Trecento in Manuka is the latest Italian restaurant to open, offering woodfired pizzas made from a 300 year old Naples recipe, plus modern, sophisticated starters and pastas. We dined on a Saturday at lunch, and shared each of the dishes. First up was the capesante ($19), seared scallops with cauliflower puree, pancetta and caviar. Oh my. The scallops were perfectly cooked – plump and tender, and the flavour pairings of the pancetta, puree and caviar were creamy, salty and delictible. I will be back for this dish. Next was the beef carpaccio ($18) with capers and an anchovy emulsion. I was surprised by the amount of beef, and loved the flavour pairings again – spot on. We had to try both pasta and pizza, so went with the spaghetti al pomodoro ($17) and the napoletana ($22) respectively. The pasta, with fresh tomato and truffle oil, was delightfully simple and tasty, and my friend’s favourite dish. The pizza was as good as promised – thin, crisp base, smoky woodfired flavour, and sparse, quality toppings (hello dairy free pizza! Yay!). We indulged and finished with the dolcezza ($16), a dessert pizza with Nutella, pistachio and icing sugar. Mmm. Can’t wait to come back and try more of the menu.
Trecento, Manuka Terrace, Flinders Way, Griffith ACT, http://trecento.com.au/
Oh my, this restaurant has stolen my heart. Nestled in a cozy old house, with a hearty, warming menu, Kindred serves delightful food in style. I started with the chicken liver parfait, served with sourdough, apricot chutney and pickled vegetables ($16). The parfait was utter perfection – silky smooth and well-balanced in flavour, it was also light, fluffy and easy to spread. The sourdough was the thickest, tastiest I’ve ever had, drizzled in a little olive oil and lightly toasted, it was the perfect accompaniment. The pickled veggies added a nice, vinegary tartness to the dish, counterbalanced by the sweetness of the chutney. Perfect. For the main, I chose the pappardelle with lamb ragu and green olives ($26). The dish was so beautiful, although after a couple of mouthfuls I realised there were no olives! The staff hastily fixed this, and the dish was brought up to perfection. The pasta was thick, house-made and silky, and the ragu clung to it well. The lamb melted in your mouth, and I want to know whatever mix of herbs they use! The portion size was just right, and I found myself wishing I lived around the corner to be able to dine here more often. Definitely a new favourite.
Kindred, 137 Cleveland Street, Darlington NSW, http://www.kindredrestaurant.com.au/
Chez Frederic has been getting a lot of my business lately – I’d forgotten how amazing it is, and this is no more evident than in my new favourite dish – the Aglio e olio ($12), one of the simplest, but most delicious, pasta dishes I’ve had in Canberra. There’s not too much to write here – this dish is authentic in its simplicity, with extra virgin olive oil, parsley, garlic and chilli, plus your choice of pasta, but somehow these ingredients come together in an explosion of flavour that takes me back to Italy. The pasta was cooked al dente, and the portion was huge – although I was greedy and ate most of it! There is a lot of oil, which makes the pasta nice and glossy, and the kick of chilli is lovely at the back of the throat. I can’t believe that so much flavour is extracted simply from parsley and olive oil, but there’s nothing else there to do it. Magic. I also treated myself to a side of garlic bread ($3.5), which was super garlicky and very, very yummy (useful to balance the chilli too). I’ll be back for this again soon.
Chez Frederic: 4/14 Lonsdale St, Braddon ACT, http://www.chezfrederic.com.au/
Attempting a Godi la Vita cheese wheel dish has been on my to do list for a while, so we headed in for a family dinner. To start, Mum and I shared half a dozen natural oysters ($15), served with a range of condiments, including a particularly good salsa verde and chilli sauce. Yum! For my main, I ordered the Tuscan pecorino cheese wheel special, with walnut, pear and balsamic glaze, and added Italian sausage on top. You’re invited to the counter to watch the chef tossing your pasta in the cheese wheel, which they set alight to soften before adding the pasta. It’s great restaurant theatre, and heightens anticipation of the meal. The dish itself was to die for – the pecorino was slathered in a rich coating across the al dente pasta, and the balsamic glaze added a great tang to the overall flavours. The walnuts were fresh and the pear was a nice touch of sweetness – just enough for balance. Adding the sausage is recommended for carnivores, as the meat is high quality and abundantly served. The only downside was a bit of confusion over Dad’s dessert order, which the staff sorted out quickly. Delicious food and a fun atmosphere.
Godi la Vita, 162B King Willliam Road, Hyde Park SA, http://godilavita.com.au/
My love for The Potting Shed knowns no bounds. I mean, where else can you be beautifully surrounded by plants, hang out with a macaw AND get great food? Seriously, if you know somewhere else, I’m there. Anyway, my parents and I stopped in after I got back from South America, and I ventured away from burgers and sandwiches, and ordered the Wild Mushroom Pappardelle ($28), with a soft-boiled egg and burnt butter. Firstly, this dish is so pretty it should have its own fan club. With tonnes of mushrooms (including several different varieties, like oyster, Swiss brown and enoki) and silky, slithery pasta, the luxury of an egg only upped the already excellent flavour game. The portion was a great size for lunch, although my jet-lagged stomach struggled to finish it, despite my best efforts. I also enjoyed a fresh juice with orange, pineapple and passionfruit – it was large, tasty and had fresh strawberries inside too (bonus). I’m planning to come back for this dish again when I have more stomach space. And to see the macaw, obviously.
