European

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

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

Joe’s Bar, Kingston

I think we’ve come full circle now, there was a time long ago when most restaurants you’d see around were named after someone in the attempt to make them seem more friendly, more relatable. Places like Lulu’s Cafe, China Joe’s, Uncle Jeff’s Vietnamese, any Thai restaurant (unless they went with the ‘thai’ pun option which was also super popular). Then after that came the modern era of places using words no one really understands, but if you go back in time or speak another language, it is actually a word that they use often for clean living or something. Places like Autolyse, Temporada, Mocan & Green Grout. Now I don’t have a particular preference when it comes to the names of restaurants, but I will admit I do have a slight nostalgic twinge at the thought of those old favourites and it is with great pleasure that I get to talk about a place named Joe’s Bar, presumably named after a man named Joe. Or woman named Joanne. You know, sometimes they shorten it like that.

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Joe’s Bar is the newly opened Italian inspired eatery and bar located on the ground level at the East Hotel in Kingston and complements Ox Eatery as another reason to venture out to the East Hotel whenever you can. I’m not usually one to jump out of my seat to try and attend newly opened places since I hate waiting in lines, but whilst I was browsing Instagram, I kept seeing pictures of cool little cheese plates and drinks coming out of Joe’s but they weren’t just traditional Italian goodies and drinks, each and every one of them had a cool and modern twist. And flowers, heaps of flowers, when I saw that, my hipster instincts kicked in and I knew I had to check it out.

Stepping into Joe’s Bar, the first thing that hit me was how quirky and cool the decor was, but second to that was the fact that it actually wasn’t super busy at all! I was kind of expecting a huge rush simply because of how Canberra seems to get whenever a new place opens up, which, I should add, is really nice to see as someone who is invested in the growth of Canberra’s food scene.

The decor is probably best described as a Frankenstein of hipster and rustic and it’s something that I really enjoyed. I know I say hipster a lot but it’s 2015, there’s just a lot of hipster things around these days. There’s a lovely wooden, vintage feel to the place, as well as a ton of ornaments and lights that seem thrown together in a way that doesn’t really work, but at the same time totally does. Sometimes I feel like my true calling is not in the realm of ‘describing things I don’t understand’. This is one of those times.

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Here you can see a few of the cool little things that make up Joe’s Bar’s character. Personalised coasters, cool little rocky candle holders and lemon slices in your tap water! Fancy! In addition, you get these cool little number cubes when you order that signifies what table you are. It’s these sorts of things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but at the same time, I find really cool and is what sets a place apart from others. Also, stacking these little number boxes would be hell and I appreciate that kind of effort.

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First up, we got some Complimentary popcorn with rosemary, pecorino and olive oil. This was a welcome surprise; soon after we ordered we were presented with a complimentary serve of Joe’s special popcorn, and the smell itself was enough to get us drooling. Strong wafts of cheese oozed out of this dish and we were pretty hungry anyway so we started diving in straight away.

I am not a huge popcorn fan, lets get that out of the way first. When I go to the cinema, I generally will opt for chips, though I am acutely aware of how awkward it is to eat crunchy chips in a cinema, so might turn to gummy bears if I’m watching something particularly dramatic, but the point is, I’m not a huge popcorn guy. With that said, this popcorn was freaking delicious. Really cheesy, oily and just rich and decadent. There were just loose chunks of cheese everywhere, and depending on what ended up in your hands, you’d end up with a really rich cheesy mouthful, or a more relaxed one. Later the waitress came over and noticed we demolished our first bowl and offered us another one, which we gladly accepted. We kind of turned into popcorn people for one night.

A couple of days later, I actually tried making this at home myself, since it was absolutely amazing and I thought the ingredients were fairly basic, it should be quite easy right? Well I was wrong, my one turned out about a quarter as nice. The pecorino wasn’t as rich, the rosemary wasn’t nearly as edible, and overall it just wasn’t tasty at all. I’ll figure it out one day I’m sure. (Please help me I have no idea what I did wrong with it).

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Our first ‘main’ of sorts was the Polpettine di carne ($22) pasture-fed Cape Grim beef meat balls in vine ripened tomato sauce with crusty bread. So funny story with this dish, (it’s not that funny) I ended up picking it purely because of something I saw on TV recently. So on the show ‘No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain, there’s an episode where he goes to Italy and does, well food stuff. Anyway, at one point he goes to his camera man’s mother’s house and she cooks up this massive pot of Ragu and for 10 minutes it’s them just going on and on about the virtues of using bread to soak up sauce and how amazing it is, and the camera is just zooming in on them contorting bread into these shapes, soaking up sauce and shovelling it into their mouth.

Needless to say, I had to do it, and that is why when I saw this on the menu, I jumped at it.

The dish itself was pretty much what I was expecting. The meatballs themselves were really nice, good quality meat and slightly pink in the middle. I’m not sure if this is how Italians do it, but it wasn’t really heavily flavoured at all, and I found myself cutting open the meatballs, and then dipping the meat back into the sauce to coat it again. Luckily, I loved the sauce, which was a really rich, sweet and had chunks of tomato throughout it. This was quite nice, I prefer to have meatballs with a little bit more going on (my sister makes these amazing meatballs with rice in them which I absolutely love, in hindsight I should probably just ask her for the recipe instead of reminiscing about them) but I knew heading into this version at Joe’s that authentic Italian meatballs’ let the quality of the ingredients shine, and that’s exactly what happened here at Joe’s Bar.

This dish definitely satisfied my desire for dipping bread into sauce, and the lovely staff at Joe’s seemed to know it, and provided me with an extra serve of bread on the side. Really good, and would recommend if you’re at all interested in authenticity.

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Next up was the Lasagne al sugo di maiale brasato ($22) slow braised chianti pork ribs deboned and sandwich between handmade pasta sheets topped with grated pecorino and fresh nutmeg. This was probably my favourite dish of the whole night, and that was surprising because I wasn’t expecting much from it at all. The slow braised pork rib was the highlight here, it was shredded up and just gave the whole dish this amazing texture and ensured that what you were eating hadn’t been processed in the slightest.

