This caramelised banana with pecan praline crumble is a comforting dessert I know you’re going to…
Imagine a place with lush green swathes of lawn, and pathways lined with lavender.
Smart little pavilions are dotted around, inviting you to look inside. It’s quiet, peaceful. You feel like you’re in the countryside. It’s hard to believe somewhere like this is less than 15 minutes from Canberra’s CBD, but it is—Pialligo Estate Garden Pavilions.
I was lucky enough to go along to a Canberra foodbloggers’ dinner at the Garden Pavilions last week. While I’ve tried Pialligo Estate Smokehouse’s award-winning bacon (multiple times!), I actually hadn’t eaten at the Farmhouse Restaurant or the Garden Pavilions yet, so I was excited to see what was in store.
The setting is beautiful, and it’s hard to believe that a place like this is so close to the city. Upon arrival, we were given a glass of Pialligo Estate wine or sparkling water. We were then shown around the gardens, which we were told were years in planning.
Apart from herb gardens and trees, there are a number of small pavilions for dining, another which houses the kitchen, and another for wine tasting and nibbles, like charcuterie platters. There’s also a large building called the Glasshouse, which is perfect for weddings and other functions (the first wedding there was held the week before).
Then it was time for dinner. First up were bowls of bread, served with Pialligo Estate’s own extra virgin olive oil, which was just delicious.
The bread was followed by some entrees to share. First, line caught kingfish served with rhubarb, Pialligo Estate sangiovese, and herbs from the herb garden.
Everyone exclaimed when this was brought out, and you can see why—it’s one of the prettiest dishes I’ve ever seen. I’m pleased to report that the taste matched its appearance, and this was one of my favourites of the night.
Next was tasso (Southern spiced pork butt) with ginger, apples, and onions. The tasso had a bit of a kick to it, but this was balanced out nicely by the accompaniments.
The vegetarians were presented with a bowl of vegetables and apples, which looked fresh and enticing (thanks Inexplicable Wanderlust for letting us all take photos of yours).
The entrees boded well for the rest of the meal, and we were not disappointed. We could smell the next dish before we could see it, plates of open-fire Flinders Island wagyu rump with 8-hectare roasted garlic.
The wagyu rump was juicy and so tender you could carve it with a butter knife (we know, we tried). The garlic was roasted to perfection, and so soft that you could squeeze it out of its casing and use it as a spread on the rump.
The main was served with a side of hay baked potatoes with smoked miso butter. I love potatoes and I love butter, so this was always going to be a win for me, but the smoked miso flavour of the butter was a nice touch.
The other side was a grain slaw: cabbage, grains, and crème fraiche, which was really colourful and fresh.
We then had a bit of an interlude, and Jan Gundlach, Pialligo Estate’s culinary director, and Sean Keating, Executive Chef of Phoenix and the Wolf in Tasmania, told us more about their ideas and the custom-designed kitchen, which we also got to see.
Jan told us that the herbs and vegetables served at the Garden Pavilions are what’s harvested on the day, and gave us an example of how a patch of radishes can actually produce four different ‘products’, as they’re picked at different stages of growth.
The reason Sean was there is that he’s an expert in working with open fire to produce amazing smoked food. He explained that it takes two hours to build the right fire, and that he doesn’t use thermometers.
It’s a high maintenance task, which requires continuous working of the fire. The vision is that at the Garden Pavilions your food will be freshly smoked during the service, not pre-prepared beforehand. I think that sounds pretty amazing, and I can’t wait to go back and try some.
It was then time for dessert, which was a striking serve of strawberries and cherries, lime, Pialligo Estate olive oil, and basil granita. It might sound like an odd combination, but it was refreshing and light.
We thought that was it, but then Jan came back to see if we wanted to try more. Like he even had to ask! Of course we did! And so we were each given a little cup of farmhouse brinner, one of the breakfast dishes: buckwheat quinoa porridge, apple, and fennel pollen.
This got mixed reactions. I found it a bit unusual at first but enjoyed it more as I got toward the bottom. Some of the others loved it straight off, and others thought it needed something sweet or creamy to balance it out.
It was a wonderful evening in a wonderful setting, and if you’re looking for a relaxing venue to enjoy good food, wine and the outdoors, then this is the place for you.
The place: Pialligo Estate Garden Pavilions
Where: 18 Kallaroo Rd, Pialligo
When: Breakfast from 8am on Sunday; lunch from 12pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday; diner from 6pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Food: Modern Australian, including Pialligo Estate’s amazing smokehouse products (did someone say Australia’s best bacon??)
Drinks: Pialligo Estate wines, soft drinks
Contact: Call 02 6247 6060 or visit their website or Facebook page
The author dined courtesy of Pialligo Estate Garden Pavilions, but all opinions are her own.
Feature and slider image courtesy of Natassja Hoogstad Hay