I’VE been to Onred three times, always for dinner when the city’s twinkling lights decorate the night sky. Okay, we don’t have as many twinkling lights as mega cities such as Sydney or Melbourne, but we have twinkling lights, nonetheless.
Onred is perched on top of Red Hill, smack in the middle of the bush, with sweeping views of Canberra and several national icons. The restaurant is elevated 175 metres above the city. It’s a super location and a classy place to dine.
I can’t resist starting with the restaurant’s superb eight-page wine list which features many impressive labels and varieties, ranging up to $400 for the Saint-Julien cabernet merlot, if you’re in the mood, or $290 for a bottle of Perle l’ayala or $280 for the Meursault premier cru. Many other price points are available and at what you’d pay in some cafés these days, so don’t fret.
Then there’s the food. The menu is designed around entrée-size dishes designed so you can get creative and build your own tasting menu. Onred offers three courses ($65) although they recommend four ($74) or five ($86), with one being your sweet ending.
The emphasis is on quality and elegant presentation. We were a large party and with so many dishes served through the evening it’s difficult to cover our full gastronomic journey. So let me pick and choose some highlights.
The cauliflower fritters with soubise, blue cheese, watercress and croute salad and nut-brown butter was out of this world and would make any vegetarian’s heart go pitter patter. The confit duck tortellini with parsnip puree, legumes and a duck and tarragon consommé was superb. And the medium-rare flank steak with bresaola, walnut cream, heirloom tomatoes, dried black olives, fried shallots and tomato jam deserves a medal.
The desserts received a round of applause and I dreamt about my chocolate pave with roast pineapple puree, chocolate shards and pineapple and cashew ice cream.
Although the dishes may sound complex because of the number of ingredients, they aren’t. They are designed to be simple combinations of flavours, textures and colours and are well thought through by chef Jodie Johnson, with each element owning a rightful place on the plate.
Jodie opened Onred with brother Ben Johnson (front of house). This dynamite duo transformed what was a tired, old-fashioned dining room into something quite smart, modern and understated, ensuring the views steal the show. And my, oh my, how time flies. The Johnsons opened Onred in December 2007 and are still going strong.
It likely goes unsaid that Onred is a picture-perfect place for a function and a lovely destination for a special occasion. Jodie and Ben are happy to cater for sit down groups of 10 up to cocktail parties of 100.
Onred, lunch Fridays only and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Red Hill Lookout, call 6273 3517. BYO Tuesday to Thursday at $15 a bottle.