Gallery restaurant with the topical taste of Peru

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GOLD and the Incas at the National Gallery is a “great excuse to play with the energetic colour combinations, divine golden trims and the joy of food and family that the Peruvian culture enjoys”.

This is what designer Megan Morton says about her re-styling at the Sculpture Garden Restaurant in celebration of the major blockbuster. Does corn – so significant to Peru’s food culture – feature in the styling?

It sure does, in tea cosies, stools, macrame and other bits and pieces, although we felt the décor needed to be notched up a few degrees.

Speaking of degrees. It was hot the day we dined and, although an open-air restaurant, it was stifling throughout lunch. More on this later.

To honour the blockbuster, the menu celebrates Peru’s rich history. Hot weather calls for cool ceviche, a traditional seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of “the Americas”, normally made with fresh raw fish

marinated in tangy citrus juices and spiced with chilli – heavenly with a Pisco Sour, a cocktail created in Lima in the 1920s ($12).

The Sculpture Garden Restaurant has reinvented ceviche, including a version with carrots, mushroom, saffron and sherry vinegar. It’s one of the three “mini serves” on the entree starter plate. It was bland and the

ingredients too chunky for our liking. However, the ceviche of salmon, soaked in lime, jumbo white corn (how sweet it is) and fresh coriander hit the mark, as did the cauliflower quinotto fritters with creamy avo.

For my main, I bypassed the heavier beef short ribs and pork belly and opted for roast baby chicken with toasted, healthy Andean super grains – so popular in Peru — crunchy green beans and gluten-free Pebre salad

(a super salsa). I loved the innovative flavours, but the chicken was on the dry side. The grilled white corn maize with sultry, smoked tomatoes and fresh cheese was a winner. It was perked up nicely with coriander, an essential herb in Peruvian cooking.

Lunch is $49 per person for three courses and $35 for two. We were melting as we finished our mains and refrained from staying for something sweet.

Obviously the Sculpture Garden Restaurant can’t control the weather, and it’s tough for hospitality when temperatures are in the high 30s for days. The fog sculpture helps if you’re there while it’s on (12.30pm to 2pm) but the restaurant urgently needs to install ceiling and/or floor fans so customers have air flow. I felt sorry for the staff working so hard in the heat.

Another tip? Tidy the area near the stairs entering the restaurant. Guests don’t want to see kitchen and other stuff strewn about when entering an elegant dining establishment. We felt we’d accidentally entered the back way.

Sculpture Garden Restaurant, Parkes Place. Open for lunch Wednesday-Sunday and breakfast at weekends. Fully licensed. Call 6240 6660.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.


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