Darbar, Braddon – My new top pick for Indian food in Canberra!

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When owner Vinay invited me to come and road test Darbar’s food I was skeptical.

So I asked Vinay to tell me – what makes Darbar different and why would people choose Darbar ahead of the many other Indian restaurants in Canberra?

But, Vinay kept telling me to let the food speak for itself. And he also mentioned that I might want to call in some friends as he wanted me to taste a whole feast of Darbar’s dishes.

I’m so glad I did (and so were my lucky friends) as we were quickly transported from this unassuming Lonsdale Street eatery to a bliss of sophisticated, complex flavours wrapped around, stuffed and infused through tender, succulent meats and carried by creamy, rich and full flavoured sauces. As Glenn, a local Braddonite told me, he dines at Darbar several times a week and could happily just enjoy the sauces and breads they are so wonderful.

It’s actually very hard to pick favourites from our feast. For the first time ever, I can say, every dish is a true winner. And very happily, the menu is extensive, so trying something different each visit is definitely the way to go.

Darbar’s specialty is modern Indian fusion style so the menu features some very special unique dishes like Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, a spice marinated Tasmanian salmon fillet, Bamboo charcoal Tuna Fish , Beetroot Bonda, Prawn Vepadu and slow cooked,spiced Desi Lamb Shanks.

But Vinay also wants to do the favourites like Butter Chicken, Chicken 65 and Marsala Dosa better than anyone else – and he does!!

Then there are also the famous regional dishes that reflect Vinay’s heritage like the Gutti Vankai -baby stuffed eggplants in a dreamy cashew nut sauce and the Bezawada Railway Goat Curry (more about that later).

But let me share our amazingly delicious journey with you.

We started with the Spicy Potato Salad served complimentary to diners along with mint sauce and pappadoms.

This was my first inkling that this was no ordinary Indian restaurant. The mint sauce was thick and rich like none before and the garam marsala spicing of the potato salad had a depth and complexity that I just wasn’t expecting from this simple first course.

Then came the vegetarian entrees, first the Indo-Italian fusion Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, filled with spiced vegetables and a touch of cheese – I really did enjoy these – $13 for a serve of 4.

Followed by Darbar’s signature entree dish – Darbar Chaat, crispy spinach pakora on rice with sweet yogurt, which was the best version of Palak Papdi Chaat I’ve enjoyed and beautifully decorated with with tamarind, mint and tomato sauces – $12

Next came the Masala Dosai – a thin crisp, golden brown rice pancake rolled with spiced potato masala & served with coconut and tomato chutneys  and sambar.

Now I’ve eaten many Marsala Dosas, both in Australia and India, but I can’t remember one better than this! The spicing again was careful and wonderful! I loved this too especially the fresh curry leaves $16.

Then came the non-vegetarian entrees – my favourite (and most of our table’s) was the Bamboo charcoal Tuna Fish – fresh tuna, simmered with mustard seed, pepper, garam masala, mint leaf and methi and fried with bamboo charcoal infused corn starch – just so delicious $15


Another fusion (Indo-Australian) dish followed – Jal Pari Hariyali ( a Chefs Speciality)
Marinated Tasmanian salmon fillets with turmeric, cashew paste, cumin, coriander powder and lemon juice, pan fried and served with crisped sweet potato and mint sauce on a bed of spices potatoes $17

Then Prawn Vepudu – King Sized prawns pan fried in spicy lentil powder, curry leaves, garam masala, cracked pepper, onions and fresh coriander – yummy – three pieces for $17

And Darbar’s Chicken 65  – (traditionally a 65 day old chicken) marinated in exotic spices, lemon juice and deep fried, tossed with curry leaf, fenugreek powder and coriander served with lemon and Spanish onion. Just as Viany promised this was the most tender, succulent and full spiced version of this dish I’ve had  – $14

I loved darbar’s version of Butter Chicken – Tandoori Grilled chicken simmered in spiced butter fenugreek and kasoori methi leaves masala gravy with honey and pepper. Again this was tender, beautifully and deeply spiced and just the best!  $19

The Bezawada Railway Goat Curry is named after Vinay’s home town near Hyderabad, a large railway junction and one of the many famous for serving Goat Curry. The diced goat is slowly cooked in an unusual but smooth and medium spiced garam masala flavoured with onion, cumin, fenugreek seeds and fresh curry leaves  – very excellent! $21

We were wowed by the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani  –  basmati rice cooked dum style with chicken, herbs and spices in a poppy seed gravy and covered in the traditional way with pastry to seal the natural flavours along with coconut milk, mint, saffron and rose water $21


The Lamb Chops were also truly beautifully tender lamb cutlets marinated in Kashmiri spices, roasted in Tandoor Oven $22 for a serve of 5.

