TA­BLES Tri­umph in the cap­i­tal

Ju­dith Elen vis­its a Can­berra restau­rant with a great pedi­gree

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

OM­ING here to Wa­ter’s Edge is like driv­ing into the un­known. It’s right be­side Can­berra’s Lake Bur­ley Grif­fin, but even for my lo­cal friend it’s a puz­zle. Out of the built-up streets, in the vicin­ity of the grassy fields in­hab­ited by the Na­tional Li­brary of Aus­tralia and the new Na­tional Por­trait Gallery, it is iso­lated, es­pe­cially as the restau­rant is tucked un­der a roof that, on the non-lake side, rises out of the field it­self.

My friend, An­nie, be­ing an in­trepid parker, drives over a cou­ple of mounds and pulls in next to a clutch of cars in front of the lighted, glassed-in space that has sud­denly emerged out of the night. Wa­ter’s Edge looks bright and wel­com­ing. We choose a ta­ble be­side the wall of glass at the front and pick out the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial, a dis­tant pool of light at the end of An­zac Av­enue on the far side of the lake. Oc­ca­sional jog­gers flicker by on the lake­side path in the half-light from the restau­rant and, high on one side, the tall row of flags that crests the hill at our roof level shim­mer and snap.

It’s a Mon­day night, so the restau­rant’s not packed. There is a gov­ern­men­tal-looking cou­ple at one ta­ble and a group of youngish men, who later turn out to be chefs and staff from two or three of Can­berra’s lead­ing restau­rants, in­clud­ing Aubergine. Later, six suited men, some with US ac­cents, take the cen­tre ta­ble.

Wa­ter’s Edge is the lat­est in the restau­rant col­lec­tion that in­cludes Courgette and Sabayon, and for­merly Aubergine, owned by chef James Mus­sil­lon. Open since midyear, it comes with a top-class pedi­gree; Mus­sil­lon cooks with Ja­son Rod­well, for­merly of Aubergine, as his sous chef and the menu is full of prom­ise.

An­nie chooses an en­tree of seared Queens­land scal­lops with pressed sticky pork, pear and parsnip salad and star anise caramel while I de­cide on the caramelised rab­bit and game ter­rine with foie gras par­fait, cros­tini, black sherry and prune re­duc­tion ($19 each).

We’re ex­plor­ing the mains list when our waiter ar­rives with a plate of amuse bouche that in­cludes quail dumpling with scal­lop ce­viche and lemon myr­tle foam on a scoop of dark beet­root, and lus­cious quenelles of pate and ril­lettes.

For her main, An­nie con­tin­ues on her vir­tu­ous seafood path with seared John Dory, mar­i­nated baby pep­pers, mus­sel beignets and saf­fron foam, while I slide fur­ther into deca­dence with a choice of duck con­fit, roasted duck breast, ap­ple and foie gras beignets, radish coleslaw and roast gar­lic jus ($34 each).

When the en­trees ar­rive, I can’t help feel­ing mine is best. The ter­rine has the lux­u­ri­ous tex­ture of ril­lettes and the par­fait is, ex­actly as it says, per­fect. As for An­nie’s dish, the sticky pork is also ril­lette-like and de­li­cious. She finds the scal­lops a lit­tle too firm, but the sparkling fresh

Fine lines: Smart and pro­fes­sional is the ver­dict on Wa­ter’s Edge restau­rant in Can­berra salad of pear sliv­ers, fried parsnip and baby leaves, with droplets of caramel and a sweet­ish parsnip emul­sion, is ex­cel­lent.

Per­versely, given An­nie’s seafood and my duck, she has cho­sen a glass of 2004 Lit­tle Brother Caber­net Mer­lot Great South­ern from West­ern Aus­tralia and I have or­dered a glass of Mus­cadet Sevre-et-Maine, an ap­pel­la­tion from France’s Loire re­gion ($10 each), but she en­joys the soft red with her dishes and the clear, fresh Loire white is per­fect with the rich­ness of mine.

The menu has its spe­cial echoes: ril­lettes, beignets, par­fait. I de­cide, on the ba­sis of the ril­lettes, and later the duck, that the kitchen’s great strength is in south­ern French cui­sine. De­spite this con­vic­tion and de­spite the fact that An­nie is not com­pletely in love with her fish, which she finds a lit­tle dry, the rest of her main is one Com­mon­wealth Place, 40 Parkes Place, Parkes, Can­berra. (02) 6273 5066; www.courgette.com.au. Open: Lunch, Wed­nes­day to Sun­day; din­ner seven nights. Cost: About $140 for two for three cour­ses without wine. Drink: Good se­lec­tion from around the coun­try and over­seas; well-priced choices by the glass. Rea­son to re­turn: The cheese list: mostly French (six), with English stil­ton and oak-smoked ched­dar, a Swiss ap­pen­zell, Span­ish gar­roxta and two lo­cals: a Gipp­s­land gouda and Barossa Val­ley Wan­era washed rind.

Pic­ture: Kym Smith

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