Drive a little way northwest of Canberra and the sprawling suburbs of Gungahlin quickly give way to farmland. The road winds gently toward the historic town of Gundaroo. The main street of Gundaroo is National Trust listed site and combines historic colonial-era buildings with a sprinkle of businesses largely catering to foodies and wine buffs.
Grazing at Gundaroo has been luring hungry folk from Canberra for years and for good reason. Housed in the Royal Hotel which dates back to 1865, stepping inside feels like visiting the charming home of a good friend. Vases of fresh-picked garden flowers line the sills, striking original artworks line the walls and the awards on display give a hint of the gourmet experience to come. The layout with many small rooms feels homely and if you're lucky, you might have your own private dining room.
The Grazing menu changes seasonally and includes heirloom vegetables grown on-site in the chef's garden, eggs from the resident hens, local meat and seafood delivered fresh from the NSW South Coast. Hard to resist, freshly sucked oysters made a perfect starter before the meal. Still tasting of the ocean, they are simplicity at its best.
The tasting menu provides the choice of three, four or five courses. The day we ate, first course was Potato Tortellini, almond ricotta, muscatel grapes and beurre noisette. This was exquisitely prepared and the muscatels added a ripe sweetness which combined perfectly with the creamy tortellini to create an unforgettable dish.
Second course was honey-glazed spiced pork belly served with barbequed carrot and pickled lettuce. The spicy crust on the pork belly was crunchy and the carrot puree was a tasty accompaniment. The pickled lettuce was the big surprise on the plate – this transformed a humble salad green into a star and the slight acidity it offered cut through the meltingly delicious pork belly.
Next up was chicken – a confit thigh and sous-vide breast with chickpeas, pumpkin and Dijon jus. This dish got a little lost after the punchiness of the pork course. It was perfectly cooked and enjoyable but it lacked the standout wow of the first two courses.
To finish up, Grazing's take on banoffee inspired dessert came out looking far prettier than its more traditional banoffee cousins. A spiced Bavarian crème with banana caramel and a spiced biscuit made for an extremely elegant and inspired end to a fantastic lunch. To take something as humble as a banana and turn it into this dish summed up the Grazing experience: simple ingredients treated with creativity and a hint of flair. If you're a foodie, a trip to Grazing is well worth the short drive from Canberra and should be firmly pencilled in at the top of your weekend to-eat list.