* I enjoyed the Majura Valley Experience as a guest
My relationship with truffles has been fraught. I’ve had dishes where I can really taste what is supposed to be a flavoursome delicacy, and dishes where I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t notice if it had been added or not. It’s been cheese with truffles and Frugii’s divine truffle ice cream which has really helped me understand the flavour and what I should be looking for, but I’ve still come away confused about whether my palate just isn’t truffle friendly. The Majura Valley Experience – a day of three different truffle experiences – promises to change all that.
We arrive at French Black Truffles off the new Majura Road at 10am for a truffle hunt. The sun is shining brightly but, as every Canberran knows, clear skies just means it’s going to be stupidly cold. In the shade of Canberra’s tallest mountain, Mt Majura, the cold is biting. As the last of the cars arrives, we head into a small shed where the magic happens.
Blogging has introduced me to some of Canberra’s very best, and that includes people like bushwalking legend John Evans. John has an extremely popular website where he documents every single walk he takes with plenty of detail and maps. John’s simple goal is to inspire people to resist sedentary life, head outside and enjoy some fresh air, and appreciate our surroundings. I look on in awe at his commitment to providing as much information to make that possible for people.
John and I have been on a few walks together – Mt Coree and Urambi Hills. As well as being knowledgeable, John is a gentleman and has a great sense of humour. When he offered to show me a part of Belconnen with which I wasn’t yet familiar, I jumped at the chance.
It seems everyone has a story about visiting the Pot Belly in Weedon Close in Belconnen. The bar sits in the same street as other Canberra institutions – Turkish Delight, Laser Tag and Can Tho – and has been a haunt for generations of uni students and Belconnen residents. But the last few years of its decades-long history have been a little shaky.
Let’s be honest: as many Canberrans will attest, the Pot has always been a dive bar. Its lack of natural light and dark wood throughout lends itself to an ‘English pub’ descriptor. It’s also familiar – the customers are familiar (which can be a bit daunting if you’re visiting for the first time), the beers are familiar (the only craft beer offered was Roger’s), and the location hasn’t changed in 40 years. In the last few years it took on the name Pot Belly Bar and Bistro, operating a small restaurant which was open most days of the week – but it was empty. Few people knew about it, and if they did, they rarely took advantage of it.
Pot Belly had been for sale for around a year when finally there was a taker – or takers. Six people – or three couples – now co-own this skinny pub in the heights of Belconnen’s Town Centre. Within a few days the new owners stripped the taps and replaced them entirely with craft beer (and I’m not talking Roger’s). The structure is entirely the same, but oddly-framed live act memorabilia that crowded the walls has disappeared. I think the most interesting thing to watch over the coming months is whether the usual customers will disappear – and, if so, if they’ll be replaced.
* 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.
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!
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!