Warning: Long post and photo heavy.
It’s the Year of the Sheep. I’m usually back in Perth for the Chinese New Year holidays, but due to the timing of other things going on in my life, it was best to stay in Canberra this year. Being a weekday, I took Chinese New Year’s day off from work. My family always eats vegetarian meals on the first day of the New Year so I designed my eating plan with that in mind.
Breakfast at Sweet Bones Bakery Cafe
This was my first time at the new location of Sweet Bones Bakery Cafe which was previously located in a much smaller space at the Lonsdale Street Traders precinct (now being turned into another apartment building). The vegan cafe is famous (I think) for its amazing vegan cupcakes and other delicacies. The new location is just up the road on Elouera Street, next door to Eighty/Twenty.
I stopped dead in my tracks as soon as I walked in when I saw all the yummy treats in the front display cabinet. It’s filled with brownies, cupcakes, muffins, cake pops and chia pudding. I also noticed a sign for veganarchy sausages in three flavours. The freshly baked hot cross buns were tempting, but cupcakes are my weakness.
I ordered the Sweet Bones Short Stack ($15) – blueberry pancakes with organic maple syrup, fresh mango, CoYo (had to look this up – a coconut milk yoghurt alternative) and maple soaked cinnamon Goji berries. This looked bright and colourful and I loved the in-season fleshy mango. I know I can get better pancakes elsewhere with butter and milk. But for vegan pancakes, these were pretty damn good. It’s also not drowned in maple syrup so I didn’t feel sickly sweet before starting in on my vegan chocolate and blueberry cupcake ($5). So moist and light, with delicious icing. How do they do it without butter? It still amazes me.
Sweet Bones Bakery Cafe is open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch.
Value for money 7/10
Lunch at Pialligo Estate Farmhouse
The Pialligo Farm Smokehouse has been in existence since 2013 offering cured sea trout and salmon, smoked duck breast, smoked bacon, dry cured bacon, bacon jam and more. It has won multiple awards including Australia’s Best Artisan Bacon last year. The smokehouse is located on a large piece of land with an orchard, olive grove, vineyard and garden. It was a natural move to build a restaurant on site. The Pialligo Estate Farmhouse opened recently and it is exciting news indeed. A restaurant that makes you feel like you’re in the countryside when you’re really next to the Canberra airport.
The inside of the Farmhouse is spacious with high ceilings, wooden beams and stone walls giving a slight alpine lodge feel to the place. One end has comfy brown leather Chesterfield sofas by a fireplace (currently filled with massive pumpkins). The other end has private dining rooms that were closed off. I hear Pialligo Estate may be the next hottest wedding destination in Canberra 😉
I was led to the verandah area of the restaurant which was shielded from the elements with clear blinds. This has a beautiful view of the rest of the estate as well as some additional work being done (more on that later). There’s also a huge fireplace on the other end which will be great in winter.
My waiter then came out with an amuse bouche to begin with. The day’s regular amuse bouche had smoked salmon in it, but since I was being vegetarian that day, the chef’s kindly made one of beetroot, tomato and sweet potato for me.
There was only one vegetarian option in both the entree and main menus. The waiter mentioned that the chef could come up with something else if I didn’t like the options. I decided to stick with the entree and main on the menu and hoped they would be good! The vegetarian entree of the heritage tomatoes, burrata and peaches from the orchard ($18) looked gorgeous. A fruity juice was poured over the dish in front of me from a small jug as the dish was explained (though I have to admit I wasn’t listening, I was too entranced by the show!). There were three types of tomatoes – all juicy and fresh, with dehydrated tomato skin adding some crispiness. The burrata (cheese made from mozzarella and cream) is a great co-star to the tomato and sweet peaches. There were a few blobs of green (basil?) mayonnaise which added more colour to this already bright dish. Juicy, fresh and healthy.
The main was the Russett potatoes with pickled and grilled spring onions, green asparagus, black truffle and onion sauce ($32). The potatoes were served as mash – buttery and salty. There was another potato element on the plate which looked like puffed pillows full of air that had been deep fried (I think I saw this in an episode of Masterchef). I thought the greens were noticeably fresh with the asparagus nice and crunchy, just how I like them. I loved the dehydrated onion sprinkled on top. All earthy elements worked well together and there was so much flavour in such a simple veggie dish. Very impressed.
The dessert menu came out with a selection of four sweet desserts or a cheese platter. It was tough deciding what to order. The Rum Baba was definitely out, so I was tossing up between the yellow peach, raspberry and valrhona chocolate. I ordered the raspberry, sheep’s milk yoghurt, pistachio and rose ($18) and was mighty glad of the that choice. The photo below does not do the beautiful dessert justice. It was such a delicate item with the smallest quenelle of raspberry sorbert, fresh raspberries filled with raspberry gel, raspberry pearls, rosewater cream, shards of meringue and pistachio sponge. The sheep’s milk yoghurt (year of the sheep – coincidence?) is more like a slightly harder mousse and very subtle to let the other elements and flavours shine through. Fantastic.
After my meal, I walked around the grounds to check out what else was being built as I noticed a few tradies walking around. A few pavilions have been constructed and are currently being fixed up to provide additional restaurant space. My waiter tells me that the pavilions will be more relaxed and bistro-style where people can come in and enjoy wine and cheese or a light meal. It’s also meant to be more family friendly. Whereas the main restaurant offers the fine-dining style experience.
I am in love with everything Pialligo Estate Farmhouse has to offer – the food (paddock to plate and headed by Michelin-starred chef Jan Gundlach), the grounds, atmosphere, fabulous service and the promise of what is to come – an in-house bakery! I’m already planning my next outing there, this time to try the charcuterie and other meat dishes.
Pialligo Estate Farmhouse is located on Kallaroo Road in Pialligo and is very easy to find. It’s open Thursday to Sunday for lunch, and Wednesday to Saturday for dinner.
Value for money 7.5/10
Dinner at Au Lac Royal Vegetarian Restaurant
I’ve been to Au Lac a few times now but I don’t think I’ve ever written up a review. For Chinese New Year dinner, I booked a table for 6 and am glad I made the booking as the restaurant was packed that night. A few entrees were ordered. Corn soup ($7.90), veggie dumplings ($6.90 for a serve of 6), Au Lac spring rolls ($6.90 for a serve of 4) and mushroom fritters ($6.90 for a serve of 5). I think the spring rolls were the best out of all of them. The Chinese eat longevity noodles for New Year (basically just long noodles) which symbolises a long life. I ordered the combination soy meat veggie stir fry rice noodle ($17) since I love rice noodles. Don’t worry, the meat isn’t really meat. It’s made completely of soy beans then flavoured and styled to look like meat. Very clever. A huge plate arrived and I just couldn’t finish it.
I like Au Lac and soy meats in general. A good alternative for those that cannot eat meat and it tastes pretty good too. There is much to choose from on Au Lac’s menu and there are banquet options for a minimum of 4 people. Au Lac’s philosophy focuses on quality healthy vegetarian food. Dishes have no eggs, wine or MSG. Gluten free and nut free alternatives are available on request.
Au Lac is located on Woolley Street in Dickson. Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. BYO drinks.
Value for money 8/10
So there you go. My vegetarian adventure for the day. Happy Chinese New Year all!
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