Dining at Pialligo Estate

21 Apr

Many of you’ll recall me visiting raving about Pialligo Estate just before it opened. The food is innovative and fresh and the setting is divine. But that was a preview to the real thing. There’s a difference between a taste of what’s to come versus sitting down in the venue with the kitchen putting together its menu for hundreds of diners, crafting meals. So, I had to check it out – and in the interests of being thorough I went twice in three weeks!

My first visit to Pialligo Estate was in early February, one of those lazy afternoons that have to really stretch to touch darkness. This evening’s mid-March and it’s colder and darker and I’m happy to say that once we’re through the enormous, heavy entrance doors, it’s inviting and welcoming. We’re seated in the lounge area and offered cocktails and starter drinks as our table’s readied. The Ginger Tonic – ginger and elderflower liqueurs with gin and Fever Tree tonic water ($18) – is an absolute delight. Around us, the colours are earthy and warm – despite the restaurant’s grand size, it feels like we’re sitting in a cosy cabin in the Snowy Mountains.

Yes, those are pumpkins.

At our table on the first night, we opt for the six course chef’s tasting menu. The amuse bouche is salmon sabayon – something we sampled at Pialligo’s opening. The dish is as good as I remember, but again so cruel that it’s simply an opener rather than a main.

It’s followed by a tomato and burrata (cheese) which complements the sweet coolness of the salmon.

Our other dishes flow in quick succession, adding up quickly. There are two things you need to know about dishes at Pialligo: even with the tasting menu, the dishes are huge. Do not fill up on bread, no matter how tempted you are – and you will be – or you will be carrying around an oversized food baby (learn from my mistake).

The second is that all our dishes (save dessert) come with a jus or sauce which is poured over the dish after serving, so as eager as you are to consume, wait for the jus!

The sweet cobia with radish (so pretty and delicate) and salted plums surprises me; I’d normally have had no interest in the fish, but enjoy it.

The sweet spanner crab with dry watermelon vinaigrette and cornichons looks fantastic but doesn’t quite fit the menu for me; for some reason I think crab should be an early starter dish, before any other seafood.

One of the prettiest and tastiest dishes is the Jumjum farm roasted duck from outside Sydney, accompanied by blood plum and lightly grilled sweet corn, grown near where we walked in. It’s huge but soft, and the other flavours cloy to the duck.

The wagyu is silken, supported by black onion sauce and a shallot puree. Only thanks to the moreish flavours am I able to fit it into my first stomach (there’s always a dessert stomach).

The cheese course challenges me but my palate establishes strong relationships with new flavours so that I’m begging to know what they are to be able to hunt them down.

This blackberry, blueberry, pistachio crumble with two types of ice cream is one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve seen; the picture is striking but the dish is even more engaging in person (and yes, tastes great). As we polish it off, we’re offered the petit fours – nougat, lime macarons, marshmallows and salted caramel pieces. It’s a gorgeous but somewhat overwhelming finish following such a large meal.

The weekend we return it’s incredibly busy: a Saturday right in the middle of Easter with a 21st to boot. We’re sat and served drinks and starters quickly. Our entrees are served with equal attention and the cured and raw Blackmore wagyu with sourdough and beetroot ($21) is among the best I’ve ever had, and Boyfriend’s vegetable medley (artichokes, garden-grown black figs, hazelnut) is large and delicious ($19). I know I’ll be ordering these dishes again and again.

I normally enjoy smaller oysters, but these McCash oysters from Bateman’s Bay ($4 each) vary in size, with some so small they lack structure – no fault of Pialligo’s but a little disappointing all the same.

For main I order the Holmbrae chicken – chicken that’s served at restaurants like Sepia and Aria – served with prawns, peas, sea urchin and shellfish sauce ($42). This is unlike anything I’ve ever had before, and the strong sauce with the strong chicken flavour challenges and confuses me; I don’t think the flavours match but I’m glad I’ve tried such an interesting dish.

We’re full this time after an entire day of constant eating so, tempted as I am, skip dessert. Petit fours again conclude our experience.

Pialligo Estate’s service each time echoes the warmth of the building – it’s a pleasure to visit!

Dates: Saturday, 14 March and Saturday, 4 April

Where: Pialligo Estate, 18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo. You will need to book – it will be busy! (02 6247 6060)

Cost: The chef’s tasting menu is $110; drinks extra

Value for money: High

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Try their Facebook page and website.

