Friday, 20 September 2013

Dinner @ A. Baker

I was so excited to try out A. Baker which just opened up this week. A. Baker is an artisan bakery, cafe, restaurant and speakeasy bar, open from 7am-11pm every night of the week. After trying out the 10 Yards pop up restaurant by the same people, I was eager to see this new business open in New Acton.
It was hard to find in the dark as there isn't any clear signage on where the restaurant was located. There is still construction going on around the area so certain paths were blocked off. I walked around the block and spotted the Palace Electric cinemas on the other side. I only recognised the western courtyard out the front of A. Baker as I've been keeping up to date with their Facebook updates and photos.
Walking inside, I was greeted by a friendly waitress asking me where I'd be more comfortable sitting. I chose a table towards the back and was provided the menus. I love what they’ve done with the space. It is a restaurant built into an open loft-style warehouse with wooden floorboards and an open kitchen. It kind of looks like they’ve kept some of the ‘style’ of the old building burning down as some of the walls still have that burnt and stained look. It just adds to the charm of the place. It is a big restaurant already (including their outdoor dining) but could definitely fit a lot more tables and chairs inside. The chairs are a mix of low backless stools and normal chairs with a back. (I'm not a fan of stools at the dining table - too uncomfortable and no back support, but that's just me).
The kitchen
There is another separate counter towards the back selling an assortment of freshly baked breads, croissants and tarts (the counter wasn’t lit up so the photo is quite dark).
The breads and pastries
Doors to the new Parlour Wine Room currently being rebuilt
The waitress also informed me that I should have a peek downstairs at their bar and bakery while waiting for my friends to arrive. I thought the bar was small and the space a little bit squishy. There were quite a few people down there, eating tapas and drinking wine. Expecting an open bakery, I couldn’t spot anything resembling a bakery at all. A little later on when I asked the waitress about it, she mentioned it was behind a tinted window, but was probably shut as the baker had just left and was due to return at 2am to start his next shift (glad I'm not a baker).

When everyone arrived, we were provided with fresh sourdough straight from the bakery in a little white sack. Soft and yum! For you gluten intolerant diners, the waiter informed us that they are currently working on a recipe for gluten-free bread.
On to the menu. Similar to what was offered at 10 Yards, small plates are $16 while large plates are $28. 
I ordered the large plate of Mandagery Creek venison ragu, freekah and barley risotto with saffron flowers. This was such a great dish! The venison ragu was AMAZING. The meat was tender and could be pulled apart easily with my fork. The tomato ragu was cooked via what seemed like very simple home-style cooking. Nothing fancy but the simplicity of it worked really well to bring out the wonderful flavour of the venison. The barley risotto was certainly very different (slightly harder than your normal risotto) but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would definitely order this dish again.
Venison ragu, freekah and barley risotto with saffron flowers
The large plate of duck ravioli was stuffed with confit gizzards and served with broad beans, lemon and burnt butter. The ravioli were nice and fat, however they were a little bit cold when reaching the table. 
Duck ravioli, confit gzzards, broad beans, lemon and burnt butter
Inside the duck ravioli - fully packed with goodness!
 Food porn of other dishes
Small plate - Baby vegetables, capers, olives, parsley, preserved lemon, house mustard, quinoa
Small plate - Goulburn River trout, pumpernickel, beetroots, radishes and pickles
I thought service was friendly and efficient. It didn't take long for the food to come out either. Be warned: serving sizes are small. As shown above, the large plate of duck ravioli ($28) consisted of 3 pieces. Hence why we ordered dessert :) There were only 3 desserts listed on the menu. I asked what the favourite was and our waiter stated it was hands-down the lemon and ricotta torta. So that is what I ordered. It was served warm with a beautiful lemony marmalade sticky syrup, honeycomb and yoghurt. I'm not usually a fan of lemon and ricotta but this wasn't too strong or sweet. I love ice cream with my cake but felt this didn't need it. It was moist and the sourness of the yoghurt was a good accompaniment. I found it was just right and hit the spot. Love the big chunks of honeycomb!
Lemon and ricotta tort, golden raisins, honeycomb, yoghurt, marsala
My friend's gluten-free dessert - rhubarb with burnt butter mousse and walnuts. The gluten version has the addition of gingerbread. He was pretty happy with his dessert. My other friend had a croissant ($3.50 no photo) that still had the crunchy flaky exterior but was soft in the middle.
Rhubarb, burnt butter mousse, walnuts
I think this will be a great place in summer! Imagine dinner and drinks, then strolling across the road to the Palace Electric cinemas. A. Baker does not take bookings so I'm not sure how they will accommodate everyone once this place becomes more popular (and I'm sure it will). However, there is quite a lot of space and they seem very confident that they'll be able to fit everyone. The ambiance is great - a laidback feel, slightly dim lighting to set the tone but not too dim to imply romantic dates only. I thought it would be quite loud with the open kitchen close by, but I was able to speak to my friends without raising my voice.

Pros: Fresh food using regional produce, food comes out quickly, friendly service, fresh bread, open early in the morning to late at night every day.
Cons: Tiny portions, expensive for tiny portions, sitting on backless stools can be uncomfy for people, no bookings accepted.

I'm keen to try out their brunch menu this weekend. Lots of yummy things on the breakfast menu. Can't wait!

(Read HerCanberra article for more about A. Baker).

Foodgasm 8/10
A. Baker on Urbanspoon

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