High Tea at NGA Wedgwood Tea Room

March 1, 2016

Does the idea of getting dressed up in your Sunday best and indulging in petite sandwiches, dainty cakes, freshly baked scones and pots of tea served in the prettiest serving ware excite you? Then read on because the perfect venue for such elegant pursuits is now in Canberra, but for a limited time only.

To celebrate the Tom Roberts exhibition, the National Gallery of Australia has partnered with Wedgwood to transform the dining room on level 2 mezzanine to the most fabulous Wedgwood Tea Room. However, once the exhibition wraps up on 28th March, so will the tea room so get in while you can for an exquisite high tea served between 11am-4.30pm daily.

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You may be wondering what does the Tom Roberts exhibition and the works of an artist renowned for his rugged Australian landscapes and iconic pieces such as ‘Shearing the Rams’ have to do with high tea? It’s the subtle inspiration drawn from Tom Roberts that makes the Wedgwood Tea Room experience a thing of beauty.

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Noma, Australia

February 17, 2016

I was one of those committed mad people with my laptop, phone and tablet all open to Noma booking site and hitting refresh in a frenzy when bookings opened last October for the highly anticipated Australian “pop-up”. All 5600 seats for the ten week period in which Noma will be in Sydney were snapped up in under 2 minutes. Yup, 2 minutes!

I had a strategy going into this meltdown period which I didn’t know at the time was going to be just 2 minutes; I figured I had at least 5 minutes. Ha! Such naiveté. I knew not to make the amateur mistake of wasting precious time by searching for weekend availabilities as those bookings would be the most popular. Similarly long weekends and dinner bookings were also in my too hard category. So was a table for two. Instead I tried for a week day lunch for four and got through to the booking site on my first attempt. Am I a little impressed with my obsessive tactical moves? Absolutely! Lucky for me I have equally mad friends who will take time off work and jump on a plane to spend $485 on lunch! #blessed

noma sydney

So the highly anticipated day of the lunch arrived and in typical Rachi manner I had been Insta-stalking #NomaSydney for some time and knew exactly what dishes we will be getting. I must admit though my thoughts going into this meal were somewhat mixed. Allow me to explain.

For those who aren’t familiar, Copenhagen based Noma has won the title of World’s Best Restaurant four times, it is currently ranked number three in the world and head chef Rene Redzepi is the grand master of Nordic cuisine. So what’s a Nordic restaurant from the other side of the world doing in Sydney for ten weeks? It’s a business move sponsored by Tourism Australia and Barangaroo developers Lendlease as well as a team building exercise of epic proportions for the 75 staff members who have made the move from Copenhagen to call Sydney home for the full duration of this pop-up. The decision to anchor down in Sydney’s newest waterfront precinct Barangaroo has had a lot of influence on the menu for Noma, as Rene explains in this Financial Review interview.

So this is where my mixed feelings came from. At the time bookings went live, the menu was top secret yet full payment of $485 per person was required to secure a seat. That apparently accumulated to 2.7 million dollars paid upfront for all reservations for the 10 week period (gasp!). I had no qualms about paying up front (and clearly, neither did the 5599 other people who secured a seat) because Noma’s reputation speaks for itself and I was expecting an amazing experience feasting on Nordic-Australian masterpieces.

And then the pop-up opened it’s doors on Australia Day and the barrage of photos that followed on social media showed an intriguing menu inspired entirely by native Australian ingredients. But we are not talking your kangaroo fillet and salt bush kind of native produce and ingredients here. These were things I had never heard of and had a very hard time wrapping my head around; magpie goose (what even??), crocodile fat, lantana flowers, wattle porridge, gubinge dust… yup, the mind truly boggled!

So leading up to the day of our booking I had this little voice inside my head that kept questioning whether this was going to be too much of the unknown and not enough of what Noma and Rene Redzepi are world-renowned for. Is this essentially a menu of fancy bush tucker? Was I going to get my $485 worth? No doubt had I been silly enough to even entertain the thought of giving up my seat, one of the 27000 people on the wait list (yes, you read that right, there is a wait list of twenty seven THOUSAND) would’ve jumped at the chance to take my spot so the little voice inside was just a little whisper really. I was never NOT going to go based on the vast unknown. But I was also holding back on the excitement that the occasion clearly called for because I wanted this to be the best dining experience of my life (it’s definitely the most expensive) and I knew I had to maintain my expectations.

So that’s enough on the back story. Let’s get on with what happened on the day….

(Spoiler alert: This WAS the best dining experience of my life and it was a culinary journey like no other)

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Bennelong, Sydney

February 8, 2016

What do you get when you pair up Sydney’s most iconic building with one of the city’s most celebrated chef? A dining experience that is worthy of iconic status of course.

The new concept Bennelong replaces the vacant space left when chef Guillaume Brahimi and his award winning Guillaume at Bennelong restaurant departed The Sydney Opera House. Eighteen months and extensive renovations later, Bennelong opened it’s doors with the aim of making dining at this treasured building more accessible yet also special, with the Peter Gilmore stamp right across the menu.

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But no, you will not be able to have The Snow Egg here at Bennelong. For that, you will still need to save the coin and go across the water to Quay. What you get instead at Bennelong is a menu that has a different expression to what Gilmore does at his three hatted fine dining establishment. It is a menu not as complex as that of Quay but still had taken well over three months for Peter Gilmore to develop. It is food that is served in a more natural way that emphasises the quality of the produce rather than technique, with a casual and laid-back approach to food that showcase Australia’s best produce in the best location.

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Garden Pavilions, Pialligo Estate

January 19, 2016

I may have said this in my previous post but I’ll say it again; for me, the Garden Pavilions at Pialligo Estate is the most exciting restaurant opening of the summer. It’s a place like no other in Canberra, both in terms of the food on offer as well as the location.

By now we are all familiar with Pialligo Estate farm with it’s olive grove, vineyard, orchard, market garden, smokehouse responsible for ‘that’ bacon and the hatted Farmhouse Restaurant. The Garden Pavilions are the latest addition to Pialligo Estate; four private climate controlled dining pavilions set in landscaped gardens, with magnificent views of Canberra’s landmarks.

pialligo estate

The Garden Pavilions share the same paddock to plate ethos as the Farmhouse Restaurant and offers smart casual a la carte dining that is a true feast for your senses. The pavilions are open for Sunday brunch, Friday-Sunday for lunch and Thursday-Friday for dinner. On the first weekend they opened after the holiday break I visited for a long and relaxing Sunday brunch.

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New Restaurant Openings of Summer

January 12, 2016

Happy New Year dear readers! I hope the festive season has been a very happy one for you and you are rested, relaxed and ready for 2016.

I took a little break from this space over the holidays but just thought I will pop in to bring you some news of the latest restaurant openings around town as reported by other fabulous bloggers of Canberra. I promise this is not a newfound lazy way of reporting of mine; but rather a way of sharing great content by blogging colleagues so expect to see posts of this nature every now and then.

The month from mid December to mid January tends to be when Canberra becomes a bit of a ghost town as everyone abandons this fair city in search of coastal waters. It’s also the time most restaurants around town take a much needed long summer break to refresh and recharge for the new year. Whilst new restaurant openings tend to be extremely rare around this time here are three that broke that rule:

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