After living in Canberra for almost three years, I have finally decided to do some exploring. Ever since I got here, I’d been hearing some pretty amazing things about the small towns around Canberra like Yass, Murrumbateman, Braidwood and the like. Outside of the quaint houses, stores and cafes, many of these small towns also house nice restaurants as well as some fantastic wineries.
As a part of this push to explore the areas around Canberra, a couple of weekends back I headed to Gundaroo to check out Grazing. I’ve seen some pretty drool worthy pictures of Grazing on Instagram over the years and figured it was time for me to check it out for myself.
Heading thirty minutes north out of Canberra along the Federal Highway coupled with some country driving, you eventually come to a little town with a number of small and rustic looking cafes, pubs and even a gallery. Right in the centre of all this you’ll find a fairly large historical house where inside you’ll find Grazing. Grazing has kept the interior almost identical to what I imagine the original house would have looked like, with cosy fireplaces and multiple dining areas in the different rooms throughout the house. It was weird having to navigate through multiple areas and rooms to get round to our table in the far end of the house, but it really pushed the intimate, relaxed and homely feeling that I feel Grazing were going for. In addition, I can see this set up being awesome for groups, where you can have your own private dining areas in each of the respective rooms.
Out back you’ll also find Capital Wine and a small cafe which offers cheese plates, baked goodies and even wine matchings. Which I guess is good if you ever decide to come to Grazing without a reservation and they’re full, you can always head back to Capital Wines and fill your belly with delicious local goods and wines.
We were a little more organised this time round and landed ourselves a table in the back which overlooked the garden and reception area.
Oh before I jump into the different dishes that we got here, I should quickly talk about this picture of bread that I decided to include. Nothing too special, just come crusty fresh house made bread which comes with local olive oil and balsamic vinegar. One serving gives you one round bread the size of your palm (assuming you have a average size hand) and cost $2.50. No complimentary bread here but it was tasty enough to make me to consider getting it again when I return to Grazing.
We decided to go for a bit of a weird mix of entrees, mains and desserts but the crew at Grazing were more than accommodating. We ended up with three entrees, one main and two desserts. The second entree was served entree size. Grazing did offer to make it into a main portion for us but we opted for the small entree size because I constantly get full before dessert at places like this. Not this time though!
Our first entree from Grazing was the Olive oil poached Yellowfin tuna ($17) with crisp octopus, chorizo and cauliflower. This was one of those dishes from Grazing that I saw on Instagram all the time, when I saw it on the menu I knew it was time for me to sample what made everyone’s bellies so happy.
A lot of times, photogenic dishes don’t always quite live up to taste expectations and I’ve had my fair share of amazing looking dishes that tasted pretty average. Luckily here at Grazing this dish lived up to what my belly was hoping for. It was a simple dish but a scrumptious one.
The tuna was fresh, quite soft but had just the right amount of firmness to it. I don’t really recall tasting any olive oil but the texture of the tuna was quite similar to sashimi style tuna so I guess that’s where the poached olive oil must have come from. The mild and softish tuna was complimented with the crispness and strong savoury flavours of the fried octopus and chorizo. Finally there was some raw grated and pureed cauliflower which rounded everything off and brought everything together. There was nothing crazy going on here, it was just a tasty and light dish to start our meal off at Grazing.
Our second entree for the day was the Quail with black pudding ($17), roasted pear and parsley root puree. While the tuna was light and almost summer like, this quail with black pudding was a lot more hearty and perfect for the wintery weather.
I’m surprised I didn’t see this dish on Instagram, look at that amazing swirl in the pool of black pudding puree! Amazing. We of course opted for this as there was black pudding present and we have yet to let a dish with black pudding in it pass us by. The black pudding here at Grazing was not as strong as I am used to, but this made sense when eating the whole dish. I also really enjoyed it as a puree, it’s something I haven’t had before and since there was no texture to it, it acted more as a sauce which added to the flavour of the quail as opposed to being another separate meat element that could have competed with the quail meat for dish superiority.
The quail was of course cooked perfectly ensuring that the meat was super moist and full of juicy flavours. All this savouries from the quail and black pudding was balanced out with a little bit of sweetness and crunch from the roasted pear. There was also a parsnip puree on the plate but after the juicy quail and amazing black pudding puree that was just white noise. I’m sure it helped ensure the dish didn’t get too overwhelming but I’m just going to continue reminiscing about the black pudding puree!
Instead of going for a main here, we opted for a third entrée, the Smoked rainbow trout croquette ($17) with artichoke, burnt leek and parsley picada. I think I went for this as none of the seafood or vegetarian mains really screamed out at me. Looking back at the menu now, I think a couple of the options have changed since Grazing’s menu changes seasonally as ingredients are available.
This rainbow trout croquette was quite interesting. I’ve never really seen a fish or seafood croquette before so when I saw it on Grazing’s menu, I really did want to try it. But faced up against tuna, I was always going to opt for tuna. Luckily, I managed to get both. The rainbow trout croquette was nice with a light and crumbly coating coupled with a mince like fish filling. I found the croquette itself on the blander side with not a lot of fish flavour to it. This was fine however, as it was coupled with the burnt leek and parsley picada and I thought this added all the difference. These two elements brought both flavour as well as moisture to the croquette, which was a little on the drier side.
