Musings on Food
By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Where I used to be the doyenne of pubs and nightspots with loud music I now shun places where the decibel level is higher than 65 (the decibel level for normal speech), seeking instead, venues where quiet conversation, good food and reasonably priced drinks are the raison d’etre for going.
So when my gang of office colleagues suggested that I go bar hopping with them, I shuddered and was about to decline when one of them said, “The food is pretty good and if we go early, like after work, its not noisy”. After much cajoling, I relented and we all traipsed off to Bricks & Barrels for an early dinner.
Arriving at 6.30pm, the lights were dimmed and a few tables were already occupied mostly with drinkers. One big family of varying ages occupied almost one side of the room and it was heartening watching them tucking into platter after platter of food and relishing each bite.
Our ‘small’ group of seven settled at one of the high tables with their equally high stools and proceeded with our order. Regular tables and chairs are available in the back garden but as the area was only fan cooled, we opted to stay in the air conditioned section in the front. The temperature here was comfortable enough and the piped music bearable to my ears, although the decibel level heats up considerably when the live music from Urban 7 begins at 9.30pm.
Bricks & Barrels is one of the new breed of ‘gastro’ pubs that have begun mushrooming in Ipoh. Based on the concept of an English pub and instead of serving boring pub grub as most are prone to do, gastropubs are meant to elevate pub food to gastronomic levels offering wholesome well prepared food at prices that while not cheap, nevertheless won’t make a hole in people’s pockets.
Bricks & Barrels does this well. This is a place where families can come to taste and sample western food and leave before the party crowd descends. This is when the music gets raucous and the beer and booze really start to flow.
The menu at Bricks & Barrels is quite extensive although starters are restricted to three soups, two salads and a ratatouille which is a mediterranean-style stewed mixed vegetable in a tomato base served with sourdough bread. The mushroom soup which arrived was fragrant, thick and creamy and for the small eaters at our table, more than enough for two people. A Tapas or snack menu also serves as an alternative to starters and one has a choice of a variety of small titbits to whet one’s appetite as one waits for the main courses to arrive. These range from fried lamb bits to fried calamari or squid, buffalo wings or chicken bits.
The specialty at Bricks & Barrels appear to be meat with Pork dominating the menu and starring in myriad roles. From the English Roast Pork belly to the Roasted Teriyaki Pork Loin, or the Porky Parmigiana which is pan fried, breadcrumbed pork loin, topped with cheddar and mozzarella cheese, the pork menu is extensive.
Pork also shows up in their pastas in their Porky Carbonara, with Italian Parmesan cream, portabello mushrooms and bacon; their Roast Pork Aglio Olio which is simply spaghetti tossed with virgin olive oil, garlic and topped with roasted pork belly chunks a’la our Chinese Siew Yoke, combining elements of east and west; and their Spaghetti Porky Bolognese, the perfect option for those who don’t eat beef.
And if that wasn’t porky enough, three of their pizzas feature pork from the Hawaiian Pork Pizza with bacon, pineapple, Italian mozzarella to the Roast Pork Pizza and the German Sausage Pizza. Their pizzas are thin crusted, crispy and well worth ordering. On the night we were there we ordered the Smoked Duck Pizza which I would go back for.
But the crème de la crème and the most impressive dish is their Porky Platter, a Hog’s heaven for 4-6 people consisting of 3 types of German sausages, barbecued spare ribs, roast pork and potato wedges. Two types of sauce came with the platter as did Sauerkraut (German pickled cabbage) and pickled gherkins. The spare ribs were falling off the bone tender and the roast pork with its superb crackling a real treat, not to mention the crispy potato wedges which I couldn’t resist picking at. This platter was certainly enough for the seven of us with leftovers to spare.
We then ordered the Creamy Seafood Spaghetti with a white wine parmesan sauce, squid, prawn and capelin roe. This was delectable, with generous chunks of scallop, squid, big prawns, sundried tomatoes and the white wine bringing the right smidgen of tartness to the sauce. And to my delight, the spaghetti was al dente.
By this time we were groaning with surfeit but soldier on we did and ordered dessert. We only managed one as the others we wanted were out of stock. The ingredients in this dessert intrigued us and proved to be worth the effort. This Premium Vanilla ice cream was topped with olive oil, sea salt and a raspberry balsamic glaze, marrying savoury with sweet. This was a mixed marriage that worked, the sea salt and virgin olive oil bringing a hint of the Mediterranean to an otherwise bland dessert.
Of course other meat items are also on the menu with chicken, lamb and even Wagyu beef but for me I will go to Bricks & Barrels for their porky dishes.
Ladies will be pleased to know that on Tuesday nights, selected complimentary cocktails will be served and massive discounts given on other cocktails.
Creamy Seafood Spaghetti — RM30
Spaghetti Roast Pork Aglio Olio — RM24
Mushroom Soup — RM12
Soup of the Day — RM6
Caesar Salad (with chicken) — RM20
Smoked Duck Pizza — RM32
Roast Pork Pizza — RM29
Porky Parmigiana — RM23
Porky Platter (for 4-6 persons) — RM98
Tapas — From RM13-RM16
Bricks & Barrels
28-30 Jalan Lau Ek Ching, Ipoh.
Tel/Fax: +60 5-253 8558
Sun-Thu: 5pm-1pm; Fri-Sat: 4pm-2am
GPS: N 04° 35.919 E 101° 05.133