Chifley’s Bar and Grill, Barton

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So this is something that I’ve been pretty interested in going to for a little while now because it’s a steakhouse, in Canberra that somehow has a decent Urbanspoon rating. Shocking right? I don’t want to be one of those Urbanspoon nerds, and I’ll always try something for myself regardless of the Urbanspoon rating, but it is cool to finally see a steak place in Canberra that the fine people of Canberra actually like.

Chifley’s is a relatively newly opened steakhouse in the historic Hotel Kurrajong that opened as part of the hotel’s recent renovations. So, the story of how we ended up here goes a bit like this. It was the Australia Day long weekend and we had no idea what we wanted for dinner. Ouk suggested Chifleys because he hadn’t had a steak in awhile and, well, I suppose that’s it really. We were kind of unsure how this would go since it’s a somewhat popular place on a Saturday night, and we didn’t have a booking. We were kind of afraid we’d get into some kind of Dorsia situation. Luckily we underestimated quite how many Canberrians disappear over long weekends and were left with a restaurant that was barely half full, and much fun was to be had.

Anyway, less about the how, and more about the what.

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Like any nice restaurant, there was a Complimentary serving of bread. Something to note here is the really cool little packets of butter they gave us! This wasn’t all fancy like tomato smoked butter, or truffle infused butter or anything, but it was really nice, soft and smooth butter. Easily the most hipster packaging for butter I’ve ever seen, outside of maybe plastic cling wrap with ‘organic’ written in permanent marker. The bread itself was probably not the best I’ve ever had, sadly, and it was the lowlight of the entire meal. You can take that two ways though, 1. the bread was bad, or 2. everything else was so good that it makes sense that the bread was the worst!

It’s honestly was probably a bit of both, the inside of the bread was wonderfully soft and was really great with the butter, fantastic. The crust however, was really quite chewy and definitely not crunchy at all, which was a bit of a shame. The butter was really quite fantastic though, we ended up saving bits of it to put on the steaks we ordered. We eventually didn’t do it, but it should give a bit of a window into how much we liked the butter.

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First up is the Yellow fin tuna tartare ($18) with lilliput carpers, yolk dressing and celery salt, plus salmon instead of tuna. Whenever “anything” tartare is on the menu at any place I’ve ever been to, I’ll usually get it. There’s just something about tartare that I really love, so don’t be surprised if in the future, I’m just really positive about any tartare dish. The reason this one in particular is using salmon instead of tuna is simply because Chifley’s had ran out of tuna for the night. When I was told that there wasn’t any tuna left, my heart sank, but they quickly offered the substitute of salmon and whilst I do actually genuinely enjoy tuna more, I was just happy to be able to get some tartare into me.

The actual dish itself was really nice, I really loved the presentation of the half egg with the yolk in it, it looked really natural and made me feel like a bit of a cook, pouring the egg yolk into the salmon tartare and mixing it up and what not. Overall, probably the best looking tartare I’ve ever seen. Before I get into the flavour I probably need to explain a mistake I made, so on the right edge of the picture, there’s this green stuff, that was really quite salty and had lots of flavour, in hindsight, I’ve realised it was a “choose your own level of saltiness” type deal, by mixing in as much or as little of that green stuff as you wanted. I of course did not do this and just mashed it all up together, and the result was of course, the tartare ended up being a bit too salty.

The salmon tartare itself was really tasty. The salmon was fresh, flavoursome and super creamy. There was plenty of garlic and herbs mixed into tartare, giving it extra flavours and scent, plus the addition of the egg yolk dressing also added more creaminess and also some moisture as well. I’m not 100% sure what lilliput carpers are but I assume they are those little brown balls all over the plate. These small little things added a world of joy to this dish. Each carper was really crunchy adding some lovely contrasting texture to the tartare and they also brought this malt like flavour as well. All in all, a really tasty tartare.

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The first of our “tiny” dishes is the Beluga caviar belini ($4) with creme fraiche and shaved candied lemon zest. So this was heartbreaking, on the menu on Chifley’s website, it mentions “Roasted marrow bones” and upon hearing that I got extremely excited, and was probably 95% of the reason I wanted to come and eat here. Upon arriving we were handed the menu and I noticed that there were no bone marrow! So anyone out there keen for marrow bones, keep that in mind.

The reason I mention that here, is because on the online menu, the belini is served individually, whereas in the in store menu, they’re sold in pairs. We were wary of how much we were ordering but still wanted to try everything so we asked if it was possible to have the belini, as well as the anchovy fritters (below) separately instead of in pairs (or fours in the case of the anchovy fritters), and the staff were very gracious in allowing us to order individual servings.

The belini itself was probably one of the weaker items of the night unfortunately, the belini felt store bought instead of freshly made, and the flavours were quite boring. To me it just tasted doughy, with a bit of saltiness from the caviar and some creaminess from the creme fraiche. I’m not sure if I got any candied lemon zest on mine as the online menu states, I definitely don’t remember tasting any and it doesn’t seem like there was any from the picture. Maybe Chifley’s ran out for the night and the missing ingredients explains the let down in flavours. On a side note, the blini was very visually pleasing.