Although the croquette was fine, I really did prefer the olive oil poached tuna and deboned quail and black pudding over the croquette. The other two dishes were just extremely well made and super tasty. Something about this croquette didn’t give it the same amount of sophistication as anything else we had at Grazing. Maybe it’s just a personal thing about deep fried food at fancy places.
We did get one main from Grazing’s menu, the Ox cheek ($33) in Pedro Ximenez with heritage carrots, horseradish and parsnip. Easily the least photogenic dish from our meal at Grazing but really I don’t think anyone plates up cheek particularly well so this is still pretty awesome in its own right.
One really cool thing about this dish was the multicoloured carrots! Yes, trust me to get all giddy about something that I imagine is extremely easy to do, but multicoloured carrots really impressed me. In case anyone was curious, they were extremely carroty. They were firm, crunchy and added a nice baseline flavour to counter the rich parsnip mash and ox cheek itself.
The meat was so tender that I could just push my fork at it and it would kind of peel apart as if it was thick chunks of ox mashed together and then cooked, like some meat hash brown. Even with this tenderness however, the meat was surprisingly crunchy as well, with a firm charred crust that must’ve come from a quick fry up after a low and slow cook to get the insides as tender as it was. The result of this was a piece of meat that had a really interesting soft and crunchy texture to it.
This dish in one word would be ‘rich’. It was extremely rich. The beef jus, parsnip mash and even the cheek itself was just an extremely rich beef flavour, with a slight tang of sweetness at the end, kind of like a red wine beef stock.
I’m not a huge fan of horseradish so I ended up not using too much of it. I am pretty sure that the strong flavour of the horseradish would’ve cut through the richness of the dish just fine, but to be fair I actually liked how rich it was.
Onwards to dessert, the Mascarpone panna cotta ($16) with white chocolate ice cream, strawberries, goat’s cheese and rhubarb and white balsamic jellies. I noticed that this panna cotta dessert is no longer on Grazing’s menu and is one of the few dishes that have been completely removed from the winter menu. It’s a bit of a shame because I really liked it.
I absolutely love panna cotta. For me, a panna cotta is the perfect way to end a meal. They’re sweet but never too rich or sickening and really after a big meal, you don’t want something that will make you regret the last few tasty and gluttonous hours of your night. This panna cotta at Grazing was no different. It had the perfect amount of sweetness, lots of creaminess from the mascarpone, white chocolate ice cream and goats cheese. In addition, there was just the right amount of citrus and sourness from the strawberry and rhubarb to balance everything out.
Not only did this dessert have a variety of different flavours, there were also a number of different textures which played off each other. From the smooth and silky panna cotta to the jellies which gave you just the right amount of bite and resistance. Then there’s the soft and milky ice cream as well as the goat’s cheese which was slightly firm but melted in your mouth. All these combined, made this panna cotta one super tasty and interesting dessert.
Finally, our last dish from Grazing, the Flourless orange cake ($16) with fennel and coffee dukkah, orange butter and marmalade ice cream. While the panna cotta is no longer on the menu at Grazing, if you like how this flourless orange cake looks and sounds, you can still definitely get it. Though be warned, we’ve just hit Spring, I wouldn’t be surprise if Grazing is currently in the process of changing their menu to something lighter, more uplifting and vibrant. As opposed to more hearty and homely winter dishes like this cake.
I love panna cottas and the mascarpone panna cotta at Grazing really did hit the spot but this flourless orange cake definitely gave the panna cotta a run for its money. That’s pretty impressive because I don’t even enjoy orange that much. This flourless orange cake was really rich and full of strong citrus flavours to the point where you could smell it as the crew at Grazing placed this dish in front of you. But at the same time, it wasn’t overly sweet, I guess all the sweetness from the flourless cake, marmalade ice cream and and orange butter were completely dwarfed by the strong citrus flavours. In addition, I also really enjoyed the coffee and fennel dukkah, which added a completely different flavour and texture to the samesame citrus and orange flavours that were present in all the other elements.
There you have it, our meal at Grazing. No drinks this time and to be honest, if I had to write about a set of matching wines, this post probably would have taken another couple of weeks. On a side note, even though Capital Wines is Grazing’s winery, you can actually find an extensive list of local, national and international wines on Grazing’s wine menu. Plus, Grazing also recommends a range of different wines to match with their dishes, not just their own wines. That’s pretty awesome to see a lack of favouritism.
It’s probably obvious by now, but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t visit Grazing until my third year in Canberra. The food at Grazing was delicious and the atmosphere was really rustic and intimate. I love a good fine dining meal in the city, but when you’re out in the country air, it really does feel different and Canberra is one of the few places where you can drive only about 30mins and experience this. I look forwards to Grazing’s spring menu and will definitely be back.
Cork Street, Gundaroo
6:00pm to 10:00pm
Friday to Saturday
11:30am to 3:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm