The Artisan

Monday, 17 December 2012



Well, here we are. Already in the festive season with Xmas, my birthday and a trip to Spain (hellO) not far away now! For your reading pleasure I have decided to pen slash write a few posts bringing the nation's capital to you. Known for its wiiide tree-lined avenues, the never ending round-a-bouts and algae-riddled Lake Burley Griffin, this. is. Canberra.

Before anyone jumps to conclusions about Canberra itself (oh wait, you already have), how it's a haven (or hole) for pubes, pollies, uni students etc etc. I'd like it to be able to stake its claim on the dining scene. So here's my test drive of a little suburban restaurant doing its thing at the Narrabundah shops. The Artisan first hit my radar when The Australian published its 50 Hottest Restaurants in Australia article back in July. This restaurant was the only to be listed from the ACT. Represent. Not long after, I was assigned a uni placement very close by and so almost everyday for a fortnight i would walk past the place and catch glimpses of the menu on display. Spanner crab and saffron tortellini? Hells YES.


Their baby. Chef Sam McGeechan and David Black opened The Artisan 2 years ago and have become a local favourite. Photo credit: The Australian

In usual Gourmand fashion, I have finally arrived at the intended destination a mere 5 months later. We were lucky to get a last minute booking just after a cancellation had been made - just our luck! The dining room is an elegant, though pared back affair. No table cloths, just simple dark timber tables with your beautiful Riedel glassware. My dining party and I were shown to a table (with window seat, hurrah) by co-owner David Black. Without hesitation, I promptly ordered a Gypsy Pear Cider (deciding to forgo the treacherous territory of the wine list). For more on my wine list failings click here.

Let's cut to the chase now and in quick succession, here were the night's culinary proceedings:

PRIMI
Shredded braised beef cheek in roasted red pepper consomme with coriander salsa ($19). This dish was served in two parts, the consomme poured over the pile of beef cheek to literally rehydrate it. Without the consomme the beef would have been very dry. I think the texture would have been nicer if the cheek was kept in its entirety and cooked till max tenderness, lol. I want to shred it with my fork! The broth had an acidic tang that I presume was from the capsicum.

Pan seared scallops with corn puree, crisp speck and spiced popcorn. This was a cute little entrée. The elements marry very well together, the only downfall was that the scallops were slightly over (I so wanted them to do it right!), especially little mate on the far left :( The crispy speck and popcorn added a nice textural element.

SECONDI
Pure Black eye fillet with potato soufflé, Terra Preta truffle butter and port jus ($35). The only comment I'll make was that the potato soufflé had a strong hint of cheese (cheddar maybe?) there that may not be to everyone's taste. Apologies for the blur, my macro setting was doing odd things.

The Cassoulet: slow braised pork cheek, toulouse sausage and white bean with pork loin and kale ($33). I can imagine how comforting a dish like this would be on a frosty winter's evening. In Summer? Maybe not so much but it was a good dish none-the-less. The cassoulet stew (to be poured onto the pork) itself looked delish!

What else but the Artisan crafted spanner crab and saffron tortellini, lobster and chive beurre blanc ($29). I had my eye on the prize as soon as we decided to come the restaurant, obviously. The tortellini look a treat but I must say the pasta was a little bit too thick! Especially in the parts where it is folded and doubled up - such a shame! The flavours were there though and the beurre blanc was happily mopped up. I would have liked the crab to be a little bit chunkier - after the Sixpenny precedent was set for crab (MY GOD).

DOLCE
This takes me back! Artisan's take on the Wagon Wheel: layers of biscuit, marshmallow, raspberry jam and peanut praline with dark chocolate ganache ($14). Again, the ganache was poured onto the wagon wheel to great effect. Drool worthy! And thank goodness for the fresh raspberries on top!

Crème brulée: vanilla bean custard with burnt sugar, brioche toast and mango lassi ($14). This dessert was given the thumbs up in The Australian article and I won't rain on The Artisan's parade here. It is a decent crème brulée with lashings of vanilla beans through it (be sure to mix it up before you dig into the custard). The sugar crust was slightly thick and I may have caused some damage in crunching through that but hey, who gives. The lassi was a very pleasant surprise, the spices such as cardamom + pistachio were something different to cut through that sweeet toffee layer. The brioche was so rendered superfluous but eaten anyway (duh).

All in all I was a moderately happy customer after dining at The Artisan. I was very pleased with the front of house staff, the waiters were friendly and attentive. None of this Sydney down-the-nose tomfoolery. There were a few little things there that made them fall just short of the mark for me to be dolling out the praise they deserve. They are, however certainly making their mark on the Canberra dining scene. Goodness knows we need more places like this over there!

Thanks for reading! xo

P.S. Stay tuned when I review my favourite cafe in Canberra! It is a terribly kept secret but, meh!
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