Aubergine

3 Oct

It’s a big week in Canberra for me, because I have two very special guests in town: my parents. Mum’s just had a milestone birthday, and I’m graduating from my Masters, so before they arrive they insist we choose somewhere special for dinner to celebrate. I think Canberra’s two-hatted restaurant should fit the bill.

Aubergine is on the corner of the Griffiths shops precinct, and has both a lower and mezzanine level. We’re booked for 6.30 and we’re early, but our table is ready and waiting on the lower floor in the middle of the room.

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We’re left with menus and asked the usual question about still or sparkling water. I can’t go past the chef’s choice/degustation, which is advertised at $95. I have to enquire about what the price is of matching wines, expecting $130. At $150, it seems a little steep, so we opt for bottles of wine with our degustations instead.

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We start with a complimentary dish from the kitchen – an ocean trout or salmon on a cracker (one each). It’s just enough to set our palates for the meal.

The first main dish is whiting and it is superb. It’s plated nicely, the colours are bright, and it’s fresh and succulent. Our plates are clean within minutes. It’s a lovely start, and I’m excited about what’s next.

Whiting

Whiting

Our next dish takes more than 15 minutes to arrive after our first plates are cleared away; a theme which continues throughout the night. I’m a fan of waiting between dishes, but generally it’s taken too long when you notice that it’s taking a long time.

I’m surprised that the next dish is a fish dish: mackerel.

Mackerel with risotto, squid ink sauce and calamari

Mackerel with risotto, squid ink sauce and calamari

I love the risotto, I love the squid ink sauce, and I love the calamari, but the whole dish isn’t as nice as the whiting, and – given they’re both fish dishes – it’s hard not to compare.

After another wait, the duck dish arrives: more specifically, duck breast, and duck sausage with sweet corn.

Duck breast and sausage with sweet corn

Duck breast and sausage with sweet corn

I enjoy it, but the other guests struggle a bit with some tough duck breast.

Time ticks on… the restaurant was almost completely packed at 7pm, and there’s certainly a din created by the lively conversation at each table.

Beef

Beef

The beef is … disappointing. There’s no other word for it. It’s fatty and chewy and hard to finish, and the flavours just aren’t there like with the first two dishes.

Dessert has really got to be something special. The table across from us has creme caramels, so I set my expectations accordingly.

And…

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Well, first we have a palate cleansing sorbet. It’s spicy and citrusy and goes down a treat.

And then:

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Bingo. The dessert is divine. Dark chocolate ganache. Licorice custard. Chocolate jelly. Chocolate rocks. And a gorgeous pumpkin sorbet.

It is a really special dessert – we all agree. The flavours and the textures are perfect; there’s no other word. I daresay it’s worth the disappointment of the third and fourth dishes.

The time between dishes means it’s a long night – almost 3 hours. The waiter is mostly attentive, and very polite. All in all, it’s very pleasant. But, apart from the first and last dishes, I don’t really get the wow factor that I’ve experienced recently, like at Sage or The Artisan. I remain a little puzzled about two fish dishes in a row; as much as I liked the mackerel, I think a vegetarian dish would have worked better (then again, who I am to offer advice to a two hatted restaurant?). The degustation is the chef’s choice and perhaps we just came on a night when the choices didn’t quite work.

Date: Monday, 23 September 2013

Cost: $95pp + wine

Food creativity: 5 (out of a possible 10)

Ability to take photos of food without flash (aka lighting): 2 (out of a possible 10)

Canberra region wines on wine list: Plenty

Waitstaff arrogance*: Low; waitstaff are polite and not intrusive

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile

Want more? Try Aubergine’s website (note the menu is not up to date)

* new category given the propensity of Canberra waitstaff to be, well, arrogant
Aubergine on Urbanspoon

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12 Responses to “Aubergine”

  1. Gary Lum October 3, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Thanks for the Ping back. I agree the waiting can be long there. It’s still up there as one of my favourite restaurants.

  2. Jas@AbsolutelyJas October 3, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    Love your new category 😉 You’ve also done fabulously with your photos in such a low-light setting!

    • inthetaratory October 3, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      I’m learning! And had the pleasure of borrowing a very fast lens 🙂

  3. Rachi October 3, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    I would’ve expected more from our top hatted restaurant! That dessert looks rather special though. It’s been a while (more than a year) since I’ve eaten here, must come up with a special occasion excuse soon! 🙂

    • inthetaratory October 3, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      every day’s a special occasion 😉 happy to join you – would be keen to give it another go in the future

  4. bkr12 October 4, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    We have not been here yet but my hubby wants to go. The food looks lovely but I’m with you, I hate waiting too long between courses. If they’ve got two hats, it shouldn’t just be for the food – doesn’t service count. Either way definitely sounds like the place to go on a special occasion.

    • whisperinggums February 7, 2014 at 6:30 am #

      Just went last night, not having been for around a year, and this time had the $95 menu (which they beautifully adjusted for my food intolerances – fortunately the menu for a start is pretty safe but there were some hidden things that they felt with). Our meal was splendid – though it had spatchcock and lamb rather than duck and beef. Not one dish had a problem – everything was cooked to perfection. Vegetables that needed to be crisp tender were so, and those that should be soft were so. We had three seafood, chicken, duck and dessert. Hubby’s only comment was that three seafood was a little too much and that perhaps one vegetable only dish might have been good. A minor point.

      Service was slow – this is clearly fine dining – but we were there with hubby’s sister and her husband so conversation flowed. And, I agree that the wine addition was steep. We didn’t go that way either. Anyhow, unfortunately red wine is off the agenda for me so wine matching is not really a goer. (Many years ago, I had to teach myself to like white wine as I had been a predominantly red wine gal. Fortunately, those lovely big chardonnays, that I love but many don’t, were coming in and the transition was smoother than I expected!)

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