Chocolate tart and mandarin sorbet.
Chocolate tart and mandarin sorbet. Photo: Rohan Thomson

16 Iluka St Narrabundah shops, ACT 2604

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Opening hours Lunch and dinner Tues to Sat
Features Licensed, BYO, Wheelchair access
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef David Black and Sam McGeechan
Phone (02) 6232 6482

Canberra Times Top 20 for 2012

Artisan is a small operation working really hard to look after its customers and hit the high notes in its food. It gets there enough of the time to leave you pretty content with your night out and full of warm feelings for the place.

The coq au vin is a highly enjoyable pot of lip-sticking gravy and healthy little spatchcocks, beautifully cooked, and served alongside sweet roasted Jerusalem artichokes, a pile of silverbeet and roast onion. A roast duck leg is another favourite, with an orange glaze and fennel seeds, and underneath little ‘‘pencil leeks’’ and parsnip. Both these dishes capture what we like about Artisan – the good produce, well-handled. They also demonstrate a bit of an Artisan thing – a determination to slice and turn and prepare vegetables to obsessive uniformity. We’re not fans of this style, which while it makes for tidy presentation, sometimes feels over-fiddly.

Artisan restaurant.
Artisan restaurant. Photo: Rohan Thomson

However, this focus on the detail also gives rise to freshly made everything – the pasta always fresh and bitey, the vegetable sides full of home-cooked goodness, in desserts an offering of homemade jam and Chambord-filled doughnuts. Also in the desserts, a banana tart tatin is a surprise triumph of crisp pastry and warm comfort, with date and almond milk ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Artisan occupies a small, narrow space in the Narrabundah shops, a quiet corner with muted shades and minimalist set-up, which it manages to keep humming with customers. The wine list is a strength, with great options by the glass. This place is focused, shines with care, and has a laudable respect for the seasons.

How we score: Food and Wine Annual Top 20