.. if you consider Canberra a ‘real’ city.. Melbournians and Sydneysiders would inevitably scoff at that absurd notion..
A short distance away from Canberra and well-positioned along the wineries trail, Poachers Pantry is a casual, higher-priced establishment that is typical of the ACT. In other words, it tries to cater for the well-to-do crowd who tend to regard finer gourmet styled cuisine as the norm. I thought the outfitting of the place was too clean and pretencious, betraying the laid-back honest approach of the wineries in the district. There is too much conflicting contrast which, unfortunately, I have to disapprove of.
This smokehouse operation offers delicious, well-prepared meats that bode well for the famished entree seeker. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the platter of lamb sausage, kangaroo prosciutto, artichokes, fresh dips and creamy cheese. If anything, 3 larges slices of soft bread and crackers were wholely insufficient to savour all the individual items on this plate. I was mindful of this half way through and had to carefully ration my bread.
The fried zucchini and dill puffs with yogurt sauce ($15) was very nicely prepared. Fried to a deeper shade, the batter did not leave any residual weight of oil in the mouth, and was sufficiently light. The filling was a coarse grained mince texture which was required to fill the body of this dish, and the use of dill was appropriate to balance out the flavours and aroma.
My main of choise was the smoked duck salad with roasted eschalots and ruby grapefruit mint salad ($33). Evidence of good smoking technique, the duck breast was tender without the strong flavours of the smoking process which many other smoking operators are guilty of. The meaty slices was required to complement the interesting grapefruit salad which also included pickled vegetables to offer a slightly sourish twist to sweet grapefruit. The use of fresh bean sprouts provided the extra crunch to the dish, although I did find the taste of raw sprouts a little overpowering. Perhaps the use of crushed nuts might have fitted into the Asian-inclined approach to this dish, as I’m led to believe of its original inspiration.
My companions on the day also enjoyed the slow-cooked pork belly with creamed corn ($32) with the slight opinion that whilst cooked very well, the retention of the fatty layer without any attempt to compress it off was a distraction from the tender, juicy pork flesh. I was very impressed by the visual attractiveness of the beef stifado pie of smoked tomatoes and butter beans ($30) and the nicely coloured puff pastry top made me regret ordering my duck salad (but only for 2 seconds).
We had sat down at 2pm as the place was easing up from fellow lunchers so there was no unexpected delays in service. With the sun in the sky, the garden space dotted with sculptures just next to the outdoor deck area seemed a great inticement for the younger kiddies.