Also very delicious was the secret recipe Desi Lamb Shanks – 8 hours slow cooked lamb shanks with whole spices, shallots, carrot, garlic cloves and tomatoes, served on a bed of potato mash $22

Another favourite of our table and a traditional regional dish was the Gutti Vankai – stuffed whole baby eggplant (Brinjal) in a ground paste of cashew, peanut, sesame and coconut cooked in the Hyderabadi style $18

I loved the Laccha Paratha bread – soft and flakey $4.50..

…but the Cheese Naan $5 was excellent too.

Vinay has done his research well, wanting to offer competitive prices that are great value for generous serve sizes (great for sharing) and even a better deal with the 15-20% discounts offered on the website.

BYO wine corkage is $3.50 per person but there’s also an extensive wine list with wine by the glass thoughtfully starting at $7

So there’s everything here from a ‘Just Feed Me’ gourmet banquet like we had, to a budget friendly under $20 dinner for two (share an entree, main, bread and rice, BYO your wine and use the discount), to a group menu for twelve under $20 a person including corkage….

3 x Stuffed Zucchini  Flowers (12 pieces)

3 x Gutti Vankai

3 x Desi Lamb Shanks

3 x Butter Chicken

6 x Saffron Basmati rice

6 x Laccha Paratha

Do check out the amazing catering packages on the website that are excellent value, starting at $15 per person for three courses with sides.

And the Banquet menu looks good too…

And also consider the Tuesday to Friday lunch specials, equally great value.

The team are a warm and friendly bunch who have come together from various parts of the world with great pride and quiet dedication to serving Canberra these consistently gorgeous dishes.

Vinay from Bezawada, also owns the well regarded Darbar Restaurant in Glebe and more casual Swagath in Wentworthville. His favourites are the Bezawada Goat Curry, Chicken 65, Chicken Biriyani, Lamb Chops and Garlic Naan.

Hari is from Hyderabad so he loves the Chicken Biriyani, but also the Chicken 65, Goat Curry and Peshwari (fruit and nut stuffed) Naan.

Suraj from Nepal is head chef and his favourites are the Jal Pari Hariyali and Chicken Chat Pat.

Raja from Sri Lanka likes the Bamboo Charcoal Tuna Fish best.

Nina has joined the team from Germany and Vamsi (who missed the photo) is also from Bezawada enjoys the Gutti Vanaki – stuffed eggplant, best.

And Glenn’s favourite dish is the Prawn & Scallop Lababdar – King size prawns and scallops cooked to perfection in a delicate sauce based on fresh tomatoes, ginger and shallots, flavoured with coriander and fenugreek $21 (Glenn just gets all prawns, but you can also just have all scallops).

Everything Vinay told me was true!  He has every reason to claim Darbar as the best Indian food in Canberra!

I arrived as a skeptic, but left a true believer!

Parking is easy after 6pm either in the lane behind the restaurant (also great for picking up takeway) or underneath.

ADDRESS

(near Debacle – look for the yellow sign – opposite Grease Monkey – in the M3 building)

139/24 Lonsdale Street
Braddon, ACT 2612

 PHONE
TRADING HOURS

Open 7 Days:

Monday
Dinner: 5:30PM to 10:00PM
Tuesday to Sunday
Lunch: 12:00PM to 2:30PM
Dinner: 5:30PM to 10:00PM

Friday & Saturday
Dinner served up to 11:00PM

Darbar Indian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taste of Sydney – Feast with Friends

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The four day Taste of Sydney just finished yesterday.

And wow, what a great foodie festival it was…and yes you do need friends with you, who like to share!!

Not just a wonderful chance to enjoy some pretty special dishes from some of Sydney’s best restaurants but lots of excellent free or low cost interactive sessions, wine tasting and way too many selfie opportunities (apologies in advance).

Having done our research we booked our sessions and headed off to start on our dish hit list.