The flavour of the pork permeated throughout the whole dish and was easily the star attraction here. It was smokey, mild, and extremely tender. The actual sheets of pasta were fantastic as well, really well made and with a slight char on them that gave a wonderful crunchy texture to the rest of the dish. Most lasagne’s that I have, (of the Sara-Lee variety) are heavy on the sauce, and that’s what you taste the most of, but that definitely wasn’t the way Joe’s Bar had opted to do their lasagne. The sauce was muted and took quite a back seat to the strong flavours of the pork. I appreciated this move, although that could’ve been because I was also eating the rich sauce of the meatballs at the time. In any case, I really loved this lasagne and would recommend it to anyone. Except a vegetarian I suppose.

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Next up, we ordered the cheese plate, or Di formaggi ($18) imported testun al barolo (grape infused pecorino), whipped goats cheese, taleggio lombardo, gorgonzola dolce, truffle honey, dried baby figs, candied pistachio and crostini. I’m not sure how much detail I’m expected to go into with a cheese plate, but let me start by saying this was just a beautifully presented plate. Not sure how much anyone cares about this sort of thing, but look at it!

The cheeses were all amazing but the highlights for me was the grape infused pecorino, the gorgonzola and the truffle honey. The grape pecorino was just a really cool cheese, and something I’ve never had the pleasure of trying before. It was a standard strong flavoured pecorino, but it also had this sweetness throughout it. The gorgonzola was a really mild blue cheese, and whilst I generally love blue cheeses, I do tend to get tired of how rich they are over time. This didn’t happen with the gorgonzola cheese at Joe’s, it was mild and delicious, and I managed to get all the way through it and even wanted more! The truffle honey on the other hand was exceptionally flavourful and rich. The flavour of truffle was incredibly strong in the honey, it almost felt like truffle oil in goo form. There’s a danger that it’s actually too rich for some, but as a huge truffle nerd, I loved it.

My favourite part of this cheese plate was the fact that you didn’t just get the typical cheddar, brie and blue combination. Most of the cheeses on this plate were really different, and I appreciated that change of pace.

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Our second cocktail of the night was Joe’s mandarin Negroni ($14) mandarin infused Campari, Cinzano rosso vermouth and fresh mandarin juice. This was actually quite the shock for us! When we read the description with all its mandarins, we were kind of expecting something light and sweet (of course we had no idea what a Negroni was) so when this popped out, it was shocking to say the least. If you’re a fan of hard Negroni’s or hard liquor at all for that matter, then this is actually really quite nice. You could taste the mandarin elements through it, and unfortunately we did end up stealing some of the lime’s from the dark & stormy to kind of weaken this drink somewhat. We did enjoy it, it just needed a little bit of a tweaking. If you’re someone that can handle their alcohol, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. Probably.

I kind of wish I got a recommendation from the staff at Joe’s Bar, the drinks menu was absolutely massive with plenty of local and imported wines as well as classic cocktails and a decent list of ‘Joe’s cocktails’, which included many classic cocktail but all with a modern twist to them and some flowers, plenty of flowers. I’m sure they could have recommended me something sweet and fruity!

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For drinks, we ordered a Joe’s dark & stormy ($16) Hayman’s Sloe gin, Cinzano extra dry vermouth, orange bitters and fresh lemon. Dark and stormy is actually my go-to cocktail whenever I see it on a menu because I love ginger beer. The dark and stormy here at Joe’s was really nice, full of lemons and limes and not too harsh on the alcohol. I’m not really a hardcore alcohol drinker so I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m talking about, but I did enjoy this.

Our time at Joe’s Bar was honestly fantastic. The service was really attentive, the food delicious, and the drinks tasty! The decor of the place is quirky and inviting, and it’s a place that adds wonderfully to the already delicious Italian shoe print in Canberra.

Joe’s Bar 

East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston

Website: joesateast.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/joesateast
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The Schnitzel Haus, Braddon

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Coming soon Now Crumbing!

Braddon has been going through a huge resurgence recently with a ton of fantastic new eateries opening up over the past couple of years. I probably didn’t need to mention that because of how often Canberra news outlets love talking about the “Braddon transformation” but you know, it kind of feels good to say something a bit newsy. Makes me feel legitimate. A bit.

Anyway, The Schitnzel Haus is something I’ve been looking forwards to for a really long time now ever since I saw the construction start up next to Hopscotch on Lonsdale Street. There was a fair bit of time when I had absolutely no idea what was coming, and to be fair I kind of just thought it’d be another hipster cafe. Do not get me wrong, I love hipster cafes as much as the next guy with black rimmed glasses, but between 80/20, Mood, LSR and Elemental, I feel like Braddon is a bit hipster cafe’d out, so imagine my glee when I found out this was going to be a casual den of crumbed meats!

The Schnitzel Haus is a really nice place, with a vibrant yellow decor that screams summer and bees, I feel like I’m walking into a cafe in a beach side town, instead of a cafe in Canberra, 2hrs and 30mins from any waves. What I noticed as soon as I walked inside was the freshness of a place that wasn’t at all trying to be vintage or hip. The Schnitzel Haus at it’s core is a casual place serving a casual food, and, again, as much as I love a hipster cafe, I do really appreciate places that aren’t afraid to be different.

We went to The Schnitzel Haus for lunch, and at the time only I (Ouk) was hungry, so Lily just kind of sat there and took pictures. Outside of how awkward that was, I felt I needed to mention that because we only ended up with one schnitzel. Sorry!

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As with any good The Schnitzel Haus customer, schnitzel was the order of the day, but not just any schnitzel, the Original pork schnitzel ($21.90) with mushroom sauce. So here at the Schnitzel Haus you get a fair bit of choice, and it can be a bit overwhelming so I’m going to try and explain this, because it took me ages to work it out myself, and no one wants to waste time looking at menus!

First you get a choice of the schnitzel itself, either chicken, pork or veal. I went with pork because I personally believe that the pig is the best animal out there as far eating it goes. I am a huge fan of  everything that comes out of the humble pig, from bacon to belly, it’s just all absolutely fantastic! I know that there’s going to be a lot of clamour for veal since it’s kind of the ‘fancy’ option but I’ve been burned too many times with veal schnitzels in the past. I remember a time when I went to Goni’s up in Marrickville, Sydney for a schnitzel (if you’re into absolutely massive schnitzels I recommend you give that place a try!) and against the judgement of a friend of mine, I pushed for the veal. Cue spending the entire night chewing away at what had to be the rubberiest piece of meat I’ve ever had the good fortune of eating. Since then I’ve been a bit wary about crumbed veal so I stay away from it, though if you try it and it’s ok, please let me know! Outside of that you get to pick a sauce, out of mushroom, peppercorn or creamy garlic, which comes alongside your chosen schnitzel in a little cuppy thing.

