Degustation

Courgette, Canberra

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Nestled between an old building and another possibly even older building, up at the beginning of Marcus Clark Street in Acton, you’ll find a little restaurant. It’s not super fancy looking, nor is it awfully active on social media. You won’t find this place doing crazy and creative degustations or the hottest thing off the press in Paris or New York. Yet this is my favourite restaurant in Canberra.

This restaurant is Courgette.

Courgette has always been a favourite for many Canberrans. However, in recent years it hasn’t quite received the same love, at least outwards love that I can see. With all the new fine dining restaurants popping up, international rankings not quite giving Courgette it’s due as well as the activities of its more innovative rivals, Courgette has kind of been forgotten in my opinion; but for me, there isn’t another restaurant in Canberra that quite compares to Courgette. I’ve been to Courgette a couple of times now, and each and every time it has always been consistent, delicious and simply amazing. You won’t find any crazy ingredients, dishes or cooking methods here. Just simple, rustic great food done well.

So, after many years of dining at Courgette, I’m very excited to finally write up my most recent food adventure at Courgette.

Last week, whilst visiting Canberra and as a kind of last toast to this quaint city, I decided to relive one of my first fine dining experiences in Canberra. During all my previous visits to Courgette, I went for dinner. This time I decided to try their lunch menu. For $66 per person, you get one entree, main and dessert. The lunch menu itself is quite similar to the dinner menu, with the option to add some sides like Paris mash or leafy greens for $10. We decided to go for the thee course menu plus a bottle of wine. Not because we now understand wine or anything but rather because we didn’t drive and this was a wonderful opportunity to appear cultured. There doesn’t seem to be wine matching at Courgette. However, I’m sure if you ask they’ll be able to provide some recommendations. We were too scared to, obviously.

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As expected from any good fine dining restaurant, we were greeted with warm bread and butter prior to our lunch coming out. However, this wasn’t quite your standard dinner roll. This is going to sound pretty trivial and I do tend to get really excited about all things related to food. However, this bread roll from Courgette was easily the best bread roll from a fancy place I’ve ever had. This bread roll was fluffy with just that right amount of crisp on the outside. But what stood out was it’s flavour. The bread roll had this distinct tart sourdough like taste to it. However, the texture was anything but sourdough like, instead it was fluffy almost like a croissant, which was really enjoyable to eat. The matching whipped butter also lived up to its fantastic bread counterpart. The butter was whipped like you would expect from most of these places but it was probably the smoothest I’ve ever had. It felt as smooth as whipped cream or mousse, and spreading it was an absolute joy. As someone who is exceptionally lazy, I really appreciated how smooth it was.

Another great thing for any hardcore bread fans out there, this delicious warm bread comes in unlimited supply! Okay, I’m not sure about unlimited but you can definitely get more than one. Promptly after we finished ours, we were offered a second one and we didn’t even need to ask! We loved the gesture but sadly had to turn it down in fear of getting too full. Hey, it happens.

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Our first entree from Courgette was the Chicken liver parfait with brioche, quince onion jam, sultanas and wild flowers. This was a hard decision to make. Of the four entrees available, all of them sounded absolutely amazing, even the vegetarian option caught my eye. It wasn’t just your standard vegetarian pasta, instead for all our tree hugging friends out there, (it’s okay, according to that, I must really like… hugging whales or something) there was a Mediterranean inspired dish with ‘goats cheese cloud’. I don’t know what that is but it sounds pretty awesome to me.

Of course for me, it was a massive battle between the prawn, scallops and pate option. Should I go for the light and summery scallops, the rich and flavoursome pate or the Italian hillside prawn cannelloni?! After much contemplation, I settled for the pate. An unusual choice for myself, normally I tend to opt for prawns but today I wanted something rich and indulgent.

This little dish you see here, is as tasty as it is pretty. My initial regret after ordering the pate vanished with my first taste of it. It was the perfect combination of rich creamy flavours with fruity and sweet elements, which surprisingly actually cut through the richness instead of contributing to it.

There was no sharp and harsh chicken flavour or that horrible grainy texture that leaves you flicking your tongue for the next two courses. Instead the pate was silky smooth, but also surprisingly fluffy and light. There was also this really creamy and slightly sweet layer that coated the rim of the pate. I thought this added quite an interesting and contrasting flavour. Finally, there were the condiments which really just added to the pate instead of taking away or dwarfing it, the richness of the brioche, the sweet almost teriyaki like flavours from the burnt sultana sauce and the caramelised onion jam. It was just the perfect combination of savoury, richness and sweetness.

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Our second winning entree was the Seared scallops, smoked cauliflower puree, fennel crunch and fermented black garlic. This was absolutely delicious, and whilst the scallops are clearly the main event here, I feel like it’s only fair to talk about the supporting cast first. The fermented garlic was a beautiful addition and there was only a tiny amount on each scallop, but each dab just oozed of flavour! It was strong, quite sweet, and really earthy with a flavour that kind of reminded me of vegemite, except I hate vegemite and I loved this. The cauliflower puree which was splotched in amongst the flowers was an amazing smoky and mild sauce that just grounded the whole dish together. A fantastic addition, especially for me, someone who loves savoury sauces.

Now to the scallops themselves. These were amongst some of the best I’ve ever had, though it was for a reason I wasn’t expecting. These scallops were seared really nicely but on touching them, they were oddly quite firm, so much so that my first thought was that they were overcooked. Then with each bite I took, I actually grew to love how the firm texture of the scallop played off the smooth cauliflower puree and fermented garlic. At that point, I realised I just couldn’t imagined this dish with softer scallops. They were easily some of the best scallops I’ve ever had, and whilst it doesn’t make me go back and think all the scallops I’ve had in the past were undercooked, it definitely opened my eyes a bit to the possibilities of the humble scallop!

Oh I almost forgot, the fennel crunch! It might not be visible in the picture, but this whole dish was served on a bed of  fennel crunch ‘crumbs’. As you can imagine, it was extremely crumbly, like biscuit, but once it was in your mouth it just melted away, it was a great feeling. There was also a slight aniseed taste to the crumbs and honestly it reminded me a bit of a ginger snap.

Really loved this dish, and was my favourite of the two entrees!

 

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Promptly after we finished our entrees, in rolled our mains. As with the entrees, we had four choices. Your two meats, lamb and veal. Your vegetarian dish, featuring a ‘cauliflower steak’ , at first I actually thought there was a steak dish on the menu and got really excited. Imagine my disappointment when I finally noticed ‘cauliflower’. Finally there was the fish option which came with two types of fish.

While we struggled to pick between the entrees, the mains were given. My first choice, which required no contemplation at all was the Cobia fillet, smoked salmon with avruga caviar, courgette blossom, charred baby leeks and a pea puree. I love fish but I just find it so boring and completely hit and miss at most places. It’s either really dry, littered with bones or a boring salmon fillet. But the one place where I’m always keen to get fish is at high end restaurants. It’s always perfectly cooked, carefully inspected to ensure I don’t end up attempting to shallow rice for the next 8hrs and done in the most interesting and intriguing ways. Plus, they always go out of their way to use weird cuts and species that I’ve never heard of. I guess as a chef, they probably like the challenge of making something plain, amazing.

This dish was no different. There were so many different elements, all done differently and all with a different purpose but together they made one he’ll of a bite that would make you go hmm. Whenever I get a dish with multiple elements, I always try to try each component separately to see if I can identify the ingredients and flavours separately. Only after I’ve done that will I try all the elements together. With this fish dish at Courgette I followed my usual routine, with a little bit of disappointment. The fish was quite salty and the complimenting elements were quite bland. At that point, I was getting a little nervous. Was this fish dish going to fail me?! Alas it was meant to be.

The rather salty but extremely tender fish worked perfectly with the strange vegetarian caviar, apparently avruga is a fruit, which is weird because it tasted quite fish and salmon like but lacked that saltiness you would normally expect from caviar. Other normally salty elements, like the smoked salmon was also rather mild but instead full of smokey flavour. It truly was a strange mix of elements. Finally there were a number of other components that contrasted the saltiness and balanced out the fish like the extremely sweet, light and flavourful mashed peas and the crispy and airy deep fried courgettes stuffed with minced salmon. There was also a super crispy and light squid ink rice cracker which added a nice amount of texture to the dish which wasn’t already really present. Surprisingly, the squid ink rice crisp actually had this mild intriguing flavour to it as well, which was cool because to me squid ink is historically more visual than flavourful for me.

