Sage Dining Rooms

Kirsten Lawson
Sage Dining Rooms features banquettes of colourful cushions.
Sage Dining Rooms features banquettes of colourful cushions. Photo: Graham Tidy

Gorman House, Batman Street Braddon, ACT 2612

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02 6249 6050
Opening hours Lunch Sat only, dinner Tues-Sat
Features Licensed, Wheelchair access
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef James Mitchell

The Canberra Times Top 20 for 2013: No. 10

The set-up of this sparkling eatery in the cutesy Gorman House Arts Centre reminds you of someone sophisticated and willowy who looks good in white and has leisure to lounge on banquettes of colourful cushions.

Which is to say it has a classy look, cosy in winter and lovely in summer, with the windows open to its popular Mint Bar.

Lamb neck, baba ghanoush, broad beans and lamb bacon.
Lamb neck, baba ghanoush, broad beans and lamb bacon. Photo: Melissa Adams

Sage has been a tricky one to assess over recent years, with brothers Peter and Michael Harrington throwing everything at it to create their vision of the ultimate restaurant - they even have a farm to grow their ingredients, and they head-hunt chefs and sommeliers from France and elsewhere (the guy for their new Bunda Street eatery arrives from San Fran soon).

Not every scenario has worked flawlessly, with technique and serious tasting menus threatening at times to overwhelm the experience, and difficulty keeping chefs for the long haul (always an issue when the chef is not an owner). But Sage is beautifully on track right now.

Head straight to the meat, since this is where we have found the most intense satisfaction. Braised spring lamb is a cylinder of pressed neck meat, intensely lamby, with herbs and strong greens in a medley underneath, where you can also taste mint and coriander.

The short rib must be the ultimate cut of beef, served as a big rectangle of gelatinous, mouthfilling flavour, with a tight sticky glaze on top, and again a medley of well-integrated vegies under - crunchy little broad beans, oyster mushrooms, salty bacon, very umami.

To start, a terrine of pressed ham hock captures the elegance that you can find here. It's a line of tightly pressed, purely hammy ham - not a rustic terrine. It's served with sauce gribiche, tasting subtly of celery, some gently pickled vegies and soft-cooked quail eggs. Classy, colourful and right for the season.

Sage does lots of little things right - helpful wine service, beautiful handmade plateware, the amuse-bouche to start, and house-made bread and whipped butter (with ''volcanic black salt from Cyprus''). Desserts play on a theme - different ways with lemon, or chocolate, or strawberries and cream, and are very complex, perhaps too much so at the end of the meal when you're done thinking.