Ok in hindsight it’s really not that complex. But the menu is massive, with various options including schnitzels topped with sausage, prawns and various flavour combinations which give you cool themed schnitzels like the Mexican or the Italian and so forth. You can also get schnitzels in burgers and a hotdog schnitzel, pretty cool aye? Oh and for anyone out there who doesn’t like crumbly goodness, there are also salads and mod oz entrees (and dessert!).

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Here’s a close up of the schnitzel itself. Normally I’d say $21.90 is a lot for a schnitzel, and to be fair, it still kind of is. You’re probably thinking ‘Why should I pay this much when there are hundreds of schnitzel specials out there for just $10?’, like the one across the road at The Civic Pub. You’d probably have a point if you had that thought; this isn’t the biggest schnitzel in the world, measuring about 15cm lengthways but what I can say about it is that it’s quite possibly the tastiest schnitzel I’ve ever had in my life. Most schnitzels you get in those schnitty specials type joints are just pieces of meat tenderised to hell, crumbed with abandon and then chucked in the deep fat fryer. Still delicious, but there’s a certain lack of care taken with something like that. You might be able to see from the above picture that the texture and colour of the schnitzels here at The Schnitzel Haus is a little different. While it’s been coated in breadcrumbs just like any other schnitzel, a key difference is that there are little specks that show the herbs and spices that have gone onto this thing, and it’s really something that you’ll notice and appreciate with each bite that you take.

In addition to this, the schnitzels here are oven baked, not deep fried. I’m not someone to talk about healthiness so I won’t delve into that aspect of it, but this also has a secondary effect. The baking as opposed to deep frying gave the crumb an uneven crunch, which is actually an awesome thing. You have some sections and edges which are dark and charred while others remained light and crisp. It turns the humble schnitzel into a really fun meal with some slight variations in texture as you’re eating. I love super crispy and crunchy food, but I’d probably get really tired of it if the entire thing was like that and appreciate the variation that this cooking style affords. This schnitzel was noticeably lighter than other schnitzels I’ve had as well, so it didn’t grow to be too much as I was working my way through it.

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So there you have it, our trip to The Schnitzel Haus. Just one schnitzel unfortunately, but this place impressed me more than enough to get me to come back and try some of their other dishes. They’ve got some standard options like salads and burgers, but something that really jumped out at me was a schnitzel hot dog! I’m imagining bits of schnitzel in a roll, and there’s one with mashed potato and gravy in it so that has got me fairly excited. The Schnitzel Haus somewhat surprisingly has a full bar as well, and I saw that it had Canadian Club and Dry on tap! Which I’ve never seen before at a bar so that was a bit cool/weird!

All in all, this was a really nice experience and I really enjoyed the product itself, it probably won’t replace the cheap $10 schnitzels from my diet entirely, since you really can’t beat that amazing deal, but whenever I feel like treating myself, this will definitely be up there in the list of things that I’ll partake in.

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The Schnitzel Haus

5 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

Website: theschnitzelhaus.com.au/

Facebook: facebook.com/theschnitzelhaus

Opening hours:

Monday to Sunday

11:00am to late

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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

332 Manhattan, Civic

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A couple of weeks ago, 332 Manhattan opened up, predictably enough, under the Manhattan building over on the south side of Civic. Somewhat interesting story here, I knew that 332 Manhattan was brewing coffee using Lonsdale Street Roasters beans so I’ve been meaning to go there for a brunch at some point. One day after work, I was walking around Civic aimlessly and stumbled upon 332 Manhattan and realised that it was actually open for dinner too! For some reason I just naturally assumed it was a brunch only place so this was pretty shocking, I had nothing better to do, so here’s a little picture of dinner at 332 Manhattan.

Yeah, it wasn’t that interesting a story. I know.

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Walking inside, the first thing that hit me was how cool the place was, it’s definitely got a hipster vibe but come on, 1. the place has numbers in its name and 2. it’s named after a place in New York, so of course it’s going to be full hipster, the best part is it actually kind of pulls it off! The restaurant kind of doubles as a cool supermarket of sorts, where you can buy Adore tea, tea pots, jams, truffles goods, oils, and muesli from the Muesli Bar. High quality stuff, and it’s exactly the kind of goods you’d expect from a place like this.

One thing I definitely really appreciated about the decor at 332 Manhattan was that it was hipster in the best way possible. That is, the salt shakers have cool little labels (as above), the walls and bench were nicely hip, yet the tables and chairs themselves were actually high quality, decent things to use. For me, it’s honestly gotten to the point where I see a place that has padded milk crates for chairs and tables made out of shipping spindle rope things and just think to myself ‘I can’t believe I’m paying $20 for the privilege of eating on something that was essentially thrown away at one point.’ So plus points on investing where appropriate, we had a long night here, so I definitely appreciated the comfort.

Anyway, less complaining about things that don’t matter, and more food pictures and rambling about how much I liked it.

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Our first entree for the night was the Pork belly ($18), slow roasted with balsamic, martini apple puree and rhubarb relish. First thing that struck me when this came out was purely how big it was considering it was only an entrée! I was expecting 332 Manhattan to be a pretty high priced endeavour, and was pretty pleasantly surprised on that front. What can I say about pork belly? I absolutely love it, and could eat it 5 times a day if heart attacks were medically abolished from the world. The crackling skin was done pretty perfectly, it was incredibly crispy and really fun to eat, the only issue I’d say is that a very small portion of it (roughly 5%) was a bit burnt, and you could taste it when it was there. Didn’t hurt the experience too much, but it bears mentioning. The flesh itself was incredibly soft and tender, and I appreciated the fact that there was a lot of actual pork flesh instead of just fat. I love fat as much as the next person (maybe even more) but there’s nothing worse than eating a slab of pork belly that’s 80% fat.

With that said, this was a delightful start.

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Our second entrée was the Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad ($14) with rocket and basil pesto. This was a really fresh dish and helped us not feel so bad about our heavy mains coming (just a ton of pasta). They definitely weren’t skimping out on the mozzarella like I feared they would. There was plenty for the whole dish and biting into each one was just absolutely fantastic, though you should keep in mind that I love fresh buffalo mozzarella and it’s really not too hard to impress me with it if you just give it to me. The tomatoes were really quite pleasant and sweet, with the basil pesto balancing everything else out.