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Our second main from Courgette was the White rocks veal with parsnip, baby spinach, red cabbage gel, artichokes and a thyme and port jus. While I thought everything at Courgette was extremely pretty, so much so that I just wanted to googly eye them instead of actually eating them, this dish was by far the best looking. It literally looks like spring on a plate. The vibrant colours of the red cabbage gel, the greens from the baby spinach and aspargus and then there was the deep red from the very fine and raw veal.

Funnily enough, it also kind of tasted like spring, with so many strong and contrasting flavours. There was saltiness, sweetness and even a little bit of earthiness and sourness.

Again, a wonderful dish with so many elements that it would take me ages to attempt to go through them all, so forgive me if I forget anything. First, lets start with some of the smaller elements, like the red cabbage puree. This puree was actually really really sweet, so I appreciated that they just gave you a few little drops all around the plate, it honestly tasted like it could’ve been a grape puree, it was that sweet! Still, the contrast in flavour was pleasant and really got me thinking about all the crazy things people can do with food. The parsnip puree on the other hand, formed most of the ‘base’ for this dish, it was really smooth with a slight taste of white wine and I used it heavily to coat each bite of the delicious veal.

The mushrooms were just kind of thrown over the plate in a haphazard way, but come on, I think we all know plates like these are never just ‘chucked’ on. Flavourwise, they were quite mild and not overly salty, this worked really well to   break up the meaty flavours of the veal. The artichokes on the other hand were really flavourful, and served fresh, instead of pickled like we are use to. I honestly wasn’t too sure on the distinction, but Lily swore by it!

Now onto the veal itself! To be honest, the veal was not my favourite part of this dish, which is a bit sad. It was really quite pink, which really excited me, but felt extremely firm and dense, a bit too tough for me sadly. This is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but I actually think that the time that I used to capture this picturesque veal led the veal to cool off a bit too much, leading to this not so great texture. If that was the case, that was silly of me.

Still I really did enjoy this dish, and it was one of the few dishes in my life where the main attraction in the dish let me down, and yet the supporting cast and composition of the dish itself won me over despite it all. Really good, and I’m sure that the toughness of the veal was a once off.

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Last but most importantly, dessert! Besides the cheese option, which included four cheeses, which I found super impressive for a cheese finisher, there were three other choices for dessert. Two were light and fruity, while the third one was rich, chocolatey and decadent. We decided to go for the two light options, mainly because the chocolate option came with bananas and I wasn’t feeling particularly banana-y that day.

This here is the Japanese citrus panna cotta with cinnamon crumb and mandarin gel in a lemon and ginger consumme. I’m not 100% sure which Japanese citrus fruits have been included in this panna cotta but I kind of just assumed it would have yuzu. I mean, how many other unique citrus fruits can Japan have? With this baseless assumption firmly in my mind, I naturally opted for it because I absolutely adore yuzu and I might have a tiny obsession with it. Secretly I really hope yuzu doesn’t become the next matcha, which is slowly also happening to my other favourite Asian flavour, pandan. Matcha, pandan and yuzu are my absolute favourite flavours, more than red velvet, chocolate and vanilla. Prior to the great matcha surge of 2015, these flavours were honestly ‘underground’ and I don’t really want to be all hipster about it, but it really was better for me that way. Only those who loved them sought them out and were able to enjoy their goodness. This had the initial effect of making me feel so cool and cultured, typical hipster behaviour, but also had a side bonus, that these ingredients were way cheaper! But now, there is matcha and now pandan everywhere and every man and his dog is eating at Cafe Cre Asion and Blaq Piq. Now I just feel like every other photographing trend following Asian person with a camera. Which honestly is something I never really wanted to be. Also, my wallet is lighter than it normally is.

I think the point of that whole rant was, I love yuzu and I’m glad it hasn’t quite hit mainstream yet. Now that I’ve gotten that out, I should probably mention something about how this dish tasted. Well, if you can ignore the probable bias, I really enjoyed this. The panna cotta itself was silky smooth with a strong and fragrant orange blossom flavour to it. It was quite dense with a really light after taste. It didn’t really leave a sticky film or anything in your mouth. Instead every spoonful was full of flavour which lingered for a short while and allowed you to savour it.

In addition to this, there were also lovely crunches of orange rind and dehydrated strawberries throughout the panna cotta which added bursts of flavour. Surprisingly, there was very little to no sourness or bitterness to these additions. To further supplement those textures, there was a cinnamon crumble which added this lovely gingerbread flavour to the panna cotta. I’m actually really surprised how well hearty Christmas spices like ginger and cinnamon work with citrus flavours. I must note that for my upcoming Christmas baking needs, and maybe I’ll make citrus gingerbread men this year!

Finally there was the ginger and lemon consomme which was extremely mild and added just that little bit of sweetness and moisture. My favourite part of this dish, of course was the yuzu meringue which had a lot of sourness and kick to it, plenty of airy texture and crispiness and that lovely fruity and citrus flavour to contrast all the other richer flavours and textures.

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At this point, we were suitably full from our foolish bread decisions earlier. But despite that, it was time for our second dessert, the Seasonal berries, shortbread, toasted Italian meringue and mango sorbet with coconut curd and silvered pistachio nuts. This dish was a great showcase of everything that I believe Courgette stands for in a restaurant and was something I really enjoyed. The dish came out and while it had some fantastic flourishes, like the little dollop of lime goo in the corner, it was really a basic idea just done incredibly well. Whilst a lot of other places out there today will try to wow people with cool ways of using standard ingredients, or some sort of gasto combination, Courgette will always ensure that the flavours on the dish are paramount, and they are not afraid to keep things simple if necessary.

This dish had a ton of little elements, but what I need to start with was the amazing, amazing meringue! It was the softest meringue I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, with a consistency that reminded me of burnt marshmallow more than anything, it was absolutely decadent and a great base for this dish. The coconut curd was just slivered all over the dish as a white cream that added springy freshness to whatever bite it found its way into, and was a really cool addition.

Then there was the mango sorbet, which contrasted everything else with its really strong mango flavour and slight sourness. Though to be honest, most mango sorbets I have are pretty amazing, even store bought ones, so I’m probably a fairly poor judge of mango flavoured foods.

Last but not least, was the fantastic assortment of fresh berries. To be honest, if you’ve never had a berry before, then I doubt you’d be clamouring for this dish, despite what I say here. So lets just say these were just as good any other berries I’ve ever had. And as berries should, they added a light sourness to contrast the overwhelming sweetness from the meringue.

So that’s it then! Our trip to Courgette. I’ve been here a few times now and each time I failed to adequately take pictures, until now! And finally, I’ve gotten the chance to write about my favourite food place in Canberra. I’m so glad that I finally managed to get this off my chest. Everything here at Courgette is imaginative, colourful, but most importantly, delicious.

Courgette

54 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra Civic

Website: courgette.com.au

Facebook: facebook.com/courgette

Opening hours:

Lunch:

Monday to Saturday

12:00pm to 3:00pm

Dinner:

Monday to Saturday

6:30pm to 11:00pm

Courgette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Grazing, Gundaroo

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Grazing

Cork Street, Gundaroo

Website: grazing.com.au/

Opening hours:

Thursday

6:00pm to 10:00pm

Friday to Saturday

11:30am to 3:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm

Sunday

11:30am to 3:00pm
Grazing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pialligo Estate Farmhouse, Pialligo

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Last week, I finally managed to check out Pialligo Estate Farmhouse. I’ve been super keen to try it out since the Farmhouse first opened up about a month or so ago but a whole bunch of things just got in the way. Lame excuse, I know. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the very awesome Liz from Good Things, I’d probably still be twiddling my thumbs at home! Outside of her awesome blog, Liz also manages the Canberra food blogger’s Facebook group, which includes recipes and restaurant bloggers from across Canberra. Since joining the group almost a year ago, we’ve been involved in some great events and conversations, we’ve also learnt a lot about our fellow bloggers in Canberra and Liz, being as lovely as she is, decided to set up a dinner for us to all meet each other.

The event was hosted at the Piallgio Estate Farmhouse where the crew treated us to an awesome and delicious night of food and wines. I didn’t know a great deal about Pialligo Estate prior to visiting, except that they make the best artisan bacon in Australia (don’t take my word for it, they have an award for that!) as well as other amazing smoked goodies like salmon, sausages, and cured meats which we’ve sampled many times at markets like The Forage.

