Review: Black Fire, Braddon, Canberra

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If you're a meat eater, you're going to love Black Fire. Or if you're gluten-intolerant. There was a bit of a mix-up at the start of the night when the waitstaff confused me for a gluten-intolerant person who had rung ahead. They reassured me that 80% of the menu is gluten-free. Good to know for my gluten-intolerant friends and great to see restaurants taking dietary requirements seriously.

The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire
The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire

Located next to "Pita Pit" in the Habitat Building (around the corner from Bentspoke Brewery). this Mediterranean restaurant has only been open in Braddon for a couple of weeks.

On this particular night, my friend and I were seated in the corner with a mouthwatering view of the firepit cooking suckling pig. The smoky aromas from the firepit played with my senses the whole evening.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire4

The interior decor is an interesting mix of brick walls, wood panelling, and beautifully rustic chandeliers. Trendy blue lighting was a feature that was slightly at odds with the elegance of the other design elements but did not detract from the overall experience.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire3

Immediately, I liked the look and feel of the menu. It was printed on recycled paper and had a matte finish laminate. I probably place much more importance on a menu than a regular person does. The interior decor gives customers the first impression, but it's the substance of the restaurant - the food selection, that will determine whether or not people want to stay for the meal. The menu lists the meals available, providing an insight into the personality of the restaurant, and if done well, will entice people to come back and try the other dishes (and tell people about it). This menu did exactly that.

We started with drinks. My dining partner was very happy with a Spanish wine and I ordered a cocktail, which was delightful. I completely forgot what it was called, but fresh strawberry and lime flavours featured noticeably.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire5

Feeling hungry, my friend and I decided to order two entrees and two mains. In hindsight, this was a horribly ambitious decision.

All dishes can be shared (which we did) and we started off with the Grilled haloumi cheese with roasted tomatoes, baby beets and mixed leaf ($12). You don't make friends with salad. But I reckon you could with this salad. The flavours matched perfectly and the haloumi portions were generous. The surprise highlight of the dish was the fresh figs, their sweetness balancing out the saltiness of the haloumi.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire7

Our second entree was the slow roasted berkshire pork belly, served with balsamic red rose rhubarb and apple zabliogne ($16). Preferring sweeter or salty flavours with my pork belly, I thought the balsamic and apple flavours were a bit too sour for my liking. However, others may very well like the acidity to cut through the richness of the meat.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire6

To both our amazement, by the time the mains came around, we were almost (but not quite) full!

We would soon find out that the mains were also generously portioned. Mains ranged from $27 to $42 per person and that included a choice of a side and a sauce.

The Wagyu ossobuco slow braised in vegetables and red wine ($26) looked way too good to pass up. The meat was so tender and flavoursome.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire8

We couldn't go past the Wagyu skirt steak with slow roasted marbled 7+ 250gm ($28) either.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire9

We chose a side of roasted jerusalem artichokes with herbs and pimiento romesco ($9) and the most interesting sauce I've seen yet - horseradish creme fraiche! The sauce did not pretend to be something it wasn't. The horseradish component was unabashedly prominent, which was absolutely fantastic.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire10

The other sauces also sounded amazing - Roquefort cream cognac; scented apple and manzanilla; and romesco chilli and almond.

There were other main dishes I wanted to try as well. Namely the 8-hour slow-roasted lamb, 8-hour slow-roasted suckling pig (organic farm certified, free range) and the Arroz caldoso of king prawns, saffron, pimiento, nora chilli and basil (which apparently is like a paella).

After the mains were taken away, despite feeling like I didn't need to eat for the next week, we couldn't resist checking out the dessert menu. (Desserts occupy my dedicated dessert stomach, anyway).

At $12-$13, the desserts were very reasonably priced. So we decided to share the lighter-sounding dessert of Orange and rhubarb semifreddo with chocolate florentine wafer with salted caramel ($12). The beautifully-flavoured semifreddo was the perfect creamy (and yet light) consistency.

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The_Food_Avenue_Black_Fire11

The big hearty meals are great for a  family gathering or a large group of friend, particularly as you can then order a whole roasted lamb or pig! Ladies, if you have a man in your life (partner, brother, father, friend, etc) and he likes meat - definitely bring him here! He will thank you for it. Trust me.

Much care had been put into everything - from the table mats to the design of the plates, everything was well thought out. There wasn't much room on the table for water jugs or bottles but our water glasses were continually topped up. Wait staff were very friendly, no hipster attitude and were knowledgeable about the dishes on the menu. Despite all the tables being occupied on the night we went, I could still easily hear the conversation I was having with my dining partner - a huge plus!