Something that annoyed me (that truthfully I should have saw coming based on the title of this dish) is the sheer amount of rocket in the dish. I truly don’t understand everyone’s love affair with rocket, since it’s included (on its lonesome no less!) on just about every salad that can be purchased these days. I understand kale, I understand bone broth, and I understand quinoa. I will never understand rocket. In hindsight, it’s a bit unfair to focus my rocket hate on this one dish in this particular restaurant, it was really a nice dish and definitely not as much rocket as I’ve seen other people chuck on their salads, I just hate rocket. But everyone else on our table really liked this dish, so clearly, its just my hatred of rocket.

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Our last entrée was the Arancini rice balls ($12) with mozzarella cheese and spicy tomato sauce. These were really delightful and I definitely recommend them to anyone out there that likes a good arancini. The rice here was flavoured in a bunch of herbs and spices that I’ll probably never be able to identify, let’s just say it definitely did not taste like standard white rice. There wasn’t very much mozzarella in this dish honestly, I’d say it’s a 70/30 split between rice and mozzarella and in hindsight it’s probably better this way, the rice gives off a lot of flavour and the mozzarella just gives the texture a lovely smoothness to contrast the crumbing on the outside. The spicy tomato sauce was really not spicy at all, so good news for any softies out there (like me!) and to be honest there wasn’t very much of it. I would’ve liked more of the tomato sauce, but all in all, this was a really nice dish, and one I wouldn’t have trouble recommending to anyone.

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Our first main of the night was the Spaghetti with pork belly ($20) with capers and spicy tomato sauce. I didn’t realise that 332 Manhattan was essentially an Italian restaurant when I walked in, but upon looking at the menu it became pretty apparent that this is what it specialises in (for dinner at least), so of course, pasta was the order of the day! This was a very traditional, simple and rustic pasta that didn’t strive to break new ground, but it didn’t need to. Really delicious blends of pork, capers and a rich tomato sauce, flavours that traditionally go really well together so it’s no surprise to see them being a hit here. One thing I noticed was that the sauce wasn’t just placed on the pasta right at the end. The sauce flavours were infused into the pasta itself, and it was mixed through really well, so it seems the pasta and sauce were thrown together and cooked for a little bit to ensure that this happened. I really appreciate places that do that, it ensures that eating the actual dish isn’t a painful endeavour of ensuring there’s enough sauce to pasta ratio on your fork. You can just enjoy whatever mouthful you’re lucky enough to end up with.

Really nice dish, that would fit in perfect at any Italian restaurant.

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Our second main of the night was the Pappardelle with wagyu bolognese sauce ($21) and parmigiano scales. Another relatively simple yet delicious dish. This is essentially a really upscale bolognese so if you’ve ever had pasta before, you’ve probably had this, or at least a really bogan version of this. There’s something interesting when you have a dish you’ve had a hundred times, but with incredible ingredients for every element, and fresh pasta for the base. It kind of ruins you and makes it hard to go back to eating the dish the old way. Bastards. Anyway, I really enjoyed this, I love a good bolognese and this was truly a wonderful one. One thing I want to give particular praise to is the choice of pappardelle for this dish, because a bolognese sauce with all its loose mincy bits and thick sauce is actually kind of hard to eat when you have to deal with a slick round pasta as well. Flat makes things infinitely easier to eat, and makes this all the more enjoyable.

I know I haven’t given too much useful information here but I don’t know what to say, it’s just a bolognese, done really really well.

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Our last main was the Risotto of the day ($24) (prawns and zucchini with cherry tomatoes). I was initially concerned when this came out because of how orange it looked, I was a bit afraid it was going to be way too tomatoey and sour. Those fears were thankfully unfounded, and this was one of the better risotto’s I’ve ever had. All the flavours were perfectly balanced, it definitely wasn’t too sour, and every ingredient played its part in the total dish.

Something I’m a big sucker for when it comes to risotto is the texture, and this risotto definitely had great texture. It was smooth and velvety, with the cherry tomatoes adding a pop of sweetness and going down just as easily as everything else. I’m not normally a fan of zucchini, but in this dish they worked really well, breaking up the risotto so it didn’t feel entirely like baby food, but still being relatively soft so it didn’t ruin the texture like peanuts or anything. Lastly, the prawns were cooked pretty much perfectly. They of course, didn’t really add to the creamy texture of the risotto (a creamy prawn would be pretty gross), but they broke it up in a way that I really enjoyed. They were bitey, firm and covered in a lovely tomato sauce that was just wonderful.

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To finish our night off, we ordered a couple teas, a Peppermint Green tea, and an Aussie Breakfast ($4.50). The tea’s that are served here at 332 Manhattan are Adore Tea leaves so I won’t go into too much detail about how it was, I’m not a huge tea nerd but I enjoyed these, so take that for whatever it’s worth.

So that’s that then, a really nice night, and definitely a surprising one given that I didn’t know that 332 Manhattan was even open at night! The food here at 332 Manhattan doesn’t use any crazy flavour combinations that seem to be so ‘in’ at the moment, and while I did describe the decor of 332 Manhattan as being quite hipster, the food it’s serving is definitely not pretentious. It’s simple, traditional Italian food, done very well, which isn’t something you see a whole lot of these days. I really enjoyed my time here at 332 Manhattan, and it’s a place I could see myself going to quite often in the future.

332 Manhattan

240 Bunda Street, Civic

Facebook: facebook.com/pages/332-Manhattan

Twitter: @332_Manhattan

Opening hours:

Monday: 7:00am to 4:00pm

Tuesday to Friday: 7:00am to 9:00pm

Saturaday: 8:00am to 9:00pm

Sunday: 8:00am to 4:00pm

332 Manhattan on Urbanspoon

Tutto Continental, Mawson

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This is a place I’ve been meaning to go to for awhile now. I first heard of Tutto Continental when an Italian friend told me about this amazing antipasto plate they managed to procure and I became insanely jealous by how amazing it sounded. The next week I ventured down there and had a bit of a look around. First impression was that it’s just a really cool place, a real authentic deli with all the standard Italian cured meats that you’d expect to see if you were in Italy. So, weird thing about me, even though I write a food blog, I really hate being one of those intrusive people that go up to restauranters and say “HEY I’M A FOOD BLOGGER LETS TALK ABOUT BEHIND THE SCENES STUFF SO I CAN GET A SCOOP” (I’m not sure if they yell, but I’m thinking they might?) This time was no different and unfortunately it lead to a really awkward situation for me, so maybe those people are onto something. There was no price or mention of an antipasto plate on the board so I naturally assumed it was an “Italians only” deal and sheepishly walked out with nothing. It’s a curse.

