and this year we’re doing it again. It’s not just that we believe in what they’re doing, but there’s so much proof that it’s needed. 80% of the people I know who are pregnant or who have had a baby have used Bumi Sehat. It’s not something that can be overlooked; it’s needed and it’s such a good cause to support. Ibu Robin has been doing it for so long and she’s so dedicated. Not just locals but foreigners use her as well, because she’s trustworthy and always great for advice, always willing to help. She’s an awesome lady!
Bridges Bali will host its ‘Mother’s Day Innovative Brunch’ between 10am and 3pm on Sunday, 12th May (and every Sunday after that). This week, brunch will be accompanied by live classical musicians on guitar, piano, violin and flute, and UK poet Julie Silvester will read from her work. Performances are programmed throughout the brunch. Representatives from the Bumi Sehat foundation will be joining the event.
Price: IDR 280,000++ pp. Children 12 years and under Rp.180,000++. Unlimited serving. See www.bridgesbali.com to make a booking.
Photos by Catriona Mitchell