With our tasting starting at 2pm this time at Old Parliament House, TimmyC and I had to carefully plan out our meals for the day to ensure that we would be hungry for a three course lunch by then while not having a cranky snappy attitude at work that comes from being hungry.
I had to enquire for Sarah the ‘events coordinator’ at the cafe where I presumed we would be eating. After we were greeted, we were taken to one of the back rooms near the beautiful members lounge that has only recently been open to members of the public. The room was dimly lit with a lot of the light coming from natural sunlight streaming through the doorway. The table was nicely set up with crisp white linen, cutlery for three courses, serving spoons and multiple stacks of plates which we didn’t end up using.
A beautiful day in the Nation’s capital.
We were then greeted by Aaron who had previously taken us through the venue during a private viewing as well as during the Old Parliament House bridal expo. He said he would inform the kitchen of our arrival and explained how the chef will coming out to serve each course as well as explain each dish. ‘How lovely’ I whispered to TimmyC.The neat and symmetrical ceremony space available for hire at Old Parliament House. It is supposed to be beautiful during Spring with all the roses blooming on the pergola. It is one of the main features that drew me to this venue.We were offered beverages but we politely declined and stuck with chilled water. Each course arrived in pairs and instead if being civilized and portioning out each dish to our own plate, TimmyC and I just swapped between the two plates trying both before deciding which dish we would like to end on.
The table all nicely set and we’re ready to go.Entrees~ The chef Craig introduced himself after presenting us with our entrees, he went into great detail about both dishes and how and why he chose to do the things the way he did. I really enjoyed listening to all the details.
Seared scallop, pumpkin, ginger, fried garlic, bonito crumbs. I’ve never seen scallops this big before. These were apparently Canadian scallops and the chef had chosen them because he believes they are the best scallops you can buy. You could taste the juicy and natural sweetness of the scallops despite the other complimenting ingredients. The pumpkin purée was perfectly smooth although I couldn’t taste the ginger that was supposedly in there. The crispy garlic chips and bonito crumbs added an extra dimension to texture and added the perfect balance of salt.Grainge beef carpaccio, parmesan, croutons, rocket and snow pea tendrils. I knew I wasn’t going to serve beef carpaccio at my wedding knowing that maybe only 5% or less of the guest list would eat this but I thought during a tasting it would be safe to order to see how they could execute such a dish. TimmyC was unaware that beef carpaccio was thinly sliced raw beef and so he wasn’t too fond of it (he would make up the other 95% of the wedding population) and stuck happily with the scallops. I thought the beef flavour takes a back seat to the salty parmesan cheese, the tasty pure olive oil and capers despite using very high quality of beef. The flavours come together really well and I would happily order this at a restaurant.A close up of the beautiful components.Mains~ When Craig served our mains, he admitted to us that he loved cooking things in butter and I thought that we could be bestest of friends!
Potato and parmesan gnocchi with wild and cultivated mushroom, spring onion, green asparagus. I am a fan of house made gnocchi, butter AND mushrooms which is why I chose this main. Craig explained the process of how he dried out the potatoes to make the gnocchi before ducking back to the kitchen. These parcels of gnocchi was a lot chewier than what I’m used to. Between the chewiness of the medley of mushrooms and the texture of the pasta, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked it, but the marriage of butter, mushrooms and pasta is always perfect.Hay smoked Galston chicken breast, corn, confit garlic, baby spinach, rosemary veloute. Frequent readers would know I’m not a fond of ordering chicken as a main so this was clearly TimmyC’s choice. I find serving a tasteless dry piece of breast is too easy to do and I’m disappointed more often than not, but there is always exceptions to the rule and this one was definitely an example of that. Where to start? You could distinctly taste the smokeyness that was the direct result of baking it with smoked hay. The 30 minutes of bathing the chicken in a brine mixture made it moist and juicy. The velouté was amazingly thick rich and had the perfect amount of subtle rosemary. All these key aspects made this THE perfect dish. I was almost ready to put down a deposit right there and then!If they could bottle up that veloute I would so buy cases of it!Desserts~
Mango, blueberry and vanilla ice cream terrine, biscuit and blueberry compote. This terrine seemed simple enough. The flavours worked very well together, it can be made all year round, easy and quick to serve and is a real crowd pleaser but I felt that there wasn’t anything particularly special about it.Cute presentation.Old Parliament House Signature Cake, Daintree chocolate, praline and raspberry. If you’re going to name something as your ‘signature cake’, I’m going to have high expectations. This 7 layered opera cake uses hazelnut cream rather than the typical coffee butter cream and takes about 3 days to prepare. The chocolate finishing was perfect but I wasn’t too keen on the hazelnut cream and sponge which left me with a sense of dryness that usually comes with stale sponge. The raspberry purée smears were most delectable which broke up the rich flavours of hazelnut and chocolate of the cake but there wasn’t enough to make up for the dryness.Beautiful fresh raspberries.Slightly slanted but beautiful layering within the cake.I couldn’t help but take photos from all angles.One last one I promise.I must say I was very pleasantly surprised with the calibre of food that the Restaurant associates produced for the tasting. The novelty tasty extras that I was keen on getting at this venue would have blown our wedding budget out of proportion but I really love the ceremony space they offered so I gave them a tasting opportunity considering I knew nothing of their food potential and most people still think Ginger catering run the catering side (they have moved to the arboretum). I am so glad that I did! This is going to make decisions much harder.
Comparatively to the National Portrait Gallery, the timing was a faster (but not rushed) pace with more manageable portions of food (even I struggled to eat 6 canapés, 3 entrees, 3 mains, 3 desserts and petit fours with minimal help from my companion at the Portrait Gallery). I particularly loved the personal touch with Craig coming out explaining how he prepared each dish, why he chose certain ingredients, waiting for feedback at the end of the tasting and how he was happy to accommodate to ours tastes and needs.
Potential wedding venue: Old Parliament House
Caterer: Restaurant associates
Time of tasting: 2pm
Price of tasting: $85.00 pp.