Enlighten: Members’ Guests Dining Experience

11 Mar

With Enlighten Canberra comes the offer of experiencing dinner at the Members’ Guest Dining Rooms at Parliament House. We figure, at $90 a head, why not? It can’t be worse than our $75 pp experience at Siren Bar.

While the rest of the Parliamentary Triangle is closed down for Enlighten, access to Parliament House is clear.

2013-03-08 19.22.16-1

We easily find a park underneath the building and take the (many) stairs into the House, where we’re given passes and our tickets to the event. We wait for a group of us to arrive, and then we’re escorted into the private areas, up a lift and out onto the fabulous terrace overlooking Canberra. There are plenty of people here already, enjoying champagne and the view. While it’s a crisp and windy night, it’s not chilly. I’m not sure I could ever get bored of this view.

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At 8pm we’re asked to come inside and take our seats. Our names are put on a list outside the door, and inside there’s a little confusion until we realise that our table is hidden away in the breakfast dining area. Our host advises us politicians very rarely use it anymore.

The service is snappy. The tables are set nicely: the crockery has Parliament House motifs, and the lights in the middle of the table change colour. The coloured tables looked magnificent from outside, but the bright lights of inside mean they don’t have the same oomph – some dimmed lighting would have suited the occasion.

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Parliament House catering has a focus on Australian produce, only ordering overseas products when they’re otherwise unavailable or out of season in Australia. I’m not sure if it’s usual, but tonight they go a step further and serve local wines for the entree and main. A Shaw Vineyard Riesling accompanies our entree of marinated king prawns. The wine is cold, and the entree is small. Perhaps we’re just used to large servings? The chick pea puree is tasty, but the roasted cherry tomatoes are tasteless and I leave them on my plate. As the plates are cleared away, I it seems most of the rest of the room feels the same way.

Entree

Entree

Main course is a duo of lamb, which is tasty but overcooked. Its minted pea puree is delicious, and the Yorkshire puddings are of buttery pastry which  melts on my tongue. It’s served with a Clonakilla Shiraz (I didn’t catch what year).

Main

Main

I find the lamb to be overcooked.

I find the lamb to be overcooked.

Dessert is a buffet, where we serve ourselves. We stock up, and it’s hard to resist some of the dishes. First up is a cake pop, made famous by blogger Bakerella. It’s topped with cachous, which makes it look good, while the texture suffers.

Cake pop

Cake pop

The orange macaron tastes like Arnott’s orange slice biscuits.

Orange macaron

Orange macaron

The caramel/coffee mousse is a disappointment; how much I eat is in direct contrast to how much I enjoyed it. (It had a chocolate swizzle stick.)

Mousse

Mousse

The marshmallow in an icecream cone brings us back to childhood parties. It’s filled with sherbert at the end; the marshmallow and sherbert is cleverly split with a white chocolate drop. A novelty dessert, but not particularly enjoyable.

Marshmallow

Marshmallow

Sherbet

Sherbet

White chocolate drop separating the marshmallow and sherbet

White chocolate drop separating the marshmallow and sherbet

There’s a chocolate/caramel/nut tart, which looks amazing, and sadly isn’t. I can’t remember too many times when I’ve left dessert uneaten on my plate (except this memorable occasion), but it’s pushed aside.

Tart

Tart

The pseudo chocolate fondant (with chocolate coffee bean on top) is the real winner. It’s light, airy and packed with taste. It’s the only dessert I don’t feel guilty about eating.

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The accompanying dessert wine is the De Bortoli Noble One. If you haven’t tried it, you should. It’s truly delicious, and would hold its own if served as a dessert.

The experience is definitely worthwhile. While it’s a set menu and none of the dishes is outstanding, the kitchen and staff do a wonderful job serving quickly, and each plate is identical. At no point do we wonder where our food is, and there’s clearly been some thought put into high quality ingredients. It makes sense: as one of Canberra’s and Australia’s most famous institutions, you would expect it to put strong emphasis on its food and service, and it does. It’s a enjoyable and polished without huge flair – a little bit fancy, if you must.

Starry, starry night

Starry, starry night

Date: Friday, 8 March 7.30pm-9.30pm

Cost: $90 each, everything (including wine and refills) included

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile

Want more? Enlighten Canberra

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7 Responses to “Enlighten: Members’ Guests Dining Experience”

  1. Gary Lum March 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    OMG this is fantastic. Looks like you had a great time 🙂

  2. jude March 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Fabulous post. Lots of detail. I love that you wrote ” none of the dishes IS outstanding” (grammar nazi gold star)!!

    • inthetaratory March 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

      Oh yes, jude. Both parents drilled it into me. “none = not one = is” 🙂 appreciate it being picked up!

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