Outside of that, I only really knew that Pialligo Estate would’ve been somewhere down the road from the Spit Shack. I mean, Pialligo only really has one road right? Well for once my guessing was right and after some aimless driving in the dark, we came upon the Farmhouse, a lovely little (it was actually quite large) kind of old school house where I imagine people would be sipping on French wine or hard liquors in front of a fireplace, chatting about refined things like politics, and worldly events. It was an awesome looking venue and I imagine it would be great for weddings and events but me being the fatty I am, just dashed inside and readied myself for the food. Hence, no pictures of the exterior, but I’ve got plenty of food pictures in store!

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To start our food adventure (with twelve different treats and dishes, five matched wines and five solid hours of chatting, dining and swerving wine flutes, I don’t know if I can just call this a dinner or food, so that’s why I settled on the term ‘adventure’) we were treated to some canapes. The first of which were the Potato with eggplant puree. These were pretty simple, with really only two elements, the crispy potato and the flavoursome eggplant puree on top, yet they were surprisingly delicious.

The potato was cut into a fine strand which was sprung together and then deep fried, turning it into a super crispy chip but in the shape of a ball. I had concerns about how heavy this would be since it was entirely deep fried, but the fact that it was just a sprung together fine strand of potato, it was actually surprisingly light and airy. To bring some flavour to the crispy potato goodness, the crew at Pialligo topped the crispy potato balls with a really strongly flavoured and smokey eggplant puree. As someone who loves all things potato, this was the perfect start.

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Our second canape for the night was the Quail croquette with chive aioli. So I really enjoyed the potato with eggplant puree but for me, these were the winners of the night in the canape championships at Pialligo. It was really close, and I stumbled a few times on this decision, but I stand by it. These were amazing, it was like biting into a ball of flavour, with the added bonus of a crispy shell.

These croquettes had a really fantastic super crispy bread crumb shell, followed by a thick layer (about 1cm or so) of shredded quail meat, finally there was a hollow centre which was filled with warm quail juice. As you bit in to the croquette, you got the crispiness of the bread crumb, followed by some super soft and flavoursome quail meat, finally you get a burst of deep and meat quail juice. The croquettes were a little bit messy. When I first bit into it, I didn’t realise there was a juice centre, it kind of end up all over my shirt but it was completely worth it. Every bite was just filled with liquid gold. This is one of the few times in my life where I can say I was doing something a bit refined, but still ended up eating a bird with bread crumbs all over it. Parmo lovers rejoice!

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Two dishes in and we’re still only at the amuse, here Pialligo Estate was serving up a Salmon bisque. This was surprisingly amazing. I mean, I’m a pescetarian so fish is kind of my thing and all but even I steer clear of soups made out of fish. It just goes so wrong so often and when it done poorly, it’s just outright bad. Hence, I was pretty sceptical when the crew at Pialligo explained what this was and getting a whiff of it didn’t help either; it was pretty fishy. But as I took a sip of it, those thoughts all flew out the window and I began to appreciate how good this thing really was.

The bisque had a lovely salmon flavour to it but it wasn’t overly overwhelming. It was thick, creamy and quite hearty. It kind of reminded me of a really delicious chowder but just made out of salmon instead of a mix of different seafoods. The best part about this bisque was the surprise at the bottom. As you begin to realise that you’re about to come to an end of your fantastic soup, the crew at Piallgio Estate throws in a curve ball, with diced up bits of fresh salmon at the bottom. It was a lovely contrast in flavour and texture, it took the soup to the next level and turn it from something you would find at any nice restaurant to something you’d expect from a really good fine dining restaurant.

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Finally, after all the lovely starters, we got into the real stuff. First up, the Seaweed cured bonito with green tomato, crispy chicken, radish and dashi. So a bit of a funny thing with our meal at Pialligo Estate. They seem to really like soups and sauces here. Quite a few of the dishes came out all lovely and clean, and then two of three seconds later, a member from Pialligo would come around and pour something else on it. Completely killing the picturesqueness of it but whatever, its the taste that counts the most right, not the photos, right? RIGHT?!

Taste wise, this dish was pretty awesome. It was probably one of my favourites but I’m biased, I love sashimi more than I should. The bonito was extremely fresh and mild in flavour, this was perfectly complemented with a lovely fresh and earthy seaweed flavour. There was also some chicken which came in the form of a wafer. It was, of course, extremely crispy and added all the required crunch and texture to the soft bonito.

Outside of the bonito and chicken, there were plenty of other flavours and textures that worked really well with the overall dish. There were a couple of sweet, firm and juicy green tomatoes, which played off the richer flavour of the dashi sauce really well. The dashi sauce was thickish and savoury with a slight hint of sweetness to it, a perfect little sauce to bring everything together.

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Oh, so this is pretty cool. Thanks to the lovely people at Pialligo, I got to experience my first degustation with matched wines. I’ve done a couple of degustations in the past but I’ve never been able to come to terms with forking out an extra $100 or so for matched wines, especially since my palate for wine is as uncultured as it gets. Like, I would only really enjoy the first wine, then the dessert wine. But here, since it was all a part of the event, I just figured why not, maybe I’ll even discover a new go to wine!

Our first dish, the seaweed cured bonito was matched with a Ravensworth ‘7 month’ White Blend 2014. The sommelier at Piallgio did come around and explain this but my memory is pretty bad so I can’t remember what he said but that’s okay. Thanks to Google, I think this is a mix of pinot gris, gewurztraminer and riesling but don’t quote me on that. Quote Google. The wine matched the cured bonito really well. It was fruity, light and really refreshing. It complemented the light and delicate flavour of the fish and even lifted it. Wow, I feel like the back of a wine label.

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So here is where it gets interesting. I’m a massive fan of variety, so normally when we go out to fine dining restaurants, we tend to opt for ala carte instead of the degustation. This way I up with six different plates that we share amongst ourselves and I end up sampling six different things instead of five or however many courses the degustation menu has, that’s my Asian bargain hunting side coming into play. In the rare situation where I do go for the degustation, I tend to just eat the standard menu and pick out the meat bits. Weird I know but I just don’t enjoy being one of those ‘dietary requirements’ people, and you know, there might be a bit of laziness too it as well.

Anyways, since this was an event, I decided to mention my non-meat eatingness. Hence, Ouk and I ended up with some pretty different dishes at times. This was one of those cases. My non meat version came with spanner crab instead of chorizo. Here is the non-meat version, Spanner crab with cipollini, nashi pear and young mustard. Although spanner crab and chorizo are weirdly different in flavour and texture. They both worked surprisingly well with the other elements of the dish.

Here, the spanner crab was shredded and mixed with a creamy sauce, which was then moulded together into a ball. The moist and creamy crab was coupled with some onion which were extremely sweet, juicy and had a lot of crispness to it, a bit like biting into an apple. Yes, I’m talking about the onion pieces. Even I was pretty sceptical, how can cut up chunks of onion have such depth of flavour and texture? I don’t know how the crew at Pialligo Estate did it but the onions were amazing and tasted nothing like raw onion, yet they weren’t sour either as if they were pickled. To add to the juicy and crispy texture of the onion, there were also slices of nashi pear which added a hint of fruity sweetness as well. Finally, there was some mustard in the form of a crumb which was sprinkled all over the plate. This added some kick, spice and rounded out the sweetness of everything else.

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Here is the meat version of the above, Pialligo Farm chorizo with cipollini onions, nashi pear and young mustard. Everything on this dish was the same as the non-meat spanner crab version except for the Pialligo Farm chorizo. Here, the chorizo was turned into a foam, and to be fair, no meal is complete in 2015 if you haven’t eaten something that has been turned into a foam. The foam was quite creamy and if I had to guess, it seemed like it was made from a mixture of cream and chorizo. With this, the traditionally strong flavours of chorizo were a bit muted, you didn’t quite get the spiciness or the really strong flavour you normally get, but the crew at Pialligo did manage to keep the smokiness.

Turning the chorizo from its usual tougher meaty form into a foam gave the dish the moisture much like the spanner crab did for the non-meat version. However, this version was a lot more earthy thanks to the heavier and smoky flavour of the chorizo compared to the more lighter spanner crab. The nashi pear, onions and mustard of course aded the same sweet, fruity and crispy flavours like they did in the spanner crab version. It was really interesting to see how much you could change the overall feel and flavour of a dish by changing a single ingredient. Although it seemed like the crew at Pialligo attempted to give us both a similar experience, these two plates were surprisingly different. My spanner crab version was a lot lighter and fresh. While this meat version was a lot heavily, hearty and more earthy. Very interesting.

