Hoi Polloi, Canberra

The Food Avenue contributor Michelle Taylor went along to new restaurant Hoi Polloi for a one of a kind creative gastronomy event...

Hoi Polloi is the brand new restaurant at Old Parliament House. Hoi Polloi is the ancient Greek word for 'the many' and the restaurant is aptly located in what used to be the Non Members bar.

I obviously didn't read the invitation particularly closely because it wasn't till I had another look that I noticed how interactive the opening event was going to be. The invitation hinted at the opportunity to 'stamp your foodie mark on the Capital' in a 'creative Gastronomy event'.

Being that rare breed of cook who microwave sausages because it is fast and it makes them look funny, the thought of having my poor skill set on display had me moaning in a dark corner. But I wanted to go through with it because I knew the food would be amazing. Eileen was counting on me.

My +1 Tracey who had originally been thrilled at the thought of coming along with me to sample tasty delectables was now also apprehensive at the possibility of having to compete in a kitchen with real foodies.

In a flurry of nervous giggles, we arrived at Hoi Polloi to a red carpet opening.

I was ushered over to receive a special kit containing everything I would need for the foodie bloggers competition later on. My first reaction was 'I love kits!' followed quickly by 'foodie bloggers competition???'

Inside the kit was a Hoi Polloi apron, a chef's hat *gulp* and the details of our task. The organizers assured me that we would not be cooking, rather 'creating'. I was relieved to learn that head chef, Andrew and his team would be doing the actual cooking of the burger.

We were each allocated a prime minister around whom to base the theme of a new burger.
My prime minister was Bob Hawke. Hoi Polloi had kindly provided me with a brief biography, although I used my old friend Google to flesh Bob out a little. Using our information, we were then able to choose from a list of ingredients, the makings of a burger inspired by our appointed prime minister.

A crucial decision was the name we would choose for our burger.
We had an hour in which to do the planning and research, which was excellent, as there was a lot going on around us.

Amazing food for one thing.

A pavlova bar

A pulled lamb bar!!!

Fabulous drinks

David Blumenstein whipped up clever caricatures the entire evening in one corner

The Wayne and Ben duo sounded fabulous in another.

27 The Wayne and Ben duo.jpg

At 7pm, Cam Sullings officially welcomed everyone to the launch.

All too soon the moment of truth was upon us.

The burger I created was true to Bob's blokey nature, I thought. It was a cheddar-topped beef burger on a brioche roll with BBQ sauce. I added some special OHP sauce as a nod to Bob's time at OHP, caramelized onions as a twist on the good old Aussie barbequed onions. Nothing shouts Aussie louder than pineapple on a burger, so a pineapple ring went on. Because Bob loves Chinese food, I incorporated peppery rocket and marinated capsicum. That was as exotic as the set ingredients allowed.

43  the Tok Pisin.jpg

I named my burger the Tok Pisin which is the Papua New Guinea word for 'burger'. Bob Hawke worked hard to set up trade union in Papua New Guinea and is actually an honorary PNG chief.
I really liked the name; it conjures up an image of his Larrakin side as well as his love of beer.

As a contestant in Round 2, I stood by and watched Round 1 take place.

Each contestant had to announce to the audience who they were, which prime minister they had been allocated and how they had chosen the name and ingredients. Public speaking is one of my big fears, so when I realized I would have to speak into a microphone, my heart was pounding right out of my chest. Thankfully when it came to my turn, I opened my gob and said something. Can't remember what.

Then we were in the kitchen. The judging chef, Andrew came alongside and told us that the hot tip was NOT to make the burgers enormous. I looked down at my plate full of the specially selected ingredients for Tok Pisin. Bob on a plate really. I just knew that Bob would eat a pretty big burger. I had to be true to Bob.

Once all the ingredients balanced on top of the beef patty, it was quite a mouthful. Oh my. Quite a mouthful. But no bigger than a burger I would make at home.

Here is a shot of our esteemed judges Head chef Andrew and Joanna Savill (long time editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide) tasting mine.

Doesn't bode well really, does it? On the upside,they seemed to like the name of the burger. On the downside, I heard both judges murmur that the Round 2 contestants had made our burgers very full.

After all 3 rounds, the 3 top burgers were announced. It hurt my heart that none of the contenders in my heat made the cut. The three finalists had their burgers sliced up and the audience voted for 'viewers choice'. The well- deserved winner was Anna. Anna's burger will be in the menu for the next month. Pop past and try it.

Try asking for an order of the Tok Pisin burger actually. Worth a shot, right? #bringbackbobsburger #tokpisinforthewin are appropriate hashtags I think.

And with that the opening of Hoi Polloi came to a conclusion. The interactive element in this event had everyone engaged, laughing and buzzing. It was a fabulous beginning to what is an amazing restaurant.

If you would like to taste the delectable food and drinks in these images you can.
Hoi Polloi is open for lunch from 11:30 am til 2:30 pm.

The beautiful space pays homage to its heritage with the tables and chairs sourced from the original Members dining room.

Find more details at the Hoi Polloi website.
Address: Old Parliament House
18 King George Terrace
Parkes ACT 2600

Hoi Polloi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Michelle dined as a guest of Hoi Polloi. All views are Michelle's own.

Michelle is a local photographer who wishes all her blog posts could be about fabulous food and exciting travel destinations. All photos in this post were taken by Michelle. Visit Kazuri Photography for more of Michelle's wonderful photography.