About a month ago Johnboy wrote a charming review of his incredible experience at Sage restaurant at Gorman House . His conclusion that the experience was sensational had stuck with me; I felt like I was missing out! On the night that we were heading out to see the performance of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (tickets which I’d purchased), Boyfriend asked for dinner ideas. I sneakily suggested Sage and within seconds he’d booked. In shock, I responded with, “Did you read the price of the menu?” He hadn’t, but on reading it in the minutes since, thought that it was perfectly reasonable given its calibre and reivews, and that we deserved a bit of a treat after a hectic week.
It was raining when we rocked up to Gorman House (to which I’d never been; shame on T1) and found the Mint Bar. We spotted friends having their Friday-after-work beverage and asked them to direct us to Sage, which was tucked in past the garden. While no one was there to meet us at the doorway (sweet-looking breads were sitting next to the highlighted and not-highlighted reservations clipboard), our main (great) waiter arrived incredibly promptly and directed us to ours seats in the corner near to the window wall (which was actually a sheet of thick plastic, to our surprise – I suppose so they can remove it when they wish).
The tables at Sage are beautifully set, with the latest trend of some thick waxy paper covering the beautiful tablecloth. I’m always so tempted to find this tactful, but equally am always happy that the paper is there because I’m such a messy eater, no matter the occasion.
We ordered from the A3 sized paper menus, deciding on three courses each. (Two of the dishes we chose were on the seven-course tasting menu, for those interested.)
When ordering at 6.30pm, we made mention that we were hoping to leave to go to “the Theatre” (said with posh inflection) at 7.30, and would that be enough time for three courses? Absolutely, replied our excellent waiter, as long as we ordered straight away. Our male waiter told us exactly what we were eating with each course, while our female waiter asked us if we wanted to be told. I’m not sure why there were different approaches – perhaps some people like surprises, or like to guess what they’re eating? – but I think it’s better to know what you’re eating.
Boyfriend and I ordered the same first course of zucchini blossom – I adored it, but perhaps regret that we got the same thing instead of different things to share. It was provided so quickly, and made me feel like we were off to a pretty good start, time wise. The zucchini blossom was perhaps overshadowed by the beautiful other flavours – the balsamic was very sweet compared to the lemony tang of the goat’s cheese, but I didn’t feel like the flavour of the flower was there. Boyfriend and I had had some superb fried zucchini blossom at Sangoma Retreat (which I’d be extensively blogging about if it were actually in ‘the Taratory’, but it’s not. But you should visit their site. Do it) over New Year’s Eve and couldn’t help but compare. We were pleased with our first course, but we had had better.
Between the first and second courses, we were offered the bread we’d spied upon entering. While my first choice was the brioche, Boyfriend picked it and I decided that we should definitely be choosing different things to get the full experience, so I got the sourdough. I’m so glad I did. While the brioche was salty, light and fluffy, the sourdough was chewy and flavoursome and sweet. We were provided with butter sprinkled with sage salt and I’m almost ashamed to say that I went a bit overboard with the butter on both my breads – but it was so good that I’m unapologetic. Get. the. bread.
For second course Boyfriend got the chicken and squid, while I got the avocado roll. Both were presented beautifully. The chicken and squid was served with a sand and a foam, and some nutty mixture – while separated on the plate, you were able to dip the chicken into each bit and it all stuck on there – quite delicious. I was a touch disappointed with the avocado roll. It looked AMAZING and I wondered how they’d done it. Eating is part of the magic, and perhaps I should have closed my eyes for this one. There were many slivers of avocado cleverly wrapped around each other in a pattern, but I wouldn’t have realised this if cutting into it hadn’t meant the sheep’s yoghurt would just ungracefully pop out. I found the avocado rubbery, though considered it probably had to be to look quite like it did. The cherry and beetroot were the right accompaniments, but I found it difficult to taste everything together.
Between the second and third courses we were offered more bread, and I of course regretted not saying yes.
It was a comparatively long wait between our second and third dishes, by which I mean it wasn’t long at all – it probably just felt long without the bread, even though it was maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Boyfriend ordered salmon while I ordered the potato variations (three vegetarian dishes – a rarity for me – and I was a bit annoyed at myself as I was keen to see how their meat was cooked). However, the salmon arrived and Boyfriend delcared it was RAW. It wasn’t raw, just cooked absolutely divinely. I’d cut into a baked potato which was disappointing, but was completely won over by a truffle – while truffles are a Canberra ‘thing’, I’d never tried one. Now, I’m going to be scouting out those truffles in the winter. Boyfriend and I swapped our dishes and I salivated over the delicacy of the melt-in-the-mouth salmon and he thoroughly enjoyed the truffles and the different ways the potato was cooked and presented.
From ordering just before 6.30, we were finished our meals and were left to quaff our wine for another ten minutes before we really did have to leave. If the waiter wasn’t subtly at our side, a sly glance or flutter of a menu was all it took to attract attention or to get the bill – so impressive compared to most Canberra institutions. The lighting was just right. The music was a soft but supportive background which you could hear, but you could also hear other at a decent volume, while not hearing other patrons.
Our waiter unobtrusively inquired about what play we were seeing and when we told him it was the Doll, he was able to tell us who wrote the play, and on exit he told us to have a great night and that he was a bit envious.
Sage is well worth it. The attention to detail is fantastic, and is so good that you don’t even notice it happening. I liked that the staff were able to show their personalities while behaving professionally and calmly, and both they and the chef clearly accommodated our requirements – three delicious courses in under an hour. I’m not confident you’d get that at many other restaurants (though I’m happy to be corrected). We regularly remarked that this would be a lovely place for special celebrations. I’m absolutely positive I’ll be back.
Date: Friday, 16 March 2012
Attendees: T1 and Boyfriend
Where: Sage, Gorman House, Civic 2600
Cost: $204 for two ($70 each for a three course meal, plus one beer each, plus one bottle of wine ($44), plus two breads (at $3 each))
Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile
Want more? http://sagerestaurant.net.au/