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Monday, October 08, 2012

Grazing, Gundaroo

Chickens in the garden at Grazing in Gundaroo

There are forty black chickens at Grazing, a picturesque restaurant housed in the quaintly rustic Royal Hotel in Gundaroo, about 30 minutes from Canberra. The hens provide eggs for the kitchen, and fertiliser for the garden beds. Two roosters, Leonard Cohen and Tiny Tim, are either in an enviable position, or quite probably hen-pecked!

Grazing at Gundaroo restaurant
Grazing at Gundaroo

It's only a short detour to Gundaroo if you're travelling between Sydney and Canberra, a welcome pit-stop to plan around, especially after the closure of Lynwood Cafe in Collector in 2009.

Restaurant garden plot at Grazing in Gundaroo
Garden beds and the Royal Hen House down the back

The emphasis here is local produce, and you can't get fresher than the restaurant back garden. After placing our order for lunch, Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin' and I wander the gardens while our meals are being prepared. It's a wonderful way to work up an appetite, soaking up the sun's warmth and pottering about with keen interest as we examine all the produce.

broccoli growing in the restaurant garden plot at Grazing in Gundaroo

I always feel a childlike entrancement when I see vegetables growing, but then anyone who has a green thumb always gets my admiration. But seeing the work that goes into a working garden: the watering, the weeding, the fertilising and tending, it's hard not to feel a renewed level of respect and appreciation for food, and the effort that goes into every mouthful.

Mizuna lettuce radicchio and salad leaves in the restaurant garden plot at Grazing in Gundaroo
Mizuna lettuce, radicchio and salad leaves

Giant pumpkins in the garden at Grazing in Gundaroo
Giant pumpkins!

Restaurant garden plot at Grazing in Gundaroo
Garden beds

We have to tear ourselves away from the gardens and back to our waiting meals. The restored hotel offers a maze of small dining rooms, a series of cosy nooks with stone walls, open fire places, sturdy timber furniture and squeaking floorboards.

Jerusalem artichoke souffle at Grazing in Gundaroo
Twice cooked Jerusalem artichoke souffle $17
with fresh fig salad, chestnut cream and brick pastry cigar

The menu has a simplified price structure where all entrees are $17, mains $33 and desserts $16. There are six options in each section. Vegetarians score a separate dedicated page, with two entrees and two mains. Each dish has a suggested wine matching, many of which have been sourced from the Canberra region. I'm also impressed by the Little People's section ($15) which lists macc and cheese, fish and ships or a mini chicken pie, and includes a toy (okay, yes, I was really intrigued by the toy).

We start with one of the vegetarian options, a twice cooked Jerusalem artichoke souffle which is impressively light and fluffy. The brick pastry cigar piped with chestnut cream adds sophistication but it's the souffle we keep returning to with gusto.

Olive oil poached mackerel at Grazing in Gundaroo
Olive oil poached mackerel $17
with confit potato, caramelised onion, raisins and prosciutto crumbs

Mackerel is characteristically strong in flavour but here its fishiness is offset by a bed of caramelised onions, sweet raisins and a trail of salty prosciutto crumbs. Poached in olive oil, the fish has an almost buttery texture.

Lamb brains at Grazing in Gundaroo
Caper and lemon crusted lamb brains $17
with shaved fennel, citrus segments and parmesan custard

My choice is the lamb brains, crumbed and deep-fried until a deep golden brown. The brains are lusciously soft and tender, their creamy middles contrasted with the crunchy shell seasoned with crushed capers and lemon zest. It's my favourite dish of the day.

Three rosettes of parmesan custard offer a pleasing cheesiness, but I'm distracted by the refreshing aniseed zing of fresh shavings of fennel mixed with peppery greens.

Chicken ballotine at Grazing in Gundaroo
Ballotine of chicken $33
with truffled salami, spiced pumpkin and herbed quinoa

A ballotine of chicken is impressively moist, wrapped up with a slice of truffled salami that adds richness. The nuttiness of the quinoa is matched well with the spiced pumpkin, diced into delicate cubes.

Jindabyne rabbit at Grazing in Gundaroo
White Jindabyne rabbit, deboned and wrapped in garden cos $33
with roast onion stuffed with pear and walnuts, Jolly Miller pear cider buerre blanc and watercress

There's much work evident in the Jindabyne rabbit, deboned and shredded before being bundled into a cos lettuce cup and roasted. The roast onion is also a treat, cooked until the layers become deliciously sweet and translucent, stuffed with morsels of pear and walnuts smithereens.

Beer battered chips at Grazing in Gundaroo
Beer battered thick cut chips with smoked paprika aioli $8
Mesclun grown lovingly in the Chef's garden: organic seasonal lettuce and leaves $8

A side of beer battered chips aren't as heavy, or sadly as crunchy as we'd expected, but we can't help but smile at the description of the mesclun "grown lovingly in the Chef's garden".