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Next up, the Sage and white anchovy fritter ($4). This was the other tiny option that we got separately, instead of in a serving of four. Whilst the belini above was a little bit disappointing, this fritter was absolutely delightful. It was covered in a really light batter, that had not much crunch to it but in the best way possible. The batter was soft and almost chewy. I know, it doesn’t sound too enjoyable but it definitely worked for the best, it kind of reminded me of the instead of bread. The outside wasn’t flavoured at all, it was purely texture, while the innards of this fritter contained one long anchovy fillet. The anchovy was absolutely delicious and had such strong flavours that I appreciated the fact that they let the batter take a complete back seat. Of course, being an anchovy dish, this was quite salty, but it never really got overwhelming, I suppose if I had to eat two by myself it might’ve gone down that path, so for that, I am really thankful that they allowed me to order just one. Really fantastic.

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First up for the steaks, the Cape grim black angus 300g sirloin ($39) with a pink pepercorn and tarrgon jus. This was cooked medium rare and came out absolutely perfect, which is honestly surprisingly not something I experience often. Considering how much the enjoyment of a steak hinges upon how well it’s cooked, it’s a bit odd how often I get a steak and it’s not cooked the way that’s been asked. Then again maybe its because I generally go to much cheaper places for steaks. Well, with that said, there’s something to be said for spending good money on a steak because this was really absolutely delicious.

The steak did take quite awhile to arrive, but I’m happy to wait for a superior product, and this is definitely what we were given. The steak had a fantastic charred crust on the outside, with a firm and warm texture on the inside. I’m not 100% sure about what it was served on, but it felt like maybe a parsnip or potato puree of some sort, and I really enjoyed it. The sauce we got with this steak was the pink peppercorn and tarrgon jus, which was really quite smokey, and had a really mild horseradish style kick to it. Really nice, and something I’d definitely get again.

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Next up for our steaks is the Shio kin wagyu 300g rump ($38) with a classic beef jus. This one was much like the first steak, coming out on a bed of some sort of delicious puree, and being cooked absolutely perfectly. Whilst the above steak had a real smokey vibe from the peppercorn jus, for this steak we went for a classic, the beef au jus. Who can go past meat juice as the perfect partner for your meat? I personally preferred the beef au jus over the peppercorn gravy, and while both were good, the au jus just complimented this steak so much better, with a slight sweet tang at the end to really take the edge off the perfectly charred crust of the steak.

This could just be terrible cheapness talking, but I am a bit surprised at how much you get with a steak these days. When we were at Chifley’s, there was a table of four ladies next to us, and their steaks came out with some lovely vegetables on the side. I honestly got a little excited (over vegetables, weird I know). Then ours came out and it was pretty much just a steak and some sauce. It kind of made me miss Civic Pub steaks where the steak sits on a bed of hot chips next to a massive pile of vegetables. I don’t know, maybe it’s for plating purposes or something and really, the steaks with the vegetables on the side really did look a lot more appetising then ours.

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Here’s a close-up of the shio ken rump, which we ordered rare, and this in my opinion was absolutely amazing. It’s really not something I’m used to, getting a steak that has about a millimetre of brown which is pure crust, and the rest is a glorious pink of perfectly cooked steak. This was probably drifting between rare and medium rare, but it was just such a joy to chomp down on. You might be able to see on the right there are elements of marbled fat just running through the steak, and as someone who enjoys all things fat, I was pretty happy with this whole thing.

Best steak I’ve ever had in Canberra and I’ve had quite a few.

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To add onto our (relatively sparse) steaks we got a side of Pommes frites ($8) which were essentially French fries. Well, what can you say about French fries? They were shoe stringesque in nature, and really satisfied my bogan cravings of chips with steak. Funny story actually, when we got to the end of the night, we asked for some take-away of some of our dishes as we had a bunch left over and it was pretty late, so everyone was gone. When it came to the fries they kind of assumed we didn’t want them take-away because apparently no one takes fries home to eat later. We had to insist a bit, but the staff were lovely and we ended up with a small container full of chips.

I honestly had no idea that people didn’t do that, do people not take chips home? God, I need to eat with those people more often, more chips for me.

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Our second side was the Paris mash ($8) which is essentially a fancy way of saying mashed potato. So first things first, this was probably one of the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, really delicious. Pretty much the standard superlatives here, soft, fluffy, airy but with one exception: an incredible level of butter that just made it taste absolutely fantastic. This is the difference between cooking at home and getting something at a restaurant. When you’re at home making mashed potato yourself, you know you have to put butter in it, but that inherent guilt makes you go “yeah one tablespoon, that’ll do her” but secretly you want like eight of them. Going out to a place like Chifley’s will let you get your eight spoons of butter, and you never really find out exactly how many spoons are in there so there’s no guilt!

That’s how I saw it anyway. It’s real good this.

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Here is the drink we got, a Lychee Gold cider ($10). It’s probably the least alcoholic thing you could possibly have that’s still considered an alcoholic beverage. This way you get the cool feeling of drinking alcohol, as well as the pure enjoyment of something bubbly and lychee flavoured. This was really nice, but it’s just a bottle of lychee cider that I’m sure you could pick up at any liquor store, so I won’t go too much into it.

So, that was our meal at Chifley’s Bar and Grill in the Hotel Kurrajong. I was really impressed with this place if it wasn’t obvious already, fantastic steaks and easily the best I’ve had since I’ve come down to the nation’s capital. The service was absolutely impeccable and if I’m being honest, the fact that it was half empty was absolutely delightful. I sound like an old grouch but it really was just nice to be in a quiet place and being comfortable with my surroundings, a welcome surprise after all the hip places we’ve been going to recently.

Chifley's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

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