Dining / Where the set lunch really sings

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IT’S hard to get a decent meal for $50 these days, even at a café, never mind a fine dining restaurant and for three courses at that.

At Pod Food, in Pialligo, you do – at least with the set lunch menu – and you dine, at no extra cost, in beautiful surroundings.

Pod Food is nestled among established gardens. Outdoor dining, on one of the deck areas, places you in the middle of gorgeous flowers and trees. Indoor dining is quaint in Pod Food’s 1930s cottage.

Wendy Johnson.
Wendy Johnson.
It was a friend’s birthday. While very special, Pod Food isn’t just a special-occasion venue. It’s exceptional value, especially with the set menu (two courses for only $40). The chef understands that we do eat first with our eyes and so great care is taken with plating.

My house-made salmon gravlax was delicious. It was served with bright red, fully ripened tomatoes packed full of flavour. The dish came with fennel and asparagus, a super start.

Next was the ricotta gnocchi – up there with the best I’ve ever eaten – accompanied by fresh peas, salsa verde, Italian taleggio cheese and walnuts.

The textures were great and flavours fabulous. I was surprised at the chicken, since the menu didn’t mention it. Vegetarians wouldn’t have been happy, but I’m not a vegetarian and so dived in.

I was almost, thanks in part to the surprise chunks of chicken, too full for dessert, but managed to almost finish my chocolate brownie (a few pieces, cut into smaller chunks), caramel banana and creamy ice-cream. It was rich, but not overly so.

My friends didn’t go for the set menu, but wished they had. For entrée, two of our party selected the passionfruit kingfish, which sounded better than it tasted – a “bit bland” was the consensus ($20). The dry aged beef loin, with mushrooms, onion rings and polenta chips – the main ordered by the “birthday gal” – was slightly disappointing with the meat seeming to me a bit dry.

What was a hit was the side of chilli and rosemary baked potatoes, served with aioli, which we shared ($9.50). We were initially taken aback by the rustic presentation, thinking that for a fine dining restaurant the dish should have been more refined, but this was quickly forgotten. The potatoes took us to another planet.

The other dessert ordered received a gold star. The coconut mousse, strawberry jelly, meringue, basil and lychee sorbet ($16) was yet another great combination of flavours and a light (and satisfying) end to a lovely lunch out.

Pod Food isn’t byo, but has a massive drinks and wine list, well over 20 pages.

Pod Food, 12 Beltana Road, Pialligo, call 6257 3388.

Photos by Andrew Finch

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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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