Cod scallop and mussel pie at Grazing in Gundaroo
The 'Grazing Pie' $33
Cod, scallop, mussel and riesling pie with root vegetables, creamed leek and potato mash

The signature Grazing Pie is the epitomy of comfort food, layers of buttery flaky pastry giving way to a fragrant creamy filling packed with cod, scallop and mussels. Creamed leek, mashed potato and root vegetables give heartiness although it's such a rich dish, I'm glad I'm sharing.

Quince crumble at Grazing in Gundaroo
Quince crumble $16
Garden grown quince crumble with candied fresh fig and cinnamon custard

We're all struggling by this point but agree to share one dessert between three, electing for the quince crumble made with quince grown in the garden. The tartness of the quince is helped by the generous heap of oat and hazelnut crumble on top. And the fig is also a treat, the soft flesh protected by a thin armour of caramelised toffee.

Peaceful surrounds and a considered approach to food, we'd be happy to graze here all day.

Royal Hotel Grazing in Gundaroo

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Grazing on Urbanspoon

The Royal Hotel
Cork Street, Gundaroo, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 6236 8777

Opening hours:
Lunch Friday to Sunday 11.30am-3pm and most public holidays
Dinner Thursday to Saturday 6pm-9.30pm
19 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/08/2012 12:11:00 am


  • At 10/08/2012 1:40 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    im intrigued by those lamb brains! ive only ever had lamb brains once before and i think i need to give them another go

  • At 10/08/2012 1:57 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    The buttery texture of the mackerel poached in olive oil has got me curious. I think sea bass might be good for this Tetsuya-ish style of cooking.

  • At 10/08/2012 4:16 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I love that, apart from the signature pie, everything here is different from when I went at Easter. Yay seasonality, freshness, and innovation!

  • At 10/08/2012 7:04 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Pass on the lamb brains, still can't do it but instead, put that pie in mah belly!

  • At 10/08/2012 9:11 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    If you didn't say Gundaroo was near Canberra I would have thought it was out in the desert somewhere. I just love visiting places like this and wish I'd hire a car more often and explore our countryside. Great lunch and, by the look of it, a gorgeous day as well!

  • At 10/08/2012 11:13 am, Anonymous Christine @ Cooking Crusade said…

    beautiful looking meal. i just love that they have their own hens and garden visible to everyone like that!

  • At 10/08/2012 2:15 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    i heart pie! and that "Grazing" pie looks dericious. Never tried lambs brains before but I'm sure having then crumbed and deep fried makes them easier to stomach lol

  • At 10/08/2012 2:53 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    OK, I do not eat lambs brains these days because of their very high saturated fat content. BUT, I simply fail to understand how anyone who understands even a modicum about food, does not love 'em to bits?! Surely one of the most beautiful of God's foods, especially if poached and herbed!!! White wine sauce? Soft and succulent? Oh my!!

  • At 10/08/2012 4:18 pm, Blogger the dainty baker said…

    What a quaint and cute looking place!! So countryside! Ive got my eye on that white Jindy rabbit dish!! MMmmmmmmm!!!

  • At 10/08/2012 4:36 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    love the look of the pie!!!! and the crumble!

  • At 10/09/2012 7:26 pm, Anonymous tastyfoodsnaps said…

    mm paprika aioli with chips!
    the pie looks so good too!

  • At 10/09/2012 10:17 pm, Anonymous Humble Crumble said…

    Helen this all looks so good. Pretty food but not overly fancy. I am a massive fan of local produce and used to grow a lot of my own herbs and salad in NZ. City living makes it harder.

    There is so much satisfaction with growing your own and being a little more self sufficient, might have to check out the local community gardens again.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • At 10/09/2012 10:17 pm, Anonymous Humble Crumble said…

    Helen this all looks so good. Pretty food but not overly fancy. I am a massive fan of local produce and used to grow a lot of my own herbs and salad in NZ. City living makes it harder.

    There is so much satisfaction with growing your own and being a little more self sufficient, might have to check out the local community gardens again.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • At 10/10/2012 2:10 pm, Anonymous SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said…

    Oh, wow. That rabbit dish looks fantastic. And I love the picture of the broccoli growing... I get so excited when I see fruit and veg growing. Gorgeous AND delicious!

  • At 10/11/2012 6:02 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I'm with you Helen - I know some people will be put off by the offal element - but those lamb brain croquettes look fantastic.

  • At 10/12/2012 3:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The giant pumpkins look amazing! Just in time for fall and Halloween too.

  • At 10/13/2012 12:42 am, Blogger Quay Po Cooks said…

    Wow, what a fantastic meal. I wish I could try every dish you shown here. Definitely a place to visit for good food and nice scenery.

  • At 10/13/2012 10:33 am, Anonymous tastyfoodsnaps said…

    loving the look of the grazing pie & the chips!

  • At 10/13/2012 11:46 am, Blogger missklicious said…

    Grazing is one of my favourite restaurant in the Canberra region, had the best peach tarte tatin here- love how they have a garden and chooks!


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