Dining / A story of food and service…

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Braised Lamb Shoulder with caramalized garlic _ Jus de Roti-3_1
Braised lamb shoulder with caramelised garlic. Photo by Andrew Finch
THIS is half a story about food and half a story about service.

Four of us dined at Chifley’s Bar & Grill, at the Hotel Kurrajong, for a long, leisurely weekend lunch. The new steakhouse and bar opened mid-December 2014 with executive chef Michael Chatto – formerly Italian and Sons, Canberra, and Pier, Sydney – leading the kitchen.

Chifley’s is more fine dining than casual. The wine list is sensational, with more than 120 local and international top-notch reds and whites and plenty of options by the glass.

The beef section of the menu focuses on premium cuts, which is no surprise given this is billed as a steakhouse, including David Blackmore Wagyu and Cape Grim Black Angus, each listed with its weight, origin and marble scores ($165 for a 300-gram scotch fillet, albeit 600-plus days ration fed).

We adored the dishes we shared to start, including the salmon pastrami and the tortellini, the best I’ve had in ages.

Mains, outside of the beef, range from $32 to $39. All of our food was beautifully presented except, we agreed, my scotch fillet (not the $165 one) looked bland on the plate. It was just perched on top of mash and lacked colour.

Pumpkin and Ricotta Tortellini with Sage-1
Pumpkin and ricotta tortellini with sage. Photo by Andrew Finch
The sides we shared ($8 each), which were exciting and full of flavour, included Paris mash, cauliflower gratin and sublime asparagus.
The sustainability farmed Murray Cod was dynamic, the pig truly succulent and the lamb melt-in-the-mouth. The menu focuses on quality produce, sourced locally as much as possible, and celebrating the seasons. Suppliers include Moorlands lamb, Canberra Truffles, Brookland potatoes and fruit and veg from the Capital Region Farmers Market.

Now for the service. The place wasn’t busy when we were there so we were baffled by how we were treated. The staff were lovely but not efficient, and that doesn’t cut it in any establishment, never mind one commanding these prices.

We ordered sherry at the beginning (two of us one kind, two of us another). After a very long time we were told that Chifley’s was out of one kind so we all agreed to have the same. After another very long time nothing happened so one of our party got up and cancelled the order at the bar, saying we’d just go straight into the wine.

After a while staff visited our table and told us the wine we had ordered was out of stock. I then got up to fetch the water we had ordered but which hadn’t arrived. Then the bill was wrong. And there’s no ATM at Chifley’s. All we did, in the end, was sigh, and we agreed that

Chifley’s has fine dining prices but not fine dining service.

Chifley’s Bar and Grill, 8 National Circuit, Barton. 6234 4444.

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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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