First to Porteno where Adam and the team were serving up some delicious dishes…

Grilled cheese with Almond Romesco $6 (one of our favourites)

Steamed corn and cheese tamale with Tomaillo sauce $10 (another fav)

BBQ pork sausage with creamed corn and spicy sofritto $12

Icon dish – BBQ beef belly with crispy fried Brussels sprouts $18

Then dessert….the highlight of the day Hazelnut Mousse Cake with Pedro Ximenez and gold leaf from Mercado Restaurant, with a hollow chocolate core filled with divine liquid $10. We weren’t the only ones who loved this dish, it was ranked No. 2 in the Best in Taste awards.

Time for one of the World’s best margaritas…..

Some very delicious Rum Chata…..

And some Tamada Georgian wines (apparently the world’s oldest wine growing region)…

Then back for more dishes, a lovely Lavender and Rose soft serve with red vermouth caramel and pistachio praline $6 from Banksii…

…who also had their Ora King salmon rillette with red pepper relish and rosemary flat bread $10…

….and their Banksii duck sausage with vermouth plum jam and fennel salad $12

…..then another of our favourites, the Liquid pumpkin and Parmesan gnocchi with forest mushroom tea $12  also a Best in Taste winner at No.3…

…and a Black sticky rice coconut slice $6 from Long Chim along with their Icon dish of Charred rice noodles with chicken, yellow beans and Chinese broccoli $14

Time to get cooking with Meat & Livestock Australia’s Cook’s Corner as Andy Allen and Ben Milbourne from Andy & Ben Eat Australia……

….taught us to cook Brisket and Charred Herb Salsa…

…and then off to the Lurpak Cookery School……

….to do some hands on..

…Butter Poached Fish served with Butter Charred Corn and Passionfruit Curd Tart (delish!).

We just caught the end of the Ethihad Airways Taste the World winning chef preparing Bouche on the Bridge’s No.1 winning Wallaby skewers with spiced cashew sauce (wild Tasmanian wallaby tenderloins marinated & cooked over charcoal)..wow!

So sad to not be able to get to everything like IncredibleIndia’s Delhi ‘O Delhi or Organic Darjeeling Tea tasting…

…or the many Table talks and wine appreciation chats.

 

And then there were also all those chef talks that would have been fascinating, like Nathan Sasi from Merado and Mike Nicolian from Continental Deli and of course, the dishes still on the hit list we didn’t get to:

Nel’s Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream $10

Captured by @pipedream.celebrations

Summer Efforescence -Strawberry Sorbet, lychee, champagne mousse, crystallised rose petals $12

Captured by @jamielee.lane

Wagon Wheel – raspberry, yuzu and milk chocolate wagon wheel $6

Captured by @tasteofsydney

Truffle Hunt with chicken, truffle, porcini mushroom croquette & edible truffle soil $10

Captured by @davidxiao8891

Mercado’s

Foie Gras Parfait $12

Captured by @patsplustots

Long Chim’s Grilled Squid with Sriracha sauce $10

Captured by @katty_sydney_

or Saint Peter’s Pambula Sea Urchin Crumpet $24

Captured by @glendonww

Next time!!!!!

Parking was surprisingly easy and free near the Centennial Parklands venue and while it was clearly very popular and you needed to book sessions ahead, lines were short and waiting small. 

General tickets were $25 on-line, most activities were no cost except for most wine tasting (around $4 a 60ml pour) and the Chef’s Secrets $12.

Truly a great experience and I’m looking forward to next year!!!

Paella at Pod Food, Pialligo – a treat for Cooking Circles Canberra

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Fine Eating was back again at Pod Food this week with the very lovely company of Cooking Circles Canberra!

The generous and immensely hospitable team at Pod hosted a fabulous evening of all things Paella!

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John, Jack and Sam – our hosts

Pod Food is of course the perfect garden venue for sharing paella with new friends. I always love how many new people I meet at Cooking Circles and it’s great to catch up again with those I’ve met before.

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As we arrived, we introduced ourselves and took up Sam’s very welcome offer of a glass of Canberra wine.

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We settled in as John unpacked the secrets of a successful paella!

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John explained how to create the perfect stock base…

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…what and when to add the oil, onions, spicy and smokey paprikas, Spanish onion and chorizo, beautifully coloured capsicums….

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….stock, seafood and chicken.

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We appreciated the importance of the crackle and the crust as the delicious aromas filled the garden.

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John and Sam even shared their favourites ways with leftover Paella – add and egg and Pialligo bacon for a brekkie paella, soy sauce and peas for fried rice – paella freezes and reheats beautifully.

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So relaxing after a busy day, to sit and enjoy conversations about creating and sharing food.

But their was a surprise left for us. No eating paella off our laps from a disposable plate for us!

