Monday, April 21, 2014

Local Press Cafe, Kingston

Excuse me while I squeal in delight about this little gem that's popped up in Kingston Foreshore! You will find the gorgeous Local Press Cafe at the end of the restaurant strip in the foreshore (opposite end to Morks Restaurant) and what a welcome addition to the area it is!

Local Press Cafe is all about wholesome, honest food and cold pressed juices. What does that mean? Picture all the things that are good for you but also made to taste great. Kale juice? tick. Zucchini pasta? tick. Cauliflower rice? tick. Quinoa for breakfast? tick. If you are thinking that sounds like a whole lot of hipster nonsense then you must think again. 


Local Press Cafe supports healthy living and a well balanced diet. They support sustainable agricultural practices and endorse real food. And if my early taste of their lunch and breakfast menus are anything to go by, they make everything taste great too.

If you are thinking hipster menus must come with hipster attitudes by owners/wait staff you couldn't be more wrong. The owner and the staff here are some of the nicest and attitude-free kind I've come across in Canberra. More on that later...

Let's start with how gorgeously decked out Local Press Cafe is. I may have gone a little overboard with my photos here but everywhere I looked I found something I loved so bare with me please...

 The entrance is a hive of activity that draws you in

 At the center of the bright open space is this beautiful distressed communal table

The center pieces of the communal table includes bowls of bright and shiny citrus fruit as well as vintage scales and artfully exposed light bulbs hanging overhead

At the back of the cafe you will find a beautiful tiled counter top, a kitchen you can take a peek into and an owner/chef (in the hat) who wants to chat to his customers

The nautical/distressed/vintage theme is done beautifully. The light bulbs, ropes and pulleys are unique and eye catching. The beautiful vintage bits and pieces have been personally sourced from op shops around town by the owner

 How lovely are these?

My favourite piece in the cafe would have to be this vintage sewing machine. Love!

 A crate full of juice jars; so Instagrammable!

Most of the furniture in the cafe are made by the owner and his father

 Plenty of cozy cushion filled bench seating along both sides of the cafe

And lots of outdoor seats to take in the water views as well

I could go on and on but let's talk about the food. My first visit was on a Friday lunch time and the staff were cheerful, customers were in awe of the space and the owner/chef Jonathan was at the counter to have a chat with customers, explain about the food on offer and answer any questions. 

In the first week of testing the waters the lunch menu was limited but wholesome. There were two different salads, few different types of sandwiches, two types of cold pressed juices as well as bread, pastries and muffins from A.Baker on offer.


I went with a combination of the zucchini pasta with mushroom and pine nuts and spiced cauliflower with cranberries ($12). This was washed down with an apple and kale cold pressed juice ($7 for small serving). 

The two salads were bursting with freshness and goodness. Sure, it might not be everyone's cup of tea but if you are after a healthy, clean eating alternative to your lunch look no further; a serving of this will leave you feeling positively well nourished.

The juice was delicious and refreshing. For those of you not familiar with cold pressed juices, this method of juicing retains more nutrients compared to traditional centrifugal juicers which spin, heat and shred the fruit and vegetables reducing their nutrient value. What you get here at Local Press Cafe is a juice bursting with good stuff.

I returned over the long weekend to try the breakfast menu.

 
It seemed half of Kingston residents also had the same idea that morning as I had never seen the foreshore as busy as I saw on Easter Sunday morning. This also meant Local Press Cafe was getting smashed by a never ending line of customers. We had to wait for 20 minutes for our coffees and a further 20 minutes for our food, which although isn't ideal, I'm willing to look past as the cafe is in it's opening week and still finding it's feet. There were multiple apologies from the staff and the manager about the delay and when the food arrived it was well and truly worth the wait so all is forgiven.


This was the green breaky plate ($17.50) ordered by my friend. This had Za'atar coated boiled eggs with kale, salmon, avacado, quinoa, asparagus and goats cheese. She enjoyed every bite of this plate jam packed with the right kinds of proteins, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. After my taste test we both agreed that this is a dish worth coming back for.



