For my birthday weekend late last year, I dragged a few girlfriends out to Gundaroo to have a lazy Sunday lunch at Grazing. Grazing is located on the main street of Gundaroo, a small NSW town just outside of Canberra (bout 25 minutes’ drive from Canberra CBD – 45 from my place in Tuggeranong). The town is quiet and old, and keeping with this theme Grazing is located in an old Hotel. If you looked up ‘rustic’ in the directory there would be a picture of Grazing in Gundaroo.
The restaurant is spread out through the old hotel and is decorated in a warm country style – piled rugs, fireplaces and wooden tables. With individual rooms housing only four or five tables, it creates an intimate and relaxing atmosphere. It is laid back, yet impressive – a hard mix to get right, and they have. We were lead through a few rooms before sitting at a six seater in a room with a big fireplace, the room was bright and cheerful. The restaurant was very busy that day, being their last day of trade for the year, and our waiter was definitely kept on his toes. We were given menus and all decided on going straight to mains, saving our excess stomach space for the delicious sounding dessert menu.
A friend had her heart set on the Ox Cheek Ragu, but was informed that had also run out and was to be substituted with Wagyu Silverside – sadly the Ox was a deal breaker for her, and she ordered another menu item instead. For my smaller stomach I ordered the Venison Carpaccio with pork lardo, nettle mayonnaise and herb crouton. This dish is a perfect meal for a summer’s afternoon. It was light and fresh, with bursting flavours and textures. The nettle mayonnaise was a lovely surprise, giving a tangy twist to the creamy side of the dish, and the crunch of the croutons worked magically with the other, softer, textures.
Two of my friends ordered the ‘Grazing Pie’- Snapper, scallop and mussel pie with Grazing’s tomato relish and buttermilk mayonnaise – and they both loved it. The pastry looked crisp and the seafood inside looked creamy and fresh.
Others ordered the Beetroot dusted Kangaroo loin with roo prosciutto, garden beets and glaze – so tender and flavoursome – and the baked eggplant and spiced chickpea moussaka with peperonata (which I didn’t try, but that looked rich and comforting).
And we got a bowl of greens to share, after our waiter mentioned they came fresh from the garden. We all ordered dessert, with myself and one other friend immediately locking our stomach missiles on to the frozen caramel and salted hazelnut custard with chocolate parfait, chocolate aero and crumbs. This dish was creamy and decadent and eaten in about two minutes. The salty flavours of the custard blended nicely with the chocolate and the crunchy crumbs are aero bits added depth of texture that made the dish more than just creamy.
A popular dessert with our party was the daily special of cherry pie. The pie was served hot out of the oven, with crisp pastry and decadent dark chocolate ice cream. This is was a dessert should be, in my opinion. Another friend had the white-chocolate and strawberry ice cream with Goat’s cheese and mascarpone panna cotta, rhubarb and white balsamic jellies. This was a sweet dessert, combined with a strong goat’s cheese taste. Not everyone will like it, but I did. The service at Grazing was top notch, our busy waiter still finding the time to be friendly and helpful. He even handled my mini-tantrum about the lack of pork belly with style. We stayed back and chatted to him for a bit while one of the party went to pay the bill – he’d just moved over from Western Australia and had fell in love with Canberra and its surrounds and loved his job at Grazing (he gushed about how great the place was). His enthusiasm was contagious and we all left with a smile on our face. I could not recommend Grazing highly enough – it is great for a special occasion, and yet also great for a relaxing catch up over lunch (and wine, they have good wine!). What could have been a standard Sunday lunch became memorable thanks the surrounds, the food and the service. I believe it is worth the drive out of town.