17/20

Aubergine

18 Barker St, Griffith, ACT

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  • (02) 6260 8666
Aubergine restaurant at Griffith.
Award winning ... Aubergine restaurant. Photo: Graham Tidy

Catriona Jackson

Canberra Times Top 20 for 2012

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR

Since he took the reins in 2008, chef and owner Ben Willis has gone from strength to strength at Aubergine, making it Canberra’s best restaurant for 2012. Also awarded the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide gongs for best regional restaurant and wine list (yes, Canberra is categorised in regional NSW), with two chefs hats, it has been a very good year for Willis and his talented team. 

A dish from Aubergine restaurant.
A dish from Aubergine restaurant. Photo: Graham Tidy

At Aubergine, you get beautiful, exciting food, with thought and wit and skill behind every mouthful. Not to mention lovely, relaxed but highly skilled service, and sensational wine advice from sommelier Peter Bell. The place has the lot.

The small menu (two courses $65, three courses $80) changes frequently but you might start with poached prawns, with speck, chorizo, globe artichoke and garlic custard. Small and sweet, the seafood is spectacularly teamed with the salty speck and chorizo, with contrast coming from the globe artichoke, but a genius touch of slippery garlic custard elevates the meal into the stratosphere. The various elements of the dish have been prepared and combined with exceptional skill and wit, and this is a theme that resonates throughout the menu.

A dish confit pork belly is likewise a wonderful balance, dotted with blue swimmer crab, and beautifully accompanied by warrigal greens. Venison is full of flavour, tender and teamed with a genius piece of charred and slightly bitter celeriac.

Dessert can range from the justly famous chocolate plate, to a wonderful dish of mulberries, with rhubarb and oat biscuit; fresh, light, surprising and delicious to the very last bite.

Staff really know their stuff here, and clearly love their work. Bell makes engaging, very good wine suggestions, from the genuinely distinguished list he has built.

There are no big-bang, cheap tricks at Aubergine, rather excellently wrought balance and contrast, with flavours and textures in magnificent harmony. All the dishes are beautifully bought together, with attention to the smallest detail, and little surprises along the way.

How we score: Food and Wine Annual Top 20

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18 Barker St, Griffith, ACT

  • Features - Wheelchair access, Licensed
  • Chef(s) - Ben Willis
  • Owners - Ben Willis and Andrea Collin
  • Opening Hours - Dinner Mon to Sat (also Tues to Sat lunch during December)
  • Author - Catriona Jackson
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