I went for the Green Pea Pancake with poached eggs, guacamole, crushed fetta, mint and chives, dressed with a pomegranate and balsamic reduction (16.50).  This hit the spot in more ways than one; perfectly poached eggs, creamy guacamole and fetta, pancake of just the right thickness all tied together with the tangy balsamic reduction. I'd happily make this my regular Sunday morning breakfast!

So the verdict: If it wasn't obvious, I adore Local Press Cafe already. The healthy and wholefood dominant menu might not be everyone's thing but I'm well and truly sold on this concept. The ambiance of the cafe is inviting and relaxing and add the water views and the attitude-free staff to the equation means I will definitely be a regular. As I said, Local Press is still in it's infancy so if a slightly longer than average wait for your food is likely to annoy you or if you are in a hurry, I would suggest that you give the cafe a few weeks to find it's feet and for the hype to settle down. But if like me, you believe wholesome and delicious food served with big smiles is worth the wait, go now! 

Local Press Cafe on Urbanspoon
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Casual Fridays

Here we go with another instalment of random nothings on Casual Fridays... As before please feel free to join the conversation in any casual/random manner that takes your fancy.

1. This is my favourite random photo for the week.


It's just a random cupcake shop, right? Or is it? It's Magnolia Bakery. In New York. Where I'll be heading to in September!!! This was taken when I was last in New York 18 months ago. I've been going through my photos from that last holiday and getting ridiculously excited. Is it too early to start planning my eating itinerary?? 


2. Can we all agree that if you ever see a friend/acquaintance/colleague or heck even someone you don't particularly like with lipstick on their teeth you need to tell them? I was at a wedding recently, the BEAUTIFUL bride had lipstick on her teeth as she was doing rounds to chat with her guests and she chatted with 75 people and not one pointed out the lipstick on her otherwise flawless face. It's just common courtesy people. Nothing to cringe about. It's hardly the same as having to point out to someone their fly is open! 


3. I love how Not Quite Nigella writes the most random stories leading up to her recipes. She cracks me up. For instance, in this recipe for her paleo brownies she somehow ends up talking about a "chubby", which is apparently slang for an ummm erection. I've never heard that particular slang before but I will never use that word again. Ever.


4. What's with haters bagging out cauliflower base pizza? This HuffPost Taste article is one of the many I've seen recently on the topic. Maybe because it's one of the very few things I actually like cooking but I say don't listen to the haters; if you are craving pizza but don't want the 800 calories of a normal pizza base (I made that number up by the way) you can do a lot worse than a cauliflower base!


5. I invest in TV shows bit too much. Anyone else felt sick in the stomach when Danny broke up with Mindy and gave her that whole spiel of "you are my best friend and I don't want to lose you" crap? No? Just me? At least we can all agree that it's the crappiest breakup line in the history of breakup lines, right?


Ok, that's it from me. Your turn now!
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mocan & Green Grout

While plenty of new restaurants and cafés have been sprouting up left, right and center around town in the recent past, Močan & Green Grout has been a quiet achiever for some time. When tossing up ideas for a venue for our fortnightly dinners, Močan & GG came up as a suggestion and I jumped at the chance as I've never had dinner here despite multiple breakfast, lunch and coffee visits. 

Last night I arrived at Močan & GG with the lovely ladies from Love at Every Bite, You Berra Believe it and The Food Avenue for a rather early dinner. This little hole in the wall with its' eclectic industrial charm is as hipster as a venue gets; doesn't take bookings, the menu on the website isn't up to date and the menu you get has items that list just the ingredients leaving you to play the guessing game of what the exact dish might be.


The tiny open kitchen where all the cooking, preparation and plating happens right in front of you is fun but it also means you and your clothes end up smelling like the kitchen for the rest of the night. But hey, it's all part of the experience, right? Yes, but then there's the service. Sooooooo slow! There wasn't even a hint of a sense of urgency or efficiency from the kitchen or wait staff; everyone taking their sweet time doing the most mundane of tasks and we know this because the entire operation happens in the middle of the restaurant in the open kitchen where there is no hiding.


