Pialligo Estate - my future wedding venue?

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I can picture the golden glow of a gorgeous sunset bathing the lush manicured lawns of Pialligo Estate as the backdrop to my dream wedding. With sweeping views across Canberra, right to the Brindabellas, I can see iconic landmarks of Parliament House and Telstra Tower in the same gaze. I've always wanted a garden wedding with an emphasis on beautiful food. So after I took advantage of the opportunity to have a sneak peek of Pialligo Estate prior to the relaunch, I could tell it was a very special venue.

The beautifully landscaped grounds feature four individual verandahs for private dining functions. There will be a separate kitchen and bar servicing these outdoor bungalows.

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Wedding guests can sit back and enjoy the magnificent panoramic view (while I frolic around in the grape vines for my wedding photos).

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Following extensive refurbishment, Pialligo Estate boasts an olive grove, vineyard, fruit orchard, market garden, as well as the award-winning Pialligo Smokehouse. Visitors to Pialligo Estate loved the self-sustaining rural lifestyle so much that the owners decided to open the Estate to guests to enjoy the unique food, wine and lifestyle experience.

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As a foodie, I would want the food at my wedding to be memorable and a highlight of the event. Last year the Pialligo smokehouse was awarded Australia's Best Artisan Bacon.

It makes complete sense to have my wedding where they make the best bacon in the country.

Pialligo Estate launched their new farmhouse restaurant last weekend with a Valentine's Day menu. Having their own fruit orchard and market garden affords them the opportunity to create  seasonal menus featuring their own produce. I tasted these food samples as a guest of Pialligo Estate.

Spanner crab sandwich, picked cos lettuce and lemon verbena

Delicate crackers were the perfect vehicle to transport the fresh spanner crab to my waiting tastebuds.

Yellowfin tuna, peas from the garden, sea blight, almonds & Tasmanian wasabi

The tuna was delicious, but the peas were so incredibly fresh and vibrant that I just wanted to eat a whole bowl of those peas.

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Pialligo Estate wines were available for tasting. The 2009 Riesling went particularly well with the food on offer.

Sabayon of Pialligo Farm smoked salmon, green apple and chives

The light-as-froth sabayon served as a creamy sauce to the smoked salmon and apple combination. This dish was a well-executed balancing-act of flavours and textures.

Beignet of grilled corn and black truffle cream

For me, this was the stand out dish of the night. It was sweet corn soup - deep fried. It was accompanied by a black truffle cream dipping sauce, made of Canberra truffles from last year's season. We were instructed to pop the golden cube in one go. Good thing I had my mouth closed when I bit into the crunchy morsel because sweet corn soup immediately flooded my mouth. It was (literally) sensational! I loved that the presentation included the corn leaves.

But it wasn't just the food that wowed me. Featuring natural stones and recycled timbers, the Pialligo Farmhouse Restaurant evoked a stately, country elegance.

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A quick tour of the restaurant revealed a commercial kitchen out the back, and a temperature-controlled cellar with approximately 5000 wines inside. An in-house bakery is still being built.

Pialligo Farmhouse Restaurant private dining room

The dining area is expansive and versatile. There are private dining rooms and large verandahs with retractable shades. Leather chesterfield sofas have been placed next to fireplaces. If that's not cosy enough, there is underfloor heating for chilly Canberra winter nights. Though I'm not sure I would be having my wedding in winter!

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Only minutes from the airport and 8 minutes from the city, the 86 acre Pialligo Estate is a gorgeous location for a beautiful country wedding. My interstate or international guests wouldn't have to travel far from the airport. And my local guests will be able to appreciate a "country escape" in a central location.

With a Michelin-starred chef leading the kitchen and beautiful stately grounds with spectacular view, Pialligo Estate could very well become the most coveted wedding venue in Canberra!

With all this wedding talk, you might be wondering whether I've become recently engaged. Nope, the right guy hasn't proposed to me yet. But it couldn't hurt to have a good venue in mind, just in case, right?

The details Address: Pialligo Estate, 18 Kallaroo Rd, Pialligo ACT 2609 Phone: 02 6247 6060 Website (and menu): http://www.thepialligoestate.com.au Open: Wednesday - Saturday for lunch and dinner. Sunday lunch only.

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First look & menu: Vitis Eatery - Braddon, Canberra

Vitis Eatery, which opened last week, is the "new kid on the block" in the Braddon precinct of Canberra. Owner Lucia Kovacova, originally from Slovakia, recently moved to Canberra but said she would happily spend the next 30 years here. I'm hoping she keeps her word because the newest addition to the vibrant collection of eateries on Lonsdale st looks very promising and ticks all my boxes so far. Funky decor. Tick. Delicious food presented elegantly. Tick. Shareable. Tick. Friendly staff. Tick.

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The decor, styled and made by interior designer Christiane Nowak, features elements found in nature - stones, wood and greenery.

Let's delve a little deeper and see what I ordered on my first visit here (I say "first visit" because I'm already planning a return visit). The Scallop Tartare on Toast ($5) immediately caught my eye and I knew I had to order it.

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As well as being beautifully presented, the generous portion of scallop tartare was very fresh and had a whisper of acidity. The wasabi avocado was the perfect creamy accompaniment and not overpowering. It was a fantastic start to the meal.

I loved the next dish too - Crispy lamb ribs ($15). The lamb was seasoned to bring out the natural flavour of the meat, which comes clean off the bone. The textures and flavours from the grain salad went amazingly well with the lamb - the pulses, almond slivers, and a hit of sweetness from the raisins, paired well with the parsley that was mixed through. The creaminess from the yoghurt was the extra touch that the dish needed.

At this point of my leisurely lunch for one, I was enjoying the meal so much that I couldn't resist grabbing the menu again to order another dish - a snack, perhaps. The Mushroom Arancini ($8) came in delightful bite-sized balls - excellent for sharing with friends! It was right then that Natasha dropped in to Vitis Eatery as well!

@NatashaRudraCT found me at #VitisEatery! Lol. Total stalker. pic.twitter.com/uaKqoHfdqy

— Food Avenue (@TheFoodAvenue) June 13, 2014

Her timing was suspiciously perfect - to try the last of these morsels of crunchy goodness before they all went into my belly! The risotto filling was fantastic in its own right with rich mushroom flavours and a hearty texture. But it was made even better, wrapped by the crispy delicate outside layer (rather than a thick bready coating) which showcased the wonderful flavour of the filling inside.

Without much arm-twisting (at all), we were convinced to stay on for desserts.

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The Orange brûlée with chocolate sorbet ($14.50) was a unique take on the classic crème brûlée. I think orange chocolate lovers will be fans of this dessert!

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I really wanted to order the Salted chocolate tart with caramel and peanut ($14.50) but that day, I was told it had been replaced with a Chocolate mousse with salted caramel ice cream ($14.50). My disappointment with the substituted dessert evaporated as soon as I took my first bite. Every component of this dish was perfectly conceived and executed - from the wafer thin sugar crisp garnish, to the creamy salted caramel ice cream (which was simply divine), to the crunch of the chocolate soil, to the richness of the chocolate mousse. It all came together in one harmonious dish.

One thing that really stood out to me throughout the whole meal was the consistency in the quality of each dish. It felt like much thought had been put into constructing each dish - the flavours as well as the textures were well considered.

If I haven't convinced you to check this place out yet, let me reiterate the messages again. The place looks funky, the staff are friendly, the food is fantastic and very reasonably priced. I loved that the variety of textural elements gave each dish interest and distinction from each other. What more could you ask for?

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