Betting on Brunch

Brunch should be a casual, breezy, sun-filled event. So when I noticed that one of my new favorite night spots, the recently-opened Zino Wine Bar on Street 294, was offering brunch on Sundays, I wondered if its sleek, brick-and-neutrals atmosphere and Mediterranean cuisine that goes well with dinner and nightcaps could successfully make the jump to brunch. 

With good company in tow, we caught the staff a little off guard by showing up at 9:30 a.m., a full hour before brunch is slated to begin at 10:30 a.m. Still, they were very accommodating, supplying us with menus and taking our drink order while we waited for the kitchen to open.

The Americano was strong and nicely bitter, freshly brewed in a very impressive looking coffee maker and served with a dark chocolate truffle and a little bit of milk on the side. This, coupled with the fact that soy or skim milk are not on offer, was the first sign that Zino seems to intend its brunch affair to be decadent and rich rather than wholesome and light.

Zino’s brunch menu is small yet offers a couple of standard dishes alongside some true originals. We opted for muesli, shakshuka, a Sicilian open-faced omelette, and truffle mushroom scrambled eggs.

The dishes arrived quickly and there was a largely successful attempt to ensure they were nicely presented. However, the scrambled eggs were slightly too oily and the muesli, which came with homemade yogurt and fresh fruit, lacked inspiration.

Still, Zino’s Australian owner, Ian Bragg, is aiming to provide those who enjoy brunch on Sundays with a novel food experience that is not just about trying to satisfy hunger.

“I think there’s a potential market…to do something a little bit different. The idea was to develop [over time] a wine and champagne brunch,” he said.

I was extremely excited to find shakshuka on the menu. The North African dish of eggs poached in a tomato sauce has been a long-standing comfort food favorite of mine and again seemed to reflect the sophisticated approach Zino seemed to be taking with its menu.

The menu says it is served with labneh—a cheese made of strained yogurt—unfortunately on the morning in question there was none to be found. Placed in the middle of the dish was a sprig of coriander, which would have been put to better use chopped up and scattered over the dish. The tomato sauce also lacked flavor.

Nevertheless, the winning feature of the shakshuka was how perfectly the eggs were done: Lightly poached so that they come undone just with the graze of a knife, exactly how it should be.

As for the Sicilian open-faced omelette, the menu promised prosciutto, peppers, onions, basil and white cheese. Instead, we were presented with what appeared to be a vegetable omelette sans prosciutto or white cheese and with an addition of mushrooms. When we raised this with the waitress she helpfully went back to the kitchen and provided us with ham, but it was definitely not prosciutto.

While the brunch menu might still be a work in progress, Zino is highly recommended for its cocktails and diverse wine offerings.

The Blackberry Attraction—a cocktail of vodka, cranberry juice and blackberries—is a tried and true favorite and the heavy questioning you get from the staff on how you would like your martini is both endearing and comforting and indicates the level of care the staff put into everything they do.

Perhaps with more experience and further development of the champagne brunch concept, Zino will become a weekend staple.

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