The menu is very short; two starters, nine shared mains and just two desserts. While this may bother some people I found it to be quite refreshing to have a very simplified ordering process. Between the four of us we decided on six mains with the intention to order both desserts.

However, by the time it got to desserts we changed our minds and went without due to a lackluster overall experience.


We started with a round of Turros oysters with white soy and pickled sea lettuce ($4 each). These were lovely; fresh (but not all that plump) and they worked beautifully with the tang of the pickled sea lettuce.


Fiore De Latte mozzarella with tomatoes, basil and olive dust ($16) was simple but flavoursome. Basil and olive dust was a lovely combination with the juicy tomatoes and the mozzarella.



The polenta with slippery jacks and parmesan ($18) was disappointing as the polenta was extremely grainy and lumpy. The mushrooms however had wonderful flavours of butter and garlic.


The steak tartare served with crusty toasted bread ($21) was my highlight of the night. The steak was juicy and the combination of the egg and Parmesan made it a gooey flavour explosion while the onion and jalapeno pickle added just the right kind of a kick. Heaped on a piece of crusty bread, this was rustic simplicity at it's best.


Cured kingfish with cucumber kimchi and shiso ($22) was my least favourite dish of the night as the combination of the kimchi and the pickled lettuce was extremely sour and overpowered the entire dish. The kingfish on it's own tasted lovely but once your taste buds got demolished by the acidity of the other components I found it quite difficult to enjoy the fish.


Eden snapper with zucchini and corn ($25) could have been a wonderful dish had the snapper not been extremely salty. The corn puree, the grilled corn and zucchini were beautiful on their own but the salt content made it difficult to enjoy the snapper.


Boxgum grazing pork belly with green pawpaw and prawn floss ($22) was again let down by the extremely salty pork belly. The pork belly was beautifully crispy on the outside but it had a heavy salt coating and it was overcooked making it quite tough and chewy. The green pawpaw was a very welcome addition to the dish as it was desperately needed to cut through the salty pork belly.

Us four girls would never forego desserts but at the end of this meal we felt rather underwhelmed by the overall experience and a decision was made to skip dessert.

Other than components of most dishes not being balanced and the very high salt content, the service was also a contributing factor for the disappointing overall experience. The dishes arrived one by one at our table and there was a very long wait between some dishes. Considering the dishes weren't all that large and we were sharing between four, this meant that we would all have a small mouthful of our share of one dish and then wait 20+ minutes for the next mouthful of the next dish. This left us feeling very hungry and irritable and when we could see that there was no sense of urgency from the kitchen, this only contributed to the overall annoyance at the situation. Add to that the fact that most dishes didn't involve any or much cooking, the long wait times were really quite questionable.

So the verdict: I have always been a big fan of Močan & Green Grout due to the cosy and quirky ambiance and the simple but well executed breakfast and lunch menus but this dinner experience left me rather unimpressed. The dishes had much potential but not finding the right balance of flavours and being heavy handed with salt content meant more than 50% of the dishes failed to hit the mark. Add to that the slow service and the agonising wait between dishes means that I will not be returning in a hurry for a dinner service here. But if you are after a coffee and a good breakfast Močan & Green Grout is still one to consider.

Mocan & Green Grout on Urbanspoon
 
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fashfest 2014 Designer : G.Ginchy

Fashfest 2014 will be kicking off in less than two weeks! Canberra has been buzzing with fashion and creative energy for the past few months and if the sneak peeks of Fashfest rehearsals from the last two weekends is anything to go by, this is promising to be one of the most talked about events of the year.

Have you got your tickets yet? If not, it's not too late just yet. Jump on the Fashfest website and grab your tickets to be part of all the action.

With just two weeks to go till the opening night, the fabulous designers showing their collections at Fashfest are incredibly busy with sewing, fittings, putting in finishing touches and rehearsing. I got to catch up with the very lovely Gina Poulakis of G.Ginchy to find out how her Fashfest preparations are coming along and to ask what we can expect from her labels in its' Fashfest debut.




Could you tell us about your history as a fashion designer? When and how did you go down the path of becoming a fashion designer? And When did you start your label? 

