The Food Avenue contributor Michelle Taylor discovers Pialligo Estate's latest venture: casual dining within its Garden Pavilions...
Pialligo Estate is one of those wonderful Canberra locations where, whilst still close to the urban heart of our capital city, you are on an exquisite piece of agrarian land that evokes a world away from the hustle and bustle. Pialligo Estate houses a vineyard, an olive grove, a hatted restaurant in the magnificent converted farmhouse, garden pavilions, a smoke house, gardens in the fertile soil and glorious sunset views.
Please note that this post is only the briefest snapshot of Pialligo Estate, which has a long and rich heritage in farming the lush soil along the banks of Molonglo River. There is an earthy feel to the ethos and idea behind the Garden Pavilions that makes me want to try growing vegetables and fruit in my backyard again.
Jan Gundlach, the culinary director at Pialligo Estate (and a Michelin-awarded chef, just quietly) and his team’s paddock-to-plate approach to cuisine is passionate and contagious. Much, if not all of the vegetables and herbs served to us, came from the Piallago Estate gardens. What herbs grace the dish may vary as to what is fresh and blooming that day.
There are no rows of hot plates burning hot in the beautifully-designed custom kitchen. Jan relies little on large industrial machinery. He and his team are going back to a Spartan, hands-on approach. To this purpose, the asado, a wood-fired open oven associated with Brazilian and Portuguese meat cooking, is central to the kitchen and where the magic happens.
Jan told us that the heart and soul of the place is what goes on outside- in the gardens and the vineyard. He mentioned ‘culinary austerity’ a couple of times in reference to his approach with Garden Pavilions, as well as a ‘return to foraging’..
These terms conjure up for me an image of a return to simple, nourishing, untampered, well-earned flavors. A dinner that Obelix and Asterix would sit down to feast on in their little Gaulish village after a hard day.
We dined al fresco in one of the garden pavilions, which can be closed in entirely to keep in the warm when the sun goes down and the chill creeps in.
As we feasted on food that was as fresh as food can possibly get, with the sun setting over rows and rows of lavender, I felt like I had been transported to Provence or Tuscany..
The wait staff were marvellously attentive and of course the food was wonderful. I am no food critic, but I cut through my meat with the side of my spoon. Every element on the plate was flavoursome on its own but just poetry when eaten together. I consumed two entire bulbs of home-grown garlic that were mild and creamy.
You can learn more about Piallago Estate’s many happenings here: http://www.thepialligoestate.com.au/
If you are baffled about Christmas shopping for family and friends, Pialligo Estate even create Christmas hampers!
The Food Avenue was invited to dine at Pialligo Estate on this occasion as a guest.
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.