The Date: Saturday 23rd April 2011
My Date: Mum. A mother-daughter date at GRAZING has been on the cards for years, but usually when I spend a weekend at Mum’s place, it involves Mum’s cooking (sometime’s a girl just needs a Mum-cooked meal) or us cooking together, so eating out always gets pushed to the side. Not this Easter. We tried to book for lunch (so we could take in the views of the Chef’s Garden), but someone had booked it out for an autumn wedding, so dinner it was.
What Is It: An award-winning country restaurant, with an impressive reputation. Situated in The Royal Hotel building in Gundaroo, GRAZING is frequented by public servants and pollies from Canberra, alongside farmers and locals. Supporting the district by using local produce (when not using produce grown in the Chef’s Garden out the back) and serving local wine, as well employing local kids, GRAZING is as much a part of the community as the people eating at the tables in the small, old hotel.
• Entree: escabeche of Snowy River trout, with dill-pickled onions, zucchini panna cotta, saffron vinaigrette & a salad of squash flowers & celery heart; local goodies such as chorizo, pressed tongue, lamb prosciutto, duck liver parfait & crispy pigs ears, with pickled cucumber relish Dijon mustard & lavosch – Mum thought she might never get the chance to eat crispy pigs ears again, so she boldly went with the charcuterie plate. Turns out the ears are not unlike crispy bacon rind. So long as you don’t think too much about it… The trout was sweet & delicious, though I’m not so sure about zucchini panna cotta. It was basically flavourless.
• Main: herbed pasta filled with scallops & blue swimmer crab, with roasted pumpkin, chives & a browned butter lemon sauce; crisp confit of duck leg served with a sausage of duck, orange & boudin noir, garden parsley mash & a spiced eggplant & black mustard seed jus – I had major order envy. Mum’s duck was sensational. The subtle hint of orange & the tender duck leg. My raviolo was freshly made, and though it was full of flavour, it didn’t blow me away.
• Dessert: frozen gingerbread & maple syrup iced mousse with sugar roasted almonds & a toffee, orange and lemon balm compote (to share) – the parfait was perfect. Mum went as far as saying it was one of the best restaurant desserts she’d ever eaten. I loved the citrus compote and there was some discussion about the use of nuts in cooking. But that’s a story for another day…
We Drank: The Foreign Minister. No, we didn’t drink K-Rudd. We prefer a less bitter drop… What we had was a Sangiovese from Capital Wines.
Cost: Good value country dining. Entrees $15-$20, mains $30-$35, desserts $15.
The open fire on arrival.
The cheery staff. You can tell they actually enjoy their job.
The variety on the menu. It’s impressive for a small country town.
The rabbit warren style of floor plan. Original. Best.
The crispy pigs ears. Who would’ve thought!
The black chandelier and shelves of wine in the private four-seater room. That’s where I want to be sitting next time.
Loathed: It was little bit cold in the back section where we were sitting. It’s hard to enjoy your dinner when you’re trying to rub your hands together for warmth.
The Final Word: Not quite what I expected, but still impressive. The location, historic building and dedicated staff perfectly compliment a classy menu. I’d love to go back for lunch, so I can see it in the sunshine and admire the Chef’s Garden. Next time I’ll avoid the seafood and go for the red meat!
The Royal Hotel
Corner Cork and Harp Streets
GUNDAROO NSW 2620
Lunch Fri – Sun and Most Public Holidays
Dinner Thu – Sat