Delicious AfterDARK dinner and tour, Botanic Gardens

10 Mar

My parents are in town, so earlier this year we worked out a number of fun events to take them to throughout their week in Canberra. It wasn’t hard: with the Canberra long weekend there was plenty to choose from. Mum’s a big nature lover, and we all like food, so the Delicious AfterDARK dinner and tour at the Australian National Botanic Gardens seems like a winner.

We misread the ticket (which states that gates open at 6.30pm and close at 7pm sharp) and arrive just before 7pm. The Floresco in the Gardens cafe is packed… which I find bemusing. There’s no free table, let alone a reserved table for four people. To their credit, the staff bring in another table from outside quickly, but jam it against another table which is already full so we’re one long table. Interesting approach. We’re handed a glass of the Wallaroo Sparkling Riesling which is poured at the front of the room, and head to, uh, our table.

Fortunately we’re seated with a lovely group but it is a little awkward. The menu is a ‘grazing’ one; I’ve in mind platters on the table which we graze from. Instead, the platters are held above us by (very friendly) waiters and we pick selections from them.

Sparkling riesling matched with oysters in a champagne and shallot dressing

Sparkling riesling matched with oysters in a champagne and shallot dressing

Oysters and champagne? Always a winner. The oysters are tasty but a very cold – like they’ve just only just been defrosted. While we get just one to start with, the waitstaff circle us a few more times with full platters and we end up with three each.

Poached salmon in a tarragon and creme fraiche cone

Poached salmon in a tarragon cone with creme fraiche

The poached salmon looks a little weird, but this is my favourite ‘dish’ of the night – the savoury cone is the perfect complement to the salmon. I could eat 20 of these.

Poached prawn cutlets with thousand island dipping sauce

Poached prawn cutlets with thousand island dipping sauce

Platter of poached prawns to pick from

Platter of poached prawns to pick from

The poached prawn cutlets are tasty enough, but no match for the salmon cones.

Smoked salmon and brie quiche with chive sour cream

Smoked salmon and brie quiche with chive sour cream

Brie and salmon quiches

Brie and salmon quiches

I love the brie and salmon quiches: they’re buttery (really buttery), flaky and soft and match beautifully with the tasty riesling (which we also have to collect from the bar at the front ourselves).

BBQ pork rice paper rolls with Thai dipping sauce

BBQ pork rice paper rolls with Thai dipping sauce

The rice paper rolls are, sadly, average – there’s nothing terribly special about them and I don’t think they match the red we’re served well.

Rare beef, asparagus and horseradish

Rare beef, asparagus and horseradish

The rare beef, asparagus and horseradish, on the other hand, have the right amount of textures and flavours to serve as a tasty complement.


Arancini balls with porcini mushrooms

Arancini balls with porcini mushrooms

But it’s the arancini balls which really get my attention… give me these, the salmon cones and a few oysters for balance and I’ll be one happy lady.

It’s an interesting way to spend an hour, and we agree the food and wine is excellent and worth $50, even though the weird approach (or non-approach) to the tables has us perplexed throughout the meal.

I also thought we’d be seated amongst the plants which would be softly lit up with different colours. My expectation about this was managed as soon as we entered the cafe, but I’ve now got high hopes for the tour. We’re assigned numbers and head in the direction of others of the same number. We’re all together (thankfully – it would be awkward if we weren’t!) and set off with just a torch with our ANBG leader and with the person at the back of the group.

It’s been raining earlier in the day, so it’s damp, but not slippery. Sadly, there’s not too much I can report from this hour-long tour. There’s a lot of shining at trees (including to see possums, which I find a little weird – we are mostly Canberrans, after all) with not much result, and, while we need to stay relatively quiet, no one wins if we can’t hear the guide. The best parts for me were touching some unusual grass, rubbing and smelling lemon myrtle leaves, and tapping a tree to watch spiders jump out – but I suspect most of the tour could have been done in the day, and a little more comfortably.

In sum? An interesting concept, and the food and wine was worth the cost, but would love to see a little more light and something different to the daylight experience. Animals and wildlife can’t be relied on, so I’d expect ANBG to take the reins…

Date: Friday, 7 March 2014

Where: Australian National Botanic Gardens

Cost: $50 per person

Worthwhile factor: While not what I expected at all, the food and wine were worthwhile and good value for money. The concept as a whole needs improving.

Want more? Try the ANBG website for more.


7 Responses to “Delicious AfterDARK dinner and tour, Botanic Gardens”

  1. whisperinggums March 11, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    I didn’t see this advertised but then I’m not reading much about what’s going on at present. Seems like life is busy enough without searching for more things to do!! I was hoping you were going to Dîner en blanc as I was looking forward to your report but I’m guessing you didn’t?

    Anyhow the ANBG sounds like a lovely idea even if it didn’t come of perfectly. Hopefully reports like yours will help them tweak it in future. Meanwhile, I’m off to the Boathouse at the end of the week for the first time in a couple of years. Having read your review confirming that it is still great I am looking forward to it.

    • inthetaratory March 11, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

      No, I didn’t go to Diner En Blanc… I was very tempted, but while I can put together a good picnic I own no white clothes or tables or chairs which are easily transportable … and my parents were down. All in all a bit much! I’m keen to do it in the future but I think I need a few months’ notice!

      Oh! I’m so glad to hear that, and really excited to hear what you think / how you find it. I hope it’s still just as good for you as our recent experience.

      • whisperinggums March 11, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

        Yes, having to provide all the white stuff is rather off-putting though I love the fun idea of it!

        I will try to remember to come back and comment on your Boathouse post after the event. (It’s for my birthday which was – ta da – Canberra Day, as happens every few years. I can think of worse days for a birthday. It’s autumn for a start and what better time is there in Canberra but autumn.)

      • inthetaratory March 12, 2014 at 12:13 am #

        Happy birthday!!! Wishing you a very happy celebration.

      • whisperinggums March 12, 2014 at 12:19 am #

        Thanks Tara … I’m having many celebrations (might as well, eh?) but that’s the main family one with my parents and husband.


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    […] night we attended a function at the Botanical Gardens – Delicious AfterDARK dinner and tour.  Despite there being no allocated seating (and no table for the four of us) it was resolved […]

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