For any long-standing Canberran, the warm, glowing light of The Haig Italian Restaurant is a familiar fixture on Northbourne Avenue. The question is: How long has it been since you made a return?
Upon entering from the biting Canberra cold, the familiar, warm décor is immediately recognisable. Vintage Italian movie posters in golden frames hang on wood-panelled walls. The restaurant décor has stayed true – as has the rich and homely aroma that only comes from quality Italian food; walking in to the Haig is like discovering winter’s kryptonite!
The ever-accommodating Leslie, owner and wife to Chef Robert, is quick to recommend a quick, warming starter (such as the delicious garlic pizza) while customers pore over the extensive menu. Here, diners of old will remark upon the important updates – essential dishes of years passed have morphed into updated classics that will entertain a modern palate.
For entrée, a few dishes attract immediate attention. The seared scallops, the prosciutto-wrapped chicken fillets, as well as the deep-fried cheese balls are a great way to start. The tender and juicy scallops, presented on white Chinese spoons atop a sweet tomato and garlic confit, are packed with a surprise punch. The confit had been infused delicately with star anise and cinnamon; flavours not typically associated with Italian cookery, but again it is this modern take that brings The Haig into the realm of contemporary dining.
Diehard fans of aniseed shouldn’t go past the pan-fried Tasmanian salmon served on Black Sambuca risotto as a main. The salmon is cooked to perfection – flaky, flavourful and moist. The Sambuca risotto, ebony in colour, makes the perfect accompaniment. The dish is slightly sweet, slightly salty with subtle aniseed flavouring – it’s there, but certainly doesn’t overpower the dish.
Leslie insists the Potato Skins and Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese are essential sides. The skins come crispy with hints of creamy potato – again cooked to perfection and served with delicious with sour cream. The Caprese is an absolute delight. The tomatoes are ripe off the vine, and a perfect combination of crisp, sweet, sour and juicy! Topped with fresh mozzarella and dressed with fresh basil and lemon, each flavour beautifully compliments the other.
Dessert time. For the sweet tooth, the Lime Cheesecake, Strawberry Lasagne, Tiramisu and Crème Brulee provide a broad range of. The lasagne – another modern take – features crispy layers of pasta filled with fresh strawberries, a smooth creamy mix of mascarpone, ricotta and Frangelico and is dusted with cinnamon sugar. The mixture of textures kept this creamy desert surprisingly light.
While it’s easy to follow food trends and turn up for at the latest Canberra dining venues, very few will ever have the longevity of The Haig. Be sure to get in there, rekindle the friendship and see for yourself.