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The spanner crab and chorizo with cipollini onions and nashi pear was matched with a Pialligo Estate Riesling 2009. There isn’t much I can say about this, based on my super limited wine knowledge. I guess it was a riesling, so it was light, fruitier and on the sweeter side (not that I agree with that, rieslings are not ‘sweet’, give me a muscat, or a port, or something like that!). I think for my spanner crab version, it complemented the lighter flavours of the crab really well. Whereas in the chorizo version it really helped to overcome and cut thought the richer, heavier and smokey flavours of the chorizo. Oh a side note, you can actually buy these! I managed to snag a whole bottle of the Pialligo Estate Riesling 2009 to take home as a part of my parting gift but more about that right at the bottom.

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Onwards to our next dish for the night, the Majura Valley egg with veal sweetbread, celeriac, brioche and pine mushroom. My non-meat version came without the veal sweetbread but everything else was the same. Okay, I think this whole veal sweetbread thing deserves a bit of a mention. Prior to dining here at Pialligo Estate, I had no idea what veal sweetbread was, I kind of just assumed it was veal and bread which was sweet. Which honestly sounds pretty awesome! Well, as the night progressed, we were told that sweet bread is in fact, not, sweet bread.

Sweetbread, is brains! (or possibly glands or pancreas, I’m not quite sure). Talk about a deceptive name. ‘Sweetbread’, so sweet and pleasant sounding then bam you find out you’re eating a baby cows head. Taste wise, the dish itself was actually pretty nice, as long as you don’t mind eating brains or can forget about it while you’re munching away on it.

Like with a couple of the other dishes, this dish comes out and then another waiter will come around and pour a soup over it. This dish was a mixture of creaminess coupled with crispiness. The creaminess came from a mixture of the lovely egg yolk as well as a mushroom and celeriac soup, while you get the crispness from the brioche. There was also some mushroom slices, which added some contrasting texture and softness to the dish.

On the meat version, where you get the sweetbread, this added some extra interesting textures and flavours. The sweetbread was soft and a bit sponge like, a bit like an lobster ball that you get at Chinese hot pot places. It was definitely different. I did find the soup a slight tad salty but I found it pretty easy to manage the saltiness, I just avoided scooping up too much of the soup.

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This flavoursome and creamy dish was matched with a Henriques and Henriques 10 Year Old Sercial Madeira. I actually really enjoyed this, enough to make me research and seek out this wine type. This wine is produced in Portugal, apparently in a place called Madeira Island. I always found it strange that overseas they name wines based on where they were produced. Whereas in Australia, we just name it after a grape type. I must say, I do prefer the Australian style. I have enough trouble figuring out what I’m drinking without trying to figure out and remember which regions produce which types of wines.

As for the flavour and taste of this Madeira, to me it tasted like a fortified wine (I think it actually is a fortified wine, it had a much much higher alcohol content than the rest of the wines we had) but unlike fortified wines, this one didn’t really have the candy like sweetness to it. It was amazing, you get all that lovely Christmas and fruit pudding like flavour but without all that sweetness. To be fair, I really love it with all that sweetness as well, but I can definitely appreciate it without it. This worked surprisingly well with the above dish, cutting through the richness of the egg and savouriness of the soup, thanks to its strong caramelised fruit flavours and the strong alcohol flavour as well.

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Onward to I guess, our mains for the night. For the non-meat version, I got an Ocean trout with Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon and hazelnut dressing. This was one of the dishes where the seafood version was drastically different to the meat version that Ouk received. Here, mine was creamy, full of nutty and earthy flavours. These flavours were coupled with a really soft and well cooked fish (which you be unable to see but its there hiding at the back to the left)

I see ocean trout on a lot of menu’s these days, and to be honest, it’s really hit and miss for me. I’ve had a lot of situations where the ocean trout comes out with bones in it, and there’s nothing I hate more than trying to eat around fish bones or choking on one and then spending the next two days trying to shallow balls of rice. In a pleasant surprise, this fish was absolutely perfect, no bones to speak off, and perfectly flakey that you could break it apart with just a fork. I really loved this fish, and I’ve noticed that whenever I get the fish option at a fine dining establishment, I’m never disappointed. In hindsight, I probably do need to eat fish more, and I can’t keep going to fine dining restaurants, so, I guess I’m going to have to find normal places to have fish at.

The fish was coupled with some soft and flavoursome carrots, finally there was some crispy and flavoured kale which was sprinkled over the whole plate. The addition of the kale really help to bring a completely different texture and little bit of lightness as well to the dish. This was a great addition, as the rest of the dish particularly the fish was much heavier and really quite nutty in flavour so the kale brought some balance there. This dish was really nice.

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For the meat version of the mains, we were served a Muscovy duck with Musquee de Provence pumpkin, red onion chestnut and liquorice. On an interesting note, there were a couple of people at our table who don’t eat seafood and instead of getting this duck, there was something entirely different written on their menu (I’ve forgotten what though). However, in the end, the waiters came and noticed that duck fit their no seafood desires and everyone ended up with duck, so joy for all!

This duck dish was my (Ouk’s) favourite dish of the night, I tend not to like duck very much, too many bones in my opinion for the amount of meat you get. However, the one place where I reckon duck makes sense is on a fine dining menu with its smallish portions. This is where the lovely flavours of duck can shine through without the annoyance of dealing with bones constantly. This dish was really delicious, the duck itself was amazing, soft and pink with a layer of fat over the edge, really decadent. I actually had no idea there was pumpkin on this dish until I read the menu to write this up. It was a bit of a surprise to me because I actually thought it was carrot! Seeing as I mistook it for carrot, you might be able to tell it was quite sweet and extremely tender. Everything about this dish was all about how smooth, moist and tender everything was, which is something both the meat and seafood options had in common. Really delicious.

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This course was matched with a Rippon Gamay Noir 2013. This was the only red for the night. So as you may know by now, my knowledge of wine is pretty bad. So, when it comes to reds, I have no idea what I’m talking about at all. All I can say is that I actually enjoyed this a bit. Normally, I steer clear of reds because they’re a bit too strong and overwhelming for me. But here, this Gamay Noir was actually really enjoyable and light. It had a pretty strong and flavoursome start. However, it ended really light and crisp. As per usual, the wine worked really well to cut through the heavy and strong creamy nuttiness of the fish. Our duck dish was also matched with this wine as well. However, at this point Ouk had had quite a bit to drink already and we still had to drive home. So, he requested a mocktail which I forgot to take a picture of. I think it had grapefruit in it.

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Finally, our dessert for the night, a Valrhona Jivara chocolate with buckwheat, caramelised banana and malted milk. This was surprisingly nice. I’m normally not a massive fan of chocolate when it comes to dessert. Its normally too sweet, rich and just plain overwhelming. So when I originally saw the menu at the beginning of the night, I wasn’t really keen on the dessert, it just looked like a potential ball of sugar on a plate. Well, when I finally had a taste of the dessert, it was actually really good. The chocolate was mainly in the form of a “soil” that tasted and felt like crumbed up chocolate biscuits. It wasn’t as rich as it could’ve been, so that was a massive plus. The little chocolate circle at the top there was extremely rich, but I found the buckwheat ice cream and frozen malted milk really seemed to help balance it out and in the end it worked relatively well.

There were lots of different elements on the plate, not to mention the many different ways that they used Valrhona Juvara chocolate. There was some crispy, light and airy honeycomb, then there was the caramelised banana, which made me feel like I wasn’t just doing something plain bad for myself, at least I was getting a serving of fruit (as long as 1/5th of a banana counts). On top of that, there was a creamy and strong chocolate mousse. Next to that, you have the buckwheat milk cream which was really nice and creamy. It was really different in flavour and texture to everything else on the plate. Then you had a ring of chocolate which was filled with a really rich chocolate fudge type goo. Finally, to finish it all off there was this super interesting frozen malted milk. It wasn’t quite like ice cream but at the same time, it wasn’t icy like a sorbet. Lots of different flavours and textures all on one plate but surprising the elements worked really well together.

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To end the night, there were some House made sweets including strawberry marshmallow, chocolate truffle and salted caramel. These were pretty awesome. All three sweets were vastly different, yet each one was made extremely well.

The strawberry marshmallow was really soft but without any gelatine aftertaste to it. I’ve experimented cooking with gelatine a couple of times and every time I make marshmallow, I find that its either really wet and soggy or theres just that horrible and gross gelatine aftertaste. These ones at Pialligo Estate had a lovely and strong strawberry flavour to it, they weren’t overly sweet like the marshmallow you get from the stores either, which was a plus.

The chocolate truffle was really flavoursome, rich and had a really strong cocao flavour to it, there was also a heavy dusting of cocoa powder on each of the chocolate truffles which enhanced the flavour of the chocolate even further. I guess it was more of a dark chocolate truffle. Texture wise, as you bite into it, it was quite soft and creamy, it practically melted in your mouth.