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Before I get ahead of myself, I should mention that Tutto Continental is a delicatessen in Mawson which sells pretty much everything a great Italian deli should. They stock some fresh ingredients including pasta, bread, olives, cheeses as well as heaps of premium and gourmet dry and canned goods like pasta sauce, vanilla beans, coffee, wines and etc. Though the one thing that I was in love with as soon as I saw it, was the range of cured and dried meats they had in their cabinets, but more on that after the picture of them below. They also stock some classical Italian goods like espresso machines, moka pots and other kitchen utensils. Pretty much, if you’re looking for something Italian, chances are Tutto will have it.

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Look at that! There was an abundance of prosciutto, salami and other meats that I’m not going to embarrass myself with by trying to spell correctly. There’s one thing that I’d be kicking myself over if I never mentioned it, and that’s the price of this place. While a lot of the supermarket goods at Tutto are at standard European deli prices (i.e. fairly expensive for high quality stuff) the meats, olives and cheeses in the deli is surprisingly cheap! Stuffed olives for $20 a kilo, dried meats at a solid $8 to $10 less than I’ve seen them for elsewhere. This is where you’d go if you’re planning on hosting a party where you pretend you’re more refined than you actually are; sipping on wine and discussing things like game theory and uh, yachts.

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So, to continue the story from above where I went to buy something, got scared and then didn’t buy anything (please tell me I’m not the only person that this happens to), my friends decided to go and get another antipasto plate and feeling sorry for me, they threw me a pity invite so I could try it. So here it is! Tutto Continental’s antipasto plate ($10 per person) and it is massive! We had six people on the day, so of course, your mileage may vary but this was definitely great value for money, and a hell of a lot of food at that! You can see above that there’s mountains of cured meats, as well as stuffed olives, normal olives, cheeses and artichokes. I should mention, I saw my friend order this, and the entire exchange took place in English, so my earlier fears of an “Italian only” deal were very much dashed. Though, I quite like making the Italian guy order the antipasto plate; just felt right. Wow, that sounds so racist.

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The antipasto plate at Tutto Continental is quite possibly one of the best antipasto plates I’ve ever had the good fortune of trying, everything was absolutely delicious and I can’t help but go on about the size and value of it. $10 per person is absolutely insane, and my mind is still boggled at the idea of it. It was served with some fantastic fresh Italian bread with olive oil and balsamic and when we ran out of bread (it happens) we were presented with more, no questions asked! I don’t normally talk about things like “service” but really, the service in this place is really laid back and it’s a wonderful experience to sit here eating cured Italian meats, sipping on good Italian coffee and pretending you’re Tony Soprano.

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Here’s a close up of the prosciutto on some bread (with some salami underneath, don’t judge me). The prosciutto was easily my favourite meat of the whole platter, it was one of the fattiest and decadent pieces of prosciutto I’ve ever had, and while some people might think “ew fatty meat, I only eat lean meats” well, why are you reading about an antipasto plate? One thing that completely caught me off guard was the olives stuffed with anchovy. Nobody told me that this existed, and nobody told me that it was freaking amazing! Logically, when I think about it, it just sounds like salt on salt, and maybe it’d be a bit too much and unenjoyable, but I got my hands on one and it just blew me away. Amazing.

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So there it is, my day at Tutto Continental eating antipasto. I also grabbed a Cappuccino ($3) simply because it felt like the right thing to do. Of course as you might know by now, I am not a coffee nerd and generally will just enjoy anything that’s put in front of me. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this one a lot. But if you want a more educated opinion, my friends really loved the coffee here and these are the people who think that the coffee at The Cupping Room is lacking, so they’re a picky bunch when it comes to good coffee. On a side note, Tutto Continental also does espressos for $1.50! $1.50 for good Italian coffee, that is just unheard of!

Tutto Continental was a really great experience and something that I’m really keen to visit again as soon as possible. Antipasto plates used to be one of those things that I considered a massive rip off, but that’s been completely flipped with the knowledge that I can get a fantastic one for essentially $10. A real bargain, and an amazingly delicious and high quality one at that.

Tutto Continental on Urbanspoon

Chifley’s Bar and Grill, Barton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chifley's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

The Rum Bar, Kingston

About a month or so ago, I finally got the chance to head out to The Rum Bar on the Kingston Foreshore. I’ve always wanted to try it out but I never found the right circumstances, until now. I had to organise a quick catch up where the sole goal was to talk about bespoke suits and for some reason The Rum Bar screamed out to me as the most appropriate location to have such a chat, I mean, come on, RUM BAR.

We heeded out on a Thursday night, the weather was lovely, the sun was just setting and there were quite a few people at The Rum Bar, but it wasn’t packed by any means but I imagine this isn’t the case anymore with summer in full swing. I must add, I really like that The Rum Bar has one to two really big tables for large groups, its always nice to know that there are some awesome and nice places to grab a drink or two and a bite to eat when you’re with a big group of people.

The Rum Bar has a tapas menu full of treats to share with a couple of people, okay three people to be exact. Both our arancini and sliders came in sets of three. During this trip to The Rum Bar, I managed to grab a couple of treats, all of which were really amazing. I saw a couple of others things I definitely want to come back to try, like the eggplant chips, buffalo wings and orange espresso creme brulee. Outside of The Rum Bar’s goodies, I’m sure they’re also famous for their wines and fancy cocktails. I didn’t grab any but they’re there. For the cocktails, I noticed that they had quite a few of the much loved classics as well as some more interesting house made concoctions.

Alrightie, time for some food talk.

