Some friends are doing a "world tour of Canberra" - visiting every suburb in alphabetical order. Sounds like fun, but I don't think I can impose this discipline on my blog. I can't make the commitment to a regular event, since I have a job, and friends with other ideas, and a newspaper column to write as well. But I will make a tag and play with the idea of a Canberra alphabet. I have B to come soon after this post. C? Well, that's too far ahead to plan, but Civic and Dickson sound easy. Then Emu Ridge, Evatt or EPIC?
So A is for Ainslie, and I've already noted that Ainslie has a nice IGA with a good deli, including Poachers' Pantry smoked goods and free range BBQ chooks. There's also a chicken shop, a Brumby's bakery, a yoga studio, Edgar's pub, and an unusual Vietnamese place - takeaway and delivery only, no actual restaurant attached! There are two nice restaurants - 2602, which I haven't been to, is supposed to be pretty good though not outstanding.
On Friday night I went to the other one, Pulp Kitchen. It's where Bernadette's used to be, and has a similar simple decor - wooden floors and tables, big blackboards on the walls for the wine lists and specials, and a couple of large paintings. It's calling itself a European brasserie, which reminds me of how unusual these days to find modern cuisine without Asian accents.
Continue here for more detail.
The bloke and I went with two friends, and we had a good night of it. Nothing was a deal-breaker, though there were a couple of small irritants. It's a little bit too loud for my taste, though not so bad that we couldn't hear ourselves speak. The service was skating marginally on the slow side of good, though they did have a big crowd on the night. And the charges for corkage and cakeage - not that we used them - seemed rather snobby at $5 per person, and ungraciously expressed. Their download menu is in Word format - someone really needs to tell them about the concept of the pdf... Oh well - that's it, really.
On the good side, the menu was delightfully flexible. The majority of the dishes could be ordered in large or small sizes; many meaty sounding things had a note that they could be modified for vegetarians; and the oysters were served by the piece. They did not even blink an eye when one of our party asked for just two oysters kilpatrick ($5). And the quality was fine. It's not super gourmet, nor is there glam presentation - or even small garnishes. But it's good honest food, notably well prepared, in this classic bistro style.
I enjoyed half a dozen Coffin Bay oysters natural ($15) with a bloody mary granita to start. Others just had some bread, which was a good crusty wood-fired loaf served with a fruity olive oil. We all opted for small serve meals for our mains, in order to leave room for desserts. Steak and chips, liver and onions, spaghetti and meatballs, and and octopus and potato salad: costing $17-21 for the smaller sizes. Full sized mains are $23-$30. I was impressed with my calves liver - it was perfectly cooked, which is so important with liver, and came with some really good chunky bacon. Maybe a bit heavy on the salt, but I like that. Add $9 for a side of steamed green beans sufficient for all, and we were content, but still ready for dessert.
I had the bitter chocolate terrine with pistachio and vodka icecream ($12), and loved it - the silky smooth terrine and the velvety smooth icecream paired up well. Neither was too sweet, and the flavours matched beautifully. Kate's apple cake and calvados icecream looked good, and she liked it, but I didn't beg a taste. John and The Bloke had cheese plates ($19), which The Bloke describes as "better than average but not great". There were five cheeses, cut in sizes so small as to look a bit stingy to me. The customary three would have looked better, I think. The choice of cheeses was sound, a mix of Aussie and European. No megastars, but good stuff - that seems to have been the theme of the night.
All in all, it was pretty good and I'd be happy to go back there. The quality of the food and flexibility of the menu make it good value for money, as long as you don't blow it on the stupid corkage.