Finally, there was the salted caramel toffee. This was probably my favourite. Normally with most homemade caramels, I tend to leave it till the end because I always have a hell of a time trying to pick it out of my teeth at the end. This wasn’t like that at all! It wasn’t quite like your traditional salted caramel where the salt is mixed in and throughout the caramel. Here, instead there were specks of sea salt here and there throughout the caramel. I found that this worked really well. You’ll get the strong, creamy and caramelised flavour of the toffee. Then here and there, you’ll get a hit of saltiness, which really helped to balance out the sweetness and stop the caramel from becoming overwhelming.

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To end the night, we were all presented with a basket of goodies full of Pialligo Estate goodies to take home. I really loved it, it gave us a fantastic little peek into the fantastic goodies that Piallgio Estate offers, from their smoked goods like the bacon, salmon and salt to their wines, cold pressed oil and finally the goodies from the Farmhouse kitchen, with the box of macarons, chocolates and salted caramel toffee.

I’ve sampled quite a few of the goodies in this basket and every one of them blew me away, especially the smoked salmon. Being a non-meat but seafood eater, I’ve had a lot of smoked salmon, I also happen to like it quite a bit. The smoked salmon from Piallgio Estate was probably one of the best smoked salmons I’ve ever had, thought I normally just get smoked salmon from Woolies and what not, so don’t 100% take my word on that. The salmon was smokey, soft and pretty much melted in your mouth yet it didn’t have that fishy aftertaste that smoked salmon tends to have. It was amazing.

So there you have it, our very awesome dinner at Pialligo Estate Farmhouse. Everything was just so absolutely tasty and the staff were just lovely, knowledgeable and pleasant all round. Since this was a catered event, I imagine it may be a little different to a standard dinner or lunch here. I absolutely cannot wait to come back to try Pialligo Estate Farmhouse’s ala carte and degustation menu. I’ve had a browse of it and I’ve already got a couple of things in mind.

This food adventure was made possible thanks to Liz from Good Things. As it was an event, the prices that we paid do not reflect the standard prices at Piallgio Estate Farmhouse. This is an independent post. Hence, all views and opinions are our own. 

Pialligo Estate Farmhouse 

18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo

Website: thepialligoestate.com.au/estate

Facebook: facebook.com/PialligoEstate

Twitter: @pialligoestate

Instagram: @pialligoestate

Opening hours: 

Thursday to Sunday: 12:00pm to 2:30pm

Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00pm to 9:00pm

Pialligo Estate Farmhouse on Urbanspoon

Lanterne Rooms, Campbell

For a special occasion, I was taken out to Lanterne Rooms for a surprise dinner. I probably hinted a couple of times that I was interested in checking it out but its one of those places you can’t just justify going to without something to celebrate.

After flicking through Lanterne Room’s menu we decided to go with the tasting menu or degustation as they refer to it on their website and it seemed like most other diners were doing the same. For $82 Lanterne Room’s tasting menu included seven plates plus dessert from their a la carte menu. On an interesting side note, you only have two physical plates throughout the dinner and the staff at Lanterne Room will come around to pop the different items on your plate as you finish. Really fun and casual experience, didn’t make for good photos though unfortunately, so that explains why almost everything is an ultra close up. I was just trying to hide as much of the dirty plate as possible. Didn’t mind this too much, it really made it feel like you were tasting a bunch of different things from Lanterne Room’s menu instead of attending a fancy schmancy degustation.

Anyways onwards to the food.

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First up was the Cured ocean trout on a fennel and carrot confit. This was yummy. Something really nice and light to start the whole tasting menu with. The ocean trout was lightly cured so it wasn’t overly sour or tangy and wasn’t fried or anything so was really light and clean on the palate. The carrot and fennel confit reminded me of the pickled veggies that I used to get at home and this sourness from the veggies gave the ocean trout just that little bit of extra flavour, tang and crunch. Together the different elements worked really well.

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Second up, the Marinated scallops and calamari with vegetables achar and watercress salad. Big fan of this taster. Both the scallop and calamari were amazing. I didn’t know which one to eat first and which one to savour. They were both cooked perfectly, soft and moist, lively to bite into. The flavours were incredible, super strong, heavily seasoned and I’m pretty sure it was that heavily spiced South East Asian style. I’m really a sucker for perfectly cooked scallops and these were just amazing, spongey and bounced back up if you pushed into it, just wonderful! Seemed like the salad was marinated in the same stuff as the seafood so the whole dish was just really strong and flavoursome. Screw balance, this was delicious.

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Another super flavoursome dish, the Tom yum crispy prawns with rock melon and apple slaw. Just like the previous taster this was full of flavour and it was delicious. There’s definitely a seafood theme here at Lanterne Rooms, so if you’re into seafood, this is a place you should definitely go. The prawns were large and cooked absolutely perfectly, firm and springy when you bit into them. They were smothered in creamy and heavy tom yum sauce that was just delightful and full of really strong flavours. Another thing, this sauce added was a little bit of spice on the side too, not too strong but just a nice kick to make this dish pop. It was a really thick savoury flavour but the rock melon and apple slaw really helped to smooth things out and lighten it all a bit. It had just enough sweetness to breakthrough the heaviness of the creamy tom yum.

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Something a little lighter, well less creamy than the last dish, the Chargrilled fish with chillied pickled pineapple. This was one of the standouts of the night, really amazing! The fish was lightly grilled, and I don’t know how Lanterne Rooms did it, but the fish had this wonderful soft texture all the way through, you could just push your fork against it and it’d fall apart. The fish itself wasn’t heavily seasoned and this decision went really well with the pickled pineapple and spices. These toppings were heavily flavoured with South East Asian spices and the pineapple brought a lot of sweetness to the dish. I really enjoyed this, the canvas of the fish was a perfect place for the spices to shine and it was definitely a nice break from all the really strong and creamy flavours of the previous dishes.

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So that’s seafood done! Lanterne Rooms decided to give us some meat from here on out, first up the Slow cooked lamb cutlets with coconut salad. This was probably up there as one of the best dishes of the night, I know I’ve said that a lot in this post, but it’s been really hard to decide! The meat was cooked perfectly, nice and soft on the inside with a lovely crispy char on the outside. And to top this all off, the meat was super flavourful, deep and hearty. There was a little bit of spice to it but just enough to give the lamb cutlets some kick but not too much that it was overwhelming and killed the taste of everything else. As for the coconut salad, I didn’t see any on my plate, didn’t know it was included until looking at the description to type this up. As you may have guessed, I really didn’t miss the salad at all, this dish was amazing and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

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Next up, the Slow cooked blackmore wagyu beef Kampung curry. This was a nice change, something more moist and soupy to break up the drier meats and seafoods. This was definitely on the spicier side and came with a side of rice and garlic green beans. It reminded me of something my parents would cook when it was cold. The meat itself was really tender and moist, the flavours were strong and had a lot of spice to them but they went well with the crunchy beans and steaming rice. It wasn’t bad but sadly it did come right after the lamb cutlets that were absolutely amazing – unfortunate positioning, who could really follow that lamb though?

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Here is the side of Steamed green beans with garlic that came with the beef curry. These were nice, cooked well – still crunchy but no sign of that slightly undercooked taste or texture. They were also really generous with the garlic which gave the beans a lot of flavour and they smelt really good!

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And finally, our last savoury dish for the night, the Spatchcock gulai, a rich spicy sour Penang style curry. Another awesome and flavourful dish. The dish came with a spatchcock thigh and drumstick, and this dish made me realise how small spatchcocks are because well, yeah it wasn’t huge. The bird was really lovely and full of strong Penang curry flavours that really permeated all the meat here on display. It was really moist and tender, really well cooked and broke apart really easily. The texture felt more like duck than any other bird, and I do love a bit of duck, so this was a wonderful way to end our savoury night.

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Finally, we have dessert! Well the first half of it, Gulab jamun with raspberry and coconut jelly. This was such a nice looking dessert, it came out with a gulab jamun (Indian deep fried donuts in a cardamon or rosewater sugar syrup) on one side and on the other side was the kek lapis (Nyonya layer cake). I’ll talk about the gulab jamun here and the kek lapis below. The gulab jamun was delicious, it had a nice layer of crunch on the outside but the dough on the inside was soft and aerated. There was no sugar syrup on the plate and the ball itself wasn’t overly moist or mushy but the spice and rosewater flavours really came through. Also I really liked the raspberry and cocnut jelly, it added some nice texture and sourness when the gulab jamun became too much. Absolutely love the way this plate looked!

