Lunch @ The Cupping Room (Canberra, Australia)

February 19, 2020 in European (cafe)

My last review from my Canberra trip! So in my (short) 4 days trip to Canberra in October ’19, the cafe that I visited (numerous times) was The Cupping Room. The Cupping Room was a friend’s recommendation. And it fitted perfectly into my iterinary as it was a 10 to 12 minutes walk from my accommodation.

My friend also shared he didn’t manage to dine at the cafe during his last trip to Canberra because the queue was too long. So with that tip in mind, I decided to pop by The Cupping Room on my first day to Canberra which was a weekday (Friday). You know… Since weekday should be less busy? Hee. And I was indeed lucky. I got myself an alfresco seat.

I was equally lucky for my subsequent 2 visits (which were over the weekend) too. I was seated almost immediately despite the snaking queue. But that’s because I was dining solo. And I didn’t mind counter seat.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4), I ordered:-

  

1) Bacon & egg roll, AUD15 (above) – Fried egg, bacon, guacamole, spicy BBQ sauce, bun.


2) Fritters, AUD22 (above) – Ham hock, corn, pecorino & potato fritters, poached eggs, szechuan mayo, pickles & leaves.


3) French toast, AUD18 (above) – Oreo crumb, berries, banana, milk icing, mascapone. This was seriously so good!

4) Latte (above) – The coffee menu at The Cupping Room was extensive with many types of beans to choose from. There were even different flavours of milk to choose from! Unfortunately for me, I ordered my first cup of coffee at The Cupping Room without studying reading the coffee menu. So yah, I still ain’t too sure what coffee bean was used for my latte. Although I think I heard the staff briefly mentioned “Black Betty”. I guess that must be the default choice of milk for customers like me who didn’t read the coffee menu. Keke.


5) Filter coffee, AUD7 (above) – So when I returned to The Cupping Room, I was smarter. I took time to read the coffee menu. Haha. And for my filter coffee, I went with ‘Colombia finca jerico’ coffee beans.

6) Raspberry & lychee shake, AUD9.90 (above)

I’m going to be really frank. I didn’t do much research on the cafe scene in Canberra. And the fact that I only visited only 1 cafe, I am definitely not in the position to say if The Cupping Room is the number 1 cafe in Canberra although a few friends had since told me The Cupping Room is.

However, I certainly enjoyed the food and drinks at The Cupping Room. That french toast! But if one is planning to come by on the weekends, be prepared to wait. The queue could get really long. And with a busy cafe, don’t expect much from the service. Not that it was bad, but there was nothing exceptional which was also understandable since they were really busy.

THE CUPPING ROOM
1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra, ACT, Australia
Overall: 6.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Fri : 07:00 – 16:00
Ambience: 6
Sat – Sun : 08:00 – 15:00
Value: 7
Service: 6

Dinner @ Courgette (Canberra, Australia)

January 2, 2020 in European, French

Because I was spending 4 days in Canberra, I made a pact to myself to try at least 2 fine dining restaurants. Keke. So beside Aubergine which was an obvious choice as it’s the highest rated restaurant in ACT (Australian Capital Territory) by Good Food Guide 2019 with 2 hats, I decided on Courgette which was awarded 1 hat.

Now… I originally made reservation for lunch via Courgette’s website. However, when I was in Canberra, I called the restaurant to ask if I could change my lunch reservation to dinner; I was visiting galleries the day I meant to have lunch at Courgette, and it didn’t make sense to cross the bridge to go to the restaurant and cross the bridge again to resume my gallery-hopping. My bad. When I did my itinerary planning on Google map, I didn’t expect Canberra to be so big. And thankfully they could slot me in at 8.30pm.

On the day of my dinner, I decided to reach much earlier than my 8.30pm reservation time. I honestly thought I could be seated earlier by reaching earlier. And thus starting dinner earlier for me to return to hotel earlier (Haha. The number of ‘earlier’ I used). However, I soon realised it was a bad decision.

Entering through the entrance at 8.10pm, I immediately noticed the staff was bustling around. Even though they saw me, no one came forth to the receptionist desk to acknowledge my presence. And soon, more customers streamed in at 8.15pm. It was apparent the staff were struggling with crowd management. But thankfully chef-owner James Mussillon stepped in to manage the mess.

There’s 3 dining areas. The main dining area had a view of the internal garden through the full-height glazing. Unfortunately for me, I was seated in another area and right at the corner. So it could be because I was out of the waiting staff’s line of vision or they were seriously too busy understaffed that I only had my order taken 20 minutes after seated. For dinner, Courgette offered a 4-courses meal (AUD88). And from the menu (pages 1, 2), I ordered:-

  

1) Bread, Complimentary (above)

2) Welcome soup, Complimentary (above) – The waiting staff didn’t elaborate the flavour, but I guessed it’s probably celeriac.

3) Dish #1 with options of:-

(A) Hawkesbury River stuffed baby squid, blue eye cod, Eden Bay mussels, chorizo, charred red pepper (above)

(B) Beer battered courgette blossom filled with lightly, smoked buffalo mozzarella, basil & olive pesto, carrot gel (above) – I was surprised to see head chef James serving the dish personally. And after introducing the dish, he apologised for the slow service as it’s a busy night with many big groups. I softened. Ha!>

4) Dish #2 (above) – Seared clearwater scallops, free range confit chicken wings, cauliflower puree, star anise & Szechuan pepper gastrique.

5) Dish #3 with options of:-


(A) Spinach & ricotta tortellini, pumpkin, baked eggplant, haloumi, mixed seeds, sage beurre noisette (above) – I didn’t like this. The pasta skin was too thick.

