Monster Kitchen – deserves Canberra’s top spot 

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Monster Kitchen is Good Food’s number one Canberra restaurant – and it’s not hard to see why.

Quirky and welcoming, the eclectic decor is engaging.

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But it’s the food that is the real star.

Our lunch dishes were perfect! Beautiful, well priced and a unique combination of ingredients and textures.

The two of us first shared the:

Fried tofu with pickled shitake, boito soy, spring onion oil and sesame $18

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Eggplant, smoked goat’s curd, katsuobushi and sesame $20

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Pulled lamb shoulder with pistachio, yogurt, vine leaf, pomegranate and brik $30

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I especially liked the pairing of the goat’s curd with the eggplant and the yogurt with the lamb shoulder. Thses gave the dishes a delightful creamy highlight. But I also loved the salty elements of the soy with the tofu and the katsuobushi with the eggplant.

The textured coating on the tofu had a lovely light crunch. I loved the colour and crunch of the pistachios and pomegranate with the lamb’s shoulder and the gorgeous green tinge on the tofu.

We finished with a dessert of Soft chocolate with mandarin, almond and rosemary $20.

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This was also a perfect balance of textures and flavours, especially the ice-cream that came with it.  The crisp garnish was excellent as was the puree garnish but the fresh mandarin would be better preserved.

Still on my wish list for another time is the Yabby Waffle $20, the Boxgum grazing beef tartare $23 and the Green tea dessert with coconut, raspberry and mille feuille $18.

I also want to try the Monster Light Lunch that offers specials like Spagetti with wagyu tongue, peas, capers, reggiano and chilli $17, Baby beet salad with wild rice, pear, walnut $16, Pork belly banh mi $13 or Boxgum grazing ham, pyengana cheddar and green tomato pickle $15 sered 12-5pm daily.

Monster Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mercado, Sydney – my new Sydney favourite – delighted by such generosity!

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Ever since Mercado was named one of the best new restaurants of 2016 by the Good Food Guide, it’s been on my wishlist.

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So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to dinner.

I was not disappointed! No, much more than that, I was surprised and delighted at the generosity of Mercado’s service, approach and prices – something that can be hard to find now in popular, trending restaurants.

Let me tell you how:

Mercado takes bookings at the time you want – not set sitting times.

Mercado lets you order a la carte or from set menus – it’s up to you – no compulsory degustation or tasting menu. (Unless you are a group of 8 or more when you must have the $80 set menu).

Mercado has great service from thoughtful, knowledgeable wait staff who care about their guests and their product. They establish warm, but respectful rapport and anticipate your needs. They provide continuity from start to finish.

Mercado has good value prices – coffees are $4.50 not $8.

Mercado has great food – every dish was a winner.

Mercado offers you a $65 set menu on the house for your birthday (if you subscribe) when you book as a group of 4. (Available lunch or dinner Monday – Thursday).

As we were heading to Vivid, we arrived by 6pm and went for the Pre-Theatre set menu for $55 per person. This turned out to be a great choice.

The food reminded me of both Stanbuli and Continental Deli, having a style that falls somewhere in between.

The Pre-Theatre menu offers:

The Chickpea puree with brown butter was wonderful with great crispy chickpeas and deliciously warm flatbreads.

Marinated olives

A selection of cold cuts cured in house – all excellent and perfect with the Mixed pickled vegetables

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Turkish ravioli of pumpkin with yoghurt & burnt butter – we loved this.

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Chorizo with salsa mojo verde – very good.

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Chef’s selection from the rotisserie – we had the wonderfully succulent and flavoursome rotisserie chicken with lemon & aioli and a great house made sauce.

Salad of mixed leaves & herbs.

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Dulce de leche ice cream served dramatically with butterscotch & candied bacon – delicious!

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$55 per person the Pre-Theatre set menu is available in the evening before 6pm

I estimate it provides the equivalent of $171 of dishes for $110 for two people, so it’s excellent value.

However, the table to us was ordering a la carte and their dishes looked wonderful too. They loved them especially the Foie gras parfait, Braised Octopus and Beef carpaccio – all dishes I would order next time to try. Instagrammers agree.

Foie gras parfait, pickles & toast 26

Escabeche of kingfish, fennel & lemon 29

Soft shell crab bun, harissa & aioli 24

Braised octopus, sobrasada, potato & olive 32

Roasted prawns, chilli oil & romesco 39

Beef carpaccio, ortiz anchovy dressing & caviar 28

Wine by the glass includes a very good 2016 Jauma y Mercado ‘Garnatxa’ Grenache McLaren Vale, SA $14 for a generous (150ml pour).

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Located in the cellar of a building off Angel Place, the setting is cozy and inviting.

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I’m not taking it off my wish list, but I’ve added it to my Sydney favourites – at the top.

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

Jugiong – Canberra’s new destination dining spot? 

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The Southern Highlands is popular for getaways from Canberra. But head west down the Hume instead and you’ll come to Jugiong, a small country town reinventing itself as a boutique foodie day trip destination.

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Kim has arrived from Western Australia to open up The Sir George – country charm with style and fun.

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Bringing his artisan baking secrets with him, he serves up the most wonderful Bakers Lane sourdough bread that you can team with delicious share plates and tapas.

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WARM LOCAL & ITALIAN OLIVES $8

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HOUSE TERRINE $16 & DUCK LIVER PARFAIT $15

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KIM’S CHEESE SELECTION $18

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ANCHOVY BOARD TO SHARE $40 (spanish whites, rizzoli in extra virgin & salsa picante) – as Kim promised, bread dipped in the tin was divine.

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Team this with an excellent bottle of $30 Italian prosseco or some hill tops wine by the glass very reasonably priced from $7.