First up the Arancini balls ($14), pistachio crusted roast pumpkin and wild mushroom arancini balls served with a sweet tomato relish. As you can see, the arancini comes on a stone plank in a serving of three and you can see they’re fairly pretty looking, which is always positive! I can also gladly say, they were as pleasant on the taste buds as they were on the eyes. Even those in our group who are total meat lovers enjoyed these vegetarian arancini balls. Each ball was bursting with flavours from the pumpkin and mushrooms, there was also a piece of goats cheese in the centre of each ball, adding some edge and creaminess to the arancinis. The texture was also great, super crispy on the outside and perfectly soft with a little bit of chewiness from the cheese on the inside. It’s a bit surprising to say, but these were probably the highlight of the night.

I probably shouldn’t have said that, because logically, it’s kind of all downhill from here. Oh well.

Our second set of tapas for the night was the BBQ beef short ribs slider ($18), BBQ marinated beef short ribs served on mint brioche buns with apple cider slaw and jack cheese. This again came out on a stone plank, in a serving of three. This one was probably the prettiest dish we got. There is something about burgers that is just really cool looking to me! Then you take them and make them mini?! Well you can see where this is going. Of the three sliders, there was one that was absolutely spewing with beef short rib meat which was awesome but not very photogenic, so I went with a more standard looking one. The beef in these sliders were extremely tender and felt like they were stripped off, mashed up and covered in a BBQ sauce concoction because they were quite sweet, saucy, and really flavoursome. The coleslaw added a lot of sourness, which I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of, but I’m starting to realise that X + coleslaw in a mini slider seems to be a pretty common thing now, so I’ll just enjoy the ride. The meat though, was just fantastic and made this slider definitely worth trying.

Next up, the Baked wheel of brie ($10) infused with rosemary with a side of caramelised garlic and white wine served with house made bread. I can be a terribly cheese eater, if I’m alone, there are times where I’ll just eat the centre of a brie and avoid the wax skin. Yes, all you real cheeser’s should recoil in fear. This made me a little nervous when ordering this baked brie. I was not quite sure how much I would like or enjoy it. I’m glad to say (as I’ve done multiple times in the past) that I was completely wrong about having any doubts here, this was delicious and my second favourite dish of the night! I’m not sure if The Rum Bar removed the wax but I definitely couldn’t taste or feel any as I was getting into it. The whole wheel was so soft and the flavour was so strong with the addition of rosemary really coming through.

Here is a close up of the wheel of brie. With this amazing brie there was also a of pot caramelised garlic and some crispy thinly sliced breads. The garlic was really nice, sweet and went perfectly with the savoury and rich cheese. To top it all off, the bread added all the crispness that you needed. In one bite size, there was just so much flavour and so many contrasting textures as well. I should probably explain this more, it’s honestly kind of…soupy? The baked cheese is baked so much that it loses any kind of structural integrity and is just this, thick goo. It’s also incredibly hot, so I wouldn’t try and put my finger in there or anything. The bread crackers were also really important, the cheese was just way too rich to have on its own and towards the end, so the bread really helped to balance it out. You don’t get a massive amount of bread so it’s quite important to ration the bread as much as possible.

If there is one thing on The Rum Bar’s menu that everyone has got to try, this is it. Even if you were only there for drinks, definitely share this with some friends or something because did it something that should not be missed, for anyone! Unless you’re allergic to cheese or something, if so maybe avoid this. Oh, though a slight word of warning, probably not the best dish for just one person. As delicious as it is, its actually quite rich, so it could get quite sickening but I shared this with two other people and by the time I was done, I didn’t really want much more. It was absolutely delicious, but yeah, very rich.

Our final dish for the night was the Kickin Kraken chicken ($16) Southern fried buttermilk chicken breast with a Kraken spiced rum dipping sauce. With the opening of Smoque, and discovering B-One in Civic, I’ve kind of had a lot of fried chicken recently, this is in addition to my copious amounts of KFC but that’s probably not too relevant. In any case, when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to have it, because I just love fried chicken wherever I can get it! This chicken had a wonderful texture, really crunchy with fantastic skin. The flesh inside was really juicy as well, this chicken was definitely cooked just right, not too long at all, which I understand isn’t really easy to do with chicken, so I appreciated that.

The spiced rum dipping sauce was really quite sweet, and we used bits of it but I didn’t really have much of it. More to do with personal preference I should add. I’m just not a huge fan of that whole sweet and savoury thing, most people are, so I’m sure you’ll have a much better time with this sauce than I did. Something I feel I should mention about this chicken was that it was honestly pretty bland. The skin wasn’t heavily spiced or herbed at all, so the whole thing just kind of tasted entirely like chicken. Pure, unchanged chicken. It wasn’t bad by any means but it just wasn’t what I was expecting, considering how much I loved the other dishes at The Rum Bar. This chicken was the dish I liked the least out of what we ordered, I imagine if I liked the sauce, I would’ve loved this dish a lot more.

I’m pretty annoyed I didn’t try out The Rum Bar until now. Everything we had was pretty damn delicious (minus the chicken but thats just one off) and the other goodies we didn’t try looked really appealing too. I will definitely have to come back very soon to try some of the other treats as well as the cocktails which looked pretty fantastic. I’m not much of a wine person, so I don’t know if the selection was good but the wine list looked quite extensive. Anyways, I can see this being a pretty regular spot for us over summer this year.

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Les Bistronomes, Braddon

Over the weekend I finally managed to persuade the second half of Lily & Ouk to venture out and check out Les Bistronomes in Braddon. Something about it being French and quite fancy was a massive barrier for him for awhile. He’s a somewhat big eater and had some experiences in the past with French food. Massive plates, no food he says. With that in mind, he thought it was a bit risky when you’re spending $40 per main and may end up disappointed and hungry afterwards. This was compounded by the fact that I find new restaurants pretty unpredictable and a little hit and miss. Firstly, they haven’t quite worked out their finer details of getting their service and food yet, so some things just naturally go wrong. Secondly, Urbanspoon ratings are pretty unreliable at the start and don’t really stabilise until about two to three months afterwards.

Anyways, we can happily say our meal at Les Bistronomes was actually quite good, even thought it’s still pretty early on. The food was very solid, delicious and very nicely presented. Les Bistronomes menu was simple. There were appetisers, entrees, mains, desserts and sides. The appetisers and sides were pretty standard so I won’t talk about them. For the entrees, mains and desserts you had four courses each and all were priced the same. Apparently, Les Bistronomes will be changing up their menu from season to season to ensure they’re making the dishes from fresh and in-season fruits and veggies. Most if not all the dishes were French inspired or quite classical. It was kind of nice seeing this, I haven’t had much French food so far so with Les Bistronomes now open and serving delicious food in Braddon, I’ll definitely be able to expand my French food eating.

