Chifley’s Bar and Grill, Barton*

19 Dec

* I dined at Chifley’s Bar and Grill courtesy of the restaurant. In what must surely be the one of the busiest years of restaurant and cafe openings in Canberra’s history, historic Kurrajong Hotel is capping off 2014 and meeting 2015 head-on with the opening of Chifley’s Bar and Grill (Tuesday night) and the relaunch of the hotel (early February). Chifley’s is named after former PM Ben Chifley who preferred to reside at Hotel Kurrajong (believing it would save taxpayers money) and – unsurprisingly – regularly dined there. We arrive at 8pm and I’m more than a little curious to see the changes that have been made, having been to the Kurrajong many times since moving to Canberra. The former square bar which (barely) split a large space into two separate dining areas is gone, replaced with bench seating, a solid wall enclosing the restaurant, and a smaller bar to the left of the entrance. Outside, the terrace remains with floor to ceiling large glass louvre windows. The colour scheme is slowly changing – a day later I see the green trimmings along the balcony being painted black. What strikes me in the pleasant dining area is the peek-a-boo behind a table where curtains have been drawn to reveal ‘The Backbench’ – a look into the storeroom of meats so customers can inspect the quality for themselves. Once seated, it’s a tough time deciding from the menu. The entree and share plate menu describes white asparagus with poached egg and black truffle dressing, and beetroot tarte tartin with goats curd and caviar blinis. The mains include a handful of non-steak dishes ($32-39) like seared duck, pot-roasted John Dory with speck and Murray cod with tomato skin crisps – but I’m here for the steak. The choices are dazzling, with 18 different cuts of meat. Beyond Wagyu and Angus I’ve no real discernment so find myself meticulously studying the detailed descriptions of each cut and comparing it with the next description to determine the type of meat which will best suit my palate. Once we’ve ordered, we’re served bread – a traditionally relatively uninspiring event, except that this bread comes with little individually-wrapped Pepe Saya butters. Pepe Saya and Myrtleford Butter Factory butters are the best butters I’ve come across so – as odd as it sounds – this is a genuine thrill.  I spread mine liberally.

Wine pours are generous (2013 Mt Majura Graciano, $11)

From the sharing dishes we’ve ordered the Yellow Fin tuna tartare ($18; don’t take the menu too seriously – it’s too good to share). The tuna is well-seasoned and piquant, bringing out the creaminess of the tuna. The yolk dressing is a lightly poached yolk served back in its shell. This too is delicious, but I recommend enjoying the dish both with and without the yolk so you get the full range of flavours. The mains are served a little while later; Boyfriend’s ordered the Swordfish Nicoise ($35) – a decent sized piece of fish on a carefully presented salad. The swordfish is a touch overcooked but the flavours in the small salad are a winner. For all my poring over the menu, I’ve still managed to order something completely different to what I suspect. It’s a good lesson to make use of the waiters, and as crass as it sounds I think even some pictures might help. I’ve ordered the Sher Wagyu Fi 300g scotch fillet from Ballan in Victoria ($38). It’s a very large piece of steak, and – as the menu promises – is tasty and juicy and I’m not disappointed, but I do have a sense of FOMO, wondering how the other steaks might compare (perhaps that’s the beauty of so many cuts – to keep you coming back!). Steaks are served on celeriac mash. A sauce (choice of nine including a range of jus, aioli and bearnaise) comes with the dish (I’ve got a very full jug of thin pink peppercorn and tarragon jus), but sides cost extra ($8). Combined with the tuna tartare it’s a filling meal but next time I’d order the cucumber, mint and buckwheat or caramelised baby carrots to provide a complement to the main. It’s the second night open and the service is unfailingly polite and generous but a bit disjointed – in our hour or so I think we end up speaking to every staff member at some stage. It’s a preference thing but for me too many waiters makes it feel a little impersonal. Kurrajong Hotel is better for the rejuvenation and Chifley’s fills a gap in the Barton market. I’ll be keeping a close watch over the next few months – particularly after the hotel’s formal launch in February – to see how it and its menu continues to develop. Date: Wednesday, 17 December 2014 Where: Hotel Kurrajong, National Circuit, Barton Cost: We dined with compliments of Chifley’s Bar and Grill, but our meal would have cost $102 including drinks Want more? Chifley’s has an informative web page and detailed menu online. Chifley's Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

7 Responses to “Chifley’s Bar and Grill, Barton*”

  1. Moritz December 19, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    The food looks great. Looks like you had a good time 🙂

  2. Hannahh December 19, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    The fact that Pepe Saya butter exists somewhere in Canberra just made my heart explode with glee. I have been dreaming of that butter since first having it in Melbourne some time ago.

    • Hannah Roberts January 1, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

      Hannah. You may be interested to know Pepe Saya butter is available from the cheese pantry at IGA Ainslie last time I was there in November. I am also a fan of Woolies Select Tasmanian butter for a cheaper alternative.

      • inthetaratory January 1, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

        Yes that’s right – available at the Ainslie IGA and the farmers markets on Saturday. Still a thrill to see it in a restaurant! Great to know of cheaper alternatives, too.

  3. veronicashortandsweet December 21, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    I love the look of the new fit out. I’m not sure how I feel about dining next to a display of animal carcasses though…. That steak does look very nice on the plate!

  4. whisperinggums December 22, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    I was so pleased when I heard this place was being revived. Such a gorgeous building and beautiful location. Must check it out – will check the website re lunch as it sounds just the thing for my parents and our Friday lunches.

    • whisperinggums January 1, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

      But bum, thought we’d go there tomorrow as advertising says they are one of the places open this week BUT while technically yes they are, they are not opening for lunch again until next week. Back to the drawing board.

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