Waters Edge chef Clement Chauvin, outside the restaurant with a view. Photo: Jay Cronan
Commonwealth Place is a hive of lycra-clad activity as the sun goes down, with joggers stretching and pulling themselves into all sorts of extreme positions on the shores of the lake.
The mirror-like windows of Waters Edge give the punters a seemingly irresistible opportunity to inspect their form, as the muscles ripple and flex, and diners get a bird's eye view of proceedings. Our waiter's core concern, as we settle into a window seat in the wedge-shaped room, is whether a regular will take up his normal spot just metres away (outside) and conduct his ''squats'' routine. Thankfully, night casts a veil over any such unseemly activity before anything takes place, and we are able to focus our full attention on the nicely organised menu.
The offering is set, to a certain extent, with four courses obligatory - but with plenty of choice within that. Four or five choices are available in each course ($80 dinner), and you can add side dishes ($8 each).
Waters Edge, a calm interior. Photo: Jay Cronan
Taken over by leading Canberra restaurateur James Mussillon late in the 2000s, Waters Edge attracts a well-dressed crowd, for occasions, intimate dinners or business events.
It has one of the best restaurant locations in the territory, with sweeping lake views. There is something wonderfully relaxing about gazing over water as you contemplate a range of dishes that someone else is preparing. It is a shame so few Canberran eateries have great views, let alone with water.
A glass of sparkling from the Loire Valley, Vouvray Brut Chateau Moncontour ($13), is smooth and soft, making a very pleasant start to the evening, and a good match with the first course of veal and tuna. A remix of the classic vitello tonnato (usually cold-poached veal with tuna mayonnaise), this version involves jewel-like cubes of yellow fin tuna with generous dobs of thick tuna mayonnaise. The veal sits lightly over the whole, shredded very fine, and crisped, with intense flavour.
Grimaud duck a l'orange, pickled red cabbage, liquorice gel and pistachio at Waters Edge. Photo: Jay Cronan
The quail and foie gras terrine is wonderfully smooth, with good depth of flavour and richness, set off with rhubarb. Very good crisp bread is served with lovely salty butter.
Next the savoury dish of the evening, kingfish prosciutto, which comes with pickled beetroot and radish salad and horseradish cream. Translucent slices of the glorious fish sit with wafter-thin radish slices and beautiful, earthy baby pickled beetroots. A decent amount of feisty horseradish cream pulls the dish together. Chalkers Crossing riesling ($10) is complex and big, and great with the fish.
Berkshire pork belly is a lovely piece of fatty meat, nicely crisped, and skilfully teamed with melon, compressed to intensify flavour, and adding a freshness to the richness of the belly.
Kingfish prosciutto, pickled beetroot and radish salad, with horseradish cream at Waters Edge. Photo: Jay Cronan
Lights are low here, almost too low, with soft cream and brown tones creating a calm atmosphere and there's barely audible background music.
Wait staff ensure plenty of information, and know the menu well, down to fine ingredient details and technique. Good wine recommendations are made and, importantly, amended when they obviously don't suit the diner. But overall the wine list needs an update. While it includes some beautiful wines (such as the Penfolds Bin 707 cabernet 1991) there are some some older vintages instead of fresher ones, especially in the sauvignon blancs.
For main course, we choose duck and blue eye, and both are high-quality dishes displaying real attention to details, but also little surprises and twists that seem a feature of chef Clement Chauvin's approach.
Grimaud duck a l'orange comes with a beautifully tender and flavoursome piece of breast, and a sausage-shaped tube of other meat, for balance. Pickled red cabbage adds texture and lightness, and dabs of savoury liquorice gel are genius.
A nice piece of blue eye flakes under the fork, based in an earthy pearl barley risotto, adorned with a pippie and mussel. The twist here is the very savoury passionfruit, adding another dimension to the dish.
Strawberry and elderflower shortcake is a real highlight of the evening, with a wonderful wild-berry sorbet and sweet cucumber, as well as a lovely soft meringue.
Passionfruit souffle comes in a passionfruit shell, and sits alongside an explosion of chilli, housed on a ball of white chocolate. Coconut and kaffir lime sorbet cools the heat if you've popped the ball into your mouth in one hit, and the souffle is light and lovely, but a little lacking in passionfruit flavour.
A glass of Cookoothama Botrytis semillon from the Riverina ($15) is recommended as an alternative to the French sauternes on the list, and is clean and sweet, but not cloying, and balances well with the souffle.
A meal at Waters Edge is a sophisticated treat, with high-quality, beautifully presented food, great service and lovely surrounds. Don't expect edgy, envelope-pushing dishes; do expect consistent, very high-quality fare and good value for money.
11 Something went wrong. 12 Not so great tonight. 13 Fine for a cheap and cheerful, not so for a place that aspires to the top end. 14 Good. 15 Really good. 16 Great, when can we move in? 17-20 Brilliant. The scores out of four are a quick reference to key highs or lows. They do not relate directly to the score out of 20.
Catriona Jackson is chief executive of peak lobby group Science and Technology Australia and a food writer.
- 02 6273 5066
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - set price, four courses $80
- Features - Accepts bookings, Business lunch, BYO, Licensed, Views, Wheelchair access
- Chef(s) - Clement Chauvin
- Owners - James Mussillon
- Cards accepted - AMEX, Cash, EFTPOS, Mastercard, Visa
- Opening Hours - Tuesday to Sunday lunch noon-3pm, dinner 6.30pm-11pm
- Seats - 80
- Author - Catriona Jackson