Apparently the chef at Les Bistronomes is quite experienced, he has cooked under some pretty famous people and restaurants in Canberra and around the world, including Gordon Ramsay. I guess it all makes sense now, the limited menu, the special beef wellington menu item which cost $88 for two people that must be ordered in advance. All pretty cool sounding! Unfortunately, we didn’t order the beef wellington, we wanted to but it was a bit too much for us price wise, $88, if anyone else is braver than us, we’d love to hear about it! We decided to pick a couple of different things from the menu and sample different parts of Les Bistronomes. Alrightie, here we go, food time.

First up, Complimentary smoked tomato whipped butter ($4 for an extra serving with bread). Every table comes with complimentary whipped butter and a serving of bread. This was delicious and really cute! Look how adorable it is! Because it’s tomato flavoured, they’ve shaped it as a tomato with the stem and all! Plus, I overheard one of the staff at Les Bistronomes explaining to someone else that the flavour of the whipped butter will change seasonally based on what is appropriate. I guess tomatoes are a summer vegetable. Taste wise, this might sound a little strange but it reminded me of those Burgerman chips that we use to get back in primary school, those little rice cracker men! It had a strong tomato flavour to it but there was no acidity or sourness, plus with the butter and all it was super creamy and fluffy as well. These went perfectly with the bread. Plus, it was a pretty decent serving, we ended up smothering each slice of bread with a very generous amount of tasty whipped butter.

Here is the Complimentary house made bread ($4 for an extra serving with whipped butter). This was nice, crispy on the outside and lovely and soft on the inside. It was the perfect match for the flavoursome and creamy butter. On a side note, to our annoyance (thought we probably should have known better). We ended up being charged for an extra side of butter and bread. It was after our entrees when we were waiting for our mains. The staff at Les Bistronomes came out and asked us if we wanted some extra bread, after looking over at each other and letting some awkward moments past by we said yes. I think secretly we all had an inkling that we may have been charged for it and when we got out bill, that was indeed confirmed. If the butter wasn’t as delicious and adorable as it was, I probably would have been a lot more annoyed. $4 for bread and butter! Between the 3 of us, we ended up spending around $200 so I guess in hindsight the $4 isn’t super important, but come on, I don’t think there’s a huge need to nickel and dime your way there Les Bistronomes. So, lesson, in addition to not trusting strange men offering candy from a van, also do not trust lovely waiter’s offering complimentary bread. These things are not what they seem.

Onwards to our entrees, first up the Escargot et fillet de porc en persillade ($17) garlic snails and pork loin with parsley cream. We couldn’t quite say no to this. It was snails! In a French place! How French is that?! Prior to this, I’ve had snails two times. Once in France and once on a cruise ship because we were entering a French colony nation and they were having a French themed night. I must say, out of the three snails, I preferred the one at Les Bistronomes the most, though the dishes were quite different. The other two were garlic snails served in their shell whereas these were just the snail…people, themselves perched atop a pork throne. The snails here were nice and soft, not chewy at all like I was expecting. Flavour wise they tasted pretty normal and didn’t have any overwhelming grassiness to them like I was expecting. It’s starting to sound like I expected them to taste like the front yard, and I’m a little embarassed to say yes I certainly did. The ones in France tasted grassy, I thought that’s just how they were! These seemed to be heavily herbed and had a very strong buttery creamy after taste to them. The creamy after taste was probably what sold me on these snails over the others, the other two I had either had a super strong garlic after taste or a grassy one.

Here’s a close up of the snail itself. The pork loin was an amazing addition to this dish! To be honest, we weren’t in love with the snails, no fault of Les Bistronomes, we’re probably just not snail people. The pork though, really helped to ensure that the flavours of the snails were balanced. The pork was really tender smooth, they cut through really easily and were extremely moist to bite into. One of the key benefits of the pork was that it was a really safe flavour, I mean even if you order this dish to try out snails for the first time and end up hating snails, at least you know, you’ll still get a couple of decent sized pork loins to enjoy!

The parsley cream was also a great addition, it added some good colour to the plate and really brought an element of freshness and earthiness. I’m not really sure what the sheets on top of the pork loins and snail are but I enjoyed them! They added some great crunchy texture to the plate, everything else was quite soft so some crunchiness here and there was much appreciated. The green sheet was quite soft but had a pesto like flavour to it, which tasted amazing. I’m not 100% that I can say I love snails but after having the snails at Les Bistronomes I can definitely say I would potentially try them again in the future.

Our next entree for the night was the Salade nicoise ($17) nicoise salad with tuna, potato, french beans, olives, capsicum, egg. This was Spring on a plate, it was fresh, light and super pretty! There were so many elements to this dish and together they worked perfectly to make a taste sensation. Plus all these elements really did make the whole plate pop with colour, green from the herbs and beans, reds, yellows and oranges from the perfectly seared tuna, flowers, roasted tomato and bits of white from the eggs and potatoes. Not only did it look fantastic, the flavours also lived up to expectations. The tuna was seared ever so slightly, cooking it just slightly on the outside whilst keeping the inside perfectly soft. The mildness of the tuna worked perfectly with the flavoursome bits of olive and capsicum and creamy sauce on the plate. There was also soft boiled quail eggs which brought from extra creaminess to the plate, while the potato added some starchiness and great texture. The beans were also lovely, adding freshness and great texture and crunch. Overall, a really visually appearing treat for the warm weather we’re now getting.

Onwards to our mains, first up the Canard a l’orange ($36) orange duck with carrot and liquorice, pickled red cabbage and pistachio. A great French classic that I can’t say I’ve had before, so this was a first and a delicious one too. The duck was done two ways, there was the roasted duck and the roll on the bottom which tasted and felt more like minced duck, both were pretty nice. The roast duck was cooked perfectly with plenty of flavour and was really moist and springy. The minced duck was more mild with crunched pistachio on the outside, adding some crunchiness and nuttiness to the duck. Out of the two I definitely preferred the roast duck, but they were both quite nice.

