Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON reveals her list of Canberra’s top five restaurants for 2017.
SMOQUE going up in smoke just goes to show that what happens front-of-house in a restaurant ain’t necessarily the real story. A restaurant can look busy but be performing badly. It can look slow but smashing it.
When Smoque in Woden disappeared, it left a big, empty space. This has now been occupied by No. 10 Restaurant + Bar. The Abode Hotel must be glad to have a new eatery up and running, for hotel guests as much as anything.
I was having a hectic day, running about doing boring chores, and felt a bit peckish so popped on over to see what the new No. 10 is all about.
The décor has been entirely refreshed. The massive outdoor area has been retained – smart move. It’s a relaxed atmosphere. Inviting but not pretentious.
I was warmly greeted by an attentive member of staff who kept their eye on me the entire time. Not too intrusive, but there when needed.
I couldn’t get my head wrapped around the chicken and waffles dish even though it’s a classic in some parts of the world. This is buttermilk and bourbon fried chicken with waffles and maple aioli ($21). You gotta be ready for it.
I was tempted by the “in and out” lunch for only $15. This is chargrilled skirt steak with butter and fries. Great value and a good idea. However, the beet salad won me over.
I ordered a large version of the salad ($24), only realising there was a small option ($17) when my friendly wait staff pointed that out. Thanks!
The dish features pickled beetroots with goats curd and pickled walnuts. “Pickled” is all the rage these days in many eateries. The dish also featured micro-thin slices of radish, crunchy celery hearts and a honey vinaigrette (vegetarian and gluten free).
It looked lovely in the bowl and I enjoyed the dish overall. I don’t mind pickled fare, but it was a bit too much for my liking. I wondered to myself whether just roasted beetroot would have suited better, or perhaps a combo of roasted and pickled.
To counteract some of the pucker power, I ordered one slice of bread with butter. A basket arrived with four pieces. It’s not that I objected to the $4 charge; it’s just that three slices had to go in the bin, which is a waste. I was dining alone, after all.
Other large plates for lunch include roast pork jowl with pickled apple (told you) and cider jus ($30), a veal schnitzel ($26) and wagyu beef ($36).
Other small plates include calamari ($18), a smoked ham hock croquette ($17) and paper-thin jamon with garnishes ($19).
No. 10 Restaurant + Bar is on Bowes Street (No. 10, as you might have guessed). It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.