PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Berta is to restaurants what the dapper suited man is to gentlemen – made of masculinity and refined style. Hidden amongst Alberta Street's grey shades of tarmac and concrete, Berta is a culinary cocoon lined with natural elements of wooden floorboards, brown leather banquettes and marble-top tables stitched together with brass features. Large jars of pickled vegetables whose fate will later take them to the antipasti platter line the shelf above the theatrical open kitchen. Two huge glass windows open the restaurant onto a view of a cement wall webbed with cracks, while a tiny carpark framed by tangled razor wire can be seen to one corner. This concrete ‘artwork' seems to chide at restaurants that boast glittering skylines as their strongest asset – who needs a view when you have Sunday-style roasted lamb, slow cooked for 36 hours? The slices flecked with parsley are layered atop creamy cauliflower puree and surrounded by a moat of jus, rich with rosemary and the meat's flavours. The deeply roasted meats and full-bodied reds make it nearly appropriate to pull out a cigar.
The menu changes daily, the selection scrawled across a large blackboard that faces the lengthy wine list on the opposite wall. On this late lunch date a group of gentlemen laugh together and toast a Friday corporate gathering that will run well past office hours – the menu of share plates and glorious mains, the perfect excuse. They debate and solve the woes of the world as their table is graced with bountiful wooden charcuterie platters featuring slabs of cheese and rippling layers of cold meats. They later enjoy ravioli bound with roast-garlic ricotta, bejewelled with peas and ribboned with mint, and pick at a mound of crisp squid which swipes up house-made aioli.
Berta is where you go when you're sick of stuffy fine dining and you want to enjoy dishes rich in classic and comforting flavours. The exposed brass pipes and concrete view make Berta seductively rough around the edges, which is all part of the masculine charm.