Just Open: Garden Pavilions Kitchen at Pialligo Estate in Canberra

Natasha Rudra
Tender chicken with shades of green, wild fennel and mustard sauce.
Tender chicken with shades of green, wild fennel and mustard sauce. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Pialligo Estate is taking alfresco dining very seriously, with the opening of the Garden Pavilions Kitchen.

The dining pavilions are dotted among the estate's lush formal gardens with sweeping views of Parliament House and Black Mountain across the fields of Pialligo.

Each pavilion is open on three sides to the sun and summer breeze with remote-controlled screens that can descend to protect diners from insects or weather. 

A selection of dishes from the Garden Pavilions Kitchen.
A selection of dishes from the Garden Pavilions Kitchen. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

They house a number of tables and can be booked for private dining.

The Garden Pavilions Kitchen is separate from the estate's fine dining Farmhouse restaurant, which opened earlier this year under chef Brendan Walsh and went on to win a coveted Fairfax Good Food Guide chef's hat just months later. 

Chef Jan Gundlach, who previously owned the much praised Senso restaurant in Fyshwick, is Pialligo Estate's culinary director.

Outdoor dining at the Garden Pavilions Kitchen.
Outdoor dining at the Garden Pavilions Kitchen. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

He will be cooking organic, natural dishes in the kitchen pavilion which features a long picture window by the side of the path where diners can gaze upon the chefs at work as they walk towards their tables. 

The bar is in another pavilion nearby and will sell Pialligo's smallgoods, which have been picking up awards for several years.

Gundlach says the Garden Pavilions Kitchen is more relaxed and that approach will reflect in the menu, with dishes that can be eaten as shared plates, as mains on their own, or as bar snacks. 

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Hay-baked fingerling potatoes are served on a couple of hot stones to keep the potatoes warm. It's a rustic, simple dish with luscious, creamy miso-smoked butter for dipping and perhaps a little bowl of spice or salt mix to sprinkle onto the potatoes.

A salad of pickled vegetables on grains form a colourful, summer-friendly light meal or a side dish for a meatier main.

Gundlach describes the food as "nature on a plate", using all the fresh produce grown in the estate's orchards and gardens. 

The Garden Pavilions Kitchen are open on three sides to the sun.
The Garden Pavilions Kitchen are open on three sides to the sun. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"We have many products from our property, all of which flow into the menu here," he says. "The chef is just a middle man. Don't damage the food, keep it natural, retain the simplicity which I think is actually a very difficult job. And have very approachable, happy food."

Business partners Rowan Brennan and John Russell originally bought the estate and winery with a view to building homes for themselves and their respective wives and families. 

They set up the Pialligo Smokehouse which went on to win a stack of medals for its cured meats and smallgoods, including the title of Australia's best bacon two years running. The Farmhouse restaurant followed this year.

Brennan said the outdoor restaurant was designed to be more family friendly and less formal. "Although the standard of food here will be exceptional, it'll be less formal, more family style and more hearty style foods," he says. "They're the most versatile type of dining you can have. If you have 25 people, you can have your own private dining room for a small wedding or a wedding anniversary or something like that."

There are also plans afoot for a special events venue and botanical gardens where eventually Brennan and Russell would like to see families picnicking and enjoying a day out. 

The Garden Pavilions Kitchen opens on Friday, November 20. The restaurant will serve lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There'll be brunch from 11am on Saturdays and breakfast from 8am on Sundays.