I've always been interested in fashion but I knew I needed to go to school to learn the skills of sewing so I'm currently enrolled in an Advanced Diploma in Fashion Design at CIT. I first started making garments for myself as I'm quite petite and finding the perfectly fitting clothes off the rack isn't always easy. And then family and friends started asking me to make them garments and then eventually G.Ginchy was born earlier this year. This was also around the same time that the collaborative workspace that I'm part of (Three Little Birds & Little Boy Blue) opened in the lobby of Hotel Hotel in New Acton.


What's your design aesthetic?

Bespoke up-cycled garments is my speciality. I source my fabrics from pre-existing vintage garments as well as vintage fabric stripped from existing objects like cushions and curtains. I'm very passionate about the notion of sustainability and my designs are reflective of that.


Who's the G.Ginchy customer? How do you want women to feel when they wear your designs?

The G.Ginchy customer is a petite woman who wants to look curvaceous and show off an hourglass silhouette. When wearing my designs, first and foremost I want women to feel sexy. I want to create designs that make women feel confident. An outfit has the power to change your day and that's what I want to achieve with my designs.

One of G.Ginchy's beautiful pieces that accentuate an hourglass silhouette


What inspires you and your creations?

Films inspire me the most. Depending on the collection that I'm working on I watch films from certain eras to feel inspired.


Who are your favourite fashion designers or role models? How do they influence/inspire you?

Vivienne Westwood is my favourite designer because she pushes boundaries. Her designs provoke certain emotions and she's an inspiration because she's a constant reminder that fashion shapes history.


What has been your biggest achievement as a fashion designer to date?

Selling my first piece to a customer who wasn't a family member or a friend was a pretty momentous occasion!

A G.Ginchy customer wearing shorts by the label and getting fitted for a custom-made bodice by Gina  

How do you feel about the fashion industry in Canberra?

I think it's a very exciting time to be a fashion designer in Canberra. We have Fashfest to thank for bringing the fashion focus to Canberra. Since then the opening of Assemblage Project as well my collaborative work space Three Little Birds & Little Boy Blue where I work with other designers has popped up and these spaces are exciting as they are places to support your fellow designers as well as create and sell your garments.


What does being on Fashfest 2014 line up mean to you? 

I feel extremely honoured that my application to showcase my garments at Fashfest was accepted. It's an amazing opportunity to show Canberra what I'm capable of. And I love the fact that it's a community based event and that it influences the Canberra market, it promotes creativity as well as recognise local talent. 


And finally, what can we expect from G.Ginchy at Fashfest 2014?

I better not give too much away but I can tell you that my collection is called Hitchcock and that it will be a "killer collection"! 


If you drop by Hotel Hotel lobby you will find Gina as well as several other Fashfest designers hard at work putting in final touches to their Fashfest collections. The retro fabulous space of Three Little Birds & Little Boy Blue is shared between some amazing talents; G.Ginchy, SZN, Perpetually Five, Jodie Cunningham and April's Caravan.

G.Ginchy will be showing her collection on Thursday 1st May along with a lineup of fabulous local designers. Jump on Fashfest website to secure your tickets.

 
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

H&M Melbourne : Is it Worth the Hype?

The biggest news in high-street fashion is Australia this week is that H&M opened its' doors in Melbourne last week. News from Melbourne was that more than 3000 people lined up to shop on the opening day; some of these keen mad shoppers joining the line at 9pm the night before to be the first in thorugh the doors on Saturday morning! Such hysteria tends to be the norm in Australia; I'm sure we can still remember the hype and hysteria surrounding the Zara and Top Shop openings in the recent past?

Of course hype hardly delivers and I remember being extremely dissappointed when Zara first opened in Australia. Not only was the range we got here extremely limited but it was also significantly more expensive than what one would pay in Europe, UK and America for what is considered affordable high street fashion. 

Although I was expecting the opening of H&M to be along the same lines I wasn't going to pass on an opportunity for a little shopping action when I was in Melbourne earlier this week. I had a full day conference but managed to make a mad dash to H&M in my lunch break for an express retail fix.