The Potting Shed at The Grounds of Alexandria, Shop 7A, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria, NSW http://groundsroasters.com/
When an old friend came to visit from Adelaide, it was a tough call deciding where to head for dinner, but in the end Joe’s Bar won the day. The place was buzzing, and we managed to snag a couch seat. We started with the Ollo d’Oro ($8), a selection of three olive oils with bread for dipping. The different oil flavours were quite apparent, making the taste-test fun and a perfect way to whet our appetite. A little more bread would have been nice, for the amount of oil. Second was the polenta chips (without gorgonzola sauce, for our lactose-intolerant stomaches, $10). These were beautifully cooked and presented, topped with rosemary, salt and edible flowers, we polished them off quickly and with relish. The crisp outside was matched by a delightfully soft inside, and they weren’t dry, even without the sauce. Finally, we indulged in the D’Affettatl, a selection of cured meats and salami ($24 for the large). This cornucopia of meaty goodness included proscuito (probably my favourite), bresaola, mortadella (with a nice peppery hit) and ‘Nduja Calabrese, a spicy, spreadable meat, plus pork salami. Oh, and a cold salad of eggplant, capscium and tomato. And some olives. Phew. All was delicious, and we enjoyed an evening picking away at the shared platter. All dishes highly recommended.
Joe’s Bar, East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston ACT, http://www.joesateast.com/
On a chilly Canberra night, there’s nothing like stepping into a packed, pumping restaurant with good heating. Molto was just the right place for my friend and I, and we settled in and chose one of the many delicious-sounding entrees. We ordered the roe dip (sorry, I didn’t catch the name/price) with lemon and flatbread. This was utterly divine – the delicate roe flavour was perfectly articulated in the creamy dip, and the zing of drizzled lemon on top brought the whole dish to life. We could have happily enjoyed two more plates. Instead, I ordered the main of the day (the meat changes depending on the day of the week), which happened to be lamb ($28). The cut was served with a pistachio crumb and on a bed of celeriac puree, and came out looking divine. The lamb was cooked perfectly and was incredibly tender – it really did just melt in the mouth. The pistachio really made it something special, and being a big fan of celeriac, I found the puree added great flavour. The only downside was that the sauce was quite fatty, and it started to congeal a bit as the dish cooled, but otherwise it was a perfect dining experience.
Molto Italian, Element Building, Eastlake Parade, Kingston ACT, http://moltoitalian.com/
I met a friend for dinner at Molto Italian, where we were warmly greeted and seated at the bar. I’d already scanned the menu and picked what I wanted to try – the Maccheroni Matriciana ($28), with cured pork cheek, slow cooked tomato ragu and pecorino romano. Matriciana is one of my favourite dishes – I make it at home a lot – but this was a whole other level of sophistication. The ragu was just enough to coat the pasta, with a little extra for mopping up, and wasn’t too rich. I loved the crisp pieces of cured pork cheek, which added a great meaty flavour, as well as a kick of saltiness, to the meal. The combination of the sauce and pork took me right back to northern Italy. The pasta was cooked as al dente as it comes, which I found utterly delightful. I was worried that the portion would be too much – it’s huge, so definitely great value – but I finished it easily and didn’t get that ‘oh I’ve eaten too much pasta’ stomach-heaviness that lower quality pasta can induce. Sadly I didn’t have room for dessert, but I will certainly be back for more authentic, top notch Italian very soon.
Molto Italian, Element Building, Eastlake Parade, Kingston ACT, http://moltoitalian.com/
Provini has been on my to visit list for a while, and it moved up the list after reopening with a new look and refreshed menu. I started with the pig’s head slider ($8 each), mostly because it was the most exotic-sounding item on the menu. The meat was tender and perfectly crumbed, sandwiched between two knots of panini and enhanced by the sweetness of roasted peppers. Tick. Next up was the meatballs ($16), which came with four meatballs in a pot of delicious sugo topped with cheese, and a large chunk of bread. This was the pick of the night – the pork and veal meatballs were perfectly cooked and packed full of flavour, the bread was excellent and perfect for mopping up what little sauce remained after we devoured it on the meatballs. We chose a pasta to share for the main, opting for the pappardelle ($26), with pork, veal and a white wine ragu. Unfortunately the dish was only just warm when it arrived (after quite a long wait) and there was no real ragu to speak of. The meat was lovely – it had been pulled into tender strips – and the pasta was al dente, but it needed much more sauce. We certainly didn’t leave hungry though!
Provini, 50 Bunda Street, Civic ACT, http://www.cocu.com.au/provini/
Canberra is so great at getting beghind new businesses, as evidenced by the huge success Bombolini Doughnuts enjoyed in their first weekend. Selling fresh (and I mean fresh, the team stay up late baking the night before) Italian-style doughnuts ($5 each) packed with delicious fillings, Bombolini sold out at both he Epic and Southside farmers’ markets, but don’t worry, they’ll be back. We tried two of the many flavours on offer (check their Instagram for the latest flavour combinations). Dad grabbed the Salted Caramel and Golden Syrup Cornflake flavour, which had an awesome amount of caramel filling and was nicely balanced (not too salty). I chowed down on a Starwberry Jam and Basil doughnut. The homemade jam is lovely, and I adored the unique combination with the single basil leaf to bite into, but people, let’s talk about the doughnut. Crusted in an indulgent smattering of sugar and not overly greasy, the pillowy layers of soft fluffy doughnut are probably what I would order as a last supper. These are a must for all Canberra sweet-tooths, and I will definitely be stopping by again soon. Or every weekend. You know, whatever.
Bombolini Doughnuts, Canberra Northside and Southside farmers’ markets, Saturday and Sunday respectively, no website.