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John, Jack and Sam had created a beautiful space for us to enjoy each other’s company and that very, very fine paella.

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If you weren’t lucky enough to catch Paella at Pod Food, don’t miss another wonderful event coming up. All woman are welcome to come along to Cooking Circles.

Join us in April as we unpack the iconic Indian lunchbox with Shafique at Joy Indian Restaurant and create roti, lentil and vegetable rice and chicken kadai together.

Do grab a ticket or two before they all go!

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The Canberra Food Bloggers road test the new menu at Pod Food!

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Canberra has a lovely and lively community of people writing and posting about food!
The food bloggers are an especially social bunch and we love to get together for lunch every couple of months and enjoy some of Canberra’s wonderful venues.

This week Bizzy Lizzy took us to try out Pod Food’s new menu, in the conveniently close but relaxingly rural Pialligo.

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Sam Kildea, fabulous host that he is, set us up beautifully in Pod’s delightful garden…

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….but at Pod, there are just so many cute and cozy nooks to choose from.

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The most difficult decision of the day was whether to enjoy two ($50) or three ($60) courses!

Second most tricky was which of the gorgeous options to choose.
Some went with entrees: the Prawn noodle (yes, noodles made from prawns), with a soft 65 degree egg, parmesan, bacon and avruga caviar (which they raved about!)…

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….and the very decorative Pork sausage with pickled peach, mushroom cream, capsicum and chilli jam.

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Other choices on the menu were Asparagus spears, with beetroot, caramelised onion, goat’s cheese and rye cracker or Duck rillettes with pickled raspberry, crispy chicken skin and nashi pear.

We covered all the mains with the sirloin being the standout dish (along with very popular chilli and rosemary salt baked potatoes and aioli, which Sam thoughtfully threw in for us).

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Seared sirloin with fennel, dutch carrot with saffron potato foam

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Mushroom and chicken roulade with wasabi jelly, shimeji, chorizo and pea

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Pan fried market fish (swordfish this time) with potato, chermoula, wild rice and a lovely spinach soubise

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Wombok wrapped nut and lentil with pumpkin, tomato and radish

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And hugely successful were the desserts….

My Lime cheesecake with raspberry, lime get, macadamia, raspberry meringue and pineapple sorbet was a delicious balance of tart, sweet, crunchy and creamy – wonderful!

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The others loved their Pan perdu cooked in a very aromatic clarified butter with apple tarte tatin ice cream, brandy apple puree, blackberry and white chocolate!

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Also tempting was the sour cherry ice cream with coconut and oat crumble, chocolate jelly and cherry marshmallow.

As we chatted about cookbook launches, restaurant recommendations, writing opportunities and of course the wonderful food and atmosphere that Pod Food offers – the new Pod menu was declared a great success!!

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Pod Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Salotto, Kingston – good for a group on a budget

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I’ve enjoyed Santa Lucia Salotto‘s great lunch special (now $13.90) but this week I road tested the main menu for a  group dinner on a budget.

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We were fourteen girlfriends with a $25 per head limit on food.  So we choose a range of dishes to share – which all turned out to be perfect picks – with plenty to eat and some left over.

It was all served together which gave it a tapas/shared plate feel and while everything was delicious – the salads were the real standout for me! (And there was no salad at all left by anyone!)

For 14 of us we ordered:

Antipasto

4 x ANTIPASTO PLATTER  with san daniele prosciutto, cappacollo, mortadella and wagyu bresola accompanied with grilled vegetables, warm olives, giaidinera and pickled artichoke $25 each (bread is $6 for six slices so we got two serves and a couple of extras thrown in!).

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Salads

3 x INSALATA CON FUNGHI with grilled mushrooms with mixed lettuce, garlic, chilli, spanish onion & sun-dried tomatoes $14 each

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3 x INSALATA CAPRESE with a soothing fresh tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella salad dressed in an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette $14.50 each

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Pizza (cut into 8 slices)

2 x PROSCIUTTO fiori di latte, san danielle prosciutto, fresh roquette and shaved parmesan $21 each

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2 x AMANTI DELLA CARNE fiori di latte, 3 meat ragu, salami and barbecue sauce $23 each

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2 x FUNGHI fiori di latte, 3 mushrooms with a drizzle of truffle oil $20 each

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BYO wine corkage is $9 per bottle and there’s seating inside and out!

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Salotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3 top tips for hosting a Brunch event at home – the perfect meal for entertaining a crowd!  