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And the other side or half of our dessert, a Kek lapis (Nyonya layer cake). Wow this was amazing. We were originally tossing up between this and the panna cotta. We ended up picking this because the panna cotta came in a glass cup and looked a little boring, it was also chocolate and I’m not a massive fan of chocolate desserts so I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it that much. I’m really glad we chose the layer cake instead as it was really delicious and looked fantastic! The cake wasn’t overly dense, it was light and airy. The two different layers differed in texture, so when having it together it was just really interesting to have in the mouth. Flavour wise, not quite sure what it was meant to taste like but I liked it a lot and seriously wanted another serving. The cake wasn’t overly sweet, it was nice and mild, just enough sweetness to consider this a dessert, and definitely mild enough to want more.

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And for our second dessert, we got the Buttermilk kulfi ice cream with crispy sweet potatoes. I’m a big fan of kulfi, I really like the texture of it. Its quite icy, not super creamy but not quite like a sorbet either. Here the iciness was more like individual ice shards that come off, whereas in sorbets the iciness is more crumbly and grainy. Also I was a really big fan of the flavours, very basic just nice, milky and creamy. Nothing overly complicated but absolutely delicious. The nuts and crispy sweet potato were also nice, giving the kulfi some texture and different flavours.

This was a really enjoyable dinner at Lanterne Rooms, all the food was super flavourful and full of different spices. Lanterne Rooms is an absolutely lovely place for a nice and fancy dinner! The whole ‘waiter comes around to give you bits of food’ thing was a little strange but it worked for Lanterne Rooms. I guess it is a taster menu at the end of the day, and this certainly lived up to it.

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Sage Dining Rooms, Braddon

After our amazing dinner at Sage just the other week we headed back for their paupers to princes truffle lunch. Sage along with many other other places and establishments in Canberra are offering wonderful truffle goodies left, right and centre! Some places are simply allowing you to add shaved truffle on to their pre-existing plates for about $10 to $15, other places like Sage are including new truffle inspired plates onto their menus and then there are those who are doing full blown truffle degustations.

I quite like how Sage has approached this. They’re keeping with their usual pricing structure, $75 for a three course lunch (the truffle menu doesn’t seem to be available for dinner). You get to choose from Sage’s normal offerings, (see what I had just a couple of weeks ago here) and you can mix and match with an additional two truffle choices for each course. We ended up picking all truffle dishes but our friend did mix it up to try their pork belly entree.

I also really like that Sage has a theme, I don’t really think anyone else does. The idea of making less ritzy foods more glamorous and fancy by using interesting ingredients, quirky cooking techniques and those awesome Canberra truffles. Onwards to the amazing truffle plates and goodies at Sage.

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First up, we grabbed the Tendon chicharron (serving of 3, $3 each) with lime aioli, paprika and caviar. This was our friends first time at Sage, so we may have strongly suggested getting this awesome little bite size treat. Honestly, I reckon it was because we enjoyed it so much last time, we just had to have it again. It was actually a little different this time, not in a bad way, it still tasted amazing but texture of the chicharron was different. Last time it was really thin and light in texture, like a thin prawn cracker is how I examined it. This time, it was quite dense, smaller but more compact, I feel like this made it a lot crisper and allowed it to crackle away when it first arrived. This one reminded me of pork crackling, which is weird because I tend to find pork crackling quite sickening, this was anything but. I think it was the citrus from the lime aioli and the savouriness of the caviar that helped with the heaviness of the chicharron.

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For our first truffle entree, we grabbed the Son in law egg on Paris mash with fish sauce and truffle shavings. I don’t actually think the staff at Sage called this a son in law egg but it definitely reminds me of one and the plate overall felt very South East Asian influenced. The egg though, was great! It was boiled but the yolk was still slightly runny which made it lovely and creamy. The outside of the egg had a thin crispy layer like it had been quickly deep fried which was an amazing contrast of textures and to top it all off there was a sweet and salty fish sauce like dressing drizzled all over it. The egg sat over a super creamy mash that melted in my mouth and to top it all off, some shaved truffle which rounded all the strong flavours off and gave this delicious dish some lovely smokiness.

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For our second entree, we grabbed Sage’s other truffle entree, the Mac and cheese with house made pasta, bacon, gruyere cheese and truffle shaving. This is definitely not what I normally think of when people say mac n cheese, I assume there’ll be a whole lot of cream and a whole lot of cheese (which I love). This is like some crazy gourmet version that did away with a lot of the heavy creaminess and cheesiness and offered a mac and cheese that was lighter, but still rich in flavour. This totally worked and I absolutely loved it. The pasta was amazing, looks ugly but tasted and broke away perfectly as you bit into it. Flavour wise, this was one of the best mac and cheeses I’ve ever had, the gruyere was so powerful but it contrasted so well with the earthy shaved truffle and salty bacon. Only issue I had was that it was a really small serving, I guess it’s an entree but…ahh…nah. I wanted more.

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For our first main, we grabbed the Mushroom risotto with Jerusalem artichokes, parsnip crisps and truffle shavings. This was amazing and absolutely full of flavour. This is only my third risotto ever but it’s easily my favourite. There were chunky bits of super flavoursome mushrooms throughout the risotto which definitely added to the earthy, and smoky flavours that came from the truffles shavings. I would describe truffles as tasting kind of like mushrooms, so it’s no real surprise that they go so well together! The parsnip crisps added some great texture along with the chunkiness from the fresh Jerusalem artichokes. I found the fresh artichokes also contrasted the strong mushroom flavours of the whole dish, it added this lovely freshness.

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Our second main for the night, was the Beef cheek with truffle semolina cake, pickled onions, watercress puree and truffle shavings. This was absolutely fantastic! The beef cheek just literally fell apart, I kind of pushed against it with my fork and the meat just fell apart, delightful. The meat was beautifully seasoned but kept its strong savoury beefy flavours intact. The semolina cake was hard to explain, I really liked it, and it had truffle bits all the way through it, which were just brilliant little pockets of flavour. It’s kind of like a non-sweet cornbread, it’s hard to explain, really good as a bread/potato substitute to balance out the richness of the dish. The watercress puree was actually really bitter! A bit shocking when I first had it, but when I felt the sweetness of the pickled onions, I started to figure out how it all came together. The highlight of this dish was definitely the cheek, but of course, I guess that was always going to be the case. The shaved truffle was honestly a little hard to taste, and I’m putting that up against the strong flavours of everything else on the plate.

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For our first desserts we grabbed a Truffle bread and butter pudding with star anise ice cream and truffle shavings. This dish was really tasty. Weirdly when you eat each of the individual components separately, everything just tasted rather normal, nothing really stood out or amazed but when you ate the bread and  butter pudding together with the ice cream and other bits and bobs, the flavours and elements just worked perfectly and was simply wow. The bread pudding was really quite dense, a lot more than I was used to, but full of buttery goodness. The star anise ice cream really packed a punch and brought a lot of flavour to the whole dish! Star anise is something I love, but would not have thought would make good ice cream, dead wrong I was. This was topped with lovely smokiness and earthiness from the shaved truffles that somehow really worked in the dessert context. I had no idea truffle was so versatile, a part of me wants to buy a big mac and sprinkle truffle all over it! There were so many little chunks of goodness everywhere that added a lot of different textures and flavours to the plate that I really appreciated. There were crunchy bits, soft chewy bits, nutty parts, sweetness, bitterness from the flowers and overall they made this a really interesting and enjoyable dish!

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For our second dessert we grabbed the Coconut and truffle ice cream on vanilla custard and pear slices with tapioca, apple pearls and truffle shavings. This was probably my favourite dish! Every part was super tasty and together it was simply amazing. You may be thinking, there isn’t any custard on the plate, I thought the same thing when the staff at Sage mentioned custard, I figured that they had just made a mistake and ignored it but as I started digging away at the dish, I hit custard like it was buried treasure. Under all that tapioca, there was actually a nice big serving of custard, which I must say really turned this dessert from nice to amazing! The coconut and truffle ice cream was super yummy, it was a bit like Mr Frugii’s truffle ice cream but super creamy from the coconut milk. I found this also really improved the texture, making it super silky and smooth. The tapioca had a slight sweetness to it that was balanced off by the citrusy apple pearls and pear slices. I think without the custard this dessert would have definitely been on the milder side. The custard really added some great sweetness to it all.

