The Artisan. The name has reverence around the Canberra foodie community. Bad foodie that I am, I had never been until last night – and now I lament my years wasted.
My friend J moved to Adelaide a year and a half ago – she got a job close to family and friends, and I lost my most food-loving friend. Damn her! But, thankfully, J works for the Government and her trips to Canberra let me drag her out to the restaurants I want to go to. As my stomach surgery is approaching, I have made a list of a few Canberra restaurants I want to try before I can’t eat anything more than the smallest entrée – The Artisan was #2 on that list (Aubergine is #1 – yes, I know, blasphemy that I’ve never been). So J and I agree on dinner at The Artisan for her one night in Canberra before my surgery.
We arrived for our 7pm dinner and we’re sat at a table near the bar. How did they know? The space is low key, yet classic. A large curved bar dominates half the room, with tables on the opposite side and towards the entrance. The lights are dimmed, which adds ambience but does not lend for good food porn – my apologies in advance.
We are offered menus, water and an appetiser of potato skin and chorizo and tomato salsa in a cute little spoon.
I decided to leave it until we’d order – mistaaaaaake! For some reason it felt rude to start eating before we’d ordered but by the time I got to it, it was cold. Thankfully it was still delicious cold, the potato had a lovely crunch and the chorizo salsa was rich and vibrant.
The Artisan has a great wine list, most by the bottle, but I am cheap and can’t drink very much, so a decent “by the glass” list was a happy sight. I ordered the Nick O’Leary White Rocks Riesling to have with my meal, as I wanted something light and local. The wine had a crisp, tart taste that went down smoothly.
For entrée I ordered the Croquettes – Pork jowl and Gruyere croquettes with coriander mayonnaise and apple slaw.
What a beautiful dish this was, the croquettes were crunchy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. The filling was a good mix of gruyere and a light pink pork that work together perfectly – very moreish. The apple slaw was light and adds some freshness to the heaviness of the croquettes. The coriander mayonnaise was delicious, but under used – I wanted more!
J ordered the Scallops – Pan seared scallops with wagyu bresaola, nectarine preserve and frisèe.
Before you ask, frisèe is the “curly endive” seen on top of the dish (I had to google it). The scallops weren’t cooked with anything else, and gave off quite an “ocean taste”. I don’t like the whole sea taste thing, so I didn’t like them – but if you’re after really fresh scallops, then these are winners. The wagyu gave some richness to the dish, and the nectarine offered a sweetness that was a welcome surprise.
For mains I ordered the Duck – Seared Grimaud duck breast with pressed confit duck leg, baby beetroot and buckwheat risotto.
I liked a lot about this dish; the perfectly cooked duck breast, the small salad of pickled radish and beetroot, and the crispy skin of the pressed confit duck. However, there was a few elements I wasn’t sold on; the pressed confit duck leg was more salty than I would have liked and the buckwheat risotto had a strange earthy flavour that left me undecided on whether I liked it or not.
Overall I enjoyed my main, but I’m not sure I’d order it again – sadly, what I enjoyed was outweighed by what I didn’t.
J ordered the Beef – Pure Black eye fillet with smoked potato soufflè, roast garlic, port jus and horseradish mustard.
I tried some of the beef and it was delicious, such a strong pleasant flavour that just sits in your mouth (where you want it to stay forever). The potato soufflé was light and fluffy, and provided a nice offset to the powerful flavour of the beef. This is a hearty, soul warming dish that suited the gathering cold evening perfectly.
For dessert, we decided on the Dessert assiette – a tasting plate of:
Panna Cotta – Hibiscus panna cotta with orange blossom honeycomb, elderflower sorbet and popping candy
Ballen – Lemon curd filled doughnuts with toasted Italian meringue and candied lemon
Pavé – Bitter chocolate and ginger pavé with caramel sauce, spiced lemon sorbet and chocolate pearls
The Panna Cotta was smooth and creamy, although it lacked on any obvious flavour. The pop rocks on top were fun and made for a nice texture mixture when scooped up with the Panna Cotta. The elderflower sorbet was beautifully sweet and the orange blossom honeycomb was moreish.
The Ballen was probably my favourite dessert on the plate. The meringue was fluffy and sweet and the candied lemon was chewy and sticky. The donuts were filled with a delicious lemon curd, that was not too tart or sweet – it was just right.
The Pavé was a decadent slice of chocolate heave, a smooth mousse like top and rich cake bottom, served with a delightfully tangy lemon vodka sorbet and small bits of dark chocolate. I didn’t taste the ginger, sadly, but my friend said she could (I must have eaten from the wrong end!).
The service at The Artisan was faultless. The two staff members who looked after us were friendly, knowledgeable, efficient and attentive – my glass of water was never empty, but it never felt like they had nothing to do or were “hovering”.
The Artisan is a lovely place, classy without any pretentiousness. I would definitely recommend this as date material (who’s offering?), or even just for when you want a nice meal out. It’s a tad on the pricey side (we spent $85 each with entrée, main, dessert and a glass of wine) – but for the quality of food and service you receive, it is well worth it.