Text by Joseph Ellis | Photos by Rosemarie John
It was a chilly autumn day, a Wednesday to be precise. The periwinkle clouds were low, the sky was in a shade of steel blue and we were heading to dinner at Farmhouse Restaurant on Pialligo Estate.
Rosemarie had just picked me up from work and as I punched in the address into the GPS, I asked her if she knew anything about the place we were visiting.
“It’s a restaurant in an estate somewhere nearby,” she mumbled.
“How far is nearby?” I asked smiling at what I thought was a cool question.
“Well, your girlfriend who lives in that GPS will soon lead us there if you let her to!” she countered.
I spent the next 10 minutes thinking of a comeback line but the destination beat me to it! We were already turning into Beltana Road, home to many of Canberra’s nurseries. We drove down the straight road that started to bend to the right, ushering us towards Pialligo Estate.
Ignition off and a few steps later, we were staring down a beautiful sight. We had a few minutes to embrace the stunning view before the sun completely set. The fluffy clouds looked as if they were touching the roof of the Farmhouse Restaurant.
There is no point in trying to explain how spellbound I was when I saw the estate. The recycled timber and natural stone walls of the restaurant’s façade provided a charming exterior, soothing to the sight after having just driven down Canberra’s busiest road.
The moonlight on the other hand provided a glimpse of the olive groves and vineyard that form part of the eighty-six acre estate. Far yonder, we could see the silhouette of the Telstra Tower. The dusky evening air was laced with a mild chill creating an ambience of thrill and expectation of a fascinating evening ahead.
We were about to join 18 other Canberra Food Bloggers for a night of indulgent food adventure so beautifully planned out by Liz of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things. We were to sample the cuisine and hospitality of Farmhouse Restaurant at Pialligo Estate.
It was also a great way to meet with friends. We were excited especially due to the fact that this was going to be the day when we could finally meet Liz in person. We were also eager to catch up with our dearest friend Angie of Gnome Angel with whom we indulge in the noisiest banter and the loudest guffaws. And honestly, a mid-week break with dear friends is a welcome interruption.
As we stepped through the large doors, we were bathed with a warm golden light. The genteel staff led us to a large room where our gracious host, the lovely Liz awaited. After squeals of excited greetings followed by long warm hugs, we settled into getting to know the rest of the other guests for the evening. I grabbed a drink and sank into a cushy sofa by a large fireplace.
Friends kept arriving. There were noisy greeting and laughter all around. The wine and mocktails were flowing. A couple of delightfully tasty snacks were doing rounds. One was a stuffed croquette, the other was a dainty morsel called potato baskets. They were so good that I tucked in quite a few before anyone (especially Rosemarie) would notice.
Meanwhile, Angie had arrived and we were soon howling with laughter. Let me tell you this, Rosemarie and Angie can get drunk on non-alcoholic drinks!
About twenty bloggers were present on this evening. After a short introduction about Pialligo Estate by the congenial Culinary Director, Jan Gundlach; Chef de Cuisine, Brendan Walsh created one of the best evenings we have ever had in Canberra. From a personalized menu, exceptional service and rich flavours – the evening was just a surprise – one unique creation after the next!
Here are some pictures from the evening. Even photos will not adequately justify the sensations felt by the palate. Some dishes had flavours that were absolutely foreign to me. It was a fresh new experience. It’s impossible to describe our first ever degustation experience but I will try.
Amuse-bouche – I honestly forgot what this was made of but the frothy yet creamy texture of the liquid was a great way to introduce the style of dishes to come.
Seaweed-Cured Bonito, Green Tomato, Crispy Chicken, Radish and Dashi of its own Bones – Rosemarie: “It was my first cured bonito tasting and I loved how the saltiness of the fish was balanced with the Dashi broth. For a moment I felt I was transported to Japan. Dashi is commonly used in Japanese cuisine.” (This was Rosemarie’s 1st dish as she forgot to photograph mine!)
New-Season Cipollini Onions, Pialligo Farm Chorizo, Nashi Pear and Young Mustard – The onions were the star of the dish, it was sweet and soft, not the usual sharp taste onions produce. I really enjoyed the pairing of chorizo and pear.
Majura Valley Egg, Veal Sweetbread, Celeriac, Brioche and Pine Mushroom – OK, this was a dish out of my comfort zone. But, I try anything once. The sweetbread was soft and buttery but an acquired taste. I thought about how my father-in-law would have loved it.
Muscovy Duck, Musquee de Provence Pumpkin, Red Onion, Chestnut and Licorice – Wow! What a dish! The duck was pink in the center and its savoury flavour paired so well with the sweetness of the pumpkin. Its crispy skin provided that perfect crunch.
Valrhona Jivara Chocolate, Buckwheat, Caramalised Banana and Malted Milk – The menu read four ingredients but I counted eight on the plate. The chocolate soil, honeycomb and banana ice cream together with everything else was heaven on a plate. I loved it!
Mignardises – Also known as petit fours, we ended dinner with raspberry marshmallows, chocolate truffles and caramel candy! I felt special…
As the evening wore on, I noticed that the restaurant attracts a fair amount of regular diners. They seemed happy and relaxed. The mood in our private section too was rapturous. Perhaps it has to do with the serenity of the surrounds, perhaps it was the divine food and excellent service provided, maybe it was the company of good friends. I reckon it was the combination of all factors.
We had to force ourselves to part the company and head back home. Stepping outside the restaurant we tried to absorb the surrounding. The whole place was serene and it felt like we were vacationing at some far away exotic resort.
The Farmhouse Restaurant at Pialligo Estate is a lovely place to get-together for dinner if you’re looking for that something special. A place where your senses are ignited and curiosity teased with each creative dish presented. A place where food is a journey.
Pialligo Estate is located at 18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo ACT 2609.
** This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are entirely our own.