Under the duck, there was also some pickled red cabbage which was nice and soft with quite a bit of sweetness to it, and some brown sauce, which, I am not 100% sure what it was but it was quite sweet, sticky and had a slightly burnt taste to it. The orange sauce was really interesting. It tasted like Fanta minus the fizziness, really strong orange flavours, and far more than I was expecting, or even thought possible! I mean you would think that would taste like orange but I guess there was no acidity or citrus to the sauce, just orange flavours. There were also fresh wedges of oranges throughout the dish, adding some freshness, lovely colours and quite a contracting texture to everything else on the plate.

Our final main for the night, the Steak de boeuf a l’echalotte et sauce bordelaise ($36) rare grilled rump steak, french shallots with a red wine jus. Despite looking like something a child would create if given a canvas and a lot of finger paint, this was absolutely fantastic. I’m honestly really surprised at how good this dish tasted, because I wasn’t expecting much. Rump meat and I haven’t really had the best of times with each other in the past, I only eat my steaks rare and rump? Well, I’ve never managed to have a good one rare. Along with black fire, the renaissance of rump continues with this fantastic dish! Thick slices of rare rump meat that were soft and tender, with a great char to them, I haven’t had too many steaks better than this one. I’m normally not a big fan of onions, but these were caramelised wonderfully and had pockets of the beef jus in them that were fantastic to eat even on their own. This was my highlight for the night, really fantastic, and definitely exceeded expectations of what I was thinking.

Onto our sides, first up the Petit pois a la française ($9) French peas. Apparently, this is quite a French dish. We actually had no plans on getting it, originally we just wanted a side of chips because that’s always safe and we were a bit worried about not being full by the end of the meal. However, the staff at Les Bistronomes suggested we tried something French from their sides menu. Originally she recommended the Tomates Provencal (Mediterranean Style Tomatoes) which were tomatoes with oil drizzled over it (apparently just one tomato, so might be bad for sharing, depending on how big it is), she said it was quite light, refreshing with a lot of zing to it. We decided to go for something different and asked her about these peas, she said they had bacon in them and was quite rich and heavy. We were sold and boy are we glad we got these, there were delicious and to be honest not that heavy!

It was still pretty fresh thanks to the delicious peas. The peas had a slight bit of crispiness to them, there were chunks of soft bacon throughout the side and leafy greens and cos lettuce as well. The peas were smothered in an oil which tasted a lot like bacon, wouldn’t be surprised if it had the bacon dippings in it. Fresh but with bacon goodness all over it, what more could you ask for.

Here are our Frites ($9). There just shoe string fries, I guess everything sounds more fancy in French. These were fine, cooked nicely with a lot of crispiness on the outside while the potato inside stayed nice and soft. They had just enough salt to them to add just the right amount of flavour to the chips. Having had all that said, its a pretty expensive bowl of shoe string fries. For $9 these looked eerily similar to what I can get in a bag at the supermarket. I feel like I could have gotten this same serving from McDonalds for $2, and we all know McDonald chips are delicious! So, I’m 50/50 on these, great chips but way too pricey for what they are. I’d rather order the more French inspired sides next time, especially those delicious peas!

Finally, our dessert for the night, the Charlotte a la fraise and sureau ($14) strawberry and elderflower charlotte. We were sitting outside so by the time dessert came around, the lighting was really starting to die on us and I’m not a massive fan using the phone flashlight or whatever since I don’t want to disturb other diners too much so we’re left with this picture. Plus, we had a pretty irate customer next to us who wasn’t having such a great meal so we didn’t want to try our luck.

As for this dessert? It was amazing! I think it’s a deconstructed charlotte, the menu didn’t say it or anything but it had all the elements of a deconstructed dessert. That pink shredded salmon looking thing is actually a cake! It might not look it from this specific picture but it was fantastic, soft and fluffy, almost as delicate as a chiffon cake but each bit of cake was a lot more dense. There was also a strong strawberry flavour to it. Onto of the cake there was also a little bit of diced fresh stawberries and some diced cumcber. It sounds like a pretty strange combination but it really worked with the melt in your mouth cake. The cucumber added a lot of texture to the really soft cake, it add some moisture as well and that freshness that you get that’s best explained as similar to when you add cucumber to a gin and tonic.

To compliment the cake, there was a strong and acidic strawberry sorbet which added a lot of flavour and a nice edge to the overall dessert. Finally, to finish it all off there was a mild strawberry mousse with meringue sheets on top. The mousse was super soft and melted in your mouth, it also brought some creaminess to the plate and worked fantastically with the strong tart flavours of the sorbet. I’m also a massive fan of merginues served in sheets, so I was pretty excited when I realised what those white sheets were. They added more crunchuness to the plate and some sweetness as well. A great little dessert with plenty of elements that went hand in hand with each other.

Oh, I took a picture of their herbs! I noticed it because we were sitting outside. We actually didn’t have solid plans to eat at Les Bistronomes, after not knowing what to eat on Friday, we decided to come here because well, we haven’t had it yet. We got there about 15 minutes after they opened and asked for a table, as expected they were completely booked out but we could have a seat outside! It looks like they leave their outdoor seating area for walk in dinners, I really do appreciate restaurants that leave a couple of tables for horrible walk in diners like me! I’m not planned enough to know what I want to eat in two or three days time, these restaurants really cater to my spontaneousness (I prefer to call it spontaneousness). On a side note, for anyone who wants a seat inside, definitely book! But its so lovely outside now that we didn’t mind one bit, plus we were surrounded by fresh herbs and fairy lights.

Oh, so I never really explained why I took a picture of the herbs. Its nothing major, its just nice to see places planting and using home grown herbs and veggies instead of store bought or dried herbs. The perceived freshness makes me feel better. Plus, it really brightens the outdoor seating area.

Well that was our meal for the night. I must say, we should be a little less sceptical about French food, this was overall a really tasty meal. Lots of new things for us and in the end we ended up liking them all enough to consider getting them again in the future. There are a couple more things on Les Bistronomes menu that caught my eye that I would definitely like to return to try, like the goats cheese souffle, the asparagus egg soilders, a couple of the desserts like the flaming creme brulee and the passionfruit souflee, which is served in half a passionfruit shell! Plus, they also do breakfast/brunch on the weekends, the menu looks equally as French influenced. Honestly, after this we hung out for a bit and eventually went to go get some extra food, but we’re terrible fatties, don’t use us as your example.

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