The last time I went to Canberra was six years ago for the Tulip Festival. I went with four of my girlfriends. I navigated, we got lost (Google Maps failed me) and it took us five hours to get to Canberra, from Sydney, by way of the Blue Mountains (I know…). Despite the slow start, it ended being a great trip and I have a lot of fond memories from that day (including eating too many scones and cookies at Ginger Catering’s high tea buffet). This year I went back to Canberra, not for the Tulip, but for the Canberra Truffle Festival. I was invited by a girlfriend and went on a whim. I had no expectations: I just was hoping for a similarly pleasant experience as to last time, but instead, I was blown away.
After the truffle hunt we went to the Canberran CBD to try The Cupping Room – they’re reputed for making good coffee. We got there in less than an hour and to my surprise, there was a queue at the door- the young and hip, lining up and eager to get in the café for some hot brew. I hate lining up for food, but it didn’t look like there were any other cafés nearby, and since everyone was keen on trying this place, I made an exception. About five minutes later one of their waiting staff came out and offered us some free plunger coffee. I felt much better already.
Thirty minutes later we got our table. I ordered my usual soy flat white and chose one of the few vegan dishes they have – Avo & his mates (veganised).
It was a pretty good plate, but would have been miles better with a dash of truffle salt (it was hard not to be obsessed with truffles after the previous night)! But, hey, at least they didn’t skimp on the avocado, that’s for sure. So much avo mash on that toast.
The dish was served with some radish and cress salad which was quite tasty. It gave the dish a nice crunch and a bit of zing. The waiting staff also gave me a side of cashew cream which was creamy and lovely.
Coffee was really good! Their Cascara tea – made from the cherry of a coffee tree – was interesting. It tastes fruity with the tiniest hint of coffee and smells a bit like berry, sour and sweet both at the same time.
The Truffle Degustation
On the Saturday night we went to a five-course truffle and wine degustation dinner, at the Chifley Hotel, as part of the Canberra Truffle Festival event. The hotel made me a special vegan menu, which is always a nice touch, and I even got my own plate of appetisers while everyone else had to share.
It was a fun-filled night (like most nights involving food and wine are). We were the only group younger than our 40’s there, rocking our jeans and boots while everyone else were either in a dress or in a collared shirt. We looked a little out of place, no doubt, but I don’t think we cared. We were there for the food and the wine. But there was nothing to worry about because everyone was really nice and friendly.
We ate a lot of truffle-full dishes and met the winemaker who brought Prosecco into Australia, Otto Dal Zotto from Dal Zotto Wine, and drank heaps of his wine. He even gave us tips on how we can perform better at wine-tasting, including starting as early as seven in the morning!
The food was good but the wine was outstanding. We bought a few bottles each – they have arrived in Sydney by the way, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on them very soon.
After dinner we went to Molly, also in the CBD (thanks to a tip from a wine distributor who sat at our table). Molly is an underground speakeasy bar which reminds me of Palmer and Co in the Rocks in Sydney. It’s so underground that it doesn’t even have a sign at the door. We (I) had to ask a local Canberrian for directions, and in exchange he asked me for some water as I was carrying my water bottle. It was a pretty random exchange (I gave him the whole bottle) but the directions were on point. We saw a door with a bright light next to a building and inside, a girl sitting on a stool welcoming people in. It would have looked pretty shady had she not been super-nice-friendly-looking. As I walked down the stairs I could hear the crowd and music. This is not the Canberra I once knew. This is so much better.
We stayed overnight at Medina in Belconnen, in a two bedroom serviced apartment. It was very nice for that sort of accommodation: It was clean and airy and with a full-size kitchen. I slept like a baby.
The morning came and we all had to quickly pack up and check out. We started wandering our way back to Sydney that afternoon, but not without a visit to the local vineyards and one last truffle farm on the way.
At the dinner at the Chifley the night before, we heard Jayson Meysman’s story about his inspiring journey leading him to the truffle industry, his $100,000 dog Samson and The Truffle Farm that he now owns at Majura. We decided to drop by to check out his farm and, perhaps, get some more truffles.
Have you heard of truffle-infused vodka? It was our first taste, too.
As is always the case with me and winery visits – I started telling myself ‘I don’t need more wine, I’m just gonna enjoy some free wine’ here and ended up with the ageless ‘I can’t not buy this, it’s so good’ dilemma with my own conscience. Luckily we only visited two wineries so I didn’t completely exhaust my willpower. I ended up buying only a couple of bottles of wine and was feeling pretty proud of myself.
So we did everything we wanted to do: We ate lots of truffles, we drank lots of wine and we spent some quality time with each other. It’s amazing how much you can do in two days.
We ended our trip to Canberra with a toast of Eden Road Cabernet Sauvignon, a bunch of full bellies, sweet, truffle-filled memories, and the hope to return to the capital city again next year.
Until we meet again.