The prime rib burger at The Bridgman. Photo / Babiche Martens

Restaurant Review: The Bridgman Is More Than Pub Grub

This very good gastro-pub plates deeply delicious choices, including a prime rib burger with meat shaved like high-end pastrami, and broccoli that deserves a special mention

THE BRIDGMAN
Cuisine: Modern gastro-pub
Address: Cnr Dominion Rd and Valley Rd, Mt Eden
Phone: (09) 623 0498
Drinks: Fully licensed
Reservations: Accepted
From the menu: Lamb ribs $23; spaghetti with bacon hock butter $28; prime rib burger $28; broccoli $9

The Bridgman is a very good gastro-pub on a prominent corner of Dominion Rd. Because of its location it will do very well when the All Blacks (or when Six60, the musical All Blacks) play Eden Park; however, the test of the business model will be how well it does on a rainy Wednesday evening.

Having visited on just such an evening, I can report that things aren’t exactly humming, though with half of the country sick and the other half staring at their weekly budget like it’s an M.C. Escher sketch, it’s possibly not surprising that people are opting to stay in.

Having recently recovered from the Billy Ray Cyrus myself, I’ve been stepping into the world feeling fairly safe, though when the Government reduced the re-infection window from 90 days to 29 last month I did feel like someone had cancelled my honeymoon.

I dutifully wore a mask while travelling the 4m from the front door of The Bridgman to my table, a move that many people feel is ridiculous, but which I’m all in favour of because it lets those around you know you’re the sort of person who makes an effort.

The way I see it, wearing a mask in borderline situations costs you almost nothing but identifies you as someone who probably washes their hands after weeing, too.

Photo / Babiche Martens

The Bridgman staff are masked-up too and there’s a warmth to their service that makes you glad you decided to drop in. The owner was working the floor that night and dropped by to give me a bit of his story — he went from Nourish Group (think Soul Bar and Euro) to Good Spirits (Citizen Park, The Cav) before splitting amicably with his business partner (the wonderful Eugene Hamilton, who’s apparently now cooking up a storm in Very South Auckland) and throwing his money and energy into this new place.

And not wanting to overwhelm you with names but you should also know that he’s employed Des Harris as a consultant chef.

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The former exec chef at Clooney, Des now helps restaurateurs with less fancy menus, and the money has been very well spent here: the options are more interesting and more delicious than pub food has any real right to be.

I’ve taken a long time to fall for lamb ribs, a cut so fatty that it can literally be hard to swallow. But they slow-cook them here and it’s wonderful — God knows how they manage to get it to a point where it arrives 10 minutes after you order it but tastes like they’ve been working on it for you since 9am.

The lamb ribs. Photo / Babiche Martens

The fat has rendered and much of it disappeared, the meat is as tender as short-rib beef and there are layers of interest and texture that show you why the cut is worth persevering with. This one is served with a dark, sweet onion jam and the combo is simple and perfect.

I have to mention the side of broccoli, which, I know, nobody turns to their wife and says, “Shall we go out for a side of broccoli tonight?” but it’s really, really good. It was perfectly tender with a hint of char but I think what put me in such a good mood was that you know if the guy in the kitchen cares this much about a simple brassica, everything else will be brilliant too.

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It was dressed with a few slivers of preserved lemon and a light pickled-chilli vinaigrette and was perfect.

And then there was the burger, which I also hope you’ll try. Steak sandwiches were popular for a while but had a key design flaw in that bread and scotch fillet require two different types of tooth action (biting vs sawing) so while you were attacking the meat like a hungry dog, the rest of your sandwich was flying around the room.

Spaghetti with bacon hock butter. Photo / Babiche Martens

At The Bridgman they’ve solved this not in the usual way, with a meat patty, but by almost shaving the prime rib on to the bottom bun like high-end pastrami. Along with toasted brioche, some cheese and a good pickle there’s very little else to this burger and I loved it that way.

If you want some greens, you know, order some broccoli. Or get your vege fix from the complimentary skinny fries, which come next to a metal jug of jus it’s not quite clear what you’re meant to do with.

Way back when, this was the venue where the men from our baby’s coffee group got together to talk awkwardly about our feelings. It’d still be fine for that but would also be perfect for a work get-together, a grown-up family meal or a casual date (do young people still date or just schedule hook-ups in a shared calendar app?).

The Bridgman’s was once an iconic Dominion Rd grocery store. There’s no reason its namesake shouldn’t also reach icon status one day.

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