Have you been to Black Fire? What did you think?

The Low-Down on Black Fire Cuisine: Mediterranean What to order: Grilled haloumi salad, Wagyu osso bucco, Wagyu skirt steak, Semifreddo dessert (and pretty much anything else) Best for: Family gatherings, group of friends (including hungry boys), date night, meat lovers, gluten-intolerant people.

Phone: 02 6230 5921 Address: 45/38 Mort Street, Braddon, ACT 2612 Open: Monday to Sunday 7am to 11:30pm

Black Fire Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Playground Martini and Tapas Bar - Garema Place, Civic

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I had a good first impression of this place - there was a definite cute, playful vibe and I really liked the canopy of ropes across the ceiling. The AV projector created the effect of flying birds fluttering about the tree on the wall, which was unexpectedly quirky. The use of the black walls as a blackboard was effective, especially with the coloured chalk.

However, that good impression did not last long. We sat down on the coloured stools and it took over half an hour before the wait staff noticed us and offered menus. There were only a handful of patrons (including us) in the bar that evening.

When I read the drinks menu, I was excited to try the innovative-sounding creations. A few that stood out for me were the Early Grey Martini (not sure if that was a typo on their part), the Pomegranate Martini, the Dewberry Martini and the Scarlett Martini. However, I settled on the Choc Martini, which unfortunately, was a let down. It lacked the rich, chocolatey flavour I expected of a chocolate martini.

Working our way through the menu, things did not improve. The Peach Monkey Bar Martini tasted like fruity sugar water and the Coffee Martini tasted like what I would imagine dirty dishwater to taste like.

The only drink where I actually enjoyed the taste, was something that the bartender did not make - the Three Sheets Pale Ale, which, oddly enough, was served in a jar. Maybe this is what all the hip youngsters are doing these days - drinking beer from jars in playgrounds.

It was nice to see cider was part of their range. In fact, they even stocked my favourite brand - Rekorderlig (in various flavours) but the prices were off-putting.

Chargrilled garlic prawns with avocado salsa ($15) The prawns were barely warm when they arrived and went cold very quickly but the flavours stood out and the accompanying sauce (garlic aioli) was sensational.

Beef sliders, onion rings, chutney ($14) The menu promised onion rings and chutney with the beef sliders, which I was really looking forward to, but when the sliders came out, there was no sight of the onion rings or chutney. After peering under the bun to look for the onion rings, we came to the conclusion that the tiny little spring onion rings sprinkled on the plate must have been what they meant! This was quite disappointing as we ordered this dish based on the misleading menu description. Despite this, the sliders themselves tasted pretty good. The bun to meat ratio leant a bit too much to the bun side, but this was easily overlooked because the sauce inside was deliciously flavourful – it reminded me a bit like a creamy peri peri sauce.

Smoked ham hock croquettes with garlic mayo ($12) This is the dish I enjoyed the least and would not order again. For $12, you got 4 small fingers of fried mashed potato (that’s $3 per croquette!). In hindsight, I should have included a fork in the photo so you could see just how tiny the croquettes were. Inside the croquettes were very very small bits of unidentifiable meat. I couldn’t even tell it was ham hock, let alone that it had been smoked. It could have been cut up spam for all I knew. Luckily, the accompanying sauce (garlic mayo this time) came to save the day again.

Clockwise from top left:

Braised lamb shoulder, smoked eggplant $15 I quite enjoyed this dish. The flavour of the meat paired really well with the smokiness and the texture of the eggplant.

Fried whitebait, paprika, sea salt $14 The whitebait was cooked very well, the batter was crisp, the meat was still juicy and tender.

Haloumi soldiers, chargrilled tomato puree $13 Not the best haloumi I've ever had, and the tomato puree was unmemorable.

Chilli pig skin crackling, paprika $10 This is worse value than the croquettes. Whereas the croquettes were expensive, they were still tasty. The crackling was expensive and boring. Each piece was dry and hard, very difficult to chew, and worst of all - lacked any sort of flavour.

Overall, the highlights were the creative interior design of the bar and the sauces that came with the dishes. However, the novelty of the bar may soon wear off...perhaps the wait staff could spend less time socialising behind the bar, and pay a bit more attention to the patrons. Playground bar has potential, but the lack of detail lets it down. With upmarket prices come proportionate expectations of quality food and service; and unfortunately, the menu over sells and under delivers.

Food Avenue rating: 5/10.

Playground Martini and Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon