Dining in Bruce: ELLACURE – Gold, Silver or Bronze?

by The Editor

Bruce. It’s a suburb that brings a smile to The Canberran for two reasons.

  1. The Monty Python sketch about the University of Woolloomooloo, and
  2. The fact it is near a drive named Barry.

So, with these considerations in mind, who knows what the standard of dining might be?

We’d heard about Ellacure quite a few times. Ever since Canberra hospitality stalwarts Andy Hollands (kitchen) and Gus Armstrong (floor) teamed up to spread their wings, murmurs have been heard around this fair city that great things were happening in the shadows of the stadium.

The hot tip was that breakfast is when Ellacure really shines. Mustering all the strength available on a (late) Sunday morning we gathered ourselves and headed for one of Canberra’s more intriguing suburbs.

Bruce has always seemed a mystery as a residential area. One struggles to imagine it being anything other than the AIS and a collection of buildings to house athletes under its care. Certainly this is no longer the case, as the suburb now feels well established with a range of dwellings from houses to high-density apartments. Clearly Bruce is old enough for some serious wining and dining.

Image: munchtalk.com.au

It took us a while to locate Ellacure, but once there could see the sense in its location under Proximity Apartments. The ample car parking and complimentary businesses provide a logical context for a business attempting to attract an upwardly mobile clientele. The collection of European cars outside confirmed their success in this regard.

Arriving around 11.00am, the carnage spread across the tables inside indicated a successful breakfast service prior to our arrival. Gus, occupied with removing the debris back to the kitchen did not waste an opportunity to welcome new customers into his venue. With almost no opportunity to break stride he had put down plates and, with empty hands, directed us to a table reset for the next wave.

We started with hot drinks. For mine, the measure of a breakfast venue is not necessarily the quality of its coffee… it’s important to look at the tea. While a good business caters for caffeine addicts from far and wide who come crawling for an early hit in order to make themselves feel human enough to face the day, it’s the puritan tea drinkers who typically arrive with a sober palate and clear head. Keep these people happy and your business can be great.

Little Spoon looked happy (read: grateful) for her coffee. The tea snob (your correspondent) was thrilled to see a plunger of leave tips steeping on the table. I’ve never understood breakfast venues that resort to teabags. It looks cheap, and one always struggles to find an appropriate place for them once their purpose has been executed.

Time for food: I decided comfort food was in order, so ordered the bean and chorizo cassoulet with poached egg and Parmesan and chilli toasts. Little Spoon, having recovered post-coffee suddenly acquired a sense of virtuosity and so ordered the vegetarian thyme and garlic field mushrooms with parsley, almond tapenade, grilled tomato and spinach. As we waited, the tables surrounding us were restored to pristine condition in a slightly quicker fashion than that for our food to arrive. Clearly Ellacure was in the ‘zone’.

So, what of it? My dish was superb. Rather than the heavy, Provencale association one might normally have with a cassoulet, this version was more a tribute than homage. Sitting neatly over the toast, it allowed breathing room for the egg and provided a complex flavour that stopped just short of confronting for those who may have indulged too heavily the evening before.

Little Spoon also was happy with the mushrooms. Upon tasting them I was impressed by the layering of simple ingredients into a complex dish capable of satisfying carnivores. The tapenade was a particular highlight, adding bane to the dish and pulling just short of being overpowering.

As we finished our late breakfast the first of the lunch crowd began settling into their seats for an indulgent Sunday feast. Wines, selected from the rather particular wine list (Nick O’Leary’s Bourke Street Shiraz – yes please!), were uncorked, and we started to get a feel for where an afternoon at Ellacure is headed.

It would have been great to join in; unfortunately other adventures beckoned. Paying the bill, I couldn’t help but notice two elements that contrast to beautifully sum up a meal at Ellacure. Near the till two particular visual elements are prominent.

Firstly, a wall decoration comprised solely of utensils fans out along a section of wall. Secondly is the collection of paper currency from all around the world, stuck on a wall running ninety degrees from the cutlery display. Together, these reflect the careful consideration of Mr Holland’s menu on top of the casual and comfortable style of the floor staff under Gus’ stewardship. If this sounds a bit too romantic a notion, you clearly haven’t visited.

Image: myrestaurants.com.au

Is it perfect? No. The boys would do well to reinvest their success into remodelling the acceptable though uninspiring décor. That said, the basics are spot on. I’d eat off a milk crate if the food would justify it.

This is a promising first outing for two of Canberra’s most experienced debutantes. We look forward to seeing where they go from here.

Download: The Canberran Report Card Ellacure