The sun is just starting to set and the light is amazing as I arrive at the Farmhouse Restaurant at Pialligo Estate. It's been months since I last visited, the restaurant has now opened for business, and I'm so looking forward to my first dining experience here.
Set on 86 acres just ten minutes from the Canberra CBD, Pialligo Estate has sweeping views of the vineyard, olive grove and market garden, and looks out to the Brindabellas and Parliament House. Co-owners and directors, John Russell and Rowan Brennan, have made a substantial capital investment with extensive upgrades to the vineyard, olive grove, orchard, irrigation and other infrastructure, including building a new Farmhouse and surrounding outdoor pavilions.
The property has a unique link to the region's history in that it was first farmed in the 1820s and was Canberra’s original market garden. Back then, a diverse range of produce was grown in its orchards and market gardens. It was also grazing land for beef, dairy cattle, and sheep.
'Pialligo is Canberra’s link to its agricultural past and we are proud to have nurtured the farm back to its former market garden status,' John Russell said recently. 'We are farming using best practice and from the garden to the plate philosophy, with the aim to identify environmental and economically sustainable produce that will enable Pialligo Estate to prosper as Canberra’s food basket once again.'
The Farmhouse building features a combination of stone cladding with recycled timber, designed by Thor’s Hammer - a joinery, sawmill and recycled timber yard based at the Old Canberra Brickworks in the Canberra suburb of Yarralumla. The timber and stonework looks spectacular against the sky and surrounding landscape.
I'm meeting a group of friends and colleagues for dinner - cookery bloggers and restaurant reviewers - all members of the Canberra Food Bloggers, a group I founded a couple of years ago on Facebook. I know that most are excited about the evening too, and they're in for a pleasant surprise, as my friend Charlie Costelloe, General Manager at Pialligo Estate, together with culinary director, Jan Gundlach, and chef de cuisine, Brendan Walsh, have planned to treat us all to a special five-course degustation!
A little history and background...
Having worked with GM, Charlie Costelloe, on some of the behind-the-scenes media and promotions over the last two years, I have watched Pialligo Estate as it transformed from a dusty building site to something truly magnificent. Indeed, I feel that Pialligo Estate is one of the most exciting food and wine destinations in Canberra!
In terms of the food, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Something quite rustic perhaps, slabs of meat roasting on an open fire or something. Call me silly, but honestly I had no idea that the Farmhouse Restaurant would offer such a fine dining experience! The food, the wines, the service, the venue, the views, the atmosphere are all first class. I've been back more than once since this particular dinner and not once have I been disappointed.
Step inside the Farmhouse...
Pialligo Estate’s culinary director, Michelin-starred chef, Jan Gundlach, has brought together an exceptional and exciting young culinary team for the Farmhouse restaurant headed by chef de cuisine, Brendan Walsh, together with sous chef, Brian Logan.
'Brendan’s outstanding culinary credentials include working at Michelin-starred restaurants, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Restaurant Pied à Terre in London, as well as Vue de Monde in Melbourne. Sous chef, Brian Logan’s experience includes five years at Tetsuya’s in Sydney.' Gundlach explains.
'The opportunity to create a new seasonal menu featuring our own produce every day is truly unique and we are driven by the concept of paddock to plate,' he adds. 'At Pialligo Estate, our dining guests can see the working farm where their food comes from. The restaurant overlooks our own vineyard, orchard, market gardens, olive grove, and the historical little smokehouse. The daily menu showcases the best of the capital's regional produce together with that from our own award-winning Pialligo Farm smokehouse, orchard, olive grove and gardens.'
Gundlach himself (ex Flavours at Fyshwick Markets) is a Michelin-awarded chef with a repertoire developed over an extraordinary career in the culinary arts. Both gold medal winner and jury member at the Culinary Olympics, he was Executive Chef for the Mandarin Hotel in Singapore, Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong and Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
And the Farmhouse Restaurant feast begins...
The culinary team...
Internationally recognised architectural firm Grounds Kent and landscape designer, Paul Bangay, have created a magnificent environment to enjoy the Estate’s produce and take in the panoramic views of Canberra. The orchard has been planted out with more than 40 varietals of fruit trees totalling over 15,000 trees; and some three hectares of market gardens have also been planted. The well established olive grove comprises Tuscan corregiola olives and the vineyard grows varietals of Shiraz, Merlot, Riesling and Sangiovese.
The wines served...
Pialligo Estate's knowledgeable sommelier, Chris, explains: 'When the chefs gave me the menu, I noted that it had some wonderful dishes with very complex flavours. So I had to choose wines with medium body, lovely rich flavours and fresh acidity that would match that food and also allow the dishes to speak for themselves.' Wines served included Ravensworth '7 months' white blend 2014; Pialligo Estate Riesling 2009; Henriques and Henriques 10 year old Sercial Madeira (my favourite!); Rippon Gamay Noir 2013; and Domaine des Bernadins Muscat d Beaumes de Venise 2012.
The dishes served...
And there was more!
Meet the team...
Disclaimer: The CBR food bloggers group and I dined at the Farmhouse Restaurant at our own expense, however we did not pay the standard price, thanks to the generosity of Pialligo Estate. A HUGE thank you! That said, please note that this is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely my own.
In closing, and read more: If you'd like to read some of the other blog posts from the dinner and learn more about our Pialligo Estate experience, visit blogs owned by the lovely Anna, Rosemarie and Joseph, Angie, Tony and Lily, Kaet, Michele, Amanda and Evangeline. Tara also wrote a post following her visit a few weeks before this event, as did Eileen. Oh, and let's not forget this one by a lovely blogger who prefers not to be named.
Those who are interested will get a different perspective on the food, in particular. I am a cook, not a food critic nor restaurant reviewer. What I can tell you is that I will take as many of my friends and family as I can to Pialligo Estate, so that they too can share the Farmhouse Restaurant experience. Perhaps you'd like to join me there when YOU next visit Canberra xo
So, tell me dear readers, do you dine out often and do you enjoy the fine dining experience? Do you like the paddock to plate philosophy?
The Farmhouse Restaurant is located at Pialligo Estate, 18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo in the Australian Capital Territory. The restaurant is open for lunch from 12.30-2.30pm Thursday to Sunday; and dinner from Wednesday to Saturday from 6.00pm. For bookings and information, telephone
Farmhouse Restaurant Pialligo Estate...
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.