Well now, the FWO was recently in Canberra and happened to stumble across a quite delightful bar and restaurant – Temporada in Moore Street, a stone’s throw away from the centre of Civic – not knowing as I dined that the day before it had been named as the Best Restaurant in the local Good Food awards.
Yes, even the FWO at times has to undertake paid work to help in maintaining his ability to eat and drink and illuminate you all. So it was that I was in Canberra for a work conference and in the afternoon of my first day there – before the conference started on the next – I was wandering along – having lunched at another spot I will tell you all about on another occasion – and spotted what looked to be a nice little bar. In I went…..
Temporada is quite small with a central bar area – tables along one wall and on the other high benches and stools. Tables and chairs on the footpath make up the seating possibilities. I grabbed a perch at a bench, having only thoughts of having a couple of drinks. It was around 4.30 when I lobbed in, and it was sparsely populated but I was welcomed by the barman and handed both a wine list and a snacks menu – the full menu for the evening having not yet been printed off.
The wine list was the first thing that struck me about the bar – it was small but very interesting and exceedingly well constructed, with some wines not usually spotted. There are about a dozen whites and a similar number of reds – from around Australia and also from Germany, France, Austria, Spain, New Zealand and Italy. A few dessert wines, some sparkling and fortifieds made up the list – except for a quite unusual grouping – Orange wines….more of that later.
There are also a nice range of beers, aperitifs, spirits and cocktails.
I plumped for a glass of 2013 Lerida Estate Pinot Noir Rosé – this is a vineyard that I visited on more than one occasion when I was working in Canberra in 2005– it is opposite Lake George a few kilometres from Canberra and turns out some good wines. This was no exception – it was a very pale pink, with a lovely floral bouquet, a well balanced palate, with lifted strawberry flavours, and a satisfying, dry finish. It is a great food wine. Sipping on this I further examined the wine list and spotted something I had seen only once before and that at the place that makes it -Wills Domain Scheurebe – about which I wrote in my recent review of that wonderful WA restaurant – see what I mean about an interesting wine list? Naturally a glass was called for….
As I have said before, this is a lovely wine, floral bouquet and limey notes on the palate, and while sipping it I looked over the menu, just for a snack I told myself. There were 5 different oysters on the list, so I chose to have one of each to accompany the Scheurebe. What wonderful oysters they were too….4 rocks from various parts of NSW and one Pacific from Coffin Bay in South Australia – served simply with lemon and an optional vinaigrette or they were also available wood grilled. I went natural as is my wont – and enjoyed them immensely – the creaminess of the Cobblers Peg from Wallis Lake in NSW put me in mind of my favourite Albany rock – high praise from me.
The oysters seemed to spark my appetite and coincidentally, the full menu arrived….
The menu is not large but is structured around starters – including eel croquettes; pigs head roll with coleslaw and mayo; beef short rib rolls; barbequed octopus and duck liver parfait – and plates – including raw hiramasa kingfish; mussels in a coconut and harissa broth; marinated lamb cutlets and wood fired Wagyu rump. A few sides and desserts round it all up.
I was still only looking for light food so stuck to the seafood options. Two grilled sardines for a starter (second starter I guess) followed by char grilled mackerel.
The sardines – a good size too – arrived simply grilled with sumac and lemon. They were beautifully cooked, tender, with the delicate flesh falling from the bone, sumac and lemon adding a touch of citrus zing, char marks making the dish evocative of a Greek island feast. This was such a simple but delightful dish.
A glass of 2014 La Violetta “Das Sakrileg” Riesling from the Great Southern served as a lovely accompaniment to the fish. An aromatic and spicy nose, followed by a palate full of sharp green apples and citrus tones; beautifully balanced with delicate acid, this would also be ideal as an aperitif.
The mackerel fillets came with beets – both golden and red and horseradish yoghurt dressing. The subtle, smoky flavours of the fish contrasted with the earthy notes from the beets, and the dressing, sharp and creamy, brought the dish together stunningly.
Sitting back somewhat replete I now decided to try from the “Orange wine” section. Orange wines are usually white wines that have been left to macerate with the skins, causing the wine to attain an orange or salmon coloured hue. The wine I tried was a 2005 Domaine Rolet Vin Jaune, made from savignan grapes and from Arbois in France. This yellowy wine was aged, with a lot of oxidation, which gave it the aroma you would normally associate with a dry sherry. It has almonds and spicy notes on the nose, with an extraordinarily complex and very dry palate. It was different, but also very enjoyable.
Finishing that I contemplated leaving until one of the charming waiters suggested dessert – she assured me they were calorie free so I succumbed to temptation – and so glad I did. The mango tarte tartin is a thing of beauty. A wonderful pastry shell, buttery and flaky, containing magnificent sweet, juicy, caramelised mango – quintessentially Asian/Australian fusion and far removed from the normal apple associated with tarte tatin. It was accompanied by chopped fresh mango and topped with a glorious lemon verbena flavoured ice cream. It was magnificent.
To accompany this it seemed only reasonable I have a dessert wine – in the end I decided on a fortified – NV Equipo Navazos Gran Solera Pedro Ximenez from Spain.
This poured like treacle in the glass, with a nose redolent of figs, raisins, caramel and plum pudding. It is thick, sweet, with great syrupy density; extremely concentrated wine. It was a perfect way to end my visit.
Finally it came time for me to leave and I did reluctantly. I had been told now by staff of the award the previous day, and I thought the tarte tartin alone would have convinced me of their status, let alone the other food on display.
From the team behind perennial top restaurant, Aubergine, this is not a fine dining place – it is a quietly stylish and casual affair, with innovative and interesting food, using fresh ingredients, not complicated and centred round a wood grill, and quite brilliantly cooked. The service is excellent, both friendly and knowledgeable, the short wine list exceptional and in general it is a great little bar – worthy winners I am sure and certain to be on my list to revisit when next I get back to the national capital. If you are over that way – or live there – then you simply must go along!!