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Mid-week public holidays are a great opportunity to host an event!
There’s usually something to celebrate – hence the day off – and guests have fewer prior commitments to work around.
And brunch is the perfect meal!

It can all be done ahead.

It’s flexible enough to fit in any budget.

It’s easy to adapt to special dietary needs

It is just one course that can be set out ready, leaving plenty of time to chat to guests.

It can all be cleared up to allow for a relaxed evening before heading back to work the next day.
But these are the three top tips for success! 

  1. Set beautiful tables
  •  it sets the scene
  •   it leaves plenty of room in the kitchen to set out the brunch buffet for everyone to       help themselves
  •    it leaves the washing up on the tables and not in the kitchen getting mixed up with      the food. It also allows it to be cleared up gradually as the dishwasher capacity           allows.

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2. Do everything ahead

Prepare dishes ready to serve and organise drinks

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3. If you are accepting offers of help – ask guests to bring anything that needs to be done on the day ( eg fruit platters, fruit salad) as this keeps the day free for last minute organising.

Some menu ideas:
Drinks:

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Lemon and mint ( or other flavours) infused iced water ( freeze ice in large containers to add)

Non- alcoholic fruit punch

Peach infused white wine

Sparkling wine and rose

Mango lassi shots

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Food:

Baked French toast using croissants and other pastries in a bread and butter pudding recipe

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Bircher muesli breakfast trifle using alternate layers of Bircher muesli, Greek natural yogurt and poached fruit and berries, topped with toasted muesli crumble, dried fruit and nuts and berries

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Pancake stacks (banana pancakes are yummy) layered with Greek natural yogurt, brown sugar and sliced banana and cinnamon, topped with chopped almonds or walnuts ( assemble on the day)

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Frittata or Spanish omelette

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Corn and Chorizo muffins

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Oven baked bacon

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Banana bread

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Scones with jam and cream

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And generously offered by others:
Croque Madame

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Savouries

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Dolmeh

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Fruit platters and fruit salads

Welcome to Canberra – a Winning Team!

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Last week Canberra welcomed Winning Appliances….but very, very memorable, was how Winning Appliances welcomed Canberra! What a party! 


300 invited guests were treated to a showroom that spans the two floors of the original Kingston JB Young department store. 


Photos google and  Winning Appliances
And what better place to set up home. Both JB Young and Winning were young Australian businesses at the beginning of last century. Sadly JB Young was bought out by Grace Brothers but the Winning family business is now in its fourth generation and going from strength to strength! 


Photo from http://mildenhall.moadoph.gov.au/photo/641

Young John ‘Herman’ Winning explained his family’s journey, first supplying hardware and horse and carriage transport and then electrical Appliances. When they moved into retail, his ancestors declared it had to be done with style! However, only in Canberra has there been the space and opportunity to really create the showroom of their dreams!


And so it was, as a testimony to the family’s integrity and high standards that a stellar Canberra team was gathered to launch the new venture with great generosity, elegance and….style!
Mel from ELM by MEL did the invites and hosting. Wren and Rabbit did their magic with the styling. (You’ll remember their magic touch at Pialligo Estates Butcher, Baker, Merry Maker!). Kerrie Brewer was there with the camera!


John Leverink (head chef at the Boathouse by the Lake) and Sam Kildea from Podfood, brought their team to create local produce culinary delight with delicious wines, a blackberry gin fizz, wonderful savouries, an impressive seafood and chicken paella and gourmet smorgasbord of cheeses, meats and fish.

Steamed mussels with ponzu dressing

Pork scratching with sage and potato mousse

Pretzel tarts with chorizo crumb, Swordfish

The paella! 

Whole salmon confit fillet with wild Pialligo Fennel and Russian garlic flowers


Buratta with local olive oil, peaches and basil


Winning Blackberry Fizz with blackberries from the Pod Food garden, Canberra gin, thyme and ginger


Stilton


Comte


Smoked Trout on rye and English pork pies


Three Mills Bakery sourdough 


Eden Road wines


Kitchen envy was everywhere as everyone made sure they had multiple chances to win the $10,000 prize!

And those who didn’t win still took home a lovely ergonomic mug with organic peppermint tea and its own strainer, to enjoy while reading the latest Gourmet Traveller. 


We were just totally spoilt! 
I’m so excited to see such a beautiful store re-opening in that heritage space and making kitchen beauty so accessible to inner Canberra. Welcome to Kingston! Welcome to Canberra!