Marble & Grain, Braddon*

16 Apr

* I attended this experience at Marble & Grain as their guest.

Hopscotch. Black Fire. Marble & Grain. Braddon restaurants have a thing about clever names and I was particularly excited when Marble & Grain launched, expecting a high-end gastropub, with gorgeous, delicately-marbled steaks and sides and a range of excellent beers to match. After its soft opening late in 2014, I watched first with interest, then surprise, as respected reviewers and friends emerged from their experience and gave Marble & Grain a resounding thumbs down.

Continue reading

La Sable Patisserie, Mitchell

15 Apr

La Sable Patisserie is right up there with Pialligo Estate as something I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time. Years ago, the hairdresser who essentially created my hair colour (yes, the red hair) mentioned that a family member had worked at Flute Bakery and was quite the pastry chef (talented family, right?) that I hoped we might one day see something akin to Flute on the northside. (And we all know how much I love Flute.) La Sable opened up earlier this year and – in addition to a big plug on Scotty & Nige’s radio show – it’s getting great reviews around town. One of the greatest things about it is that, unlike Flute, it’s open more hours daily and it’s open on Saturdays!

Continue reading

Auto Italia 2015

29 Mar

Auto Italia is a fantastic car event. I love that you can have a fantastic day admiring the cars whether you know a great deal about them or whether you know nothing (me). I often marvel at the effort the car owners put in – not just for this day, but every day, being responsible for vehicles like these.

As usual, it makes a lot more sense for me to let the pictures do the talking!

Continue reading

Cafe Okrich, Kippax

24 Mar

Cafe Okrich comes to me as a recommendation from one of my readers, who frankly isn’t sure about sharing the secret of what she describes as “the best new cafe in Belconnen”. I’m so glad she does!

My Sunday morning starts with a large breakfast at Local Press in Kingston. Local Press’s food is really tasty, but I do wonder how I end up paying close to $30 for breakfast.

Early afternoon I’m peckish again, so we head down the road to Kippax. Next to Kippax Fair at the bottom of the reasonably new apartment blocks (between the Magpies and Aldi) are a large range of new eateries and shops, including Quan’s Kitchen, the Kippax Cake Shop (large cakes are under $30) and Cafe Okrich.

Continue reading

Heather’s House of Cake, Belconnen

19 Mar

I hear a lot how people would love to see better use made of beautiful Lake Ginninderra. More recreation. A variety of accessible water sports. More sophisticated paths and cycleways.

But the number one desire seems to be for restaurants and cafes – existing or new – to make better use of the lake. Along Emu Bank, many of the restaurants face the street, not the lake. (Ha Ha Bar and La De Da are notable exceptions.) The access point for the restaurants is from the car park next to the road, not the boardwalk which frames the water. People find the lake paradoxically energising and relaxing: there’s more and more going on around the lake, and it’s fun to be part of it, and to watch it – not to mention just enjoy the beautiful views.

I’d heard rumours about Heather’s House of Cake opening up for a little while. You might recognise the name: Heather’s been around the market scene for quite a while and creates – as you might have guessed – a wide range of pretty cakes. On the Friday of its opening week, I walk around the building which also houses 2 Yummy, Princes Palace, Sanur’s Balinese and London Burgers to the side which has Up 2 You restaurant.

Continue reading

Evita, Erindale Theatre*

6 Mar

* I attended the opening night of Evita as a guest of the Canberra Philharmonic Society

There’s an overwhelming amount of events on in and around Canberra at the moment. In addition to Canberra Day, Enlighten (and the Noodle Markets) and the Balloon Spectacular, we’re spoilt with some pretty charming theatre – Mary Poppins starts next week at the Canberra Theatre, and this week has seen the launch of Tuesdays with Morrie at The Q as well as Evita at Erindale Theatre.

Unlike Tuesdays with Morrie, I know nothing about Evita. Well, almost nothing. I know it’s an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, that Madonna played the titular role in the movie adaptation in the mid-90s, and that it’s about the wife of a dictator. I also remember as a kid I hated the famous song for which Evita is known and would warble – in that way that screams ‘only child’ – ‘Don’t cry for me I’ve got tinea’. Classy, I know.

Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 401 other followers