Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Fish Face Dining, Nu Nu, Capitol Bar & Grill, and The Tasting Room.
Fish Face Dining
No one knows fish like Steve Hodges. No one, that is, with the possible exception of his protégé, Josh Niland. And in the kitchen at Fish Face Dining, the fancy restaurant they've opened out the back of their new Double Bay eatery, this mix of skills and perspectives, the old-school and the new, is a mighty formidable thing. Hapuku paired with celeriac roasted in a teepee of paperbark is about as good as a piece of fish gets, the meat barely surrendering to the fork in lush, pearlescent flakes, and a foamed white wine vinegar and butter sauce brightened with a splash of Alsace riesling makes the utterly sympathetic pairing. And it's not just about the fish: pigeon, roasted, split and served boldly/creepily with half its head, and the claw still on the end of the leg waving hello (or more probably goodbye) is a picture of autumn, bedded down with toasty hazelnuts and torn figs. Wine and service are okay, and the room still needs tweaking (the lighting and ventilation in particular), but dessert is a triumph, closing things on a mighty high note. Bravura stuff. Fish Face Dining, 346 New South Head Rd, Double Bay, NSW, (02) 9328 9533. Open Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday; closed Easter Monday and Anzac Day. PAT NOURSE
Hard to believe, but Palm Cove iconoclast Nu Nu has been rocking its tropical brand of far north Queensland magic for a decade now. Classics such as chef Nick Holloway's feather-light breakfast coconut hotcakes - filled with banana, drizzled with house-made coconut caramel, topped with toasted coconut and served with a blob of coconut sorbet - are as fine as ever. But these days, they're arriving at the table a mere towel-toss from the Pacific and absolute beachfront at the former Far Horizons site. Still a work in progress, the new split-level dining room is Tropical Modernist in feel with dark wooden floors, white walls and plenty of hanging greenery - the focus wisely directed out towards that dreamy palm-fringed ocean view. But what's on the plate is also worthy of attention, whatever the hour. Try a breakfast bowl of punchy Sichuan-spiced pork with Chinese spinach, enoki mushrooms, crisp radish, tofu and pickled eggs, or later in the day, dig a fork into a flavour-packed but suitably light red curry of locally caught goldband snapper, topped with a salad of palm heart and young coconut. A distillation of all that's great about the Australian tropics. Nu Nu Restaurant, 1 Veivers Rd, Palm Cove, Qld, (07) 4059 1880. Open throughout Easter and Anzac Day. FIONA DONNELLY
Capitol Bar & Grill
Is the Capitol the Martini-pouring, beef-dry-ageing grill the nation's capital has been waiting for lo these many years? Quite possibly. The room is by no means cut from the Classic Steakhouse catalogue, spread out across a carpet patterned like a giant Argyll sock, one wall decked out in not-entirely reverent depictions of political figures from around the world, but the menu more than takes up the slack in the retro department. "I Love the Old School Food Era," reads the quote at the bottom from the QT Hotel group's creative food director, former Icebergs chef Robert Marchetti. It's a bit redundant on a carte so densely crammed with golden-age throwbacks, winks and nods, from the vol-au-vents (buttery poached oysters, caviar: excellent) to the crab cakes (celeriac, aïoli: forgettable). There are some dishes here in common with QT Sydney's Gowings restaurant (the OTT profiteroles [pictured above], the cocktail of beer-steamed prawns) and some designed just for Canberra (a "Pollies pie" filled with beef and mushrooms braised in Barolo). Most importantly, you can get a very good piece of steak or fish cooked present and correct. Extra points, too, for opening what has got to be the best breakfast buffet in town. Capitol Bar & Grill, QT Canberra, 1/1 London Cct, Canberra, ACT, (02) 6247 1488. Open throughout Easter and Anzac Day. PAT NOURSE
The Tasting Room
Fancy some ham and cheese with your wine? East End Cellars' move across the road into larger premises has brought with it a new and spacious tasting room adjacent to the bottle sales area. Having built a reputation for sourcing premium French and Italian wines, the Cellars now wants to swing the focus back onto local producers, who are featured in the weekly tasting flights. Around $30 (the price changes weekly) buys three wines from the same producer with three matching cheeses. This is merely an appetiser for most tasting room visitors, who then choose bottles from the shop (add $15 corkage to drink at the table) and an impressive ploughman's platter. The large board offers a mix of jamón serrano, Italian and Australian prosciutto, salumi, bresaola and a chunky pork terrine, with French, Italian and Australian cheeses, bread, cornichons and spicy chutney. The Tasting Room at East End Cellars, 23-25 Vardon Ave, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 5300. Open Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday; closed Good Friday, Easter Monday and Anzac Day. DAVID SLY
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