“Sharing a ham and cheese toastie or a vegetable wrap wasn’t going to cut it, especially when sitting in what The Rex says is a sophisticated cocktail bar,” writes dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON
EVER since my visit to Pulp Kitchen I’ve had beetroot tortellini dancing in my head. I was fussing over what to select from the relatively compact menu, but staff advised this was a winner. I’m glad I took the advice but more on this in a minute.
Pulp Kitchen is a hugely popular local in Ainslie and the area is blessed to have it at the shops. It’s been around for yonks but has a new team at the helm, headed by Gus Armstrong (most recently eightysix fame).
The place has been perked up and the outdoor dining area is utterly charming, with its masses of plants forming a private garden oasis. Inside is cool and contemporary – the focus is more on the food than a super expensive and over-the-top fitout. The food is Australian bistro style and while most eateries claim they use “fresh, seasonal produce” these days, the team behind Pulp Kitchen can put their hands on their hearts and say they do.
The beetroot tortellini was true art on a plate – a feast for the eyes, and it seemed a crime to destroy it by digging in, but that’s just what I did. The flavours were sensational… subtle in some ways but oh-so-intriguing. The dish ($34) was walnut, poppy seed and balsamic and I worshipped every bite.
My friend rarely orders chicken when dining out, figuring it’s fairly easy to cook up a storm with poultry at home, but the roast chicken dish caught his eye and, in a flash, he had made his selection ($36). It was delish, the chicken super moist and tender and packed full of flavor. The tomato and kale confit was intense, the potato puree heavenly and the chicken jus to-die-for.
As I say, the menu on our visit (Saturday brunch) was relatively compact but there wasn’t one of the 14 dishes I wouldn’t have ordered, and we were thrilled to see some refreshingly innovative items such as black pudding and egg muffin ($15) and a lamb ragout and cheddar jaffle ($12) for those wanting something lighter. My bet is that Pulp Kitchen nails its sausage dish, with onion gravy, cheddar scone and mash potato ($21).
The wine list is carefully curated and there’s a decent selection by the glass ($11 to $13 for whites and $13 to $14). Regional wines are included, including from Eden Road and Ravensworth. A few other Australian labels appear. French, Italian, Spanish and Portugese wines are celebrated.
Other drinks include a mimosa ($12), a bloody Mary (not seen often enough on menus for brunch I feel, $18) and a Swiss hot chocolate to get you through cold Canberra winter weather ($8).
Pulp Kitchen, 1 Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie. Open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner and weekend for brunch. Call 6257 4334.