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Finally a couple of drinks, a Hazelnut house made soda. ($8 each). At first I didn’t get a drink, I’m too newbie with wines to know what I’ll like from a massive menu likes Sage’s and its too risky to just go with one because chances are, its probably beyond my current wine palette to truly enjoy. I saw that Sage had some house made sodas but for $8, I figured nah, totally not worth it. Then our mate had the lycee house made soda and then ordered a second one within probably less than 15 minutes! At that point, I had to try it out. I decided to go with the hazelnut house made soda, I figured it would be new, exciting and different. Who has ever heard of a hazelnut soft drink and I’m so glad I did because it was absolutely amazing! It tasted pretty much like a lime soda (which disappointed me a little at first) but had an after taste that was unmistakably hazelnuts with that lovely creaminess and nuttiness. Additionally, it wasn’t overly fizzy or too sweet either! It was such a good drink. Next time I eat at Sage, I’m going a soft match. Pretty much, your food gets matched with Sage’s crazy soda creations instead of wines.

This was another absolutely amazing experience at Sage. Their truffle dishes were super tasty, the staff were friendly and it was just an absolutely treat. Looking forwards to more fun and interesting meals at Sage in the future!

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Sage Dining Rooms, Braddon

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So we recently headed over to Sage Dining Rooms for a fancy little treat. Prior to actually looking it up on Google Maps right before our reservation, we had absolutely no idea where it was. We were pretty surprised to find that Sage was in Braddon, literally a stone throws away from work, if I pegged one really really hard. Actually, I reckon if I never looked it up, I don’t think I would have ever found Sage. Sage was not in an area you can accidentally stumble across like Aubergine, this awesome little place is hidden in the Gorman Arts Centre, just a little off Ainslie Ave. Actually its right behind derro city, I had no idea there were nice things there! And Mint Garden Bar is walkable from walk! I know where I’m going for fancy Friday night drinks now.

Anyways, more chatter about food and less rambling. So after looking at the menu for a while and pondering over our choices, we just couldn’t make up our minds. Everything looked so fancy and the degustation or chef’s picks as it was referred to on the menu was pretty tempting, it was five courses for $75 otherwise there was the three normal pick your own courses for $75 as well. We wanted to go with the degustation and try a little bit of everything on the menu but it didn’t include the custard which I really wanted to try. So I opted for the three courses, I did notice that the normal courses were larger than the degustation courses.

All rightie, time to talk about the food.

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First up like any fancy schmancy place, we started our meal with some Complimentary bread and butter with black lava salt. Not much to report here expect that it was delicious, fluffy, light and airy. I’m a big fan of black lava salt, always makes me feel fancy, didn’t actually know that it was called that but I did some research just for this post! The butter with its lovely saltiness was paired with some lovely sourdough. As per usual a perfect way to start a fantastic night.

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For our first dish of the night, we decided to grab a couple of the bite size treats, starting with a serving of the Mushroom consomme ($3 each) with hazelnut foam. This was pretty much a super creamy and rich mushroom soup with airy and light hazelnut foam served in a cute little shot glass. When the waiter was heading over to our table with this, I thought we were getting some complementary espresso shots. This was absolutely amazing, just enough to leave you wanting more but not too much that the richness got to you. We also found that the nuttiness of the hazelnut really helped to balance out the richness of the mushroom.

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For our second bite size treat, we grabbed the Tendon chicharron ($3 each) with caviar, charred onion aioli and lime. When I read tendon on the menu I just assumed that crunchy white stuff near the bone that my parents always really enjoyed. I wasn’t expecting these awesome airy treats! I think I’ve had something similar in our degustation at Muse Restaurant in Hunter Valley. When I had them in the Hunter I thought it was just pork crackling but now I know what they actually are and boy did they taste good! The tendons were like a meaty flavoured prawn cracker but slightly lighter and more airy in texture. Plus the creamy aioli gave it a lot of flavour while the lime balanced it off with some tanginess. The caviar gave it texture and savouriness while the spices gave it flavour and kick. Just awesome all round!

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Our first entree for the night was the Sugar cured ocean trout crumbed with olives, sesame seed and pistachio on an avocado and wasabi puree with roe, pickled cucumber and a Persian dressing. This was so good, everything just worked. The freshness of the trout, the saltiness from the roe, the sweetness of the dressing, the creaminess and kick from the avocado and wasabi paste. Every component was perfect and together it just made the whole dish taste amazing. At this point, I was pretty happy I went with the three courses instead of the degustation, if I got the degustations I would have only gotten one of these awesome sugar cured ocean trout to enjoy!

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For our second entree, we got the Glazed pork belly on a cauliflower puree with a radish and pear salad. This was absolutely amazing! When I saw the radish and pear salad I thought that it was going to be really weird with the flavourful and meaty pork belly, but it worked really well. The mild sweetness of the pear acted as sort of a solid apple sauce which normally goes so well with pork, so it was a classic idea, done in a way I hadn’t experienced before. As for the pork, there wasn’t any super crispy skin, which normally would be a huge turn off, but the texture and flavour of this pork more than made up for it. The pork was done in what seemed to be fish sauce which gave it a subtle Asian flavour, and it just melted in your mouth. Yum!

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So we ended up with a third entree, the Butternut pumpkin soup with chestnut cream and parsnip crisp. So since Ouk didn’t want dessert, we asked Sage if we could change it up and get two entrees and one main instead of the usual entree, main and dessert combination. After speaking to the kitchen our waiter came back and said they were more than happy to, so good news for anyone who likes customising their courses. I totally should have gotten an entree and two desserts! Well, actually maybe not, my main was pretty delicious but more about that later.

As for the butternut pumpkin soup, it was pretty damn tasty. The soup was super creamy with a really strong pumpkin taste to it, I know that sounds stupid. Duh its pumpkin soup, it has to taste like pumpkin! But have you ever had a pumpkin soup that has a really subtle pumpkin taste to it, like it has been dulled or watered down? I’m a big fan of pumpkin so I prefer the super strong pumpkin flavours, hence I really enjoyed this soup. Also enjoyed the chestnut cream, it added a lot of nuttiness to the soup and subdued the sweetness of the pumpkin. The crispy parsnip chips also added some great texture.

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For our first main, we grabbed the Pan roasted swordfish with hummus gyoza, tuna prosciutto, brussel sprouts and a yuzu cream. Normally I don’t really care for fish, weird coming from a pescatarian but this dish was awesome! If fish tasted like this all the time, I would definitely be less of a hater. It was just perfect, the flesh inside was super soft and juicy, the outer layer was light and crispy and the whole thing tasted amazing. On top of the delicious fish, the condiments were awesome, who knew hummus could work so well in gyoza. It was just like having a soft and super creamy dumpling, totally going to try and recreate these at home! The fish and the gyoza were both quite mild in taste and flavour so the yuzu cream worked perfectly. It brought a whole new dimension of flavour and creaminess to the plate. Even the brussel sprouts were nice! It was mildly pickled and brought just enough tanginess to the dish to balance out the creaminess. Absolutely amazing dish all round. Definitely feel safe ordering fish plates at Sage.

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Our second main was the Beef fillet on foie gras with forest mushrooms, creamy potatoes and dehydrated kale. The beef was cooked perfectly, as you can probably see from the picture, it was perfectly pink all the way through, exactly how I like it. It tasted fantastic, they didn’t overdo the spices and just let the meat do all the talking and with all the other strong flavours on the plate I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The dehydrated kale was super crispy and they pretty much tasted like potato chips but healthy! Being able to chomp away on these things gave such a nice relief to all the similar textures of everything else in this dish, so these were a great compliment. The foie gras was amazing! I love foie gras though, so I don’t know how much that means, to be honest, they didn’t really give much but it’s foie gras so I kind of get that.

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Of course we couldn’t help but order a side of Paris truffle mash ($10). This was amazing, super rich, really creamy with a lot of truffley goodness to it. The minute it hit the table I could smell the truffles, I didn’t even know the mash had truffle in it, I wasn’t really paying attention when we ordered it but I didn’t even need to confirm it. Plus there was so much of it, between the two of us we probably only got about half way through it. It was very rich, so if you’re normally not a massive fan of richness, think twice or ensure you’re sharing it with a couple of people or something. Still super enjoyable.

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Finally, for dessert we got the Vanilla custard with cassis, poached pears, pistachio and black cardamon. This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but it was still super tasty. I always kind of hesitated to order custard at restaurants, I figured its just custard, how amazing can it be? And then I tried the custard dessert plate at Temporada, from then on I’ve been on a bit of a custard safari, trying out custards at every possible chance to try and find my favourite. So far, I’ve only had a few and all of them have been soft, smooth and silky. The custard at Sage was different, it was still silky and smooth but more jelly like. I know the description was horrible and I probably didn’t do Sage’s custard any justice but I’ll try harder on the taste front.

