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