Self-portrait at the National Portrait Gallery
It's true what they say. If you keep your head down, you miss out on all the fun stuff.
On our recent day trip to the Truffle Festival in Canberra, we stopped by the National Portrait Gallery after our lunch at Senso. Along one of the corridors is a long bench table with information touch screens. It's not unless you're paying particular attention that you realise the last three screens have their webcams on, incorporating passersby into the live screensaver.
It's a simple idea but effective and addictive. I had fun watching other visitors do a double-take as they walked past, u-turned suddenly and then paused in front of the camera, taking childish delight in watching themselves on the screen -- or in my case, take a photo!
We meandered around the gallery in the peaceful quiet of the new building, only opened to the public in December 2008. I even loved the entrance to the public bathrooms, a white wall lined with a mesmerising pattern of vertical wooden beading.
National Portrait Gallery bathroom entrance
Earlier we'd found time to browse the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets, a square of shops around a massive car park. There was plenty of organic produce on offer, alongside delis filled with cheeses, olives and smallgoods. I admit I was a little taken aback by the sight of olive oil almost solidifed inside bottles, the joy of the sub-zero temperatures that is Canberra!
Organic buerre bosc pears
Organic pink fir apple potatoes
Australian War Memorial by dusk
We headed to Mecca Bah in Manuka for dinner before the drive back to Sydney. It's a moody dimly space with flickering candles in traditional Moroccan tea glasses and brass lanterns with coloured glass overhead. Cushions, lounges and a huge copper fireplace add to the Moroccan feel.
Five of us order a mix of dishes to share. Despite the crowd, our meals arrive incredibly fast - perhaps a little too fast in hindsight?
Tunisian carrot salad $9
Tunisian carrot salad isn't the pile of grated carrot I'd expected. The cooked carrot batons are deliciously sweet, sticky with glaze, spiced with cumin and stacked in a Jenga-style tower surrounded by plump currants.
Beetroot, rocket and yoghurt salad $10.50
Beetroot, rocket and yoghurt is such a classic combination I'm determined to remember it for my next picnic or dinner party. It's a simple contrast of flavours and textures, with the sweet and slight earthiness of beetroot playing off against the smooth coolness of yoghurt and the peppery hint of rocket.
Sweet potato falafels with tahini sauce $9.50
We'd been intrigued by the sweet potato falafels and break them open to see what's inside.
Delicate shreds of sweet potato and zucchini make this traditional chickpea and fava bean fritter moister and less nutty in flavour.
Harira soup: spicy lamb, chickpea and lentil soup $12
Harira soup has a pleasant undertone of heat although it's not particularly a large portion of hearty in content.
Bastilla Moroccan chicken pastries $12
Bastilla Moroccan chicken pastries have plenty of crunch from the surrounding filo, but they're disappointing mild in flavour, without the heady aromatics of cinnamon and spicy sweetness seen in the original which features pigeon.
There's a flourish when the tagines arrive at our table, although it's presumed our dishes weren't cooked in the ceramic tagines themselves.
Lamb tagine with preserved lemon, green olives and harissa $22
Chicken with tomatoes, almond, sesame seeds and honey $21
The tagines have a subtle blend of spices. There's not a lot of lamb or chicken but the meat is tender and the sauce is thick and slightly sweet. I'm not keen on serving the couscous beneath the sauce, which turns the fluffy grains into somewhat soggy ones.
Middle Eastern spiced swordfish kebab with spicy couscous salad $22.50
The Middle Eastern spiced swordfish kebab is probably my favourite main of the evening, a sizeable chunk of fish that has been marinated and seared on the grill. A crumble of pistachio nuts add a pleasant crunch and I'm particularly happy about the non-soggy couscous on the side.
Pastirma Turkish pizza $18.50
with roast garlic, fennel and goats cheese
We round off our meal with a couple of Turkish pizzas that seem to arrive within mere minutes of us ordering them. The boats of pizza dough are soft and delicate. Thin shavings of Pastirma, a spicy air-dried cured beef, work well against the piles of peppery rocket leaves and long strands of raw Spanish onion.
Roast zucchini Turkish pizza $18
with Middle Eastern cheeses, lemon and mint
I'm surprised that I actually prefer the roast zucchini pizza, the discs of zucchini cooked to a barely soft stage that only enhances their natural sweetness. The addition of cheese, rocket, mint leaves and a generous douse of freshly squeezed lemon makes component sing.
Ice cream scoop trio $9
Date & vanilla, Middle Eastern halva and Turkish coffee
Dessert is a sampling of ice creams. The Turkish coffee has a caffeinated intensity that is much appreciated, and the Middle Eastern halva is perfumed with almond. Most popular on the night is the date and vanilla, not as sugary as you'd expect but light and creamy, with the flavours of fresh, not dried, fig.
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25-29 Manuka Terrace
Flinders Way, Manuka, Canberra ACT
Tel: +61 (02) 6260 6700
Open 7 days, 12pm-10pm (bookings recommended)
Mecca Bah Brisbane
19-21/1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley, Brisbane QLD
Tel: +61 (07) 3252 5299
Mecca Bah Melbourne
55a Newquay Promenade
Docklands, Melbourne VIC
Tel: +61 (03) 9642 1300
Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets
Corner of Dalby and Mildura St
Fyshwick, Canberra ACT
Tel: +61 (02) 6295 0606
Open Thursday to Sunday 8.00am - 5.30pm
National Portrait Gallery
King Edward Terrace,
Parkes, Canberra ACT
Tel: +61 (02) 6102 7000
Open 7 days 10am-5pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Canberra Truffle Festival Part 1: Truffles for breakfast, scones from morning tea
Canberra Truffle Festival Part 2: Truffle lunch at Senso Restaurant
Canberra - Le Rendezvous
Canberra - Pancake Parlour
Canberra Balloon Fiesta
2007 Canberra Balloon Fiesta Morning
2007 Canberra Balloon Fiesta Night
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8/04/2009 12:42:00 a.m.