A birthday lunch
One of my friends was having a birthday so organised a lunch at a family owned and operated restaurant just outside of Canberra. This restaurant was previously a grazing property and in 1991 was converted to a country smokehouse.
Since the grazing property became a smokehouse, it has grown and now has its own wine range and cellar door and a function area for larger groups and weddings. There is also an outdoor and indoor restaurant and after you eat and drink there are smoked meats, jams and olive oils to be bought from the small shop.
The restaurant has received good reviews and is one I have been to a couple of times and enjoyed the food and also the atmosphere. However…things were different on this occasion.
A friend of mine picked me up along the way to the restaurant and we drove the twenty or so minutes together. It was very busy and all tables both inside and outside the restaurant were full when we arrived. As there was quite a large group of us, we were advised by the restaurant that we had to order from the Tasting Menu rather than the usual menu. That is usually ok for me but the menu on this occasion was rather basic for the cost ($55 per person for a main meal and shared antipasto platter).
I saw there was only one vegetarian option but as I like gnocchi I was happy to order it. We were seated inside, and after some considerable time our waitress took our food and drink orders.
Again after some time, our table of about twenty, was served a couple of platters of antipasto comprising three different dips/meats and pickled vegetables.
Our host had to ask twice for the vegetarian platter which arrived some fifteen minutes after the meat platters had been served.
There were two vegetarians on the table so one platter of dips and picked vegetables was served. I was a little disappointed as the waitress knew we were seated at the opposite ends of the table, [and I think two smaller platters could have been prepared] as unfortunately we had to keep passing the platter around the table disturbing others who were chatting. Now you know I just love eggplant (especially cooked Chinese style) but I did not enjoy this eggplant dish at all. Cold eggplant = yuck [but this is not the restaurants fault of course]!!
There was also bread and biscuits served with the meat platters and by the time the vegetarian platter was served, there was hardly any bread left and none was forthcoming from the restaurant.
Our main meals arrived and as I had asked for the feta cheese to be removed, my gnocchi was served with the spinach and basil oil. I must say it was very bland and even my friend who ordered the same dish with the feta said it needed something more like a burnt butter sauce or just any type of sauce really and it definitely required some seasoning.
I didn’t know the people sitting down our side of the table but enjoyed chatting with them throughout the afternoon. The lady sitting next to me ordered the barramundi fillet with the carrot panna cotta. She said the fish was tasty which she finished, but only had the smallest mouthful of the panna cotta as it was cold and dry [and bland] which gave it an awful consistency. A dish that didn’t taste as good as it looked!
The birthday girl, and many others, ordered the braised lamb shoulder with polenta and horseradish cream. There were varied reviews around the table; with most saying the lamb was very fatty with little meat and that the polenta was sloppy and looked unappetising on the plate.
On a positive note, the grounds of Poachers Pantry are stunning and you enter through two old gates under a yet to blossom wisteria. Once through the gates you walk along a paved pathway to the restaurant where there are several tables outside along with a little fish pond. Then you enter the restaurant and smokehouse which on a weekend is always busy. Sitting outside is extremely pleasant in the lovely summer days as you are able to enjoy looking at the surrounding gardens.
My friend wrote to the restaurant complaining of the service and the food and received an apology stating that some wait staff had gone off sick and therefore they were understaffed. Doesn’t account for the food though – so, unfortunately, I don’t think I will be returning any time soon!!