(B) Market fish of the day, smoked salmon custard, herbed potato hash, seaweed salad, avruga caviar sauce (above)

6) Dish #4 with options of:-


(A) Caramelised honey crisp apple and cinnamon, flaky pastry, milk sorbet, freeze fried maple (above) – Similar to the pasta, I found parts of the pie pastry too thick. Especially the perimeter. It even tasted a little… Doughy? But the apple puree served alongside with the pie was really good.

(B) Brillat-Savarin, red wine poached pear, granola cookie, quince, lavosh (above)

7) Petit fours (above)

I wasn’t too impressed with my meal at Courgette mainly because of the service. But! When I was onto my last dish, head chef James came over. He was surprised at how much I could fit into my stomach. HAHA! So the thing was… I ordered extras. A supposedly 4-courses dinner became a 7-courses meal. Keke. And through my conversation with him, I learnt that they were short handed because a number of his staff pulled out at the very last minute. At 5.30pm! It was the Labour Day long weekend that I was in Canberra too. So that explained the bad service. He went on to say he could have done something if his staff gave him enough notice. In fact, I noticed head chef James was busy shuttling between the kitchen and dining area. And I really give him credit for it. He’s a good multi-tasker.

So ignoring the poor service standard (which shouldn’t happen normally), I would say Courgette is ideal for a fancy dining experience. And because my 3 additional dishes coincidentally happened to be 1 appetiser, 1 main and 1 dessert, I was told I was charged AUD154 which was the price for a 4-courses dinner & a 3-courses lunch.

COURGETTE
54 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra, ACT, Australia
+61 2 6247 4042, Website
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 6
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Aubergine (Canberra, Australia)

October 14, 2019 in Australian

When I was holidaying in Sydney back in 2017, I didn’t think I would return to Sydney. Don’t get me wrong… It’s just that I would visit the other states when I do return to Australia for travels. But I guess the statement ‘You never know what your future holds’ is true. I certainly didn’t expect myself to be out-stationed. *Sheepish grin*

After I settled my accommodation, etc, I began making my plans to travel within Australia. And my first trip out of Sydney was to Canberra! I mean, Canberra was really accessible. Just a 4-hours rail journey. And October couldn’t be a better time to visit because of Floriade! But of course, no trip would be complete without satisfying my craving for good food. Keke. And for my Canberra trip, I made reservation at Aubergine and Courgette. =)

For Aubergine, I was re-directed to a third party online booking system The Fork where I made my reservation 1.5 weeks ahead.

Aubergine wasn’t located in the city centre. The suburb which it was located in was actually nearer to Canberra Railway Station. And from the city, I took bus R6 to reach the restaurant at 6.25pm.

For dinner, Aubergine served a 4-courses meal (AUD105) where one had up to 4 options to choose from for 3 of the 4 courses. And from the dinner menu, I ordered:-


  

1) Snack #1, Complimentary (above) – Beetroot tart, and puff with smoked ocean trout cream. The beetroot tart was a delight to eat; It had various textures which included beetroot puree, beet-vinegar jelly, etc.

2) Snack #2, Complimentary (above) – And I was told the sugar pea was meant to be a refreshing dish. Hmm… Interesting.

  

3) Bread, Complimentary (above)


4) Dish #1 (above) – Hiramasa kingfish, celeriac, creme fraiche & mustard oil. I really enjoyed this refreshing dish. It was brilliant! I especially liked how they played with the textures; The crunchy celariac strips and buckwheat against the kingfish’s chewiness. Glad there’s no option offered for the first course so that every diner would get to enjoy this.

5) Dish #2 (above) – Duck breast, grilled celtuce, lovage, wakame & buttermilk dressing.

6) Dish #3 with options of:-

(A) Potato tart, roasted yeast, black garlic puree & creamed swiss chard (above) – This potato tart tasted like pizza to me. What sorcery is this! The potato was cooked perfectly through, and was so soft to the bite. I never had a potato tart before cause it’s like carbohydrates on carbohydrates. But I was so glad I decided to be more adventurous care less about putting on weight from eating too much carbohydrates. Keke.

(B) Fillet of hapuka, baby octopus, caramelised cauliflower & sudachi (above) – And I was told that the fish was cooked skin down and then cooked through in the oven. Now, I am not one to order fish for my main but I was attracted to this dish because of the baby octopus. Ha. But I am glad I ordered this fish dish (because of the baby octopus). Pretty good!

7) Dish #4 with options of:-

(A) Baked cheesecake, lemonade fruit, passionfruit & coconut sorbet (above)


(B) Coffee & caramel delice, frozen chocolate milk, brown butter (above) – The waiting staff went on to explain egg white and cocoa powder were put into a piper and hardened with nitrogen. Thus, creating the melt-in-mouth melt-upon-contact texture of the frozen chocolate milk.

Everything about my dinner at Aubergine was great! I really enjoyed the dishes. To be honest, I didn’t think much of the dining scene in Canberra. But this meal changed my mind. Good food could also be found in Canberra! Not just Sydney and Melbourne! Hee. During my dinner, I even heard the table of diners seated near me exclaim “this is really good” at least twice. Looked like I wasn’t the only one enjoying my meal!

Will I recommend Aubergine? Definitely.

So while it was a 4 courses menu, I ordered additional. Thus explaining the 6 dishes instead of 4. Yes, I finished everything as a solo diner even though the serving were regular portion. Keke. And for my additional main and dessert, I was charged AUD25 and AUD16 respectively. Really reasonable, I say!

And I thought I should share… So while Michelin Guide hasn’t come to Australia, Australia has their Good Food Guide Award where restaurants are awarded hats. The more hats, the better. And from the latest Good Food Guide (2019), Aubergine has 2 hats under their belt. I certainly agree with their verdict!

AUBERGINE
18 Barker Street, Griffith, Canberra, ACT, Australia
+61 2 6260 8666, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Sun