Chifley’s Bar & Grill at Hotel Kurrajong Canberra offers modern Australian cuisine in an ambient restaurant space that spills out into a relaxed terrace and across its outdoor gardens. The beautifully appointed hotel was once known as Hostel No 2, a primary residence for some of our nation’s politicians.
Chifley’s menu pays homage to Ben Chifley, who made the building his home throughout and beyond his term as Prime Minister. Glimpses of Chifley’s culinary preferences are evidenced in the restaurant’s grilled dishes and its range of whiskeys and cocktails. Ask about the special menu crafted around Chifley’s love of whiskey and featuring whiskeys from around the globe.
I am excited to have dinner here, although I somehow get lost and make my entrance via the garden area out in the back, which looks glorious for relaxed dining in spring. I pass by diners enjoying drinks out on the enclosed terrace.
Seated in the main dining area, we take in our surroundings, all understated elegance and nostalgic old-world charm. Miniature lamps cast soft ambient spotlights onto individual tables, a feature wall of tiles gleams with a metallic finish and the bejewelled bar glimmers behind us.
Chef Saju Rajappan has been with Hotel Kurrajong Canberra for seven years. He exudes a warm, unflappable calm. “We create classic dishes with a bit of a modern touch using quality produce sourced locally,” he explains.
We base our menu choices on Saju’s recommendations, beginning with a signature Floriade cocktail. Crisp yet smooth and with a bubbly tingle, this cocktail tastes (appropriately) like spring. Fresh yuzu syrup adds a hint of citrus zest.
The mezze plate arrives: a trio of dips with focaccia bread and house-made crackers. The velvety capsicum dip carries a bit of heat, while the olive dip is satisfyingly suffused with salty and slightly bitter olive chunks. We relish the earthy beetroot dip, zingy with lemon.
Our next starter, seared scallops sit plump and tender on a bed of smokey celeriac and topped with tart pimentos that burst with a tang in your mouth. It is a classic and delicious combination executed perfectly.
The Carnaroli risotto comes out – comforting, buttery mouthfuls dense with mushroom slices and shaved slivers of Parmesan.
Our main, the mixed grill, is a WOW dish to look at and taste.
Medium rare beef tenderloin, lamb rack, beef sausage and chicken, all grilled to perfection, share the enormous pan with al dente seasonal vegetables. Our table resembles a still-life painting from a medieval feast. This main includes a bowl of crispy-skinned roasted potatoes, a salad and a trio of sauces: Béarnaise, mushroom and peppercorn. I particularly enjoy the lemony Béarnaise and smother every meaty forkful in it.
The gorgeous baby veggies include multi-hued carrots, whole baby zucchini and crisp seasoned kale and bear the smoky scent of the grill’s kiss.
I somehow end up hogging every last bite of kale. As we feast, our perfectly dressed salad has a ‘baby in a corner’ experience because we are so consumed with the gorgeous grilled meats and vegetables.
We feel like we can eat no more, but our dessert stomachs demand sustenance, so we share two desserts: chocolate fondant with raspberry sorbet and a baked berry cheesecake with berry compote.
The sorbet is a luxurious dessert on its own, bold, bright and so fresh. I would happily eat a bowl of it on its own. The fondant is tender and dense with a fudgy centre. I love that the lush cheesecake is more sour than sweet, and the tang of the blueberry compote lifts its richness.
It has been a wonderful meal.
If you are a cocktail lover, Old Fashioned Thursdays at Chifley’s bring the bartender’s selection of cocktails on offer all day. Acoustic Fridays sees live performances beginning at 4:30. Due to their popularity, it is wise to book ahead online.
Chifley’s Bar & Grill at Hotel Kurrajong is located at 8 National Circuit in Barton. Bookings can be made on the hotel website. The restaurant is open seven days a week, on weekdays from 7 am to 10 am, and from 12 pm to 2 pm, and on weekends from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Follow Chifley’s Bar & Grill on Facebook and Instagram.
Original Article published by Michelle Taylor on Riotact.