Five days had passed since the grand opening but you guessed it, there was still a line! Lucky for me it was a wet old miserable day in Melbourne and the line wasn't too long. I wasn't going to line up for more than ten minutes to get inside a H&M store out of all places but I made it inside within seven minutes.


Inside, the store is pretty spectacular! Considering the high end designer stores that used to be home to this grand GPO building, H&M looks a little out of place here with the budget pricing. But there is nothing budget about the fit out or the interior design though; it's all flashy and impressive. The beautiful archways and high ceilings of the building contrast surprisingly nicely with the clusters of mannequins on ground level as well as those on swings hanging from the ceiling.


Staff are everywhere as are security guards. It's a bit like a scene from an underage night club really; excited teens taking selfies and running around the store trying to find their friends. The clientele was 75% teenagers; a combined effect of the price point and it being Victorian school holidays at the moment.

Speaking of the price point, things are very well priced. If you are familiar with H&M prices around the world then you won't be disappointed. I'm happy to say there wasn't a noticeable price inflation just because this is Australia and because they could.

And everything was very well stocked too. Considering it must've been five days of mayhem since opening, I was surprised to see how neatly organised the store was as well as almost the full range of sizes stocked up in every item I looked at with plenty of stock available in the popular 8-12 size range.

Ground floor is all womenswear, accessories and shoes. On the mezzanine level are more womenswear as well as kidswear while level one has menswear and homeware. The quality of clothing is what you expect from H&M; you get what you pay for but it's good for stocking up on basics. 


What impressed me the most was the homeware range! I don't recall seeing H&M homeware range in any stores I've visited in Europe and America (it must be a concept store only exclusive) so this took me by surprise. 


The range was incredibly tasteful, stylish very well priced and I really could've spent up big here! Things that caught my eye included beautiful bedding, faux-vintage and retro kitchen wear and lux looking throws and cushions.

If you are wondering whether a trip to H&M is worth your while I would say yes but wait a month or two for the hype to die down a little and definitely wait for the school holidays to be over!  
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

In My Kitchen - April

Wow, it's April already? Where did the first quarter of the year go? I'm secretly a little chuffed that I've managed to stick to this monthly series despite all my commitment issues! In my kitchen this month are some pretty indulgent things...

In my kitchen....

....Cupcakes


These are the mojito cupcakes that I baked for Canberra Cake Club's March cakeup. The theme, as you probably guessed, was cocktails. The recipe was by Brown Eyed Baker and these were rather delicious if I say so myself; moist, light and fluffy.

 
In my kitchen....

....Cookbooks


These two books put together probably define my life. Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka is a journey through Sri Lanka and stories and recipes from people who opened their kitchens to Intrepid photographer and writer of this book, Bree Hutchins. It's a stunning coffee table book with so many beautiful photographs of Sri Lanka that makes me so proud of my origins. 

The Capital Cookbook is a photographic journey through Canberra's food culture and has 47 recipes from Canberra's best chefs, adapted for the home cook. I don't/can't cook but I have a serious cookbook addiction and flicking through this book actually makes me want to cook (whether I will is another story). And I love seeing recipes by chefs whose restaurants I've actually visited and have tried that very same dish at!


In my kitchen....

....It's The Duck's Nuts Macadamias


What the duck you ask? This snack pack of eight different flavours of macadamia nuts was a gift from Duck Creek Macadamias. When I opened the parcel I was like a kid in a candy store; so many treats, where does one start! So far I've tried the wasabi, milk chocolate and roasted garlic and they have all been incredibly delicious and flavoursome. I'm very intrigued by the abalone flavour so that will have to be the next to be sampled. It's the Duck's Nuts range is made by Duck Creek Macadamias's using top quality ingredients like couverture chocolate, pure local honey and savoury spices. All but wasabi are gluten free! I love the branding too; quirky and memorable.


In my kitchen....

....Wine


I've stocked up for a rainy day! The past weekend was the Wine Harvest Festival in Canberra and I spent the weekend visiting wineries with my girlfriends and had a great time. This was part of the bounty from the weekend.