Taste wise, amazing! The custard was super creamy and had a more subtle custard taste to it, normally I prefer stronger flavours but here it worked. I reckon it worked because the mild custard flavours went so well with all the other flavours and textures on the plate. There was sweetness and sourness from the cassis sheets which reminded me of those RollUp snack bars I got for recess as a kid but thinner and not as sticky and stretchy. Strong pistachio flavours that complimented the custard perfectly, the tanginess and fruitiness from the poached pears and finally the cardamon, flavourful and crumbly, it almost tasted like cookie crumbles. Together the textures, the flavours, everything going on all at once just tasted super yum. Loved it, after trying this custard at Sage, I don’t think I mind this thicker jellyish custard style either!

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Sage was an absolutely amazing experience, the atmosphere was great, the staff were super friendly and the food was simply amazing. Everything we had was nice, normally even at fancy schmancy restaurants, its like 95% hit but a minor miss here and there but here at Sage, it was just fantastic all round.

Oh extra note, Sage has an amazing wine list, it went on for pages and pages and had everything from your traditional reds and whites to the sticky stuff I like. We were seriously considering getting a wine at Sage but after staring at their wine menu for a while and not being able to figure out which of the whites ones were semi sweet we gave up.

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I should probably include a little story that explains how we ended up with this red wine. If you’ve read my posts on the Hunter Valley, you’ll know that I’m a complete light weight and pretty hopeless when it comes to wine, I’m still a semi sweet to super sweet sort of person.

So how did we end up with two awesome cups of red? Well apparently our mains were taking a long time, so the staff at Sage came out and apologised and gave us the wine on the house. They did tell us what it was, but being quite hopeless, I can’t remember now, something along the lines of French and 2007. I thought it was a really nice gesture, it really does differentiate a good restaurant from those that are truly amazing. We didn’t even say anything or realise that our food was behind schedule! It all just happened!

Awesome experience all round at Sage Dinning Rooms, absolutely cannot wait to go back! I’ve already got a booking in two weeks time for their pauper to princes truffle menu. This is pretty much a menu designed for the Canberra Truffle Festival, the menu will run at lunch on Tuesdays to Sunday from now until mid August. Cost wise, it will be three courses for $75, so the same as their usual stuff. Absolutely cannot wait.

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Muse Restaurant, Hunter Valley

Saved the best post for last! Our degustation lunch at Muse Restaurant in the Hunter Valley.

The restaurant is inside the Hungerfood Hill cellar door, and just look at this pretty building. The left building is meant to look like a wine drum, the top is meant to be a lid. Personally, I thought it was a satellite dish, which apparently was a pretty common mistake so I didn’t feel too stupid about it.

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We ended up picking the eight course tasting menu for $115 without wines. With Hungerford Hills wines it is $175 and for premium wines it is $215, we felt like we had a bit too much to drink already so decided to go without wines. There was also a twelve course degustation as well, which takes three hours. Our degustation was meant to last about two hours. However, we had to rush them a little and fit it in one and a half hours because we had a wine tour booked afterwards that we couldn’t slot anywhere else unfortunately. Muse was really accommodating and helpful with our request and they were still extremely lovely.

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Once we were seated at our table we were offered some bread. The one on the right was a brioche but its not like the heavy, dense and super buttery ones you get from  on those hipster brioche burgers. This was super fluffy, almost like a bread cross croissant.  It went so well with the fluffy butter and the black garlic butter. Every time they came around we grabbed another one of these. The one on the left was a sweetish bun, I don’t remember much about it unfortunately, the brioche croissant completely out shone it.

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First up was the Amuse, savoury veal macarons and pork crackling. This was really nice, the macarons were small but perfect, soft inside with a crispy shell and the best part, the veal filling. It was so smooth with a mild veal taste but with some sweetness to it. The pork cracking was great, light and super crunchy and I think they had a veal sauce on it. This was a pretty exciting dish, I get why its called Amuse, something fun, exciting and different. 

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Our first official dish of the degustation, Beetroot and Binnorie goats cheese cannelloni with coppersfolly wasabi, hazelnut and shiso. I normally don’t like beetroot, goats cheese or wasabi but I would happily eat this dish as a main (which we saw from other tables was three cannelloni instead of one). And look how pretty it is! Didn’t really want to dig into it, just too pretty to eat. The cannelloni was made out of beetroot but I don’t think it was just a thin slice of beetroot, there was definitely something else to it, seemed a little pasta like. The cannelloni was filled with local Binnorie goats cheese, this was flavoursome and balanced well with the sourness of the beetroot. The wasabi was mild and didn’t really add any spice, which I think works for this dish, all the flavours are really soft and I guess kinda bland (but in a good way) so I think spiciness would have really killed it. Hazelnut was also nice, gave the dish a nuttiness and some extra texture.

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For our second course, we received Pan fried sea scallops and confit chicken wing with roast parsnip, chestnut and chicken jus. Another extremely pretty dish and incredibly tasty, like everything else so far! The scallops were nice, juicy with some crispiness from the searing. Sadly, it was completely out shadowed by the chicken, which was amaaazing! Super crispy but the inside was still moist and flavoursome. Could not get enough of this. I’ve never had parsnip before but I liked this, I think I’ll definitely try cooking with parsnip in the future. The roasted one was sweetish and the puree was lovely, like mash! But better. Way better.

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The third course, a Slow cooked Berkshire pork, house made bacon and caramelised carrot puree, orange, fennel seed labna. Every plate was so pretty, I really did appreciate the presentation. The meat was great but my favourite part was the caramelised carrot puree, originally I thought it was pumpkin because it was orange then I read the menu and realised it was carrot. I mean there’s nothing wrong with carrot but who knew it could taste as creamy and delicious as this! I scraped off all the puree from the plate it was so good. Back to the meat, the pork was flavourful and juicy, the bacon was crispy but slightly salty for the overall dish but still nice. Honestly, I preferred the vegetable parts of this dish to the meaty parts. The roasted carrot was really nice too and the orange, fennel seed labna was creamy and silky.

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Forth course, Whey poached Milly Hill lamb loin, braised shoulder and house made ricotta, baby fennel, pollen and blackberries. This was really nice, especially the shredded lamb, this was tender and full of flavour. The house made ricotta was amazing and really added creaminess to the flavoursome lamb. The poached lamb was really well done, nice and pink. There wasn’t much seasoning or flavouring for the poached lamb and this really let the natural flavours of the lamb come out. Good stuff.

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Finally we got to our dessert plate, but before that a palate cleanser! Watermelon granita with coconut sorbet and caramelised ginger and coconut shavings. This was amazing, this and the amuse (veal macarons) were probably the best part of the degustation in my opinion, and they weren’t even on the menu! All the other dishes were really nice and well done but these two were just fun, exciting and different. The watermelon granita was sweet and fruity, no artificial melon taste or anything but the best part was the coconut sorbet. This was a coconut milk sorbet so it was super creamy and just sweet enough, it had this amazing texture, it was fluffy, airy and cloud like, actually in hindsight, it was probably aerated. Soo good! I wished they served this as a dessert on its own.

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Finally, we got to dessert, my favourite part of any meal! Vanilla bean custard, fresh honeycomb and salted date, banana and brown butter. The vanilla bean custard was so good, super creamy and silky smooth, it kinda just melted in your mouth. The brown butter worked really well this the custard, gave the custard a whole new dimension. The honeycomb was also really fun, its not everyday you get to enjoy your honey as naturally as this. We were spitting out bits of wax all over the place, so the plate was pretty horrific looking when we were done with it.

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And finally as we were finalising our meal and rushing off to pay and head out to our wine tour we were given a box of Complimentary macarons and lamingtons. I’m sure these were absolutely amazing, just I can’t say for sure, I took them with us on the wine tour because we were so full and unfortunately we forgot them while we were wine testing at Leogates, all the wineries were so generous, I might of had a bit too much.

The six course degustation plus palate cleanser, complimentary bread and sweet treats was $115, with Hungerford Hill Wines it was $175 and for alternative premium wines it was $215.

This was an absolutely amazing experience. Everything about it, the service, the atmosphere, the food! Would recommend it to anyone who enjoys food and is heading up to the Hunter Valley.

Check out some of our other food adventures from the Hunter Valley:

Harvest Restaurant 

Sabor in the Hunter

Leaves & Fishes

The Cellar Restaurant

Muse Restaurant – Wine and Food Matching 

Twine Restaurant

 

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