Friday, 25 September 2009

Rocksalt and freekeh

B1 has been sick for some time, but she's finally out of bed. To celebrate her recovery we had lunch at Rocksalt in the Hawker shops. It was terrifically good, and I'd recommend it highly. It's modern Australian fine dining, with a relaxed casual edge.

Actually, we've liked this place for a long time, and I've been a little puzzled by the occasional bad reviews online. Perhaps the service was erratic in the past, and we were always lucky. If you had a bad time before, do try it again - the management is new this year. Co-owner and maitre d' Geoff is a charming character. We chatted with him quite a bit yesterday - the lunch trade was very light, so he had time.

We started with light meals, to save room for dessert. B1 had a beetroot and kipfler potato salad ($18), B2 went for the crispy tofu with green salad. (Both $18 in small sizes, mains for $28 I think, I didn't record it.) I had a goat ragout with housemade gnocchi, last chance before the spring menu changes come in. I'm quite attracted to wintry food at the moment. I've been making baked puddings, for instance. It must be that "last chance for the year" effect.

We all enjoyed our mains very much. They were well-balanced and interestingly complex without fussiness. I had a lovely Tasmanian pinot noir with mine, and B1 and B2 split a glass of Innocent Bystander pink moscato - and yes, Geoff was happy to split a one glass serve into two glasses. He's quite the wine buff, and an enthusiast for the Canberra region wines. When we had dessert, he gave us a sample of a local sticky - and again I neglected to record what it was. Maybe the Lerida Estate Botrytis Pinot Gris? He's trying to find the best match for B2's dessert - a divine pannacotta with banana walnut bread and caramel sauce - and was keen to get our feedback.

It was a good match, and I thought it went pretty well with my hazelnut creme brulee, too. I was impressed with that - I love a good creme brulee, but I find that fancy flavoured ones can often be overdone. This was beautiful - a rich custard with a good clear unfussy hazelnut flavour. A sprinkle of hazelnut praline on side, and a house-made frangelico icecream were excellent complements.

While you may not get quite the same level of personal service when the place is busier, I'm sure it will be good with Geoff at the helm. And they make a very good coffee, too. Ah, coffee - there's one advantage to going out to lunch. I can't drink coffee at night, so I always miss it when I review. And the final note, a little melting moment petit four was delightfully melting and lemony.

Our gud wimminz day out to celebrate the rising of the near-dead continued after lunch, with a spot of shopping. We went to Jammo, where B1 bought some new skirts at Cassidy's and B2 picked up a few cheap plants from Aldi. And we toured a new food shop. Fresh Mart offers middle eastern foods, including fresh baked goods. The young man at the counter was the baker, and he gave us a sample cookie. I was a bit full to appreciate it properly, but it was light and lovely.

The grocery range includes the fresh baked middle eastern pastries and biscuits, and several breads - Afghan, Turkish, Lebanese. There's a hot box of roasted nuts and seeds, and interesting cheeses in the fridge. Plenty of pulses, both bagged and tinned, and syrups of rose, date, tamarind and more. It's not quite the Aladdin's cave that you get in Mawson at Cedars of Lebanon, but it's definitely worth a visit if you're a northsider.

I resisted the temptation of the baklava and almond shortbread and bought some novelties. A Lebanese honey of orange blossom and spring flowers from Jabal el Sheikh, and a box of freekeh from Jordan.

Freekeh? Wut? Well, I have seen this mentioned on the internet and SBS, but I have not until now seen it in real life. It's roasted green wheat, and can be used as a side dish like rice or couscous. The instructions on the box are in beautiful Engrish. The idea is that you wash it, pan-fry in butter for a few minutes, then add twice its volume in stock and cook on "calm fire" for half an hour. Then "serve the FREEK in rather big plate putting the meat or chicken on the top.Then throw roated almond or pine on the surface." Nom? We will see, sometime soonish.


Jane said...

Very interesting re freekeh ... this takes me back to time living in Syria about 15 years ago ... it was very common there ... and tasty ... but I had forgotten all about it! Your blog is very interesting to a fellow Canberran, thank you.

Anonymous said...

it would be awesome if you reviewed the new japanese place, apparently its not very good, which is dissapoining

BJ said...

B1 took home some pistachio bistuits from the last shop. The verdict is excellent - they are light, buttery, just crumbly enough, with a good nut flavour offset by the biscuityness.

Also wanted to add that the affogato at Rocksalt is an excellent alternative to dessert. A shot of espresso over honey and frangelico icecream, with optional nip of liqueur on the side, is an elegant way to finish a good meal. And it combines dessert with coffee! Purrfect.

Cath said...

Anon, do you mean Iori's new branch? Or some other one?

Holly said...

Sorry, didnt relise I could put my name!
yea, Iori's new branch

Zoe said...

Maggie Beer is good on freekah recipes, stuffings, salads, etc. I like it a lot.

Cath said...

Aha, googling freekah instead of freekeh gets another selection. Thanks, Zoe.

Sally said...

where do you buy freekeh in canberra?

Cath said...

Err, maybe at Fresh Mart in Jammo? Jamison centre, that is.

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