In my kitchen....

....Mustard with Truffles



This is amazing! This little jar packs a punch of indulgence; the creamiest mustard with the most delicious earthy taste of truffles. I've been eating it straight out of the jar but it works beautifully with steak or fish. 


That's it from my kitchen for this month. Make sure you pop on over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to check out what's going on in plenty of kitchens around the world.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Chefs' Table Dining Experience at Old Parliament House

The prologue to this most wonderful culinary experience is the not so wonderful (and memorable for the wrong reasons) dining experience of Starlight Dinner which took place at the end of February as part of the Enlighten Festival.

Starlight Dinner didn't live up to expectations or promises for a number of different reasons. I attended the evening with a group of food blogging and food loving friends and we all left the evening disappointed and with a bitter taste in our mouths. Some of us took the matter to where we always take both our wonderful and not so wonderful dining experiences and blogged about it. What followed as a result of the blog posts and social media feedback was most unexpected. 

Within 48 hours of the event, management from Compass group for Restaurant Associates (who is in charge of hospitality and functions at Old Parliament House) contacted me with sincere apologies for the disappointing evening and an action plan of redeeming gestures to regain the confidence of our group. Part of this generous and unexpected action plan involved a "Chef's Table Dining Experience" at Old Parliament House with chef Sebastien Lutaud.

And fast forward to five weeks from Starlight Dinner and we arrive at this particular evening where six excited ladies gather at the steps of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House not knowing what an incredible culinary experience that awaits them.....


We were greeted at the door by our very charming maître d for the evening, who escorted us into the Members' Bar for a welcome Martini.


As we relaxed and enjoyed our drinks, chef Sebastien Lutaud popped out to welcome us and announced that we will be dining in the kitchen of the Old Parliament House! If we weren't exited and intrigued enough about this evening already, this information had us squealing like a bunch of girls. 

We were then lead through a series of corridors and doorways with "no entrance" and "staff only" signs (we were starting to feel a little bit special by this point) until we arrived in the depths of an enormous industrial kitchen. Surrounded by wall-to-wall stainless steel work stations, rows of ovens, walk-in fridges and freezers was the most beautiful and intimate dining table awaiting us. Crisp white linen, polished silverware, the soft light of tea light candles, soothing music in the background.... plenty more squeals followed and we could tell this was going to turn into a rather special evening... 

Of course in all my excitement I forgot to take a photo of the dining table so thank you to Megan for this photo that was taken a little later in the evening. More on that intriguing looking "dish" in front of each of us is coming up later in the post...

When we turned our menus over it was well and truly confirmed that we were in for something spectacular as a degustation menu consisting of 3 canapés plus 8 courses with matching wines and Petit Fours was revealed! 

We braced ourselves for an evening of magnitude that we didn't see coming. As the rest of this post is very photo-heavy I will keep my comments to an absolute minimum. But I will say that this was one delightfully memorable evening where each and every dish managed to surprise and excite us. There wasn't a single dish or a single element of a dish that I didn't either like or love. There were many theatrics and flare to the evening. The service was faultless. There were other surprises to the evening. This was without a doubt a money-can't-buy experience...


The first canapé turned out to be the table decorations! This salt bush and nori canapé was crispy, salty and just the right thing to excite and intrigue you enough.


The second canapé was salt and vinegar fish skins; the chef's take of salt and vinegar chips. Again just the right light and salty elements to whet our appetites and we all agreed that we could eat this by the bag full.


The third canapé was crispy Peking duck and tea; feather light and full of smoky flavours. The three canapés were paired with a glass of the very best; a Taittinger Nocturne Demi-Sec NV Reims from Champagne.


Another photo thanks to Megan. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen at Old Parliament House while our little group was wowed by our very own chef and sommelier was a surreal experience!


The chef then displayed our first course of the evening in the live version. Yes, you guessed it. More squeals followed.


And here we have my very first foray with sea urchin served with Alaskan crab and ginger paired with a Sake. This was perfection on a plate. Beautiful and delicate seafood paired with the most balanced and complimenting flavours.


