Having a disappointing evening at Quay, I debated a number of properties the following night in Canberra (yes, we’re the weirdos who didn’t fly between Sydney and Melbourne) and finally came up with Sage. The main reason? Besides the fantastic reviews, it was located on Batman Street — no, I’m not kidding. I hoped the tasting menu would be an ideal experience for a chilly winter evening (or, at least cold by my Dubai standards).
Warmly greeted by the staff, I noticed the restaurant was relatively busy for a random Tuesday night (with a run of guests including a large party on the outdoor patio, couples, girlfriends and a family or two thrown in). Ready to settle in for the chef’s choice 5-course menu, I was unexpectedly and happily surprised with the majority of the menu. In fact, the Yellow Fin Tuna, turned out to be one of my favorite dishes throughout the trip. With a welcome addition of puffed wild rice (texture!) wasabi (heat!), goat’s curd and mint, this was a near perfect version of tartare (and I would totally steal it if I was a chef). The remainder of the menu was an excellent outing in balance and portioning. Overall, for a smaller market, I was delighted with the opportunity to dine at Sage. Nothing is being reinvented here, but each plate clearly had attention to detail and consideration in its creation.
Was everything perfect? Well… The interior is a bit dated (we were sat in the dining room as opposed to the charming portico), but nothing a quick refresh couldn’t fix (starting with ripping out the carpet and old school wallpaper, adding a few mirrors, and perhaps updating the soundtrack). With the food and wine, I found the biggest issues to overcome all dealt with temperature. I thought the first two white wines were served a bit above the temperature I preferred (even if it was quite cold out, I think white varieties should always be crisp). Similarly, our Mushroom Agnolotti and Short Rib were both served a bit under temperature (I like my mains piping hot). I believe this came from being roughly one short in the dining room (a food runner or extra set of hands looked necessary). While the entire wait staff was attentive and happy to chat, the addition of an additional person on the team would push the entire experience forward. Finally, the wine pairing was indeed complimentary, but not entirely memorable (and a bit more of a generous pour wouldn’t hurt).
The five-course ‘chef’s pick’ was a reasonable AUD$85 (with an additional AUD$45 for the wine pairing). Given the amuse bouche and fresh bread, this all seemed entirely reasonable and in line with the market.
Would I go back? Well, I’m not sure Canberra is a major destination for anyone on holiday, however, if you do find yourself in the city — please check out Sage Dining Rooms! (And for a bonus, you should head over to the Black Market for an after dinner drink or cocktail — believe me, it’s worth a visit).
Do you have a favorite place to dine in Australia’s capital city?