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Or perhaps choose a main dish like the great looking fish and chips $19.

Enjoy the tables outside ….

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….or one of the gorgeous heritage nooks inside.

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Open 10am until late, Sir George is closed Mondays.

Then there’s also the famous Long Track Pantry next door open 8-4 every day except Tuesday and serving an interesting and varied menu.

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Browse the giftwares while you’re there.

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Or around the corner are a couple of lovely home decorating shops including Tillia’s brand new The Yard full of gorgeous art and flowers.

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If you’d like to make a weekend of it there’s some good Airbnb options.

Also, Sir George has exciting plans for boutique accommodation which I can’t wait to see.

I have a feeling Jugiong will just go from strength to strength. It’s a great discovery for those looking for something new which is close enough to Canberra for a spontaneous country lunch or weekend getaway.

Sir George Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Treated to amazing Pakistani cuisine at Cooking Circles Canberra

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Last Sunday Cooking Circles hosted a small in-home lunch when Hina introduced us to her passion for Pakistani cuisine and treated us to a delicious lunch of dishes lovingly and delicately prepared.

Hina is originally from Pakistan where she grew up. She first learned cooking from her mother and now continues to learn from cooking shows, recipe books, the internet and shared recipes from others. Cooking is her passion and her we would say…her gift!

As Hina created and chatted we enjoyed wine and canapés and often jumped in to work along side her.

She started on the Rasmalai dessert as it needed to chill in the fridge. It is a dough of full cream milk powder, ghee and egg  rolled and flattened into small discs and poached in milk and sugar reduced and infused with cardamom.

Next Hina started of the Beef Seekh Kabab, roasting and grinding spices and chickpeas to add to the mince, chill and shape for frying.

Lastly the complex dum style Chicken Biryani. Rice boiled with spices is layered with chicken and potatoes (first boiled with spices) cooked in a fragrant spiced yogurt and tomato gravy, along with crisp onion and other flavourings.

It is topped with a special essence and some orange food colour (in lieu of the expensive saffron). Lastly it goes back on the stove with the lid for all the flavours to infuse through.

Wow! What a feast we enjoyed.

And as Hina said “I can’t believe I made that”!

How lucky were we that Cathy introduced her friend Hina to Cooking Ciricles. Can’t wait for Hina to cook for us again!

Many thanks to Ruth Ellison who generously shared her photos!

Top spots in Hobart

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I’ve just got back from the Dietitians’ Conference in Hobart and dropped in on lots of the spots I loved last visit, ticked off some on my wishlist and tried a few newbies.

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Plus this time I got to the Salamanca Markets and tasted the wonderful Salmon Sausage Foccacia from Silver Hill Fisch.

It was back for dinner at Tassies top restaurant Franklin….

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Raw silver perch with soured cream, black daikon and horseradish $18

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Raw cape grim beef with burnt eggplant and roasted onion $20

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Wood roasted octopus with fermented chili and lovage seed $24

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Malted barley parfait with baked apple and rye $14

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On the wishlist … lunch at Frank on the waterfront at the bottom of the Tasplan building..

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Salmon Nikkei with spring onion, fine herbs, chilli & sesame seeds – delicious flavours and textures $14 an express lunch

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…and dinner at The Glass House on Brooke Street Pier
Kingfish $21 with nuoc mau, peanut, smoked cucumber and beetroot $16 with smoked sheep’s curd, dashi reduction, toasted sesame

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Return visits to Jackman and McRoss on that gorgeous street…

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for the Fig, marscapone, walnut and sambucca in a chocolate pastry shell

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….and also back to Pilgrim  – still not so great for food
I couldn’t eat this Bolivian Quinoa Bowl $14 sadly

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A new one was Silver Hill Fisch at the Saturday Salamanca Markets. This salmon sausage in a focaccia with coriander and  rocket $8 was the Dietitians’ hot tip. Here, the lovely 22 year old owner and manager Maja serves just the one special, much sort after specialty.

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Overall the fish dishes were the loveliest.

And the best… still Franklin for the vibe and innovation, Glass House for the view and service, Frank for food, but Silver Hill Fisch for fun and inspiration!

Canberra’s best breakfast – Pod Food Pialligo! 

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I’ve enjoyed the hospitality of Pod Food a couple of lovely times lately, but now, after trying their breakfast, I’m a total fan! It must be the very best spot for breakfast in Canberra!

Even in this chilly weather, the garden setting is gorgeous and beautiful from the cosy verandah.

It was just perfect on a winter Canberra weekend.
To be honest, I’d only ever heard about the $40 four course breakfast degustation which I’d flagged as a special occasion event. But now I know that there’s a whole other a la carte menu with average Canberra prices, but way beyond average dishes……in such a lovely setting, served by Sam’s top class team, I wouldn’t ever want to go anywhere else!
Hard as it was to choose just one dish (hence the allure of the degustation) I was very pleased with my Field mushroom bruschetta with miso, smoked ricotta (so good), baby spinach and sourdough $19.


Every mouthful was a joy!

But the Srambled eggs with Jamon, fennel and herb salad and Three Mills seeded sourdough $19 also looked very good.


Those who chose the Potato and bacon wrapped egg with salt baked potato, pecorino and capsicum relish were delighted, $20.


And for those times that you just want something light, the $12 Three Mills seeded sourdough toast with Pialligo honey, preservatives and whipped butter was perfect.


Even though we were just coming for breakfast, Sam called to check special diet needs and confirm the booking. There’s nothing ordinary about breakfast at Pod!

And, you won’t believe this, if you have the Canberra Entertainment Book, there’s even a 25% discount!
This is fine dining standard at mid range prices!

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