It was wonderful to be amongst the action and have the chefs prepare and plate your dishes right next to you. Once in a lifetime experience!


Second course was scallop, tofu, foie gras and shiso paired with a 'Laissez Faire' Fiano (2012) by Larry Cherubino Wines from Pemberton, WA. If I really had to pick one favourite dish of the night (a very tough task as all the dishes ranged from great to amazing) this would be it. We were advised to eat the tofu and foie gras together and what a sinfully creamy and delicious combination that was along with the scallop that melted in your mouth...


The third course was one of many courses of the night with theatrics. Using a screwdriver, the chef cracked open the hard crust enveloping the salt baked celeriac.


We were then served salt baked celeriac, truffle, hazelnut and apple paired with a Grazia Blanc (2011) by Vinea Marson Vineyards from Heathcote, Victoria. The celeriac was tender, the truffle sauce was incredibly rich and creamy and the textural elements of the hazelnuts and the apple was a beautiful marriage of flavours.


A special mention must go to our maître d and sommelier for the evening who managed to not just handle all the questions and demands of six ladies but do it all with a smile.


Fourth course was another firm favourite of mine; marron, Jerusalem artichoke, grape and liquorice paired with a B-Side Field Blend (2013) by Mount Pleasant Winery from Hunter Valley, NSW. The marron was plump and buttery and it worked wonderfully with the earthy taste of the artichoke.


Time for more theatrics as the chef placed wild mushrooms on a bed of coal for our next dish.


Watch those babies sizzle and cook!


The fifth course and the final savoury course of the night was another crowd pleaser; lamb rack with wild mushroom, goat curd, black bean and wood sorrell paired with a Tempranillo (2012) by Castelli Estate from Geographe Bay, WA. The lamb was incredibly succulent and beautifully pink in the middle. It was a perfect match with the woody mushrooms and the creamy goats curd.


Sixth course was baked Brie and honey paired with RS45 Riesling (2012) by Mac Forbes Wines from Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria. Rich, gooey cheese with the sweetness of the honey was just the right kind of indulgence.

 

We then watched multiple hands at work preparing the first of our two desserts, both of which were paired with a Moscatel (2010) by Fusta Nova from Valencia, Spain.


Seventh course was yoghurt, rhubarb and fennel which sounds simple on paper and simply delicious. Creamy, tangy and refreshing; a perfect palate cleansing dessert to set you up for a richer dessert.


Eighth and final course of this epic degustation dinner was chocolate, mandarin and crispy milk. The chocolate ganache combined with mandarin ice cream, fresh and freeze dried mandarin was an explosion of indulgent flavours with just the right bursts of citrus.


And the final piece of theatrics for the evening was the smashing of table decorations, which we initially thought were abstract rock-form art work. This turned out to be our Petit Fours for the evening which was a crunchy and delicate squid ink meringue/macaron. The dinner ended just as it started with excitement and an unexpected surprise.

And just when we thought it was all over we were invited on a tour of the heritage listed kitchen of the Old Parliament House, which is no longer in use and clearly out of bounds for regular visitors of the premises. 


 
Please excuse the series of blurry photos but all the excitement of the evening and the eight drinks I had had by this point are the culprits. But this little tour was an incredible experience in itself to be amongst such historical surrounds and the cherry on top for what had been a most wonderful evening.

So that wraps up an outstanding and memorable dining experience that exceeded all our expectations. I would put this on par with my most favourite dining experience in Canberra to date, which was the Brooks of Melbourne pop-up dinner.


The moral and take home message of this incredible evening is that mistakes do happen in the hospitality industry whether it's at a regular restaurant or at a large scale catering events but it's the manner in which customer feedback is handled what makes or breaks the final outcome. I couldn't commend Restaurant Associates and Compass Group enough for the way in which they took accountability for the original Starlight Dinner and for their swift actions in taking negative feedback on board to regain customer confidence in their ability to deliver an exceptional culinary experience at Old Parliament House. A most sincere thank you must be given to chef Sebastien Lutaud and his team for a wonderful evening of dining highlights that will be talked about for years to come.

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