by Katey Baddeley 31 October 2012
We live in a contemporary haze of fast paced consumerism. Fashions, housing, technologies, hair colours and even weather patterns duck, weave and morph so quickly it’s likely to make one’s head spin. Restaurants and venues, too, have jumped upon the speeding bandwagon and appear driven to update their menu’s and fit-outs every fortnight. Whilst constant evolution can be exciting, walking into the café you went last week only to find the seat you sat in and lunch you ordered no longer exists can be rather trying. Cue Casino Canberra, The Grill Brasserie.
The experience of wandering through doors adorned in rich reds, deep browns, gilded gold’s and the edged spectral glimmer of angle cut crystal is a complete time warp back to when casino outings required a tuxedo, monocle, gilded walking stick and an impossibly beautiful woman dripping with diamonds hanging adoringly from your left arm.
Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the romanticised age of the Hemmingway’s, the high roller oozing suave class, seductive scents of deep dark wood, the un-forgeable atmosphere of clickity clickity clack roulette suspense and, of course, the trip back to simple, well cooked meals designed to be enjoyed by those carefree souls enjoying every facet of life.
As an entree we were served a light and flavoursome dish of chicken and vegetable stir-fry with noodles, infused with a characteristically Asian dressing of salty fish sauce and equilibrium-inducing rice wine acidity. The noodles very satisfyingly and conveniently mopped up any pools of remaining sauce, the chicken pieces were tender proving easy carving and, the side of fresh, spritely lettuce leaves lightened the overall feel of the meal which, surprisingly, seemed to leave me hungrier than before.
The second surprise of the night was induced by the wine menu - what a great selection! Reading no longer than 1 A4 page, the concise list includes at least one stand out wine to accommodate all palettes - Red, white, sweet, dry, fruity, acidic, bold, mild, smooth or with tannin - you're more than covered here.
Our main meal arrived shortly afterwards and was a very generous serving of mouth-watering plate of Lamb cutlets, mashed potato, seasonal steamed vegetables, house made onion marmalade and rich mint gravy. The 3 cutlets were juicy, tender and French trimmed to reveal their elegant ivory handles. The thick, coagulated and glossy gravy reminded me of the way mum used to make it and was exactly how gravy should be - inducing the irresistible urge to run your finger along the plates inner rim once everything has been devoured, because you couldn’t bear to see any go to waste. I would never say a bad word about mashed potato, but Casino Canberra's was light, creamy and smooth - actually tasting of seasoned spud instead of the usual restaurant combination of cream, butter and just a tiny bit of mash - very enjoyable. The garnishing rosemary sprig provided more than aesthetics, it's herbaceous scent lightly perfuming the entire meal as a perfect match to every element on the plate.
Dessert arrived and my eyes lit up like a 4 year old on Christmas morning. Sticky date pudding, for some unfathomable reason, appears to be rather out-of-vogue at the moment and is nigh impossible to find on any menu anywhere. Dripping with golden butterscotch sauce and served simply with a single, generous scoop of creamy vanilla ice-cream - I was finding it hard to believe how happy I was. Rich caramel and toffee flavours induced by brown sugar and naturally sweet, moist dates provided the perfect finishing note to an evening flecked with one pleasant surprise after another.
For a night away from the "stop the world I want to get off" lifestyle, make a beeline towards Casino Canberra. The hospitality and service is unsurpassed, food perfect in its simplicity, atmosphere calm and collective and, of course, the entertainment is completely unique to the city. So if you feel like blackjack- battling a man in a waistcoat, bowtie and shiny polished shoes - not a coin operated machine - this is the place to be.
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